Monday, October 28, 2013

The Writing Mama Show with Author S. Jenny Boyer

Join host Virginia S Grenier on Mondays at 4pm eastern as she talks with debut and best-selling authors about their latest releases.

On this week's show, we have debut author S. Jenny Boyer. The author's desire is to inspire others to appreciate how God uses animals, sometimes very wise and wonderful ones like SpecialT, to enrich our lives if we only open our hearts and minds to the lessons they can teach us, just by being themselves.

Ms. Boyer is a retired nurse, an Infection Control Practitioner, whose world changed dramatically when she let the words swirling inside her escape to paper. Her story of her beloved cat, how he came to live with her later in his life and the lessons she learned from him, changed her life for the better.

You can find out more about Jenny Boyer, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink visit

Listen to the podcast at

Friday, October 25, 2013

Interview Friday with author S. Jenny Boyer

Ms. Boyer is a retired nurse, an Infection Control Practitioner, whose world changed dramatically when she let the words swirling inside her escape to paper. Her story of her beloved cat, how he came to live with her later in his life and the lessons she learned from him, changed her life for the better. She lives in Frederick, Maryland with her husband Jim. She has three daughters and one step-daughter, and four grandchildren. Several of these family members are in her book. She continues to write about how other creatures impact her life, and the lives of others.

VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Ms. Boyer. What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?  

Boyer: I am now a grandmother and the nest is empty. That makes it much easier to schedule periods to write.

VS: How long have you been writing?

Boyer: 3 years.

VS: What inspired you to write your book?

Boyer:  My inspiration was the lead character, my wise and wonderful pet cat. As I learned piece by piece about the 10 years he lived before he was divinely sent to me, I knew I had to tell his story. Many people love animals, and can recognize their pets in T's struggles, and his escape from his valleys to his mountaintops, and identify with the lessons he taught and reinforced for me.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you? 

Boyer: I am an early riser, so 4-5 am is when I like to start writing. This time could last anywhere from 2-8 hours. It is great being able to be flexible.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?

Boyer: Most of them can't believe I have started a new career, and yes, they support me in this endeavor.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book?

Boyer: The book is about the life of a wonderful tabby cat whose zest for living helped him meet and overcome the challenges he faced. T appeared, I am sure, by divine guidance in my yard somewhere in the second half of his 20+ years. As I wrote of our time together, I was amazed at all the life lessons he reinforced for me and others. These lessons alone became one of the reasons that I felt compelled to finish and then publish his story. Daily T reminded me that the most important of life's lesson are very simple. It is we who complicate things, and miss out on obvious blessings. Things like baking in the sun, sipping water from a leaf cup, or a stroll through the woods can enrich a day that might otherwise be taken for granted.

VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book?

Boyer: Just getting started was challenging, writing that first word. However, allowing other people to read what I had written took a lot of courage. I was very protective of my words.

VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?  

Boyer: The very first chapter, which tells how SpecialT entered my life. It was not by chance that T ended up at my home. However, the path he had to take to get there was not an easy one.

VS: What event do you feel was the turning point to your inspirational story?

Boyer: Chapter 8 was a turning point because the cat later known as SpecialT chose to leave the barn of many cats, not knowing where his path would lead him, but knowing he had to go.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Boyer: I have a collection of 14 short stories about different little creatures. I hope to publish this work in the future.

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Boyer: If it is your time to write, you must make the time.

VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book? 

Boyer: Interesting characters, and an appealing story plot that keeps you guessing until the very end.

VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?

Boyer: Children need to know we believe in their abilities and we need to applaud them on their journey whenever we can.

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?

Boyer: I am on Facebook, and can be contacted on email for a signed copy of the book at The book may be purchased on line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and HALO Publishing International.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”? 

Boyer: The earlier you begin, the more years you will be able to explore your passion.  Good Luck, from a Gram.

Title: SpecialT: Nine Lives - Nine Names
Author: S. Jenny Boyer
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number: 978-1-61244-074-3
Genre of Book: Non-Fiction/Inspirational
Pgs: 100

You can find out more about Jenny Boyer, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

St. George Book Festival Recap

It's Saturday October 19th and the St. George area community begins making its way into the Lexington Hotel Ballroom. It's still early as authors are setting up their tables to greet, talk and sign books for eager lovers of the written word...and it's only 9am. The day is just beginning. David W. Smith and VS Grenier welcome those who have begun to show up. It's time to get the Book Expo underway and all the exciting events Smith and Grenier have planned for the day.

Guest speaker John Sebba shares some poetry with our gathered audience before winners of the 2013 Youth Poetry is announced.

Author and poet Lin Floyd steals the show as she announces the 2013 Youth Poetry winners. Many of the winners are present to not only receive their award, but also to read their poems to all in attendance.

