Friday, August 13, 2010

It runs in the family

Again, I find that my wife and I do great work. My son's play, The Manhattan Connection, wowed the audience and the critics on opening night at the Heller Theatre's presentation of Shorts. For the next five nights, eight fine plays by local Tulsa playwrights will be presented. Each play is fifteen minutes or under. Pam and I are going tonight, August 13th.

I hope you have a chance to see the play. Remember the name Jeff Wetterman. He's our son!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bernhardt Seminar & Workshop

May 31st through June 6th I spent with Bill Bernhardt at an advanced seminar and his annual workshop. I've been to numerous conferences and attended small group clinics taught by published authors. A week with Bill Bernhardt surpasses them all.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Interview with Author Tracy Crump

Please welcome my good friend Author Tracy Crump. Through our online relationship, I entered a story for Chicken Soup for the Soul, and was subsequently published. Not only is Tracy a fine writer, but she is an encourager with teaching abilities and over one hundred published pieces.

Thank you, Bill. I love being called your good friend. And I especially enjoy encouraging writers like you who take off and soar. Your third Chicken Soup story will be coming out soon, won't it?

My third story comes out in December. I have two others pending. So Tracy, how did your first Chicken Soup story come to be published?

God has blessed me with encouragers along the way, too. As a beginning writer, I had only published a couple of articles when I joined a local writers' group. The leader, Marylane Wade Koch, knew I had worked as a nurse many years ago and emailed me one day to tell me Chicken Soup for the Soul was planning a second book for nurses. “Why don't you try submitting something?” she asked. Who, me? I never dreamed I could be published in such a popular series and besides it was too long since I'd worked as a nurse. So I let the deadline pass.

Marylane emailed again. “They've extended the deadline for the nurse's soul book. Why don't you try submitting something?”

“Because I can't think of anything to write about,” I whined. Then I thought of one story idea. Then I thought of another. And another. I ended up submitting five stories. Chicken Soup held three for consideration and published two. Since then, I've published four more Chicken Soup stories as well as stories in Cup of Comfort and the Ultimate series. Now Marylane and I conduct workshops on writing for Chicken Soup and other anthologies. I tell participants, “If I can do it, you can, too!”

How did that success lead you to publish pieces in other major publications?

Once I saw my work in print, I was hooked. Most writers can probably relate to that. But I also decided that if my work was good enough for Chicken Soup, it should be good enough for other major publications. While writing is not all about the money, we still shouldn't sell ourselves short.

Thomas Smith wrote a great article along these lines in this month's Christian Communicator. He was advised early on to let his writing speak for itself. No matter how much or how little the pay, I always strive to submit my best work, and then, as Thomas suggests, I start with the top markets and work my way down. I've sold pieces to small publications for as little as $8 (and given away some for free), but I've also published articles in Focus on the Family, Today's Christian, ParentLife, Pray!, and others. And if I can do it, your readers can, too!

Bill, I'd also like to add a plug about writing for magazines. Most writers think they have to publish a book to experience success. But if you have a message you want to get out, which is the motivation for many Christian writers, magazines will connect you with a larger audience. Sally Stuart, author of Christian Writers' Market Guide, says a book in the Christian market sells an average of 4500 copies. A single article in Focus on the Family reaches 800,000 people. And it's a lot easier to write a 1000-word article than a 60,000-word book.

I’ve found some success writing for Chicken Soup. I think it’s because personal experiences hold deep emotions. What advice do you have for people interested in writing for Chicken Soup?

First, the best advice I can give is also the simplest, whether you're writing for Chicken Soup or any other publication: Follow the guidelines. You'd be surprised how many people don't. If you give a publication exactly what they ask for, you're already ahead of the pack.

In trying to write for Chicken Soup for the Soul, people seem to have the most problem differentiating between giving their testimonial (which the guidelines say they do not want) and telling their personal experience story. Chicken Soup stories are often emotional, and it becomes difficult not to testify to what God has done. When we do, however, it becomes a bit like preaching (which Chicken Soup also doesn't want).

So think about it this way: Jesus preached, but He also told stories which we call parables. In those stories, He didn't say, “God did this, and God did that.” Instead, He said things like “There was a wayward son who took his inheritance and spent it on riotous living, but his father welcomed him back,” or “A man fell among thieves who beat him and robbed him and left him on the side of the road to die. Then along came a Samaritan . . . ”

So my advice is to let God's actions drive the story. Let God speak through the circumstances.

Social networking has been the hottest topic at conferences this past year. You’re a member of FCW and The Kentucky Christian Writers group. You have a writer’s newsletter and are a member of The Writer’s View 2. Did your publishing success come as a result of your social networking or the other way around?

