Texas Author Interview


Kelly Luce grew up in Brookfield, Illinois. After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in cognitive science, she moved to Japan, where she lived and worked for three years. Her work has been recognized by fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale Foundation, the Kerouac Project, and Jentel Arts, and has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, The Southern Review, and other magazines. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, and Austin, Texas, where she is a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas and fiction editor of Bat City Review. Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail is her first book.


I was fortunate to sit down over coffee with Kelly recently to discuss her new release and her road to publication.

Scribe: It’s interesting that your degree is in cognitive science, not literature.

Kelly Luce: One of my least favorite subjects in school was literary criticism. I loved reading the books but I hated to analyze them. I would rather approach them with the pure eyes of the child. Literary criticism was my most difficult subject. I think science and fiction have a lot in common.

Scribe: One of my favorite stories in Hana Sasaki was Rooey. When I read that story I realized that you get it. You understand how grief can twist someone around to become something they’re not.

KL: The brother of my closest friend died when he was 20. We were in our twenties. It was the first time I had ever experienced a young death. The only person I knew before that who had died was my grandfather. He was a chain smoker with lung cancer. He had a slow death, but expected. My friend’s brother was full of verve, the circumstances were mysterious and it came all of a sudden. It hit us hard. Four years later I had another friend who was hiking in Romania and she was mauled and killed by a bear. She was in her thirties. I helped her husband through the grieving process. I think I had started the story a few years before but dealing with his grief helped me complete it. It’s interesting that you pointed it out as one of your favorites. It’s most reader’s favorite. It was almost impossible to get published, such a long story, over 6000 words. I was convinced it was a bad story because it was so hard to get published.

Scribe: The first story, Mrs. Yamada’s Toaster, was a good one to start with. It brought a spunkiness and playfulness that’s endearing to the reader.

KL: It’s a fun one to perform at readings, especially if there are children in the audience. They love it. It’s kind of a dark story in a lot of ways, like predicting how you’re going to die. But that’s something that everyone thinks they want to know.

Scribe: Magical realism seems to be the direction a lot of short story writers are taking these days. Does that seem true to you or is it just my perception?

KL: I think you’re right. I’m the fiction editor for Bat City Review, a local literary magazine I read through a lot of slush piles. I’ve read over 1500 submissions in the last few months. We’re filling an issue and we’re almost done. We’re desperate for a realistic story. We’re getting a lot of really weird stories, I mean really out there in terms of tone, voice and structure. It’s hard to find a conventional story.

Scribe: Most writers with your credentials want to publish the Great American Novel. What made you pursue publication of a short story collection since they’re so difficult to get published?

KL: I love the short story as a form. I don’t believe there’s a death knell for it. When I came back from Japan I didn’t know what to do. Do I continue my education in cognitive science or do I get an MFA in writing? I decided to apply for an MFA and went to the University of Miami. I soon found that it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t writing at all. I just wanted to write. I moved to California, worked part time and wrote as many stories as I could. Short stories were the barometer by which I could tell if I was going to be a writer. I had a novel idea when I was at University of Miami. I wrote about 100 pages. All that’s left of that is three words.

Scribe: How long did it take you to put this collection together?

KL: The oldest story in his book is Ash. it was written in about 2007, one of my first stories. Around 2010 or 2011 is when I put the collection together. I started sending it out under the title Mrs. Yamada’s Toaster. It was a finalist for several prizes but it was always a bridesmaid. I was thinking, ” Why? What is wrong with it?” How it got published is a strange story. Jill Meyers and Callie Collins worked with American Short Fiction. They had some stories of mine. They were editors there. This was before I ever thought of coming to Austin. I was living in California. As I was moving to Austin to attend the Michener center, they left American Short Fiction to start their own publishing company. I received an email asking if I had a collection ready for publication. I waited about 4 seconds and e-mailed back ” sure”. That’s how I ended up published by A Strange Object. They’re really insightful editors and easy to work with. I think they like projects that involve a little risk taking. Mine was the first book they published.

Scribe: How did your release go?

KL: It was a wonderful. There must have been over 100 people there; my classmates, friends that I had met, people from the literary community. I have only lived here a little over a year. It was amazing to have all that support.

Part 2 of the interview will appear next Friday accompanied by a Member Review of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows A Tail.



The Weather Outside is Frightful!


