Saturday 25 January 2020

Visual Artist Jessie Babin of Moncton, New Brunswick

An accomplished artist whose work has been recognized by People’s Choice Awards and the Beaverbrook Gala. Her work is part of the University of New Brunswick’s permanent gallery.

I had the pleasure of viewing Jessie’s work on FB when it was shared by a friend and I immediately followed her artist page. Her work is exceptional and I’m proud to say I own one of her prints which I hope grows into a larger collection.

She has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing examples of her spectacular sketches.

Jessie was born 1990 in Dalhousie, New Brunswick. She attended NSCAD University from 2008 to 2012 (BFA Fine Arts). In 2013, she received the People’s Choice Award at the Kingston Prize for her drawing “Valmont”. She also won Honourable Mention at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery gala in 2015. Her drawing “Smelts” is part of UNB’s permanent collection. A selection of her work was featured in the 2017 Spring-Summer issue of Arabella. Jessie is represented by Gallery 78 in Fredericton and a is member of the Portrait Society of Canada.

She lives and works in Moncton N.B.

4Q: Before we discuss anything else, I’m anxious to know how your drawing “Smelts” became part of UNB’s permanent collection.

JB: I was told the director of the UNB Art Centre Marie E. Maltais saw the drawing on Gallery 78’s websites and really liked it. They have a committee that purchases work for their collection mainly from New Brunswick and some from Nova-Scotia. I was very happy when the gallery called to tell me the good news. It’s pretty special to have one of my pieces in their collection.

4Q: I expect you get this question a lot. When did that creative spark ignite your strong desire to draw? Was there a “defining” moment?

JB: I’ve drawn since I was quite young, since the age of three. I would draw cartoons I saw on television and characters from storybooks. I enjoyed drawing a lot so I just kept it up as I grew older. For the most part growing up, I saw myself working in an artistic field. One year I’d want to be a makeup artist, the next I’d want to be a comic book artist or an illustrator. It wasn’t until my second year in University, during a fashion illustration class that I had had that “ah-ha” moment. I knew from then on, I wanted this to be my career.

4Q: When visiting your website and exploring the many drawings you’ve done, it’s very difficult to pick the one I like best because they’re all so well done. Do you have a favorite? And if so, why?

JB: It’s difficult to pick just one, however there’s three that stand out for me. The first would be “Valmont” a portrait of my grandfather that I made in 2013 and submitted to the Kingston Prize, a national portrait competition. To this day it’s probably one of the most ambitious and technically challenging drawings I’ve done. The second is “The Calling” a coloured pencil drawing done in 2018 that was part of a series of four portraits for a show at Gallery 78 in Fredericton. I felt like I was exploring the concept and story behind the work more in this drawing. I like that’s it’s open to interpretation, I feel like the viewer is getting a glimpse of a larger narrative. And finally, a more recent piece done in 2019 called “Figure 1”. At the time, I felt like doing a few drawings that combined photorealistic elements and more traditional mark making. The result is work that is both technically precise while highlighting the mark, thus reminding the viewer that the work is a drawing.

4Q: Please tell us about People’s Choice Award at the Kingston Prize.

JB: I had received the People’s Choice Award during the Kingston Prize exhibit in 2013 for my drawing “Valmont”.

It was at the very beginning of my career, I had found out about the Kingston Prize through Gallery 78. The Kingston Prize is a Canada-wide competition and exhibition tour for Canadian portrait painting and drawing. I’ve always enjoyed portraits as a subject so I thought it would be a great opportunity to challenge myself and do a large drawing since I had never attempted a large-scale portrait before this drawing. It ended up taking over a month to complete. I submitted the piece and was lucky enough to make it selected into the final 30 from hundreds of entries. I was even luckier to get the People’s Choice Award during the exhibit in Gananoque, Ontario.

4Q: And the Honourable Mention at the Beaverbrook Gala.

