Monday, March 29, 2010

Learning from writers every day; Live forever Billy Joe Shaver

One of the many good things about being a writer, talking about writing and, well, writing, is learning something new from other writers. If you think about it, we all learn new things from writers every day, in one form or another.

One new exciting thing I’ve learned is about the Alabama Writers’ Conclave, which is the oldest writers’ organization in continuous existence in the U.S. Who would have known?

I paid the reasonable $25 per year membership fee and joined Alabama Writer’s Conclave after I heard about the long-lasting writers’ group from T. K. Thorne, a writer and published author from Birmingham. I met Ms. Thorne at a The Women’s Network event where was the guest of friend and attorney Frances Quick.

T.K. Thorne, who lives in Birmingham, told me about the writer’s conclave as we were discussing my writing a first novel. T.K. Thorne’s book, Noah’s Wife, an historical novel I’ve seen compared with Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave bear), is published and now available at, in a Kindle edition, no less. Ms. Thorne told me to keep writing, encouraged me even, but brought reality with the encouragement. Noah’s Wife was her sixth novel, I believe she said, and the first to find a publisher.

The Writer’s Conclave probably helps writers learn about publishing realities and more. The group of writers sponsors a writing competition annually and then makes the winning stories and poems available on line and elsewhere. The 2009 winners is available at their website,

I’ve considered entering something, maybe a blog posting everyone liked (category: nonfiction or humor? Is a blog posting unpublished?). I also thought about submitting my almost-finished-with-first-draft novel’s first chapter. We’ll see.

The April 20 deadline is coming up, and I thought I’d share the rules here in case other aspiring writers want to submit something.



Deadline: April 20, 2010 (postmark). Prizes: 1st: $100; 2nd: $75; 3rd: $50; 4th: $25 and up to 4 Honorable Mentions.

WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED at the AWC Conference Banquet at the Hilton Birmingham Perimeter Park Hotel, Birmingham, Alabama on JULY 17, 2010.

Contest Rules: Entries must be original, unpublished, and may not have won a money prize in any contest. (Sitting AWC voting Board Members are not eligible.) Multiple entries are accepted, but only one prize is awarded for each category.

Send one copy of each entry on standard white paper in standard manuscript format (double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12pt. Courier or Times Roman font). (Note: manuscripts are not returned, so applicants should retain a copy).

• On first page include: Title, Category and Word Count (DO NOT show author name on the manuscript).
• Please number the pages.
• Enclose a separate cover sheet for each piece submitted showing: Contest category; manuscript title; your name, mailing address, e-mail address and phone number; and whether you are an AWC Member or non-member.
• Please be sure to provide a separate cover sheet for each piece submitted.

Entry Fees
For all categories (EXCEPT Poem and First Chapter Novel): $5.00 per entry if AWC member, $8.00 per entry if non-member.

For First Chapter Novel: $10.00 if member, $12.00 if non-member.

For Poem: $3.00 per poem if member, $5.00 if non-member.

Make checks to: Alabama Writers' Conclave. (Note: Membership and conference fees must be submitted separately to the AWC Treasurer)

Send contest entry manuscripts and checks to: Marian Lewis, AWC Contest Chair, 250 Hartside Rd., Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763.

NOTE: Please include a #10 SASE if you would like to receive a Winners' List after the AWC conference in July. If you would like confirmation that your entry has been received, also include a self-addressed stamped postcard (SASP)

Writing Competition Categories

Fiction - maximum 2500 words.

Short Fiction - maximum 1000 words.

Juvenile Fiction (stories for ages 4-12) - maximum 2500 words. MUST LIST GENRE AND TARGETED AGE GROUP (i.e. picture book, 3 & up).
Nonfiction - maximum 2500 words (PLEASE SPECIFY IF WRITTEN FOR ADULT OR CHILDREN).
Humor (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry) - maximum 2000 words or 50 lines (for poems).
Traditional Poem (any "form" poem, i.e. villanelle, sonnet, sestina) - maximum 40 lines.

Free Verse Poem - maximum 60 lines.

First Chapter of Novel - up to 10 double-spaced pages, first chapter ONLY.

Song of the week:

Speaking of writers, there is not a better songwriter, writer, period than Billy Joe Shaver. Even my main man Bob Dylan name-checked Billy Joe on a recent song. (“I'm listening to Billy Joe Shaver and I'm reading James Joyce, Some people they tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice.” – From I Feel a Change Comin’ On, Together Through Life CD, 2009

Anyway, I picked this Billy Joe Shaver song at random. Plus, it has most of the required parts for a perfect country song. Count ‘em up, and see what you think.

I’m going crazy in ¾ time – Billy Joe Shaver

“The hill I've been climbing just turned to a mountain

I'm caught in the backwash of cheap talk and wine

To tell you the truth, I don't think i can make it

'Cause I'm going crazy in 3/4 time

I said to myself on the day that you left me

If I see what I sound like would I be so blind

But it's all in the search of a perfect companion

And I thought I had found one till you said goodbye
Yes, I'm going crazy in 3/4 time

Picture of the week:
Yes, that’s me and my hero Billy Joe Shaver, the original honky tonk hero, when he was in Birmingham a couple years ago. I’ve been waiting for a reason to have this be the picture of the week, and writing about writers is a perfect occasion. Live forever, Billy Joe Shaver.


  1. I agree, the best way to learn to write is to read, read, read! I love to write poetry and only really started to improve my style when I began reading other poets.

  2. Never heard about this contest. Maybe I will start searching through the last 20 years of things written for fun!

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