Monday, August 25, 2014

In the Company of Other Writers

I am a homebody at heart, but am almost always willing to get out of the house for a gathering of writers. Sometimes I will try and talk myself out of it at the last minute, but the hubby usually reminds me that spending time with other writers tends to leave me energized. In fact, on Saturday, when I almost ducked out of an opportunity to go to the Local Author Workshop in Topeka, he said, "These are your people. Go. Have fun. Enjoy your day."

And I did, of course. I did all of these things.

I enjoyed the ride (with my writing friend, Cheryl) and I enjoyed the speakers. I even came home with a new author crush. Regina Sirois, author of On Little Wings, gave what was quite possibly the most powerful talk about our lives as writers that I have ever heard. I hope to write more about her amazing keynote speach soon.

Tonight I enjoyed yet another gathering of writers. Our local group gets together once per month. There is typically somewhere between two and ten members. More seem to be coming these days than fewer. We are growing, bit by little bit. It is a diverse and very casual group. We take turns leading each month and have covered a variety of topics in the last few years. Tonight we talked about tips and ideas for marketing our books. We had five returning and two new members, a lot of good energy, and it may be several hours before I make it to bed!

Now I am looking forward to several weeks of schedule-free evenings and perhaps even a few semi-free weekends so that I can devote more time to my most recent endeavor, a book published with co-authors
Kevin Rabas and Mike Graves. The Green Bike launch will be here soon!

Let me provide a teaser:

Emporia authors Kevin Rabas, Mike Graves and Tracy Million Simmons, will host a launch party for their new novel on Saturday, September 6, from noon to 2:00 PM at Town Crier Bookstore, 716 Commercial, Emporia, Kansas.

Green Bike follows the lives of three couples, using the McGuffin, or shared symbol, of a classic Schwinn bike to link parallel tales. Authors Kevin Rabas, Mike Graves and Tracy Million Simmons wrote the three tales of the novel independently, but collaboratively as they read each other’s work as the story progressed.

“Green Bike reads like jazz improvisational solos: each author works the narrative threads, making them distinct yet seamlessly interwoven to create a layered novel. Like the classic Schwinn of the title, this book will lead you on a wonderful adventure,” says Hardy Jones, author of Every Bitter Thing.

Rabas called the novel “a wild campus romp.” He said, “It’s at once a love story, a love triangle, a kunstlerroman (artist’s way novel), coming of age tale, wild college days tale, and tale about losing an aging loved one. How can it be all of these things? Because it’s a novel of parallel tales. We’re not just in one narrative. We’re in three.”

The book will be available at Town Crier Bookstore in September, as well as online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Learn more at


Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, and Spider Face: stories.

Mike Graves teaches Intensive English and TESOL courses at Emporia State University. His writing has appeared in Thorny Locust, Flint Hills Review, and elsewhere. He has recently finished a novel about a private detective set in 1937 Wichita. When life conjures its riddles, he turns to back roads and baseball for answers.

Tracy Million Simmons is a freelance writer with more than 500 articles in print and the yearbook editor for the Kansas Authors Club. Her novel, Tiger Hunting, was published in 2013 and was the winner of the 2013 J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book award.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Waiting on the Sky, by Cheryl Unruh

Cheryl Unruh, former columnist for the Emporia Gazette and one of my favorite authors, has done it again with her second collection of essays on the state I proudly call home.

In Waiting on the Sky, Cheryl describes Kansas--community and people--in a series of essays that remind us of the joy and peril, the love and the heartbreak of life on the ground in a rectangle state.

We who live on the prairie love our sky. It is as much a part of the landscape as the land itself. White the earth gives us roots and plenty of soft grass on which we can curl our bodies and fall asleep, the sky gives us flight, imagination, a place to go with our eyes, a place to go with our minds.

Cheryl once again makes me want to slow down, take more time to absorb the scenery, spend more time watching the clouds that pass overhead. The book takes us back and forth, from the landscape and experience of being Kansan, to Kansans themselves and glimpses of Cheryl's life growing up on the plains to her life now in the Flint Hills.

I was delighted, of course, to find "Tracy's Hometown" within the pages of this book (even though Cheryl revealed my secret childhood run-away spot). I enjoyed her ruminations on the western Kansas tumbleweed, as well, though I think I'm more appreciative of the wind, in general, than Cheryl. 

Waiting on the Sky is the book to keep on your chairside table, full of word morsels you will want to bite and then nibble again, to take with your morning coffee as you contemplate the start of your day, or to sample with your nighttime tea.

If you haven't picked up your copy yet, head right on over to Quincy Press for ordering instructions. 

See my review of Cheryl's first book, Flyover People, by clicking this link.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blog Neglect Does Not Equate With Writing Neglect

Life in July has provided plenty of fodder for topics to write about. I only hope that I have taken thorough enough notes to bring me back mentally to the place where I can eventually get everything I want to write written!

The big event for the month has been the final stages of preparing a book I co-authored with two friends from the Emporia Writing Group. Green Bike is a group novel due to be released the first week of September.

I also got news this month that my short story, Virtual Farm, has been selected for publication in Page & Spine, most likely coinciding with the release date of Green Bike! I made a deal with myself earlier this year that I would submit two new short stories for every rejection letter I received as a way of boosting my output... but I failed to set parameters for the occasion of an acceptance. I'm thinking the same deal -- two out for every response received. This means I'd better get to work!

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