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SWW Presents: 2016 Novel Conference


Getting Your Novel Published:
Offering the Latest on What Publishers Seek

Saturday, May 14 • 9:00 am to 4:30 pm

New Life Presbyterian
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Novel Conference Slider Sm 3SouthWest Writers’ novel conference is 5 weeks away, but the deadline for early bird pricing ends in less than a week—on April 14. SWW members pay just $99 and nonmembers pay $119 during early registration. On April 15, the rates go up to $119 for members and $139 for non-members. Full-time students receive the discounted rate of $50 regardless of the deadline.

Plan to attend this all-day conference with speakers that include professional authors, agents, and editors. Registration includes conference presentations, a box lunch, refreshments, and the possibility of a 10-minute pitch session. To learn more, visit our Main Conference page, as well as these related pages:

Conference Location
Speakers & Topics

If you’d like tips on how to prepare for the conference, read Chris Eboch’s article “Connecting at Writing Conferences.”

An Interview with Author Shirley Raye Redmond

Shirley Raye Redmond is an award-winning author of dozens of nonfiction children’s books, several historical romance novels, and over 450 articles. Two of her children’s titles have sold more than 200,000 copies each. Her newest release, Viper’s Nest, is a romantic suspense novel set in Jacksonville, Illinois. She is also a conference speaker and has taught courses at many venues across the U.S. including the University of New Mexico–Los Alamos campus and the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. You can read Shirley Raye’s contributions to the Stitches Thru Time blog, and visit her at her website, on Facebook, and

VipersNest200What is the elevator pitch for your newest novel, Viper’s Nest?
A handsome history professor and his widowed research assistant find themselves in danger when they explore an old insane asylum slated for demolition, unearthing a scandal someone is willing to kill for to keep secret.

Tell us about your main protagonists and how they differ from those in your other novels.
Most of my other novels are historicals, so Wren and Allan differ mainly because they are contemporary characters. It was a relief to work with personalities living in the present day. I didn’t have to concern myself with accidentally using anachronistic language, for instance. Also, Wren is a widow with a young daughter. This made for some interesting motivational considerations as I wrote the story.

Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
I actually had a private tour of the Jacksonville Insane Asylum many years ago before it was torn down. The history of the place intrigued me, as well as the logistics of its once-bustling kitchen with small underground railroad cars used to transport meals throughout the institution via tunnels. Also, Mrs. Lincoln was a patient there for a while following the death of President Lincoln. The old place oozed dramatic possibilities.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Originally, I wrote about my tour of the asylum for an SWW nonfiction contest many years ago. The article about humanitarian Dorothea Dix took second place. I later submitted the same article to a Writer’s Digest contest, and it earned an honorable mention. Both judges encouraged me to “do something” with all the historical information I’d collected. Trying to transform an article into the basis of a suspense novel was a real challenge.

This seems to be a departure from your previous fiction projects of “sweet” romance and inspirational historical novels. Why did you choose to go in this new direction?
There is a romance entwined in the plot of this book, too. Actually, my very first novel for grown-up readers was a romantic suspense, Stone of the Sun, with a lot of historical detail about Cortez and his Aztec mistress. In a way, Viper’s Nest is the same sort of novel—romantic suspense with all the historical trimmings—even Nazis, everyone’s favorite villains.

fairies150You also write nonfiction books for children. Explain why your latest children’s title Fairies! A True Story (Random House) was one of those “think outside the box” moments that really paid off, and why you love talking about this book.
Fairies! A True Story is my fourth nonfiction Random House title. I was browsing in Page One bookstore some years ago and noticed their pirates and fairies sections—hot topics for kids’ books at the time, and I wanted to do something along those lines, too. My editor warned me that the market was glutted with books on those subjects. So instead of trying to write a whimsical tale to rival the Tinkerbelle ones, I started doing research on fairies and fairy sightings. I was surprised how much information there was out there—too much to cover in one short children’s book. When I bought a used copy of Jerome Clark’s book Unexplained and read about the Cottingley fairy photographs, I knew I had something I could sink my teeth into. That was the “think outside the box” moment for me: instead of writing about fairies in a fictional way, I would report on an actual event and write a nonfiction books about fairies. The Frances and Elsie fairy story is fascinating because it could only have taken place when the technology of photography was fairly new. I was delighted when Random House bought the rights to one of the actual Cottingley fairy photographs to use at the back of the book.

What would you say to someone who says writing for children is easy?
Many people have mistakenly suggested that writing for children must be easier than writing for adults. That’s not always true. For instance, Random House is extremely dedicated to facts and truth for young readers. I had to document every fact, every bit of information in the fairy book for my editor, who then had the material vetted by an expert in a related field. Also, the clothing and artistic depictions in the illustrations had to be as accurate as possible. For instance, the illustration of the camera used by Frances and Elsie when taking the Cottingley photos is based on an old photograph of the actual camera they used. It can be a challenge to come up with text and illustrations that are both accurate and appealing for young readers while still creating a mythical mood or playful tone. When writing a novel like Viper’s Nest, the historical information can be tweaked here and there and editors usually don’t get their knickers in a twist over it.