Well it only took Texas until the end of November to finally give us some cold weather! But I guess “better late than never” applies to winter cheer as well. As a former Oklahoman, I enjoy the cold a bit more than native Texans probably do, so I have been loving this chilly weather. It’s the perfect atmosphere to drink a hot cup of peppermint tea, bake some holiday cookies, and curl up with a blanket and a good book.

For this week’s writing prompt, let the weather be your inspiration! The plot and characters can be whatever you’d like but the setting has to be cold! Write out your favorite chilly Thanksgiving memory, a snowstorm poem, or a short story about a romantic winter date, for example.

Happy writing and stay warm!




marc hess

Marc lives in Fredricksburg, TX. He joined the Writers League before the 2013 Agents and Editors conference on the advice of his editor. He writes: I have lived in Fredricksburg most of my life but the old Germans would object to me saying I’m ‘from’ here. (“If your kittens were born in the oven would you call them muffins?” That rhymes in German.)

Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?

Marc Hess: Literary Fiction, trying to use words for their social impact.

: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

MH: Any of the dead ones because what a story that would make, eh?

Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

MH: Norton’s Anthology of English Literature. Nothing like the Brits to keep one sane.

Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?

MH: Writing is a business and you have to work it like it’s your primary job.

Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

MH: I want to generate words that will help open doors and cause readers to stop and reconsider the how we look at ourselves, others and the way we live together.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

MH: I declare that I am “America’s Oldest Promising Young Writer.”


We’re excited to introduce a new Scribe feature with today’s very first “Members Review” post. Starting today, we’ll be bringing you periodic book reviews, written by Writers’ League members about books that are recently published and are either written by Texas writers or written about (or set in) this great state of ours. Our intention is to bring attention and support to Texas writers and we hope you’ll enjoy these reviews as much as our members are enjoying writing them.

Our first Members Review is posting today, on this the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, because the book we chose is a compelling new addition to the national dialogue surrounding that dark day in November: Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis (Published in October 2013 by Twelve/ Grand Central Publishing).The review is written by WLT member (and Board of Directors member), Joseph Pluta. Joe has been a member since 2013 and resides in Austin.

Who Killed JFK? Oswald or Dallas?

Many accounts of the Kennedy assassination focus on conspiracy theories, Warren Commission inaccuracies, and reinterpretations of either established facts or loosely derived opinions. Dallas 1963 offers a long overdue fresh approach to this much-studied American tragedy. Its co-authors, from the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University in San Marcos, emphasize the mood of hatred and obsession that had been building up within the Dallas community since the 1960 presidential campaign. Their research is based on thousands of heretofore untapped written primary sources, personal interviews, unreleased photographs, and film footage. The result is a professionally penned work, a captivating read, and a perspective that substitutes documented references for sensationalism.

Within their carefully structured format, Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis provide a month-by-month chronicle of events in Dallas and elsewhere from January 1960 to November 1963. They expose the sinister relationship that top Dallas politicians and business leaders shared with the KKK, the John Birch Society, fundamentalist religious extremism, and hate radio broadcasts. Leaders in these institutions routinely and systematically bashed the UN, the NAACP, civil rights marchers, labor, liberals, Catholics, and the Supreme Court, the latter largely because of its landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision. With more passionate fervor than sound logic, all of these arbitrarily discredited groups were somehow linked to Communist infiltration.

Some of the book’s leading characters include ultraconservative oil billionaire H. L. Hunt, newspaper publisher Ted Dealey, Baptist minister W. A. Criswell, Republican Congressman Bruce Alger, and defrocked U. S. Army General Edwin A. Walker who would later be incarcerated for psychiatric evaluation. Among other stances, Hunt proposed that people in the lower 40 percent of the income scale be denied the right to vote and that the wealthiest Americans be given seven votes each with the option to purchase more. Dealey renamed the New Deal “the Queer Deal”, despite the fact that Dealey Plaza was a 1930s WPA project named after his father. The family run Dallas Morning News routinely opposed integration and once referred to Washington as “the Negro Capital of the U. S.” Criswell, pastor of the largest all white Baptist Church in the country, regarded the Catholic Church as an evil equivalent to Communism. Alger organized an ugly clash between Nixon supporters and the LBJ family on Commerce Street just days before the election. Walker, a closet homosexual and devout segregationist supported by the American Nazi Party, believed, without offering any evidence, that “Texas is a prime target of Soviet attention.” In July of 1961, Alger, Dealey, and Joint Chiefs-of-Staff Chairman Curtis LeMay, publicly advocated a first strike nuclear attack on Soviet cities.

