New Year, Big Changes

The new year has brought many challenges. There have been health issues and loss of friend and family members. But, this is only the beginning of a year that promises many great and positive things.

I’m scheduled to speak at multiple events this year. For my first appearance, I’ll be the speaker for the February 18th Tulsa NightWriters Club meeting. It’s an open meeting. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop in and see me. I’ll be discussing The Nuts and Bolts of Submissions, regarding contest and publishing submissions. Click here for more information about the meeting.

Meet the Publishers! is coming up on Saturday, March 28th. This is the sixth year I’ve held this event. I’m quite excited about our panel, as we’ve added a magazine publisher and a newspaper, too. Click here for more information.

I’m currently making big plans to change this website. So, if it goes a little off-kelter for a few days, be sure to come back and visit after I’ve fixed it up. I think we’ll both appreciate the changes.

Hope to see you next week at the Tulsa NightWriters’ meeting.

 

A Holiday Flash Fiction Story

I recently offered to post this story on my website for the holidays. I wrote the first version for a contest in 2013 and changed it over the next six years. Here is my new and improved 2019 version. Please enjoy, and have a wonderful Christmas, however you spend it!

Look What the Wind Blew In
by Renee’ La Viness

Steam rose from Opal’s cup of hot chocolate as she carried it to the living room.

The early December snow was beautiful, but to an elderly woman living alone, it was cruel. It made the bones ache and the body shiver. She set the warm drink on the side table then wrapped the small blue afghan around her legs and settled into her easy chair.

A soft thump sounded on the front porch. It was probably a wandering dog, but she decided to check it out. Slowly, she rose from the chair and shuffled across the room.

When she opened her front door, the bitter wind barged in without permission, and tiny ice crystals danced in with it. On the porch floor, a mess of shoe prints led to a pot of poinsettias trimmed with a wide gold ribbon. They were her favorite holiday flowers. In the middle, a small note attached to a plastic stick fluttered in the icy air.

Careful not to slip on the porch, Opal leaned over and snatched the flower pot. She quickly carried it inside and shut the door, locking out the wind and snow.

In the warmth of her living room, she read the note.

“WILL YOU…” The rest had been torn off.

“Will you what?” she asked out loud, as if expecting an answer. “I need the rest of the note. I wonder who left it.” She set the pot on a small table between her matching chairs. The bright red flowers seemed to make the room smile.

“I bet this is from Betty.” She picked up the phone to call her friend. It rang twice before anyone answered.

“Hello?”

“Betty? It’s Opal. Thank you for the poinsettias. They really brightened my day. But, part of the note was missing.”

“What are you talking about, Opal? I’ve not left this house. I’m not stepping outside until the ice and snow melt.” Betty chuckled, then gasped. “Flowers, you say? A note? Did somebody leave you flowers, Opal? Do you have a boyfriend I don’t know about?”

“I’m not sure,” Opal replied, absently running a finger around the rim of the flower pot. “I’ll let you know.”

After hanging up, she leaned back in her easy chair. Trying to occupy her mind with something else, she opened the newspaper. She had read all the stories yesterday, but there wouldn’t be another issue until tomorrow, so she would read ads and clip coupons today.

A dentist was running a special on dentures and cleanings, a furniture store was having a price blowout, a book club was searching for new members, and the senior center wanted grandparents for needy children, especially for the holidays. She had signed up for one of those surrogate grandchildren last week, when the medical folks gave free blood pressure checks. She always took advantage of the health checkups. A person should be watchful of their health.

When she finished reading the ads, she reached for her scissors.

THUMP.

Another sound on the front porch. She headed to the door with great curiosity. Nobody was there, but another poinsettia had been delivered. She brought it in and set it beside the first plant. Taped to the side of the pot, she found the other half of the note.

“PLEASE…”

Opal raised one eyebrow and lowered the other. “Great. Will you please what?”

Her mind struggled to put the clues together. It wasn’t her birthday, but it was almost Christmas. Could it be a romantic gesture from a secret admirer?

“No,” she surmised. “Just like Betty said, nobody my age in his right mind would be out racing to disappear after leaving me a secret admirer gift, no matter how important the question. Not in this weather.”

Her face melted. It had to be some heartless kids playing a practical joke. There was no other explanation. She wondered if they knew her husband had recently died. Having no family left, she was all alone in the world.

With shaking fingers, she called Betty and asked her to help watch for the pranksters. She would not let those brats taunt her. She would catch them and call their parents or the law. If parents don’t know what their kids are doing, they can’t fix the problem.