It has worked both ways. I joined FCW (Fellowship of Christian Writers) soon after I started writing and learned so much by being able to ask questions of experienced writers and editors such as Terry Burns and Terry Whalin. Highly successful Cec Murphey of TWV2 is one of the most encouraging writers I've ever met. They and many others played a part in helping me advance at different times in my writing. I hope I've encouraged other writers along the way, too.

I agree. We are blessed to have Christian writers like Cec who give so freely of their talent.

I also joined my first critique group through FCW. Getting sound critique is a must for those who want to improve their writing quickly. Heather Trent Beers says it's like taking the elevator rather than the stairs to get to the top floor. Like networking, critique means you don't have to go it alone. Now I'm privileged to moderate an online critique group composed of talented writers.

The writers' newsletter I co-edit is a great way of connecting with other writers and giving back a little of what I've received.

I’ve been a contributor to your newsletter and find many informative articles in it each month. Tell the reader more about The Write Life.

Marylane and I launched The Write Life (TWL) at our first Chicken Soup workshop. We began with nine subscribers. It now goes out to more than 250 writers, and some forward it to their writing groups.

The newsletter consists of a short writing or marketing tip (fewer than 400 words) and “Kat's Kernels: Strange and Interesting Bible Facts” by Kat Crawford. We know everyone's in-box fills up fast so we're committed to keeping the newsletter concise and pertinent. As a bonus, we email story callouts for Chicken Soup and other anthologies to our subscribers. We post back issues at

Because of our subscriber base, Marylane and I have been able to attract contributing writers knowledgeable in writing topics outside our experience. For example, editor Jim Watkins contributed an article on writing humor, Julie Ferwerda wrote on a little-known marketing technique called book bombing, and Max Elliot Anderson taught us how to write for tween boys.

Of course, you were our first contributor, Bill. Your article on meeting deadlines drew from your many years' experience in the corporate world. Next month, novelist Virginia Smith, keynote speaker for the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in June, will contribute an article. In the near future, I plan to ask Sally Stuart to lend her talents. Hey, all she can do is say no!

You’ve conducted workshops on several of my favorite topics such as: Critique Give and Take, Tackling Tough Topics, and the ever popular, Write Winning Queries. If writers’ groups are interested in inquiring about your workshops, how do they go about it?

They can
go to and click on Writing/Speaking. I'll present workshops next month at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference ( June 11-12.

Writers can also find information at about Write Life Workshops, such as the Chicken Soup workshop, that Marylane and I co-present. For now, we have to stick pretty close to the Memphis area (Marylane has one more year of home schooling with her daughter, Meredith), but with Meredith as our tech guru, we may one day present webinars.

I was honored to be the first contributor to The Write Life.

From my research it appears you’ve stayed in the non-fiction venue. Any thoughts about trying fiction?

I've learned never to say never. Though I don't feel I have enough imagination to write fiction, I never thought I was qualified to write devotionals either. Thirty published devotionals later, I can say I love diving into the Word and using a short personal experience to connect the reader with God's truth. If writing fiction is something God wants me to do, He will equip me to do it. That's not to say I won't have to work hard to learn fiction techniques.

In closing, what advice do you have for writers who are still at the beginning of their writing life?

Be bold enough to submit your work to large publications or major publishing houses, be persistent enough to keep submitting even after countless rejections, and be humble enough to listen to advice on how to improve your writing. Never stop learning. Never stop praying.

And remember: If I can do it, you can, too!

It’s been fun interviewing you. I wish you continued success. For those visiting this blog, you can learn more about Tracy and subscribe to The Write Life free at

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Interview with Author Karlene Petitt

Please welcome Karlene Petitt, an author, airline pilot, mother, and grandmother. Karlene is known to work in her garden in her bikini. How cool is that! I met Karlene at a Bill Bernhardt seminar and found her to be a bright, fun-loving, and interesting person. I hope you will, too.

Bill… Thank you for the interview and also for sharing with your readers that I garden in my bikini. I laughed. When you have a large and busy family, and you’re a pilot writing a novel, you learn to multi-task. Sometimes that means to enjoy the sunshine ‘guilt free’ it is in the garden working. The neighbors seem to enjoy it.

This question crossed my mind the moment I met you. With two master’s degrees and many opportunities, what took you into the world of an airline pilot?

Actually, the pilot career came first. And mine was an unusual start based on a challenge. When I was 9 years-old my girlfriends and I were playing the game called careers. The career choices were to become a stewardess, nurse, school teacher or librarian. All my girlfriends landed on the ‘stewardess’ spot, but not me. I said, “I don’t care, I’m going to be the pilot anyway.” One of my girl friends enlightened me that I could not be a pilot because ‘girls’ couldn’t fly planes, her dad was a pilot. That was the challenge I needed, and from that moment forward, I had made my career choice. The masters followed with the thirst for education, and writing… it has been part of my soul for a very long time. But like many I said, “one day I am going to write a novel.”