The authors also detail efforts by retailer Stanley Marcus to create a more cultured metropolitan environment in Dallas. In addition, they cover the roles played by African American educator, the Reverend H. Rhett James, and by NAACP activist Juanita Craft, to organize civil rights protests and to enhance economic opportunities for African Americans. In-depth discussion of conflicts between this trio and the above extremists is both compelling and frightening. Marcus is one of the more interesting case studies as he moves to desegregate his famous department store restaurant, supports the Kennedy-Johnson ticket, and alerts the President it may not be safe for him to come to Dallas.

Readers are also treated to a number of less well-known events that some may find surprising. These include the 1959 visit of Robert Kennedy to the LBJ ranch, the hurling of insults at President Kennedy by Dealey at a White House dinner for journalists, General Walker’s high profile role in the 1962 University of Mississippi riots to protest James Meredith’s effort to enroll, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s near miss in and clever escape from his attempt to kill Walker (seven months before the death of Kennedy). Perhaps even more astounding is the description of business leader fears that customers would avoid the city after the assassination. This resulted in a letter to the President’s widow asking her to sign a testimonial to Dallas hospitality!!!

The authors never say explicitly either that Dallas killed the President or that the city’s intense animosity created an environment within which someone was destined to step forward and commit the crime, even if that person were not Oswald. Throughout the book, however, the reader becomes compelled to address the possibility that the atmosphere in then culturally limited Dallas contributed to an anti-Kennedy sentiment where some form of violence might naturally take its ugly course.

Dallas 1963 is a powerful book filled with precisely marshaled evidence that took many years to uncover. It is also an entertaining read, especially for those who appreciate historical accuracy and mesmerizing prose.

Joseph Pluta has published 21 books, over 70 short stories, and more than 60 articles in academic journals. He has served on the faculties of 8 universities and has been Editor of a magazine, host of a radio show, director of a University Honors Program, and consultant to both foreign governments and U. S. businesses. Joe grew up in New Buffalo, Michigan and still enjoys traveling throughout the state and Canada. He lives in Austin, Texas.


Denniger Bolton joined the Writers’ League back in the 1990s.  He has published 6 books since 2006.


Scribe:  In what genre(s) do you write?

Denniger Bolton:  I write mystery novels which are humorous and set in Austin, with “Hippie Hollow – Murder on a Nude Beach” my first novel and “The Name of the Ruse – Murder on the Rocks” my 5th and latest in the series which will go on sale next week.


Scribe:  What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

DB:  Lee Child and a pint of Buckethead IPA and we’d discuss the possibility of my B.B. Rivers character taking out his Jack Reacher.


Scribe:  If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?
DB:  My girl Shannon, of course. There’d have to be a coconut tree on the island though.


Scribe:  What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?
DB:  If you really want/need to be a published author, nothing will stop you.


Scribe:  Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?
DB: I plan to write a book a year for the next 20 years, so with my 6 so far that’s pretty prolific.


Scribe:  Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?
DB: While most readers like my mystery series, I feel I’m becoming a better writer the more I write. Find my books in stores, on the web at my site or Amazon or on Kindle where I almost always have some sort of promotion going on with one of my books. I have an “All-Ages” book coming before Christmas titled “Harley & Dog” about a retired meter reader who lives in the woods with his pet raccoon.






On Saturday, November 30th and December 7th & 8th Sam will be offering 1 hour photo sessions. The Writing Barn (10202 Wommack Rd.) is a gorgeous 7+ acre retreat in southwest Austin just minutes from downtown. I recently sat down with Sam to find out about this event.

sam bond


Scribe:    How are author shots different from regular shoots?

Sam Bond: Whether it’s a model or a family, you’re just trying to capture them looking the best they can.  When I do family shoots I like to find the interactions within the family, like when a child sticks her tongue out or is caught doing something naughty.  When you’re dealing with an individual you don’t have that interaction to play off, you’re trying to get the connection.  It’s more important to try to find out who that person really is.  It’s not about how pretty you look.  It’s about how approachable you are to your target audience.  If you look too glamorous you might actually put someone off.

Scribe:  Do you consider the genre of the writer when you do a shoot?

SB: You wouldn’t do the same type of shoot for a mystery or thriller that you would for YA. I’ve done a lot of children’s authors.  I like to ask the author to bring the book with them so we can play around with it. I ask the author, “What do you want to look like in this picture?”

Scribe:    What do you bring to the table to capture an author’s spirit?

