With the July Message from the President, we begin our guest compositions intended to showcase the creative writing and musings from members, board members and invited guests. Don’t forget to send your own submission to Laura Corbin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month we proudly feature veteran journalist, award-winning author, Pulitzer Prize nominee and SCWA’s very own board member Paul Davis.
GUEST COLUMN BY PAUL DAVIS
In 2009, I wrote about an unusual event: a group of Somali pirates had hijacked an American cargo ship headed for Kenya. The crew fought off the attack, but the hijackers took the captain hostage.
A few days later, Navy snipers killed three of the pirates and rescued Capt. Richard Phillips. (Tom Hanks played the captain in the 2013 Hollywood film.)
Shane Murphy, the ship's chief officer, had just returned to the U.S. and was holed up in his ranch house in Seekonk, Massachusetts. I was a reporter for the Providence Journal, a Rhode Island newspaper with readers in Massachusetts.
"Get the story," my editor said.
I camped on Murphy's street for three days before he spoke to me. "No press!" his wife yelled from the back of the house.
Murphy, who juggled his infant son in one hand and a beer in the other, told me a wild story.
I drove back to the paper. I had a scoop, but probably not for long.
"Write a block of copy and file it," an editor said. "I’ll post it on our website. Then write another block, and I’ll post it. Don’t stop."
He paused. "End each segment with a cliffhanger. I don't want to lose a reader."
I wrote the first few sentences to set the tone:
Chief Officer Shane Murphy heard the threat before dawn. "Stop ship," said a voice on the radio. "This is Somali pirate."
I limited the opening scene to 10 paragraphs. During the hijacking, Murphy ran below deck to secure more than 100 locks and doors. Above him, he heard Captain Phillips shout, "Shots fired! Shot's fired!"
I ended the first installment this way:
The men grabbed improvised weapons: hatchets, saws and homemade shivs.
I wrote a few more scenes. An engineer shut off the ship's lights and power. Murphy activated a tracking transmitter. He and another crewman jumped a pirate and held him hostage.
I wrote in bursts and used short sentences to create tension.
The exercise taught me something: Never forget your reader. Text messages, YouTube videos, emails, Netflix — distractions abound. Readers are quick to put a story down.
You don't have to write like James Patterson, but you must engage your readers. That means using every trick in the book: cliffhangers, foreshadowing, cinematic detail, snappy dialogue — anything to grab the reader and propel the story forward.
"Shots fired! Shots fired!"
I talked to Murphy for 20 minutes before his wife threw me out. It was enough. He even sketched the ship’s interior on a napkin. Before I left, I noticed the tattoos on Murphy’s arms. A mermaid floated on one bicep. A shark swam on the other.
PRESIDENT'S JULY UPDATES
Board member announcements
We’re extremely proud of our board and especially celebrate their individual successes.
Dr. Len Lawson has successfully achieved his doctorate in English literature and criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. We’re delighted for Len on this tremendous accomplishment and wish him continued academic and writing success. So glad to rub shoulders with you on the board, Dr. Len!
Dr. Kasie Whitener has been awarded a 2021 South Carolina Humanities - Fresh Voice in Humanities Award. We’re so very happy for Kasie and everything that she does to advance literary arts in South Carolina. We’ll be cheering loudly at the Governor’s Awards in Humanities ceremony in October. For more, go to Governor's Awards.
SCWA is so fortunate to have both of Len and Kasie as board directors. Please join us in giving them a standing ovation!
We’re pleased to have supported South Carolina writers with our many programs thus far in 2021. Do you realize that in the first six months of 2021, we’ve held a major virtual conference, published our print anthology, Catfish Stew, and hosted 20 virtual programs (four Become an Author and 16 Writing Conversations). We’re not done yet. Check out our events calendar for the remaining nine Writing Conversations and two Become an Author sessions, and our new Facebook Live and YouTube special events - Authors' Corner - on July 7 and Aug. 11. Remember all sessions are recorded and available free to members.