You’ve had an outstanding career flying mostly Boeing aircraft, including 747 and 757. Now you’re finishing training on Airbus A330 for Delta. You’re in the middle of a very impressive career. There has to be conflicts between flying, writing, and family life. How have you handled the stress?

The stress of life and to how to handle it…I’m thinking of a title for a best seller. I’m not sure in the early years I handled it all that well. I just operated at full speed, and sacrificed my health in the process, mostly due to the lack of sleep. Even if we don’t feel stress, long term stress will impact the physical body.

Today I am older, and hopefully wiser, and I take proactive measures to do it all, and work to eliminate the stress. Not only do I exercise daily, but I make a point to sleep, and get massages regularly. One thing about being busy… if you love what you’re doing, the only stress you feel is from the things left undone…that you don’t want to do. Schedule 2 hours a day to work on the things that need to be done, and then spend the rest of the day feeling guilt free at your computer writing! Or… if you have the means, hire someone to do them for you. I now have a housekeeper clean my house the day before I get home…A well earned gift for working hard. This frees up my time to write, or study.

When conflicts arise, I just prioritize. Sometimes that is harder to do than other times. But everything always works out.

I agree. We need to prioritize each day, making time for exercise, rest, and the other key elements of our lives.
Tell us about Flight for Control. I’ve only read the sections you submitted at our seminar, and I found the writing piqued my interest. What gave you the idea for the novel, and do you typecast your characters after real people?

The idea for Flight for Control was inspired by recent airline crashes that have occurred over the previous two years, the current economic stress, and the resulting cutbacks at all the airlines. As you know there is a great deal of stress occurring in the world today, and pilots are not exempt. I wondered: What would it take to push a pilot to their limits? What is that limit? What if someone in the TSA had their own agenda? What if terrorists took control of our planes via the flight crews?

As far as typecasting my characters… you could say that many of my characters have personalities that I have met, or worked with, in real life. Not that I created a character out of a particular person, but have adopted traits, a voice, and some portion of their personality. And more importantly… which character am I? Writers, create multiple characters in your story and keep the readers guessing.

What have been some of your toughest writing stumbling blocks, the areas you’ve had the most difficulty grasping, and how did you conquer them?

My greatest obstacle has been to find the time and money to attend a writers retreat, or conference. But once I finally made that commitment and attended the Hawaii writers’ retreat and the ensuing conference, I realized that without the retreat and conference, I doubt my novel would go farther than my living room. To all aspiring writers… there is so much to learn. The retreats assist you in honing your skills, and the retreats teach you how to move your novel from your computer to the bookshelf. My first retreat was with William Bernhardt, an incredible teacher, and I was provided an incredible foundation.

I started out as a blank slate. I thought earning masters degrees and writing training programs gave me the ability to write a novel…. Wrong. Honestly, there is nothing I haven’t grasped. There is a lot I didn’t know and still need to learn, but I think the willingness to listen and be open to advice makes all the difference between success and failure.

The question on the minds of every unpublished author is: How do you find an agent? Can you share your game plan with us?

My game plan is this… write my novel, rewrite, edit, and reedit until there is absolutely nothing I can do to improve it, and then I will attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle, July 22- 25th and pitch it ‘live’ to agents. I was told in Hawaii by an agent from New York, “It’s all about how you write it.” I will also follow Heather’s advice on the ‘how to.’ Heather has been sharing her journey of ‘writing to publication’ on her personal blog Heather now has an agent and will be pitching to editors in New York next month. She has a ton of information to share with all.

Life is about continual improvement and growth. To bring life to our novels we must adapt that philosophy, and never give up. Do what ever it takes. You can believe that I will never give up on this journey. I have far too many novels and stories that need to get out, and they will.

Social networking is a must for new authors. You’ve managed to establish a blog, twitter account, Facebook, and other networking connections. How difficult were these networking tools to create, and how hard are they to maintain?

They were not difficult at all to set up. The most difficult part is jumping in that pool, but once you’ve committed, then you find out how much fun it is, and yes… how time consuming too. Time is the greatest issue. But I have met so many wonderful people on twitter and Facebook. I wish I had more time to talk to them. I met another pilot/author, who was Flight to Success’ featured Fabulous Flyer on May 14th, Nate Carriker. Many of my Friday Flyers are via twitter.

During my conference last summer, I also met three wonderful ladies and we began a blog together: Jule, Linda, Heather and I have come together to share our journeys and experiences. Sometimes we have a theme, other times we discuss whatever comes to mind, but we always have something for other writers, like ourselves, to connect with. A combined blog really helps on the time commitment, one day a week is very doable.