Opal sat back in her chair and picked up her newspaper and scissors. Maybe clipping coupons would help her sort things out.

She considered calling the police. Even if she did catch the kids, what would she say to them? She’d heard today’s teens could be dangerous to deal with.

The phone rang, startling her out of her daydreams. She quickly answered.

“Opal, someone’s walking to your porch. They’re—”

“Thanks, Betty.”

Opal hurried to the door. When she opened it, a woman and a young boy stood before her on the front porch. The boy raised a handmade sign that said, “BE MY GRANDMA?”

Opal’s heart melted and a smile stretched across her face. “Oh, my surrogate grandchild is here! Please, please, come in.” She held her door open as they entered the warm, loving atmosphere of her living room and her heart.

Closing Time

The year 2019 is closing down, soon to be a dusty memory on the shelf, while 2020 is waiting for us to make fresh new memories. This has been a good year for me, but I hope 2020 will be even better.

Although I didn’t enter as many contests in 2019, I won a fair number of writing awards, including:

Each year, I sponsor and/or judge multiple conference contests. In 2019, I added the

La Viness Short Story Writing Contest

a new contest not involved with any conference. This one is my own special offer. Check out our 2019 winners on the contest website. Being the first year, it wasn’t yet known well, but I still had some rather competitive entries in the bunch. A big “THANK YOU” goes out to the judges who helped me determine the winners. The website will be updated in early January with the 2020 contest information. Submissions will be accepted from June 1st to August 31st, 2020.

I will also be offering a new contest at the White County Creative Writers Conference in 2020. Watch for it on their website.

All the 1st Place winners of my past contests are listed here.

Along with all the writerly news of 2019, we have some wonderful family news to share. We became great-grandparents in the spring! However, the little guy lives near the east coast, so we’re hoping to meet him in 2020, if possible.

Along with the new year comes a plan to attend some different conferences. I’ll still be at some of my regulars, and I’m still offering all the same contests. But, I want to visit some events in Kansas, Missouri, or Texas. Of course, if I am asked to speak at any events, you can be sure I’ll be at those! For more information, see my ABOUT page.

I have a fabulous panel of publishers lined up for the 6th Annual Meet the Publishers! event, in Tulsa. In past years, I’ve brought in book publishers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. This year, I’ve added a magazine publisher and a newspaper publisher. So, don’t miss our 2020 event on March 28th. Check out the website and save the date! Here’s a link: www.jespiddlin.com/publishers

If you’re following me to the conferences, keep an eye on my SCHEDULE page for the latest updates on where I’ll be.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season! Wishing you all the best in 2020!

Renee’ La Viness

 

Seasons Come and Go

We are nearing the end of the conference season. I’ve had a wonderful year. I’m even catching up on some projects I’ve been way behind on. It feels good, but I’m definitely tired and not even close to done.

I’ve already started my 2020 schedule on this website, so folks can plan ahead. As I confirm more dates, I’ll list them.

The Craft of Writing Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is this Saturday, October 26th. Find more information here, or sign up as “going” on our Facebook event page. It’s going to be another great experience.

On my AWARDS page, I recently listed the winner of my middle grade fiction contest that I sponsor at the Ozark Creative Writers Conference.

The STAGE FRIGHT short story contest deadline was October 22nd, so I hope you sent your submissions on time. Good luck to all who entered!

I’m currently working on the 6th Annual Meet the Publishers! event, which will be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, March 28th. This year, I’ve added magazine and newspaper publishers to the lineup.

The 2020 Read. Write. Share! Writers Weekend is scheduled for April 24-26 in Little Rock, Arkansas, so put that one on your calendar, too. (Website coming soon!)

I hope to see you this Saturday at the conference in Tulsa!

Summer Progress

Each summer turns out a little different than I expect. Sometimes, I feel like I can conquer the world, but I’m lucky to survive a two-week visit with one grandchild before I get to rest a few days and have another one over for a visit. Other times, I surprise myself with how much we accomplish. We always try to spend time on some of their projects and do some of mine, if we are able. This year has been moving along rather nicely, so far. We’ve made lots of progress.

I hope your summer (or winter?) is being good to you, also.

Dangerous Storms Cross the Nation

Tornado-Purple-1000x288Tornadoes are sweeping across the nation. When the number of tornadoes that dropped out of the clouds on Wednesday are finally determined, I wonder what those numbers will be. It’s not going to be just 5 or 10, and, unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of damage displayed on every news show and then some. They may make special TV shows about it, maybe even a movie. Some of the tornadoes have been huge and violent.