Now for a bit of fun. David W. Smith and VS Grenier have added another fun treat to the St. George Book Festival this year beyond the Charity Dinner Friday Night (Oct. 18th) and combining the Youth Poetry Contest. Not only did all those who attended the book festival receive a free goodie bag when they entered, but they also found a FREE...
raffle ticket inside. Not to mention for every book bought at the book festival gave you a voucher for 5 more raffle tickets. Those from the community that came learned raffle drawings will be happening every 20 minutes and prized ranged from signed books from the guest authors/speakers at the 2013 book festival to movie tickets or from $25 dollar gift cards to Outback Stakehouse to day passes at the Washington Community Center. Let the fun begin!

We next had the opportunity to listen to some amazing talent from our very own Vista School. Mr. Nicols did a wonderful job bring in talent from choir, to the piano and four string quartette.

As the music and talent filled the room, soon our community found it was standing room only. We all felt the energy. We all found a little something new and no one left without something in hand.

Now it was time to once again share some words of wisdom and the love of the written word. Carolyn Howard-Johnson not only addressed those who have been published, want to be published, but also those who have a story to tell...and that is everyone.

After listening to Carolyn share her thoughts and wishes for those attending the book festival it was time once again to roam the room, talk to authors and learn about some newly release (and not so newly released) books. The St. George area community found over 30 authors waiting to share, talk and sign books.

As the day came to an end, everyone was ready to go home, put their feet up and relax. It was a packed day from beginning to end. Now to rest up, take note of the few suggestions and comments given, relook at how thing played out and plan for next year.

VS Grenier and David W. Smith
co-chairs of the St. George Book Festival

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Writing Mama Show with Author Maryann Tatro

Join BTR's World of Ink Network every Monday on The Writing Mama show with host Virginia S Grenier as she talks with debut and award-winning authors about writing, the importance of reading and thier latest works.

This week debut author Maryann Tatro is our guest Monday Oct. 21st at 4pm eastern. MaryAnn Tatro attended Southern Ohio Business College and received a degree in Office Administration and Communication. She also attended Cooper School of Art for one year and took with her a love to create, design and color. She worked several years for a publishing company in Cleveland while raising her son Ryan.

Tatro’s inspiring children’s picture book, Milton the Square Shell Turtle released Summer 2013 and is published by Halo Publishing, Int.

Milton is a story of a turtle. Unlike other turtles with round or oval shells, Milton has a square shell.
You can find out more about MaryAnn Tatro, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

Learn more about the World of Ink at

Listen to the podcast at

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Making the Front Page of the Local Paper

Author Virginia S. Grenier speaks to children and parents about writing during the St. George Book Festival at the St. George Library on Friday. 
I have been working over the last few months, along with my co-chair David W. Smith, on the relaunch of the St. George Book Festival. It's been a lot of work and I've enjoyed every minute of it. I have been interviewed, quoted, etc. ever since October hit and as the week came closer to the big event (Oct. 14-19, 2013). What I didn't expect was making the front page as the lead story in my local paper. 

You can imagine the shock and surprise I felt as I walked into the ballroom of the Lexington Hotel on Saturday October 19th for the final and biggest event of the book festival week...the Book Expo where we had over 30 authors there to talk, sell an autograph their books for Washington County, Utah community for free, to see many of the authors holding up the front page of The Spectrum where I was not only the lead story but also half the page had this picture above printed with it. 

I don't think we are ever prepared to see ourselves in the spotlight as an author. I sure wasn't and it's not something I have on my list of goals. Yes, fame can be nice, but I do what I do because I love reading readers and networking with other authors. However, it was still exciting to see and it felt good knowing my community sees the importance of reading and writing. 

If you would like to read the story, visit

Friday, October 18, 2013

Interview Friday with Award-winning Writing Instructor Scott Driscoll

Scott Driscoll, an award-winning writing instructor at UW, Continuing and Professional Education, took several years to finish Better You Go Home (October 2013, Coffeetown Press), a novel that grew out of the exploration of the Czech side of his family in the 1990s after Eastern Europe was liberated. Driscoll keeps busy freelancing stories to airline magazines.

VS: Scott, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Scott: I have to sheepishly admit, it helps to have a spouse who works full-time with benefits.  I do most of the child shuttling.  That leaves me free to write during the day.  I teach (mostly night classes at the UW) so for years and years I have been gone two nights a week and my wife has had to cover that (and it also means much of my time during the day is consumed with prepping for classes or reading student material). Any way you do it, the key is to have consistent time that is inviolable, that is your writing work time and time that your family is not allowed to disturb. I work out of an office in our basement.  I am not tempted by the laundry.  It helps to like solitude. This undisturbed time is precious. It took me ten years from research and early attempts at chapters to having a contract for my book. Much of that time was devoted to writing other things and of course to teaching and child-rearing, but increasingly as I got into final drafts of my novel I found that I absolutely needed hours each day to make any real progress, and if that meant not returning phone calls or not checking email before leaving to pick up my son, well that’s how it was.  