Since I have been in a five week, very intensive training program learning the A330, I had to put my novel on a shelf to simmer. That was very challenging because I have lived with it for four months. However, I did not want to lose touch with my ‘right’ brain so I created a blog that would connect writing with my training. The response has been overwhelming. And fun. Yes… a ton of work. And this blog is how I studied. And if you’re so inclined to earn an A330 type rating… you too can read and pass the training.

Is there another novel coming after Flight for Control? And, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers about your writing adventure so far?

Yes, there are many more novels to come! I have two more aviation thrillers in the works, followed by a series, similar to Stephanie Plum’s, but with a female airline pilot and her humorous adventures. Shifting gears a bit, I also have a Young Adult novel, Twist of Faith, ready for a major rewrite.

I have found a new home within the writing community. The opportunity to meet fellow writers, work with authors such as William Bernhardt, and watch my novel grow, is an opportunity of a lifetime. Bill, your support to your fellow writers like myself, is so much appreciated.

A message to your writers, don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot make it. Dedication, hard work, and commitment… you will get there, just don’t ever give up. One day at a time and in no time you will have your novel complete.

Thanks for sharing with us, Karlene. I highly recommend looking at the The concept works at so many levels. I also thank you for your willingness to be open and share from the heart. I’m sure will see each other at conferences over the years, share a cocktail, and autograph each others’ books. Success to you and friendly skies.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Interview With Author Delia Latham

Welcome Author Delia Latham: a mom, grandma, California transplant, and the first woman to persuade me to read a homespun Christian romance. Her new novel, Yesterday’s Promise, has been released in electronic format through White Rose Publishing.

Hello everyone. Thank you, Bill, for allowing me to share your blog space. I’m especially touched that you were willing to endure a romance novel for a fellow author—that’s true generosity of spirit! I hope, at the very least, that it’s a storyline you’ll remember for a good, long while.

Your writing career includes too many achievements to mention in one interview. How long have you been writing professionally, and what have been your most memorable successes?

Kind words, those! I’m just a struggling author, but I am grateful for the opportunities God has laid in my path.

I’ve been writing in some capacity for too many years to mention without giving away my age. I’ve been writing something almost as far back as I can remember, but didn’t really begin doing it for serious publication until 1986, when I took a position as a Staff Writer for a large daily newspaper. That led to my freelancing for an upper-echelon regional magazine. But I didn’t write my first novel until 2005. It was published in 2006, and Goldeneyes followed in 2008.

Goldeneyes will always be the book of my heart, I suppose. I set it in Weedpatch—the little California farming community where I grew up, and I borrowed names for many of the characters from people and families who were a big part of my life there. Getting that book into print was a major achievement for me, and I consider it one of my greatest successes.

Tell us about your association with White Rose Publishing. They’ve split the White Rose line away from TWRP. Has the new organization been easy to work with?

They’re wonderful! It’s great to work with a group of editors who “speak the language” of Christian fiction so well. I’ve been completely happy with my experience with White Rose.

Marketing e books has become the primary method for putting books into the hands of new readers. Many people now use a Kindle or Barnes & Nobles’ Nook for their reading selections. Does White Rose Publishing make your books available through Kindle and Nook? Also do they make hardcopies available?

My book is available through Kindle, but not through Nook just yet. All White Rose Publishing books are also available directly from their website ( Only books over 60,000 words are made available in print version. Yesterday’s Promise is just under 54,000, so is available in e-format only.

I found the interaction between Brock and his son to be beautifully crafted, particularly because Brock doesn’t know Davey is his son. I was also impressed that the emotional tension between Hannah and Brock remained consistent throughout. What inspired you to write this story?

Thank you, Bill—I’m glad you found something to appeal to your masculinity in my little homespun Christian romance! lol

I wish I could say where the inspiration came from, but the closest I can come is this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above.”

This story came about in such a bizarre manner that I can only think God must have known someone needed to read it. I was working on Goldeneyes, and had come up against a massive wall of writer’s block. To be honest, I was at the point of despair. One day, I was surfing the web a bit, looking for inspiration that was nowhere to be found, when I came across an advertisement for National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). For those who might not know, it’s an annual writing marathon that lasts from November 1-30 every year. Writers are encouraged to churn out at least 50,000 words—either a small novel, or that many words toward a longer one. I saw the ad three, maybe four days prior to November 1, 2005 and made up my mind to do it. Having made that decision, I laid aside all my notes and worry and plans for Goldeneyes, and started getting my husband and my house ready for a month of “no mama.” J Three days later, I sat down in front of my monitor, pulled up a blank screen and started writing. I pulled an opening out of thin air and just plowed ahead. Literally. I had no idea where the story was going, how it would end, no outline, no definite ideas as to storyline. Out of that split-second decision, Yesterday’s Promise was born. Of course, it started out under the title Almost Like a Song, but that’s a whole other story.