The Petigru Review
As previously announced, the board was examining the direction of our publications and particularly plans for The Petigru Review during 2021. At the June board planning meeting, we decided to pause TPR for the remainder of 2021. This pause will give us time to examine our options for both TPR and Catfish Stew, such as outsourcing, partnering with publishing houses or dedicating our own resources required to produce high quality publications. We welcome your input to this process and will keep you posted on plans for 2022.
Chapter meeting guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic
Some chapters have resumed in-person meetings while some members prefer to take advantage of the virtual genre chapters available. The board has developed the following meeting guidelines to assist in safely navigating your meeting options during the pandemic.
Chapter leaders should routinely consult with their members regarding decisions for in-person meetings. Options to consider:
Use virtual meeting options such as Zoom or other alternatives until 80% of the membership is prepared to meet in person.
Offer hybrid virtual/in-person meetings when practical.
Request unvaccinated attendees either to wear masks or join virtually.
Suggest that vaccinated members should join virtually if they are uncomfortable with in-person meetings.
Suggest that members consider joining SCWA virtual statewide genre chapters.
Require non-members attending chapter meetings to observe the health and safety practices adopted by that chapter.
As part of the South Carolina Literary Arts Partnership Project, of which SCWA was the lead sponsor, the South Carolina State Library has agreed to take the lead in creating a statewide writers directory. When completed this fall/winter, writers across South Carolina will have access to a directory of the many writing associations, groups and resources for all genres. Stay tuned for more announcements coming from the S.C. State Library.
A different kind of writing program
Our friends at Charlottelit.org are offering a new program called Author’s Lab, which provides intensive, residential learning over a year-long program. It’s unlike anything we or our other partners offer. Check it out at Charlottelit Author's Lab.
SCWA Board of Directors
Events and Education
SUMMER SERIES CONTINUES
Join us for exciting, FREE virtual Writers Conversations in July. Here's the line-up:
July 13: Slushfest & Sharefest with Kasie Whitener and Amber Wheeler Bacon
July 20: The Evolution of a Work with Jodie Cain Smith
July 27: Flash Fiction with Emily Pease
Looking for a way to promote your writing and you as an author? Every second Wednesday until further notice, SCWA will host on our Facebook page on the new Authors' Corner at 6 p.m.
The Authors' Corner will feature a panel of member writers. Priority selection will be given to those with recent publications. However, any SCWA member may apply. A cross-section of genres will be represented. Members of the panel will talk about their writing as well as share insights regarding their writing process.
The panel will be hosted by Dr. Kasie Whitener. SCWA will record the event and post it on YouTube, affording participating authors the opportunity to distribute and post the recording to their websites and social media outlets afterward.
To submit your name and writing for consideration, please complete the form found at this link. If you have questions, please contact Whitener at email@example.com.
Be sure to join us for our first Authors' Corner on Wednesday, July 7, with Bettie Williams and Lis Anna-Langston and support your fellow SCWA writers! You can go to our Virtual Events page to find out what authors are featured each month.
(Note that dates are subject to change; be sure to check the events page for the most up-t0-date information.)
INDIE AUTHOR BOOK FAIR
It is not too early to mark your calendars for the indie author book fair sponsored by the University of South Carolina Aiken’s Center for Lifelong Learning on campus on Nov. 13. The event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is free to guests. If you would like to sell your book, you may do so for a small fee. You do not need to be an indie author to purchase a table for sales.
This event offers writers the perfect chance to:
Promote your book(s).
Engage with other authors.
Hear speakers on the topic of writing throughout the day, including sessions that are genre-specific.
Peruse other authors’ books.
Organizers are still looking to round out the slate of speakers for the day. If interested in purchasing a table for sales or in being a speaker, contact Steve Gordy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803-645-0699.
SCWA is a co-sponsor of this event.
Do you have a college or technical school student home for the summer? Or are you sending one off to school in the fall? We'd like to remind you that SCWA offers student rates. For $26, students 18 years and older can join our organization. Simply go to https://myscwa.org/join-us.