VS: How long have you been writing?  

Scott: In my mid to late twenties, I wrote a 200-page novel imitating Alain Robbe-Grillet’s method of only observing surfaces and reporting actions.  It was unbearable to read, but showed some promise as an experiment. I shopped it to maybe ten agents.  The polite response: way too experimental for a regular press; try university presses.  I knew nothing about presses.  One agent called me and said, look, I see you have some talent and ambition, but clearly, you have no idea what readers will tolerate.  Write short stories.  Get a few published.  Find out what you can get away with.  Then write a novel. I took that advice to heart. Around 30, I published my first short story in a literary journal.  I’d say I’ve been pretty serious about it since then.

VS: What inspired you to write your book?

Scott: A chance remark overheard at a funeral in Iowa.  “Now that she has died (referring to my aunt), there is no one left who can translate the letters written in Czech.” What letters? My curiosity led me to discover an entire side to my family that no one ever talked about (or to). This led me on an odyssey to the Czech Republic to track down the village and what I discovered about my relative’s bad behavior led me to want to write about the confluence between family and the pressure of 20th Century events and how those issues play out in the progeny of the survivors.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?

Scott: Right now, they are not typical because of the work of promoting the novel, such as doing interviews.  Interviews are a good thing.  Writers learn from other writers. But when I am on a project, which will be the case soon, I get busy with it in the morning after taking my son to his school bus.  If at all possible, I put off returning emails and calls until mid to late afternoon.  If I have to do class prep, I do that first thing after lunch, or, if there is no time, I do it at night after my son goes to bed. When I am writing articles, I get busy with the phone calls and research right away and that usually makes it impossible to get any fiction done, aside from editing.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?

Scott: Mostly yes. They like that I do it. They like that it draws attention. But they resent it if my teaching or writing obligations detract from family time.  We go through a lot of negotiations.

VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published?

Scott: Short stories in literary magazines. Eventually, creative nonfiction essays and lots of feature writing for magazines. And now finally a novel, the thing I started with.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book?

Scott: I will include the press release.  It details what the current novel, Better You Go Home (my debut novel) is about:

Life often obscures more than it reveals. Writing well is about knowing how a story is built,   and then pouring the raw material of life into it. One must find material he or she cares about and stiffen it with the scaffolding of voice, character and premise―until a story emerges.

Nov. 13th – Third Place Bookstore – 7:00 pm
Nov. 15th – University Bookstore – 7:00 pm

Better You Go Home
A Life-Altering Journey to the Czech Republic Inspired by a True Story

(Seattle, WA.)— A married man’s unexpected departure from Czechoslovakia― with the neighbor woman and her children―is at the heart of a mysterious trail of true events that has inspired University of Washington writing instructor Scott Driscoll to write his first novel, Better You Go Home. “At a family funeral in the early 90s, I learned about a cache of letters written in Czech to my aunt. I had them translated and learned that a male relative had left his wife and three children in a remote farm village in Bohemia prior to World War One.” Driscoll continues, “I learned my relative and the neighbor woman married bigamously in Iowa. The other fact revealed was the presence of a child named Anezka―who seems to have simply disappeared. I suspect she was their illicit child.”

Not long after, Driscoll visited his relative’s village and began to speculate. “What had become of the unidentified child? What if my life had deployed on her side of the Iron Curtain? Once that question lodged in my psyche, like a small wound that wouldn’t heal, I knew I had to write this story.” The work of literary fiction that trip inspired is Better You Go Home. The novel traces the story of Seattle attorney Chico Lenoch, who is diabetic, nearing kidney failure and needs a donor organ.  He travels to the Czech Republic in search of his half-sister who may be able to help save his life. What Chico does not count on is unearthing long-buried family secrets.

It begins when he searches through his father’s attic after the Velvet Revolution and discovers letters dated four decades earlier revealing the existence of a half-sister. That sets him on a quest to see if he can find her. Once in the Czech Republic, Chico meets Milada, a beautiful doctor who helps him navigate the obstacles. While Chico idealizes his father’s homeland, Milada feels trapped. Is she really attracted to him, or is he a means of escape to the United States? Chico confronts a moral dilemma as well. If he approaches his sister about his need for a kidney, does he become complicit with his father and the power brokers of that generation who’ve already robbed her of so much?

Better You Go Home is about a son seeking his father’s secrets, but in a larger sense, it’s about the progeny of exiles. Says Driscoll, “Much has been written about the survivors of WWII and its aftermath; I want to draw attention to the lives of their children.”

VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book?