JB: I decided to enter the next edition of the Kingston Prize in 2015. This time, I took a completely different approach to my entry. I ended up doing a self-portrait that looked like a popup book. The concept of the drawing was my story, hence the book idea. I built a model and used it as a reference for the drawing. I made it into the finalist’s exhibition once again and walked away with the Honourable Mention award which blew me away. I remember being really excited to have my work at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. I consider it one of my biggest achievements so far.

Thank you, Jessie, for sharing your thoughts and marvelous sketches. All the best in your creative journey.

***Scribbler note: I’m enthralled by the detail and perspective of her art. This is the one I own.

I encourage you to visit Jessies links below and support this talented author.

Saturday 18 January 2020

Writer & Creative Jane Sturgeon of The Wirral, England.

When you visit Jane’s website, you are greeted by an image of a sunrise over the iconic Liverpool skyline and the words: Inspired by life and nature I blog, write non-fiction books available on Amazon and digital artwork posters and greeting cards on Etsy. It is a blessing to live by The Mersey, where it meets the Irish Sea, as this ever-changing landscape is a special place to thrive.

How nice is that?  The Scribbler is most pleased to have Jane as our guest this week. She will entertain us with a 4Q interview and an excerpt from her writing.

Hello, Allan The Scribbler, I am delighted to be invited as your guest today. Thank you for your generosity and support.

Jane Sturgeon has been a systems analyst, trainer, technical author, painter, psychic medium, furniture restorer, de-clutterer, therapist and creative. She has lived in Africa and The States, looked after many farms, loved through two marriages, is Mum to an extraordinary young woman and loves making things. She lives next to the Mersey River where it meets the Irish Sea and shares her life with loved ones and an impressive collection of yarn.

Self-awareness is the first book in her Writing on Water series.

4Q: Let’s talk about your role as a Creative.

JS: I have loved art since I was little and at school, I could always be found in the art room. Mostly when I ought to have been somewhere else, which could explain my poor exam results, apart from art! I grew up surrounded by creativity as Mum knitted and sewed all our clothes and both my Grannies and Great Granny used to visit and sit making things together in our living room. My sister and I learned all the handcrafts from them and our Dad, a precision engineer, can turn his hand to anything. This has led me to try painting, furniture restoration, upholstery, furniture painting and wood carving.

Photo Credit: Nicolo Sartori
My teenage years were spent in Africa and at eighteen years old my family returned to England. I elected to stay, moved from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to South Africa, and needed to earn a living, so I chose not to go to university and study art.

Creativity has been a thread throughout my life, and I have spent the last ten years working as a therapist and life coach, always encouraging clients to find their own creative outlet. Recently, I listened to the philosophical advice I flow to others and branched out into creating my own art and this time round I learned the graphic design software so I could make it digitally.

4Q:  Tell us about your book. Writing on Water – Self Awareness.

JS: As I worked as a therapist and life coach, I found that almost all issues that clients came forward with were rooted in them not feeling good enough. As we worked together to build their self-love and worth, we found that grace and connection was nurtured for them as they become more self-aware.

I have always had a dream that I would write one day.  I started a blog and then found myself writing sections that were inspired by nature and the discoveries that were created with my clients. A loving friend suggested that I mapped all the sections out on a pinboard and as I did that, it merged into a book. Much editing, technical hair-pulling (where I was rescued by a software savvy buddy) and determination later, I hit the self-publishing trail.

I ‘saw’ a series in my dream, so I called it ‘Writing on Water’ in recognition of The Mersey River and Irish Sea, that inspires and lifts me every day and my first book is ‘Self-awareness’. A collection of personal stories, photographs and observations.

4Q: please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

JS:  In Africa there is no safety net and throughout my teenage years we lived in Rhodesia, which was beset by an ever-sharpening war. We all learned the true value of community and an ability to rise, no matter what the circumstances. In the bush neighbours gathered to build barns, fight bush fires, care for livestock and stand together in times of illness and passings. Food, tools, labour, ideas and care flowed and were lovingly shared.

4Q: When the mood hits you to write, where is that favorite spot you go to? What habits do you have as a writer?