What first inspired you to become a writer?
As soon as I read Little Women when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, I knew I wanted to be a writer like Jo March. When I sold my first newspaper articles to the Pacific Stars and Stripes and The Morning Star (I was a teenager on Okinawa at the time), I knew I was a writer. There was no turning back for me from then on.

What would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?
I would attend more writing conferences and take more courses in marketing. I started out as a journalism major and later earned my M.A. in Literature. I did take one marketing elective ages ago. Everything I learned in that class is still useful for me today. But as a lit major I never even learned how to write a synopsis or book proposal or query letter. Thank goodness for SWW conferences and workshops! That’s where I learned those valuable skills.

Of the 32 books you’ve written, which one did you enjoy writing the most?
I have a sentimental attachment to Stone of the Sun, which was my first novel. It opened many doors for me, including write-for-hire projects. But writing and researching Patriots in Petticoats, Heroines of the American Revolution (Random House) was probably my favorite writing project. I wanted to include lesser known girls and women, such as Kerenhappuch Turner and Dicey Langston. These women were from the southern colonies—one tends to think of Betsy Ross and Abigail Adams and others from Pennsylvania and New England as our only colonial heroines. I visited out-of-the-way battlefields and small historical societies and enjoyed lots of little adventures along the way. I have received many delightful letters from girls writing social studies reports about one of the obscure heroines I mention in the book and was so pleased when the Bank Street College of Education in New York named the title as one of the best children’s books of 2005.

What can fiction writers learn from nonfiction writers?
As a journalism major, I was taught to get to the who, what, when, where and why quickly and succinctly—in the first paragraph, if possible. Some fiction writers forget to answer those questions within their stories. Frequently, I have found myself wondering what happened to a secondary character that appeared in the first half of the book but simply disappears in the latter half, and what about that missing locket alluded to in the third chapter? Keeping the 5 Ws in mind when writing and revising would be helpful for fiction writers, I think.

Also, nonfiction writers are taught to write magazine articles with enticing lead paragraphs that lure busy editors. I have tried to use intriguing opening lines in each of my novels, too. Stone of the Sun begins with, “She’d witnessed a murder—or so she’d been told—and nothing would ever be the same again.” My Regency novel Prudence Pursued opens with, “You should not wear that to the pox party,” Prudence Pentyre said, indicating her younger cousin’s dress of light green Italian silk. “I recommend something with short sleeves which allows you to expose your forearm to the lancet.”

What advice do you have for writers who are still striving for publication?
Set both weekly and monthly goals/deadlines for yourself. Write them down and work diligently toward achieving them. Buy an appointment book and schedule time for writing, rewriting and research. Your “great expectations” will be easier to achieve when you have established in writing what they are.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Elizabeth Ann Galligan

Elizabeth Ann Galligan, Ph.D, is a poet and retired educator from Eastern New Mexico University who completed her first novel Secrets of the Plumed Saint (ABQ Press, 2012) at the age of 73. She has also co-authored the early childhood book Count on African Animals (2014), a precocious child’s introduction to counting and reading with photographs by Florence H. Kubota. Elizabeth’s poems and essays have appeared in Voices of New Mexico, Too (2013) and More Voices of New Mexico (2015, Rio Grande Books in collaboration with New Mexico Book Co-op), and in the Fixed and Free Poetry Anthology 2015. Visit her website at

Secrets of the Plumed SaintWhat is your elevator pitch for Secrets of the Plumed Saint?
Secrets of the Plumed Saint is a cozy mystery, a tale of intrigue, set in a high mountain valley in a small village in northern New Mexico in the 1970s. When the 100-year-old hand-carved statue of the Santo Niño de Atocha disappears from their chapel, the villagers are so embarrassed they decide to hide the secret from the Church hierarchy and try to find the culprits and discover their motives themselves.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I hope readers gain respect for the people of northern New Mexico who honor their traditions and survive in a difficult environment through hard work, mutual support, wits, and religious faith. I wanted to explore the effects of major demographic changes that occurred in the 1970s which brought in outsiders who disturbed the equilibrium of the village.

What unique challenges did your first novel pose for you?
Never having the notion to write a novel, as well as not having time to devote to writing, I had to wait until I retired in 2007 to pursue various forms. I had always thought I might try to write about a holy man, a hermit, who lived in the area where Secrets of the Plumed Saint is set. I thought I could write a biography, perhaps, but certainly not a mystery. Once I decided to start writing, I found friends, family, and other authors who encouraged me. Incredible serendipitous events started. The right people came along just when I needed their expertise and help. I believe the Santo Niño de Atocha had a hand in it, too.

What was the most rewarding aspect of writing Secrets of the Plumed Saint?
People often tell me they pass the book along to family and friends. They frequently buy multiple copies. One day a woman of 80 years bought 11 copies and sent them to all her family. She told me, “Your book gave me back my roots.” Her comment made all the effort, confusion, and insecurity about my first novel worthwhile.