At the DFW Writers’ Conference last week, the question came up about the future of books in print and the need for agents or publicists in an electronic world. Your book, Almost Like a Song, is coming back in electronic format - new cover, new title. Do you have an agent, or is your commitment exclusively to the publishing house with you doing your own publicity through social networking?

I don’t have an agent—but I’d love to! You don’t happen to have one waiting in the wings, do you? I guess the answer is yes, my commitment is exclusively to White Rose Publishing. They help with publicity, but I am heavily involved in marketing my book.

I understand your motto is: “Never, never, never, never, give up!” After looking over your online presence, I’m surprised your motto isn’t: “Never, never, never, never, slow down.” How do you manage your family time, personal pursuits, and career? And a follow up question, do you have the understanding and patience of your family behind you?

Ah, the profoundly simple quote from Winston Churchill, via Og Mandino. Og actually added a few “nevers” to his, which had seven of them. One for each day of the week. I love it, don’t you?

To be honest, there’s little time available for slowing down…not for an author doing the lion’s share of marketing on a book she doesn’t want to see go the way of the forgotten. I’m immensely blessed to have a husband who supports my passion for writing. My four children are all adults, and they understand—even if they don’t always appreciate—the fact that I spend countless hours staring at a computer screen. When they really need me, of course I’m available to them. Writing can be laid aside for a time…life cannot. But I appreciate my family’s respect for my writing career, especially now that I’ve taken on a full-time job outside my home. This means that I have to guard my Saturdays and most weekday evenings for writing. We make the most of those wonderful occasions when the family is all together; we stay in touch via Facebook, telephone, and e-mail in between. And we keep on loving each other.

What can we look forward to from Delia Latham in the near future?

A children’s book, Adam’s Wings, will be released December 2010. I’m looking forward to that. It’s about a somewhat careless little angel who can’t keep up with his wings.

I’m also working on the second of a three-book series based around a Christian dating agency. Hopefully, by the time it’s finished, the first book will be placed with a publisher, and I’ll have a solid storyline laid out for the third. My working title for that series is “Solomon’s Gate.” Watch for it!

Finally, many readers have not yet achieved recognition for their efforts? When you were in their position, what did you do that led to your success?

Oh, I’m still striving for success! Two published books does not spell literary stardom. What small measure of name recognition I have accomplished came about by a lot of hard work and commitment; countless hours of networking; helping other authors whenever possible, because I’ve been blessed by a number of caring, experienced people who took time to give a hand up to a beginner; prayer—because it’s where I find my strength; and simple trust that God has a plan for my life and my career, and that He has it all under control.

Thanks Delia. for sharing your time with us. I, too, believe in giving back to people who need something I know I can give, or need a hand as I once did. That’s what God asks us to do. I know your book, Yesterday’s Promise, will sell well.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Upcoming Interviews

This month is interview month. May 11th will feature Delia Latham's blog tour. Her book, Yesterday's Promise, has just come out in e-book form. May 17th will feature Karlene Petitt, pilot turned author. She flies the Airbus A330 for Delta and writes novels as well. Someone who loves dark chocolate and deep red wine as got to be interesting. May 24th, my friend and author Tracy Crump will be interviewed. Tracy has around 100 credits, including Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, devotionals, and major magazine articles.

To receive updates or leave comments follow the prompts. If you are already on Blogger use that. If not, set up a Goggle password.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Preparing for Conferences

Conference preparation is extremely important. That and guts. Those of you who know me know I'm not shy. This year I'm going to the DFW and OWFI Conferences. I know many of you are going to ACFW. The approach is always the same. Here's my recipe for success.
  1. Create a one page. Put a picture in the upper left hand corner that will capture an agent or editor's attention. Then, hit them with a back cover type hook and contact information. This should be the first thing you hand your interviewer at your appointment - also in elevators and at lunch tables, etc.
  2. Prepare a one minute hook on your book followed by a one minute hook on yourself. Why are you the author they need to work with?
  3. Research your interviewer! Know what they've published, what houses they've worked with, and where they come from. Tell them why you chose them.

Finally, don't be shy. You have one shot. Make it your best. Then shut up and be prepared to answer questions. Good Luck.

Monday, March 1, 2010

An Interview With Tulsa's Own Lynette Bennett

An Interview with Tulsa’s Own Lynette Bennett

I’m privileged to feature Lynette Bennett on my blog this week. Lynette has lived an exciting life, fulfilling her dreams of a New York stage career, and at the same time holding fast to her Christian principles in the process. I met her at a writing seminar taught by Bill Bernhardt and Barry Friedman, two prominent names in the Tulsa writing community. She was working on her memoirs and the two of us hit it off quite well. For all the talent and success Lynette has been blessed with, she is a humble, unassuming person with a bright smile and brighter outlook. Please welcome Lynette.