JS: I have an old school desk on stilts, nestled in the bay of my workshop window. My view is The Mersey River across to Liverpool’s pierhead and skyline.

I have many notepads around me and if anything pops into my head, like something I ‘must’ do, I jot it down so I can carry on writing. It’s fun trying to work out what I meant later!

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

JS: I am grateful to my fellow writers and indie authors. Their love, support and generosity are a treasured gift and they have brought golden threads into the tapestry of my life.

An Excerpt from Writing on Water.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)

I run a blog and it has gifted many loving and kindred spirit connections. One of them shared thoughts and a picture recently of a chicken sitting on a chair in the coffee shop she and her husband visited on their wedding anniversary. I love that image; no explanations, no excuses from the coffee shop owners, just simple acceptance that the chicken needed to be near them.

It made me wonder how many times we have kept ourselves small and unseen from fear of ridicule.

The pattern of staying small is complicated; growing over time and being fed from many sources. Possible conditioning of being seen and not heard when we were little, struggling to find our sweet spot in the world, being misunderstood in school, or in the workplace and relationships, bearing heartbreak, loss and emotional pain. Any of these hurts all build layers of covering around us that form a cage and we get used to the view through the bars. It’s driven by a basic need for protection; saving us from ridicule, or judgment of others, and anything we, or others, perceive as failure.

We stand back; not trying new ideas, not speaking up, not saying ‘No’, being people pleasers, taking self-sacrifice to extreme levels to help others and all manner of limiting choices. We stay small because it feels safe.

The flip side is it also stops us accepting praise, gratitude from others for our good deeds, or stepping into a spotlight of any kind. We work so hard to stay small and unseen, that it is mightily uncomfortable to have a light shone on us in any way.

A recent conversation with a treasured friend highlighted this beautifully. She was expressing how I had helped her, and I cut her off mid-flow and started to talk about her qualities, which she then laughed off. We both caught ourselves and shared laughter on what we were doing.

Staying as we are is comforting, because it feels as if we are accepting on how we are. No-one likes their choices questioned, much less questioning them ourselves.

Staying small can be scary to acknowledge, because we start to see how often it has held us back from flowing with authenticity.

Thank you, Jane for being our guest this week. May your writing journey be fun and fulfilling.

For you wonderful readers wanting more information on Jane and her writing, please follow these links:

Web site:

Blog: Go Here.





Amazon UK:

Amazon USA:

Saturday 11 January 2020

Guest Kristine Raymond of Kentucky. Author of The Hidden Springs series, The Celebration Series, Tempted, and Finn-agled.

Historical Western & Contemporary Romance. Cozy Mysteries – That’s what Kristine’s delightful website offers the avid reader.  There is a great selection of books to choose from. You can also read a sample of her writing in the section titled Side Stories. The Scribbler is most fortunate to have Kristine as a guest this week. She has agreed to a 4Q interview and is sharing an excerpt from Finn-agled.

It wasn’t until later in life that Kristine Raymond figured out what she wanted to be when she grew up, an epiphany that occurred in 2013 when she sat down and began writing her first book.  Sixteen books in multiple genres later, she’s added the title of podcasting host to her resume, thus assuring that she will never be idle.

When a spare moment does present itself, she fills it by navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business.  When not doing that, she spends time with her husband and furbabies (not necessarily in that order), reads, or binge-watches Netflix.

4Q: Let’s talk about your latest release, a cozy mystery titled Finn-agled. The blurb on your website makes this a very tempting read. Tell us more.

KR:  Finn-agled was such a fun story to write!  Set in the fictional seaside town of Port New, not dissimilar from the one in which I grew up, it introduces the character of Finn Bartusiak, a single woman in her early-30s whose life revolves around her aptly named antique store, Finn’s Finds, her sometimes-meddling family and friends, and her follicly-challenged Basset Hound, Garfunkel.  Life is running along pretty smoothly for Finn until the appearance – on the same day, no less – of both a coded message hidden inside of a newly acquired antique writing box and the high school crush she hasn’t seen for fifteen years.