What do you struggle with most in your writing? What are your strong points?
I write a lot of words just to get my ideas down. Some call it wordiness—not a good trait, especially in mysteries. The trick is to go back and force myself to be more concise and make better word choices. I try not to use the first trite phrase that comes easily. We all develop habits in our writing that include certain patterns which we must overcome. Two of my bad habits are using too many adjectives and too many commas. I count finishing the Plumed Saint manuscript at age 73 as one of my best achievements. During the process, I learned I could write dialogue and poetic prose. Since I love New Mexico, I have a strong sense of place which I try to evoke in my writing. Plotting the story and sequence are still challenges.

Has writing nonfiction helped you write better fiction?
In academic or expository prose accuracy matters, so I learned how to research topics. But academic writing is often dry and of interest to only a few scholars. The pickiness of academic writing now annoys me. Writers of either persuasion have to overcome the ingrained editorial angel (devil?) that sits on their shoulder and says their writing is not good enough.

How has your work as a poet influenced your fiction writing? What can other writers learn from poetry?
Just because I had written poetry, I did not assume I knew how to write fiction. My own style in the Plumed Saint tends toward the use of metaphors and similes tied to the setting of the story. Fast-moving stories are not for me. I like to meander through the words. Luckily, so do some readers. Most poetry emphasizes concise language forms. In that sense, other writers can learn from poets to make careful word choices. Poetry also invites symbolic language and encompasses suggestions of the mystical and other-worldly realms. In short, any writer can benefit from reading good poetry.

What are you working on now?
A historical novel is in progress, again set in northern New Mexico, a sequel to Secrets of the Plumed Saint. I also intend to write the fictionalized account of a portion of the life of holy man and preacher Giovanni Maria di Agostini, the Hermit of Hermit’s Peak in northern New Mexico. It will be based partially on recent scholarship from the Brazilian scholar Dr. Alexandre Karsburg who made the link between the “holy monk,” as he was known in Brazil, and “our” New Mexican sojourner. Some amazing new research by David G. Thomas adds depth to Dr. Karsburg’s research. My book in progress (working title Holy Enigma) is a novelization of the effects of the Hermit on the people of the time who came in contact with the itinerant Italian preacher. Memories and stories passed on orally (some documented) indicate the holy man’s impact in the northern New Mexico Territory around Las Vegas and in the southern part near Mesilla. The Hermit inhabited a cave near Dripping Springs in the foothills of the Organ Mountains from about 1867 until his murder in 1869. Who killed him and why remains a mystery to this day.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Just begin. Trust yourself and your words. Forget many of the things you learned about “rules.” As Mark David Gerson suggests in The Voice of the Muse, there are 13 rules. The first is: There are no rules. The story exists and you are the vehicle which carries it. However, your publisher will have rules you need to follow.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Eight SWW Members to Read at the South Broadway Cultural Center

SBCC Theatre

The theatre at South Broadway Cultural Center

Don’t miss SouthWest Writers’ debut event at the South Broadway Cultural Center (SBCC) on November 15 at 10:00 a.m. If you’ve never been there, you’re in for a real treat. The SBCC is assembling a fabulous citywide home for all things literary, and the gorgeous facility is absolutely first class.

Readers will perform onstage in the beautiful SBCC theatre, near a room where books will be available for purchase. There’s plenty of parking, too.

The gala event will be hosted by SWW Vice President, Peg Herrington, who will introduce each reader with a tale from his or her writing background.

Copeland Neeley reads the first chapter of his unpublished novel The Haunt at Hauntington Elementary. This kid-friendly mystery unfolds through a string of vignettes as each student in Mr. Morton’s class takes a turn in the spotlight.

Gayle Lauradunn reads from her freshly published debut poetry collection, Reaching for Air. She is working on a historical novel set in 18th Century Scotland.

Lucy St. Clair reads from the first volume of her paranormal Time Passages series, Scattered Years, to be published in late 2014. “My time travel trilogy leans heavily toward allegory,” she explains. “You might say it’s something of an autobiography in disguise.”

Don DeNoon’s humorous poem “Midnight on the Rio Grande” will be read by John Candelaria (as Don is recovering from Achilles tendon reattachment surgery).

Bobbi Adams reads “Happy Easter,” a hilarious short story taken from her memoir in-progress. It was published in The Storyteller’s Anthology: Presented by SouthWest Writers.

Joyce Hertzoff participated in the National Novel Writing program for the first time in 2008. She reads from her Kindle eBook The Crimson Orb, which was written for NaNoWriMo in 2010 and published in 2014. It’s a fantasy tinged with science.

John Candelaria’s poetry has been published in the OASIS Journal 2012 and 2013; Poetry from the Other Side, New Mexico State Poetry Society, Albuquerque Chapter; and SouthWest Writers’ The Storyteller’s Anthology. He reads “Albuquerque Rises,” celebrating the history of our city.

Jim Tritten reads “Two Old Soldiers,” from the Corrales Writing Group 2013 Anthology. It is particularly appropriate as it celebrates the end of World War I and Veterans Day.

Plan to attend! This Reading is the first event SouthWest Writers will sponsor at the SBCC. It could be a landmark, bragging-rights event. The South Broadway Cultural Center is located at 1025 Broadway Blvd SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102, 505-848-1320.

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