And there are the floods. Northern Oklahoma has been inundated with heavy rainstorms overfilling lakes, ponds, rivers, and reservoirs. So many of our lakes are nearly at their peak containment levels. That water has to be released and will flow southward. Hundreds, probably thousands of residents have been evacuated; told to grab what they can and get out. Their homes will be damaged or completely destroyed by floods. No way to save them. Just get out. Some homes are washing into the rivers and lakes as the rushing water claws and etches new boundaries along its southward path.

And the runaway barges… When and where will they settle? If they crash into the dam, they could cause massive destruction and more flooding downstream. But, where are they? Why haven’t they already reached the dam? Did some cowboys lasso them and prevent them from making their way there? Could we be so lucky that such superheroes might possibly exist? We need such a dream to come true, right now.

A lot of people will either sleep lightly or not at all, tonight. My heart goes out to those who have damage they are trying to deal with and nobody knows about it, yet. Nobody knows to come to the rescue, because the storms have refused to let up long enough to allow us to share such news.

When the sun rises in the morning, we will see thousands of photos of damage and destruction. We will hear unbelievable stories of people who stood in doorways or lawns and watched rotating storms pass them by, or others who barely escaped floods. We may even learn of lives lost. I sure hope not.

God bless those who are able to help others put their lives back together in even the smallest ways.

Conference Season is HERE!

I’m excited! Today, I’m leaving for the Read.Write.Share! Writer’s Weekend in Little Rock, Arkansas. We have a great schedule planned. Visit my SCHEDULE page for the link.

Another wonderful event about to begin is my very own short story writing contest! I have the website started, and I’ll add more details when I return home from my weekend trip. Check out the website and sign up for updates on the contest HERE.

This week, I received exciting news that one of my stories won SECOND PLACE in the Friends of Tulsa City-County Library Adult Writing Contest. What an honor!

If I don’t see you this weekend, I hope I’ll see you soon at a critique meeting, or another upcoming conference. Again, check my SCHEDULE page for clues on where I’ll be attending or speaking and when.

Conferences, Workshops, and More

It’s that time again, folks. Spring brings lots of great opportunities to meet other authors, publishers, illustrators and editors when you attend the conferences around the nation.

Check out my LINKS page for many of the area conferences within a six to eight hour drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Some of those conferences offer opportunities to enter writing contests and win some cash. Visit their websites to learn more. Find out how your writing competes with others!

If you’re looking for a chance to actually meet some area publishers and learn more about the industry and how it’s changing with self-publishing, traditional publishers, and more, don’t miss the 5th annual Meet the Publishers! event in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, March 30th.

If you’re interested in following me through the year, check out my SCHEDULE page.

Got questions? Send me an email from my ABOUT page!

Have a wonderful conference season!

Gifts for Writers

If you have a family member or friend who is a writer, and you want to give them gifts—for birthdays, holidays, or just because—but don’t know what to give, you’re not alone. Even writers have trouble offering ideas.

Most writers use and keep the inexpensive basic supplies listed. Listen for them to mention they are almost out or need to buy more, soon. Some don’t use all these things, so you do have to familiarize yourself with your writer’s preferences.

On the more expensive end of the list, you will find items we need—like conferences and workshops, or things need done but don’t always remember to do—like fixing the car, or things to help us get away from the desk, once in a while.