To further complicate matters, someone else knows about the code; a man who will stop at nothing, including murder, to get his hands on it.

Finn may (or may not) be loosely based on me.  She’s Polish, and I’m half; we both own Basset Hounds that suffer from Color Dilution Alopecia, leaving them bald over most of their bodies; our hair frizzes when the humidity rises; and we both have our share of ‘squirrel’ moments.  Oh, and we both love pierogis!  But the similarities end there.  Or do they??  

4Q: You have a series of Historical Western Romance, nine books in all. Please share a bit about the collection. Which one would you advise a new reader to start with?

KR: No matter what else I write, the Hidden Springs series will always be special to me.

Here to Stay is my first book baby.  Within that single story, I created a town and characters that spanned thirty-three years over nine books and feels like home to me, even though the series is set in the 1880s.  I’ve always had a deep love for the Old West; for the wide, open spaces; the grit and determination of the people who chose to live there; even for the lawlessness; and over the course of writing the series, the characters became like family to me.

Each book in the series is about a different member of the town and is a complete story – no cliffhangers.  They can be read as standalones, though I recommend starting at the beginning with Here to Stay.  That way, you get to follow your favorite characters throughout the series and learn more about their lives, even if they aren’t the main focus of the plot.

The best part?  Here to Stay is available as a free download on all major e-book platforms.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

KR:  One of my earliest, and favorite, memories is of sitting on our front porch swing listening while my sister read aloud from the Little House on the Prairie books.  To this day, that collection of stories sits on my bookshelf, waiting for me to dust it off and lose myself within its pages - which I do on occasion.  

4Q: Do you have a favorite spot where you feel most creative when you write? What are your writing habits?

KR: The ‘magic’ takes place in my office.  While not the most conducive spot for creativity due to the overwhelming amount of books and crafting paraphernalia occupying practically every square foot, it is a pet-free zone, thus enabling me to concentrate on writing without various-sized paws helping me type.   

As far as habits go, I don’t really have any other than I need complete silence when I write.  I know a lot of authors listen to playlists, but music distracts me when I’m concentrating.  I think it comes from all of those years of not be allowed to listen to my tunes while doing homework…lol.

4Q: Please tell us about your Celebration series.

KR:  The Celebration Series came about due to the kind-hearted, yet insistent, pestering from one of my readers.  The first book, By Dawn’s Early Light, was originally published in an anthology set and intended to be a standalone.  When the rights reverted back to me, the reader – let’s call her Barbara 😉 – began writing me saying that the secondary characters needed their own stories.  I resisted for as long as I could but her persistence paid off.  Ideas for Loren’s and Frankie’s stories formed and what was a standalone became a trilogy. 

By the way, Barbara is quite proud of herself for her achievement.

The stories are contemporary romance and take place in the fictional town of Celebration; small-town U.S.A.  They revolve around three best friends – Joe Callaghan, Loren Hamilton, and Frankie Denton – who find love when they’re least expecting it.  Isn’t that the way it always happens?

The books can be read as standalones, but like the Hidden Springs series, you’ll get more from them if you start at the beginning with By Dawn’s Early Light.  But that’s my opinion.  Reservations for Two and Under the Mistletoe hold up pretty well on their own.  The books are available individually or in a boxed set.

4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

KR:  I’m currently working on the follow-up to Finn-agled titled Finn-icky Eaters. I don’t have a release date as of yet, but I’ll be sure to announce it on my website and social media accounts once it’s live.  I also have a few more Finn’s Finds story ideas floating around in my noggin’, as well as another historical western (not tied to Hidden Springs) and a contemporary romance series.  I also host a podcast called Word Play with Kristine Raymond, and the line-up of guests in 2020 is amazing!  You can catch new and previous episodes on the website – GO HERE

Thanks for spending time here with me today on the South Branch Scribbler.  Happy Reading!

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school.  There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters.  But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message.  There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.  