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Bill. I’m looking forward to our visit.

Describe for us how you felt flying to New York fresh out of college with only a few contacts and a lot of prayers.

I was one scared kid. I arrived a couple of days ahead of my roommate and foraged around Manhattan alone shopping for an apartment. New York City is a dangerous place, and I couldn’t tell a safe neighborhood from a gang one. I talked to a business acquaintance of Daddy’s who said, “I would never go into Central Park alone at night and I would never go into Central Park with a woman day or night.” That warning stayed with me.

Friends asked Mother, “Aren’t you worried about Lynette going to New York alone?” Mother said, “Of course I am. She could have decided to stay in Oklahoma and teach school but that’s not what she wants to do.”

I’ve always had wonderful prayer support from family and friends.

After that flight, you played Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Radio City Music Hall. Of all the shows you’ve been a part of, what two stand out as being special and why?

I was cast in Funny Girl on Broadway which made a star of the new singing sensation Barbra Streisand. The show ran for a couple of years which is great security for actors. As a rule, we’re constantly auditioning for jobs, so to have a steady check each week was a boon. It was exciting working with Barbra and watching her develop her skills as an actor/comedienne. She was already an outstanding singer.

The other would be the Lincoln Center show from which I have a video tape of one of my comedy solos. I use that solo on my demo reel when auditioning. I remember such a dynamic connection with the audience through the funny lyrics. That’s what makes live theatre more exciting than TV or film. They each have their own strong points but there’s nothing like the thrill of a live audience’s response.

You consider many famous people your friends. If you were to pick one who had the greatest influence on your success, who would it be and why?

The avuncular composer/lyricist/tenor Ralph Blane from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma helped me immensely. I love Ralph’s lilting songs, especially his score for Meet Me In St. Louis which gave Judy Garland her early hits, The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Ralph introduced me to his voice teacher and his manager. They each sent me on several auditions.

Also, Barry Manilow was a delight to work with. He selected my songs and wrote great arrangements for me. We made a demo record together.

For a Christian in a secular world, temptation must have been around every corner. How did you maintain your principles in that environment?

I think it’s easier if you’ve made up your mind ahead that these are your boundaries and you won’t cross them. I’ve made much of my living from advertising in TV commercials and in business theatre. I was never willing to advertise alcohol or cigarettes. And, in fact, I made two ads for anti-campaigns. One was for a patch to stop smoking and the other was for a series ABC TV ran about Women and Alcoholism. There was major research in the 1980s concerning the effects of alcohol on women. With the same amount of consumption, there are much more serious effects and consequences for women, than for men. I was pleased to be part of that advertising campaign.

I love your response. What you put your talent into says a lot about what you believe. Rejecting commercials because you can’t support the product shows your character. The same is true is selecting your friends.

Yes, and there was the experience I had with the mafia. They worked through one agent at the top talent agency in New York City, which offered to put its publicity department to work to make me a star. I turned them down in order to be true to God and to myself.

Prayer is part of my daily life. I constantly pray for God’s guidance in my artistic life and my family life.

When Warren, your husband, moved you to London, were you able to find work? If so, how did working in London differ from New York?

I performed in the Broadway musical Chicago, as reporter Mary Sunshine, in London’s West End. It was a delightful experience but I had to jump through many hoops to perform there. I was already a member of Actors’ Equity Association in the US but then had to be accepted as a preliminary member of British Actors’ Equity in order to work in the UK. Finally, after a few years, I became a full member of British Equity and was allowed to work in the West End. Before that, I sang in small opera companies and gave concerts. Warren and I lived in London eight years and absolutely love it.

Show business in London is more accessible than in New York. An agent is more open to an actor than in New York. However, it is difficult being a foreign actor in the UK. It’s hard to be accepted in work there.

You’re still performing today. I understand you wrote and performed Will Rogers, Spirit of America, His Wife Betty’s Story, at Claremore’s Robson Performing Arts Center. That must have been fun. Where can we see Lynette Bennett today?

I write and perform one-woman shows such as the one you mentioned which was designated an Official Project of the Oklahoma Centennial. In that show I tell Will’s story from Betty Rogers’ point of view.

Another one-woman show is Lynette Sings Jeanette, An Affectionate Tribute to Jeanette MacDonald, the Hollywood diva. I’ve recorded two CDs Lynette Sings Broadway! and Lynette Sings Christmas! Which are available from me.

Every season is different. I sing at various country clubs and for civic organizations. On March 25, I’ll be at the OKC Country Club performing a short version of my Will Rogers show for a private party. I give performance book reviews for private clubs and I appear at the OK Jazz Hall of Fame.

Looking back, any regrets? Looking forward, what’s to come?