Scott: Getting over the research and then telling a story that departed from my own family’s experience. Also, in the early going, I wanted to include everything, to digress, to write about my protagonists’ journey to discover his lost sister and uncover family secrets and meanwhile to have my say about the pressure cooker of Eastern bloc history.  While writing the book, I also found myself fascinated with the question of torture. How do people endure it?  How does it change them?  What brand of social justice might one expect? What is the appropriate response from the progeny of those who suffered exile and torture?  At some point, I had to scale it back, find the main story, and hone in.  That required making some very tough decisions and throwing out a lot of material. 

VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?

Scott: My wife would disagree on this.  But here was my dilemma.  I had fashioned a protagonist whose journey led him to uncover family members warped by harsh experience while he was sailing through unscathed.  He had to be scathed. One of the hardest chapters I had to write dramatized his mistreatment (I won’t go into details) at the prison. This was a tipping point for me.  This forced me to stop protecting my character. I am not saying it’s my best chapter.  I only mean I learned something by having written it.

VS: This is a work of fiction and many writers tend to put friends, family and even themselves into characters. What character is most like you?

Scott: The narrator, though only to a point.  A friend from the past who hasn’t seen me in over thirty years read an early review copy (she writes reviews) and wrote back alarmed, certain that I was suffering end-stage kidney disease and diabetes. (Partly based on the photo in the book.  I sent that photo because I thought it captured a “tortured” look.)  This is not the case. My health is outstanding. In the photo, I was trying on a look of being heavily consternated if not actually besieged.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Scott: A Baltic story is next.  Latvia.  Song Festival.  An American born Latvian composer goes back to his homeland to pursue success that eludes him in America but he finds that he must work with an entrenched apparatchik from the former regime implicated in deportations and torture that affected his family and he has a brother in Riga who has inherited the remnants of the Popular Front, now with no mission left but to seek redress from those former Soviet toadies. It all boils down to a conversation in a rowboat on a river.

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Scott: Good question. Take advantage of the time when your children are at daycare or school to write. There are no end of distractions with setting up after-school activities, planning vacations, going to PTA meetings, carpooling, appointments, etc. These distractions will take over your life.  You have to push back.  You have to set aside time you devote only to writing, even if you don’t’ get any writing done on a given day.  You sit with your laptop or at your desk, or wherever you have to be, and you daydream or noodle on a notepad. This is your time. Everything else is scheduled around it, short of emergencies. Don’t let your spouse guilt-trip you into sacrificing this time.  It is as important to you as breathing.  Make that clear. If you have little ones at home and no daycare, it’s harder.  Set up a laptop and do what you can while the kids are busy or napping.  Devote a certain amount of time in the evening to your writing while your spouse does the kid duty. Have a notepad nearby to jot down ideas.

VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?  

Scott: To be believable, a character has to seem consistent with “kinds” of people you have known, though exaggerated. Details matter. So do gestures. To be interesting and believable, a character should be fraught with internal conflict and should have an evident conscious desire that is causing the character to quest toward a goal. This character should represent one indelible “value” and should be capable of surprising the reader while at the same time feeling inevitable. It’s a tall order. James Wood would claim that all that is needed is a very particular gesture or impression, the “whiff of palpability” that in a moment captures the “thisness” of a particular character without requiring an elaborate dossier. Frankly, most readers need more. We want our character’s history, some anyway, and we want to root around in our character’s free indirect discourse (that internal voice that reacts to stimuli from the surface situation). We lose interest in inert or passive characters.  We do not believe in characters whose looks and gestures are too clich├ęd.

VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?

Scott: First, talk to them.  Talk “to” them, not “at” them. Talk a lot.  Talk talk talk.  Who cares if they don’t understand you.  They are listening even if you think they are not. Challenge them verbally. Your children first learn language from you.  Then of course read to them.  Have books around.  Let them see you reading books. Talk about what you are reading.  Let them know that what you are reading is part of your life, it’s not just something you do for distraction. Do NOT let them see you endlessly distracted by your electronic devices. Think of the message that is sending your kids.

VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?

Scott: I won the Milliman Award for Fiction when I was in the MFA program at the University of Washington. I have since won eight Society of Professional Journalist awards for my nonfiction writing. There have been a couple other minor awards along the way. Advice to writers trying to break in: enter contests. If you don’t win the award, often it will lead to publication or other opportunities, and the acceptance rates for contests are often higher than at most literary journals. Writing conferences often sponsor contests.  Enter them.  It is a good way to win an award and get attention from an agent.

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?

You can find out more about me, my book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?

Scott: Don’t be afraid to use your own kids for material. Some of my best stories early on involved my daughter.  Once she was old enough to figure this out, she was a little resentful, but now she understands. My son was flattered that I used his expression “baguette” ponytail to describe one of my minor characters.  Now he wants to collaborate with me on a book. In other words, include your kids as much as you can.  Make this part of your life. Make them part of your life. There isn’t any better material for life.