An Excerpt from Finn-agled 

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)

A slip of paper slightly larger than an index card fell from between the seams and floated ever so gently to the floor. Almost dropping the case in my elation (wouldn’t that just be my luck?), I set it gingerly on the table and retrieved the note.

Zubcd Yefemeby
Xlw k Wrlm no
Vpqre Upbpqee

Huh? What kind of crazy language is this?

I attempted to sound it out, tripping over my tongue because – let’s face it – it’s impossible to pronounce words that have no vowels. Thinking I’d stumbled onto either an ancient, and possibly forgotten, language, or a secret military code, I hopped back on the computer for some serious research. It wasn’t until the Gothic cathedral mantel clock perched on the shelf above a row of whiskey barrels chimed twelve that I realized I’d been staring at the screen for the better part of three hours. That would explain my grainy eyeballs.

“Time to call it a night. Come on, Garfunkel. Let’s go home.”

Shutting off the computer, I slipped the note into my pocket, leaving the writing case in my office for the time being. Who knew what other mysterious messages might be hidden inside? Turning off the light, plunging the room into darkness, I walked out front to collect my sleepy hound, dim lumens from the street lamp outside filtering in through the plate glass window, illuminating my way and casting shadows along the floor and walls. Headlights from a passing car briefly lit up the interior of the shop, glinting off the wind chimes that hung over the front door.

If only I’d had the forethought to hang a set of chimes over the back door as well. Then, perhaps, they would’ve warned me about the person who jimmied the lock, crept up behind me, and wrapped his fingers around my neck, squeezing until everything went black.

Thank you, Kristine, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your writing. 

For those visiting this week, if you want to discover more about this talented author and her books, please follow these links:

Find out more about Kristine on her website at and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and BookBub.  

And for links to podcast episodes, guest posts, and other great stuff, check out Word Play with Kristine Raymond at

Saturday 4 January 2020

Award-winning Author Phyllis (P.A.) Duncan of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia.

Another bookmark for the Scribbler – our first guest from the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, USA. When I visited Phyllis’ website, I liked the intro – Espionage Fiction. Real Spies. Real lives. A hint of romance. Can’t go wrong with that.

Recommended by another fellow author, Phyllis has agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt. 

Phyllis A. Duncan is a retired bureaucrat but one with an overactive imagination—or so she’s been told since she started writing stories in 3rd grade with her weekly list of spelling words. A commercial pilot and former flight instructor, she graduated from Madison College (now James Madison University) with degrees in history and political science. History and politics manage to find their way in almost everything she writes.

After a career in aviation safety, she retired a decade ago to write for herself instead of Uncle Sam. In between writing sessions and spoiling her grandchildren, she reads anything she can get her hands on, sings in a UU choir, cheers on the New York Yankees, and watches NASCAR.

4Q: What caught my eye on Amazon is A WAR OF DECEPTION received the New Apple Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing - Best Historical Fiction. Please tell us about this story and the thrill of winning the award.

All of my work is based on historical events from the mid-Cold War forward. They say write what you know
(I flout that all the time.), and I’m a child of the Cold War. However, A WAR OF DECEPTION takes place in early 2001 and involves the unmasking of a Russian mole who was an FBI agent. It’s loosely based on the real Robert Hanssen, who provided secrets to the Soviet then Russian intelligence for almost 30 years before he was caught in February of 2001. The Russians used him to confirm secrets they got from another mole, Aldridge Ames from the CIA. Of course, I threw in some plot twists and a subplot to spice it up a bit. It’s somewhat out of sequence because in it my protagonists are at the end of their careers in espionage when they not only discover this mole but that someone from the old KGB is out for some revenge.

In 2017 when A WAR OF DECEPTION came out, I entered it in a number of professional contests—three or four, I believe—and by early 2018, I’d already accepted I’d not placed in any of them. No matter; it was a good story and had received some good reviews.

Then came the email from New Apple Awards. I was beside myself with joy because I felt that the award was recognition not only for a good story but for my acumen as an historian. I’ve always been frustrated by historical fiction that gets the details wrong, especially now in the age of The Google, and I was determined I’d do my best to assure I got the facts straight. I felt this award was an acknowledgement of that.