No, I don’t think I have regrets. At a given point, you make the best decision you can. For instance, I was offered two Broadway shows at the same time and had to choose between them. I chose The Yearling, about a boy and his pet deer, which had a brief run, over Man of La Mancha which became a classic in the American musical theatre. But, as we say, “That’s show biz.”

I’m writing my memoir now covering my first years in New York City. It’s fun and amazing to remember how many crazy things happened, how many jobs and delicious experiences I had. And I learned, first hand, the truth of the old saying, “The Lord looks after the working girl!”

Thanks Lynette for sharing your story with us, and I’m personally looking forward to seeing your memoir in print.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Interview with Author Mary Magee

My guest today is Mary Magee, author of Red – Beyond Football, the story of the legendary Coach Jimmy “Red” Parker. Many of his players reached stardom by believing they were winners. Excellence, loyalty, and team-first thinking caused these players to achieve beyond their expectations through physical strength, mental toughness, and endurance. Dwight Clark, Jeff and Joe Bostic, Jim Stucky, and Benny Cunningham, all Clemson graduates, are a few of the quality players and people Red coached.I first met Mary Magee at a Hawk Seminar hosted by author Bill Bernhardt. Mary was working on an idea for a novel, and since I write fiction, we had a lot in common. After the seminar, a group of us decided to form a critique group and continue working together. An idea Mary initiated. She hails from Fordyce, Arkansas, has a Ph.D. in School Psychology from Oklahoma State University, and is passionate about writing.

Welcome Mary,

Thank you, Bill. It’s my pleasure.

How did the idea to write a book about Coach Parker originate?

I’ve known Coach Parker since 1953, when he took a job at my high school, coaching the Fordyce High Redbugs. I was in seventh grade. Dad and he struck up an instant friendship, often fishing together. Coach Parker and his young family were a part of our lives at home, school, and church. He captured the hearts of our town with his work ethic, coaching skills, high moral standards, and inspirational leadership.

The idea for RED: Beyond Football took shape at my 45th high school reunion. One evening, about thirty of us (former students, teachers, administrators, and coach) sat in a large group visiting. I watched the faces of everyone in the room soften with smiles, laughter, and the occasional tear as Coach Parker and his former players shared football stories. I wanted to write his biography. At that time, however, I had begun working on Devotion to Duty (US Army Publishing), the memoirs of Gen. (Ret.) Jimmy D. Ross.

We shouldn’t ignore the quality of Devotion to Duty. Douglas Johnson, in Army Logistics’, Jan-Feb, 2009 edition wrote, “A Devotion to Duty is one of those uncomplicated starts. It is written with an informative style that draws readers along.” That’s a nice compliment.

Finding ways to make a serious book about Army logistics interesting provided a unique and enjoyable challenge. General Ross wanted personal vignettes included to add readability. His goal was to inform and instruct future logisticians while adding bits of history and fun. General Ross couldn’t have been more patient with me. By the time we completed the work, we’d composed a seven page, single spaced glossary of Army acronyms for his non-Army writer. Collaborating with General Ross was a delight. Selfishly, we secretly suspect his memoir may be one of the most readable books at the War College.

The positive experience with General Ross’s book added fuel to the desire to write Coach Parker’s biography. The two men have much in common. Both have the gift of story telling and possess a genuine caring for others. Each experienced leading teams into battle. The General, of course, commanded a more serious battlefield, but they projected similar leadership styles. Both professional paths led to amazing high profile careers. Both influenced many and touched thousands of lives.
Writing Coach’s biography seemed a natural progression. In 2004, I completed the bulk of work on Devotion. That’s when I began two years of research for RED.

What drew you to Hawk Publishing?

I attended Hawk’s Heartland Writer’s Conference in 2006 while deep into interviews, archives, and writing RED. To say I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing business is an understatement. Not only did the workshop offer valuable information regarding the writing process, Hawk Publishing and William Bernhardt made quite an impression. I wanted Hawk to publish RED.

As an inexperienced writer with no agent, I considered paying publishing costs the most direct route to producing a book. In December of 2006, I called Hawk to discuss a co-publishing arrangement. Jodie Nida, then an Editor at Hawk, answered my call. She asked for the first five pages via e-mail. In just a nail-biting thirty minutes, she replied. Hawk would co-publish the work. I was thrilled. The entire experience, with Jodie’s guidance, was comfortable, educational, and produced a book that honors Coach and his players. The finished product was even better than I’d expected. It’s difficult to find enough glowing descriptors to express my gratitude to Hawk Publishing for a job well done.

Coach Parker spent time at both The Citadel and Clemson. With Hawk being a regional press, did you ever consider finding a publisher to broaden your readership into the southeast?