Below are some good ideas. They start small and move up in price. Free or almost free ideas are at the bottom.
Erasers – Hand-held erasers or pencil-tops?
Pens – Plastic, wood, metal? Ink or gel? Ink color(s)? Clip on side? Rubber pads around the middle?
Sticky Pads or Stickers – Color? Size? Design?
Paper Clips – Color? Size? Design?
Staples – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Stapler – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Highlight Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Permanent Markers – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
White-out – Color? Design? Brand?
Spiral or Other Notebooks – Wide ruled? College Ruled? No lines?
3-Ring Binders – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Copy paper
Printing paper – Some of us use colored paper or cardstock, too!
USB/Thumb Drives – Do they prefer small or large capacity? Is there a preferred brand or style?
Earbuds or Headphones – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Yarn – Some writers crochet or knit while conjuring stories. Know their brand, color, type preferences before you buy! There are other needed items, too, such as needles, hooks, etcetera.
Desk Organizer – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Chair Pad – For more comfortable sitting.
Business Cards – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal ones or help them design new ones.
Pamphlets – Only order these with your writer’s approval. You can reorder their normal supply or help them design new ones.
Books – Hardcover? Paperback? Ebook? Audio Book? Listen for wished-for book titles.
Magazine Subscription – Ask which ones they really want.
Ink Cartridges – This is a great gift! All writers need these! Buy the cartridges their printer/copier requires.
Light bulbs – Type – CFL, LED, Halogen?  How many watts? Brand?
Haircut/Hairstyle – Great when the writer has an event coming up.
Manicure/Pedicure – Do they have a preference?
Bus Pass – If they ride the bus a lot, buy a season pass to help them get from Point A to Point B.
Taxi Pass – Is there a way to pay some taxi time in advance?
Turnpike Pass – Some writers use the turnpike. Apply some cash to their stash.
Computer Program or App – Which ones have they been wishing for?
Clothing – For desk time or public events. You’ll need sizes, colors, styles, brands, etcetera.
Cozy socks or houseshoes – Color? Size? Design? Brand? Style?
Photo Shoot for Author Picture
Cover Art / Illustrator
Carry Bag – For laptop, luggage, books, and more.
Gift Cards or Prepaid Credit Cards – For specific stores (print shop, gasoline, restaurant), or whatever they wish. These would be extra welcome just before a trip.
Advertising – Help them announce their new book, new project, etcetera.
External Hard Drive – Is there a brand or style they prefer?
Display Rack – for book signings and sales. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Author Poster – for books, events, etcetera. (Design should be discussed with writer.)
Easel – to Display Posters. Color? Size? Design?
Computer – They will use this a LOT and need one that is up-to-date and suits their specific needs. (So, please learn their needs before purchasing one.)
Professional Edit – Is the work almost finished? Pay for a professional copyedit to polish the story.
Desk/Table/Chair – For office, or travel? Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Bookcase – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
File Cabinet – Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Video Camera – For book trailers and more. Color? Size? Design? Brand?
Webinars – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Workshops – Listen for subjects your writer wants/needs help with.
Study Courses – Listen for subjects your writer needs help with.
Gym Membership – Staying healthy can be hard for a writer who spends much of her time in a chair.
Writer’s Retreat – Alone or with a friend or friends, it’s nice to get away and write.
Conferences – Pay their way to a conference they want to attend.
Online Conferences – There may be an online conference they wish to attend.
Travel – Pay for a plane trip, rental car or other transportation to get to conferences or other events.
Hotel – Pay for their hotel costs to attend a conference or other event.
Research Trip – Would it help them to be on location? Send them there, or help them afford it!
Automobile – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.
Home – Upkeep, repair, or replacement.

A fun get-away is always a good idea for a writer who stays shut in a lot.

Day/Night Out – At the fair or carnival, concert, movies, swimming pool, skating rink, bowling alley, pool hall, learning to ride a horse, or?
Hiking, Fishing, Camping – Take time away from the writing to enjoy some of their favorite down-time hobbies.
Cruise – Where do they want to go? Is there something to celebrate, or would a cruise help them get away from all the interruptions of daily life?

Other ideas which are shareable:

Walk – Walk or jog together, or walk the dog(s).
Drive – Take a drive to nowhere in particular. Just hop in the car and go away for an hour or two.
Join them at a conference. Some writers want to attend a conference or other event, but won’t drive there alone. Just having someone along is a blessing. Take something to occupy your time while they’re at the event, or sign up to attend with them!

There are many more I could add, but these are items we use and/or need. And, if you’re reading this, you care enough to buy your writer something useful. Thank you for that.

If this list helps you find a gift for your writer, or you have other ideas, please share. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

(Watch for more about the FREE 5th Annual MEET THE PUBLISHERS! event in Tulsa Oklahoma. The 2019 date is Saturday, March 30th. Mark your calendars!)

We interrupt this program…

Yes, I was supposed to post a list on this page a few days ago. However, I went to a fabulous conference and totally wiped out when I returned. I’ve slept a lot and not had any brains most of the time, so I seem to have lost my next blog post. No worries. I’ll find it in the next day or two, I’m certain. I took it with me to the conference, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

In the meantime, celebrate with me, if you will. At the conference (Ozark Creative Writers), I won three awards:

2nd Place (romance)
3rd Place (another romance)
1st Honorable Mention (a romance gone bad).

For what it’s worth, I don’t write romance. I’m starting to consider it, though.

My wonderful husband, Gene La Viness, did one better and won 1st Place in the Oxbow Award. He’s a very good writer. I’m proud to be his wife for many reasons.

I’ll try to get that gift list for writers on here real soon. Thanks for understanding!

If you’re looking for me on Facebook, here’s my author page: Author – Renee’ La Viness

Gene also has an author page on Facebook: Author – Gene La Viness

Give us a LIKE and follow us there. Thanks!