4Q: I’m impressed with your large collection
of work. I know this is a difficult question but do you have a favorite? One you enjoyed writing the most?

I’ve been productive since my retirement, which was the point. Several of the works published I started years ago when I worked full-time and could never finish because of my workload. In fact the last 3 to 5 years in my job, I hardly wrote anything of my own—only studies, reports, and white papers for my agency. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe there are 13 books with my name on them out there in the world, with number 14 coming out in the spring: 4 novels, 2 novellas, 4 short story collections, 3 novelettes.

Designating a favorite is hard; I love them all as if they were my babies. But, I’d have to say my favorite is a novella entitled THE YELLOW SCARF, which is about the Balkan civil wars in the early 1990s. I think it’s my favorite because it shows public servants will put the personal aside for the mission, and it also deals with coping with personal loss and the importance of the media when genocide is involved. The backdrop for most of the novella is Sarajevo in then Yugoslavia at the height of the sniper attacks.

However, I’d say the one I enjoyed writing the most was a short story collection, SPY FLASH II, four full-length short stories inspired by headlines in the summer of 2016. Because the stories were contemporary, it was a lot of “fun” to write.

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory.

Oh dear. It was a difficult childhood, but I’ll go with something from the early years of high school. 

I was a huge fan of STAR TREK and
THE MAN FROM UNCLE. (This show is why I write espionage fiction and have a character who is Russian.) Whenever I got bored in class, I’d bring out my notebook and write stories using characters in those TV series, what we today call fan fiction. That was all fine and good because it looked like I was taking notes, but one day in English class Ms. McInnes caught me and took my notebook.

I thought I’d never see it again, and the next day she asked me to stay after class. Figuring I was in big trouble, I was set to apologize, but she gave me the notebook back. She’d read all the stories inside and had made editorial suggestions. “Don’t stop writing,” she told me. “Just not in my class unless it’s an assignment from me.”

In 2000, I won a small publishing contract and had a collection of mostly literary short stories published, RARELY WELL-BEHAVED (out of print). I dedicated it to her. I truly felt the loss when I heard she’d passed away not long after I graduated from high school. She’s still the reason I continue to write.

4Q: Tell us about your writing habits.

I try to write every day, either something new or to edit something I’ve written. I have a blog where I post about writing twice a month (, and a bi-monthly newsletter (Secret Briefings). I also write a lot of bad ad copy for marketing my books. LOL. That’s one form of writing I’m not very good at, but I have a marketing consulting who helps. I still keep a notebook with me and often will write in a coffee shop or restaurant, taking down interesting snippets of conversations I overhear.

Every November I participate in National Novel Writing Month (a 50,000-word rough draft in 30 days). Most of my yet-to-be-published works have come from that exercise. This year was my 12th time.

Because I write historical fiction, research intersperses with my writing. I’m not a writer who can make a note that says, “Check this fact later.” If I’m not sure about something, say, what kind of cell phone or computer technology was available in 1993, I have to go check it right then. I can’t wait. Sometimes, that slows down the writing.

I usually write/edit/revise/research for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. I have been known to look at my watch and realize I’ve been at it all day.

4Q: I understand that you are an editor as well as a talented author. Care to tell us more?

I started my writing career as a reporter on a government aviation magazine, and several years later had the opportunity to become the magazine’s editor. I’m a stickler for good grammar, aka a “grammar Nazi,” and for good, solid writing, so it was perfect for me. Yes, that was nonfiction, but I set a standard at the magazine that our articles would not be dry and full of technical jargon. I wanted people reading the magazine to feel as if they were “hangar flying,” i.e., sitting around an aircraft hangar talking flying. In the beginning that took a lot of rewriting.

I also edited a huge technical manual for aviation safety inspectors, getting it into language that fit the gambit of education levels in our workforce. My fiction editing started with my writer’s group where I live and other members asking me to read their stories and make suggestions. Some aspects of fiction and nonfiction editing are the same, though I prefer fiction editing now because of the language flexibility.