Yes. I would love nothing more. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I miscalculated the number of books we’d sell. Sadly, I hung a “Sold Out” sign on the website, We sold all copies of the first printing in five book signings and website sales. RED never went national. I’m currently pursuing avenues to find a publisher interested in a second printing.

Now you’re turning to fiction. In many respects, I think it’s harder to write fiction than non-fiction. What has been your experience so far?

I agree with you. Fiction has far more challenges. As research on a biography progresses, the story writes itself. Non-fiction is a matter of finding ways to breathe life into facts to keep the reader’s interest. How lucky I was to write about the lives of two inspiring men!

A fiction piece about four female golfing friends looked like recess, a fun ride. I thought a complete change was in order after four years of researching testosterone filled worlds. My assumption was way off base. Writing fiction became frustrating to the point of putting the golfing novel in “time out.” It might have gone in the trash, had it not been for the encouragement of our writing group. Thank you Bill, and the other members, all gifted writers.

Trying to weave a story line through four characters, was a bit much for a beginning dip in the fiction pool. Something less confusing than telling a story through four sets of eyes was in order. I’m currently working on a coming-of-age novel that has only one protagonist, one voice. It’s far less complicated, much less frustrating, and writing is fun again.
My advice to beginning fiction writers: Find a writing group with talented people who offer caring constructive critiques. I know of no better way to grow as a writer.

I know both you and Jim love golf. How supportive has he been in your writing, particularly in giving you time and space to create?

It was difficult at first. Jim and I thought when I retired, we’d be playmates, 24/7. Jim made a nice adjustment to retirement in about six months. I never made that adjustment. I almost took a part-time consulting job when the Devotion to Duty project fell in my lap. Divine intervention. We’ve come to a very comfortable arrangement after trying on different schedules. Typically, the mornings are my writing hours. We play in the afternoon.

With each writing year, Jim becomes more supportive. We couldn’t have managed the RED book signings without him. He schlepped books across half the southern states. Coach and I signed while Jim directed traffic and charmed folks in long lines as he took their money. We had a grand time, and Coach and Jim became very good friends.
Currently, Jim is battling cancer. Coach Parker is a cancer survivor and has been such a support. Our daughter is fasting sugar, a major food group in her world, until the doctors declare Jim cancer free. Prayers and encouragement flow daily from family and so many dear friends. With God’s healing spirit, Jim will be back to his sassy self in no time. I see tee-times in our future by June. We are truly blessed.

Most writers struggle with finding time to manage both home life and the writing life. It sounds like you and Jim have worked this out pretty well. And, by the way, having a spouse who can sell isn’t a bad deal.

My husband is a gem. As I said, we are living a blessed life. Although I resisted retirement, it certainly has it’s advantages. I can’t imagine trying to work, write, and have much quality time left for family. Life is good.

I look forward to reading your coming-of-age novel and eventually seeing it published. Our thoughts and prayer are with you and Jim.

Thanks for the interview, Mary.

Thank you, Bill. A pleasure as always.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How Cool is This!

I am totally blown away to have my story in this edition. The list of NASCAR elite published in this book includes the likes of Darrell Waltrip, Jimmy Johnson, Tony Stewart, Buddy Baker, Brian France, and my favorite racer, Ryan Newman. For a NASCAR outsider to be listed among these fine people is a treat beyond imagination. Those who know me know I'm a faithful NASCAR fan. Pam and I have been to races in Kansas City, Texas, Atlanta, and Las Vegas, and we're still young enough to hit a dozen more. This is one life's dream fulfilled.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Iron Sharpens Iron

I received an e-mail a few days ago from an old friend asking me if I knew an agent he could approach with his novel. I asked him "When did you start writing?"

"Oh, a couple of months ago," he replied. "It's finished and ready to be published."

Oh my!

"Are you in a critique group?" was my next question and the conversation turned stressful for both of us from there. Four years ago, I was where he is today - the next James Patterson looking for an agent. That novel is in the ash heap never to be resurrected. The honest approach is always best. Publishing is a business. The economy and technology demand educated authors who have slaved over our craft and exposed ourselves to rigorous critique. Aspiring authors need people around us who are willing to bloody our noses if necessary to improve our work. I hope my friend got the message.

The picture above left is of members of the Hawk Critique group. Left to right: Mary Ann Powers, John Biggs, Lela Davidson, and myself. Absent, but soon to be featured on this blog in future interviews, are Mary Magee and Lynette Bennett. Our group has devoted its time to improving each other's work, We are brutally honest when reviewing a member's writing. And yes, we can still hug after each meeting.

I look forward to seeing each of my friends published and enjoying the rewards that brings. I know they feel the same way. A writer who isn't in at least one critique group is like a ship that has sailed into Pacific Ocean alone without a compass or an understanding of the stars - lost in perilous waters.