I particularly like working with new authors and independent authors. I’m sort of on a one-person campaign to encourage independent authors (self-published) to make sure their work gets professionally edited. Even with more than 30 years editing experience, I have an editor for my books. A fresh set of eyes is important.

I’ll edit almost any genre, though I don’t read much romance or religious fiction and don’t feel qualified to evaluate work in those genres. However, if it’s a good story, if it piques my interest and holds it, I’ll edit it.

4Q: Anything else you’d like to mention?

Yes. Learn your craft. Go to workshops and other types of writing instruction. Annually I go to a weeklong workshop at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. There are often one-day workshops available most anywhere, but if that’s not possible for you, there are plenty of craft books out there: Stephen King’s ON WRITING; Ursula LeGuin’s STEERING THE CRAFT are two of the best. I firmly believe you can’t tell a good story unless you first learn the structure of a story.

Join or form a writing group in your area. It’s important to have a support network of like-minded people to encourage you and/or critique you—especially when the rejections occur. But most of all…
Keep writing.

An Excerpt from THE YELLOW SCARF:
(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)

Chapter 13

A Man of Means and Taste

Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

“Though not yet arrived by the calendar but felt in the bones, winter in Sarajevo means its citizens will have to strip the city of its remaining trees for firewood. They will also resort to other sources of fuel: interior doors, furniture, even books and clothing, anything burnable.

“But that hasn’t happened yet. There is still hope things will go back to the way they’d been. Faint hope diplomacy will restore common sense. Fainter hope the U.N. will be effective for once.

“The waning autumn has dyed everything in the city a miserable gray, darkened the pocked buildings, and shrouded the mountain ridges with clouds, hiding the positions of the Serb artillery there. Even the people seem gray, their faces pale from a summer and fall spent inside and venturing out only at night for the false safety that provides. The fog over the city rarely dissolves in the weak sun, and a pall of smoke from thousands of wood stoves feeds the dingy air.”

Zachary Holbrook stopped the playback of what he’d filmed the day before. He knew what would soon happen on the tape, and he wasn’t ready to relive that yet. Also, the feel of the narration wasn’t quite right, even though he’d been editing it most of the night. No, he’d have to go back there with a fresh tape and reshoot some footage to lay the narration over.

He ejected the cassette from the Handycam and pressed a label on it. With a Sharpie, he wrote the date and the words, “Yellow Scarf,” on the label. He put the cassette in the messenger bag where he stored all his tapes, the bag he took with him everywhere.

Zack dressed in his least smelly set of clothes and pulled on his flak jacket. A check of the Handycam showed him it had a full charge, but he put extra battery packs in the pockets, along with plenty of blank cassettes. He took a back stairway to the Sarajevo Holiday Inn’s parking garage to avoid running into his media colleagues at breakfast. Many of them, who had regular jobs with American and European networks, looked down on freelancers, even when they paid to use film he’d shot because he would go to places they wouldn’t. He didn’t want any of them glomming onto him today.

Zack missed the little Fiat he’d had the year before, but this ancient Land Rover served him better. He could off-road out in the countryside. The stories weren’t always in the city. Rumors swirled about an orphanage between Sarajevo and the mountain ridge, caught in the crossfire. That would get good play. Maybe he’d head there later today, but first things first.

He pulled away from the mustard-yellow box of a hotel he couldn’t bring himself to call home and drove back toward Sniper Alley. Last year, someone had spray-painted “Welcome to Hell” on the wall of a bombed-out building near the Holiday Inn; it hadn’t faded.

Every day, for luck, as he passed the graffiti-ed wall, he intoned, “Welcome to Hell,” his mantra. He shoved a cassette of his favorite music, a gift from his lover in Paris, into the tape deck and smiled when Mick Jagger began to sing, “Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of means and taste.”

Thank you, Phyllis for being our guest this week. All the best to you in your future endeavors.

And thank you to my readers. If you want to discover more about Phyllis and her stories, please follow these links:

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