SB:  I’ve always enjoyed meeting people.  When I work with somebody I feel like I’m making a new friend.  Being English, I think my accent tends to captivate people’s attention.  I seem to have a way of warming people up.  I often just sit down and chat with them.  By the time I start taking pictures they don’t even notice.

Scribe:   What can authors do to prepare for their photo shoot?

SB: Think about what you’re going to wear.  The clothes shouldn’t take away from the face.  Don’t wear anything with a logo and avoid whites or bright prints.  You can bring several changes of clothes if you like. You don’t have to do anything special. Just show up and be present.  Bring any sort of props that you want.  Get a good night’s sleep and don’t come in hung over.  Show up, have fun, look forward to it.  Be happy knowing that you’re going to have something wonderful at the end.

Scribe:   Why do authors need up–to–date head shots?

SB: When you show up at an event you want to look like the picture .  You don’t want that “deer in the headlights” look like “Is that you?” and “You don’t look like that in your picture”.  When you’re an author you have a persona that you want to share with the world.  It has to look like you.

Scribe:   Why did you become a photographer?

SB: I kind of fell into it.  I used to travel around the world with my friend who was a photographer and I was always jealous of how well she took a picture.  Finally, I got my own SLR camera and started taking pictures.  Then I adopted my first daughter, Olivia.  In the first year I took 10,000 pictures of her.  I would go to reunions and have fun taking pictures, being down on my knees or on my belly, whatever it took.  I started seeing my pictures on people’s Christmas cards and invitations.  People began asking how much I charge for a photo shoot.  It just took off from there.  Basically I’m self taught.  I’ve taken some classes but a lot of what I’ve learned I learned online.  I’ve been doing it professionally for over 10 years now.

Scribe:     What experience do you have photographing authors?

SB:  This is something quite new to me but it seems like the obvious way to go.  I am surrounded by authors.  I am a writer myself with a book coming out soon.  I know what authors go through and what they need.

Scribe:    What advice would you give on what NOT to do at a photo shoot?

SB:  Come alone if you’re comfortable with that so there won’t be any distractions.  Don’t wear strong cologne.  The shoot is being done outdoors. You don’t want to be attacked by bugs.  Don’t wear high heeled shoes, you could trip.

Scribe:  Tell me what to expect at a Sam Bond photo shoot?

SB: We meet, we chat for a while.  We walk around the premises and check out the light, see where the best lighting is.  When you work outside with photography it’s never black and white per se.  You don’t have the control you would have in a studio setting, you have to work with the light.  We wander around a bit; we choose two or three spots.  I like to find a place where you can look up, it’s really great for the neck.

It’s a walk in the park.  We wander around, we take a few photos and you go home happy with 15 to 20 different photos.

Writers League members receive a $50 discount on the package.



Meet the Members

Laura Cottam Sajbel lives in Austin Texas and has been a member of the Writers League for “a number of years – not sure anymore”.

LCS 3, smaller

Writers League:  In what genre(s) do you write?

Laura Cottam Sajbel: Nonfiction, though my short stories and poems have also been published.
WLT:  What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?

LCS: I would love to sit on the porch sipping iced tea with Barbara Kingsolver, because she is interested in everything and has thoughtful things to say on so many subjects.  She also refuses to be hemmed in by any particular genre, which I admire!  Alice Walker could join us, too.  One of my all-time favorite essays of Walker’s dealt with her mother’s garden, where Walker discovered the roots (pun intended) of her creativity.

And I’d have a glass of wine with Bill Moyers–someone who recognizes and delves into fascinating real-life stories.  He is incredibly knowledgeable and insightful, and I would love to know how he developed his style.

Because it’s what you drink with poets in a dark, wood-paneled, book-lined coffeehouse, I would have coffee with poet Philip Appleman, whose line about bruised plums always resonates with me.


WLT:  If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?

LCS: Maybe The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.   Huck and Jim were also stranded on a bit of an island, so it would remind me to rely on ingenuity.  Huck is such a great underdog and unlikely hero, but he has a huge amount of heart.  And Mark Twain writes with such nuance that rereading that book offers new layers of meaning every time.
WLT:  What have you learned from your association with the Writers League?

LCS:  That community is a great thing to have.  Writing can be a very introspective, introverted calling, but I am a person who needs connection.  It’s nice to be able to associate with like-minded colleagues who can validate your struggles and support your work.
WLT:  Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

LCS:  Once I no longer have to drive three kids to all their practices and lessons (and feel reassured that their college laundry is getting done), I would love to apply to Breadloaf, for a refresher course, and maybe find a cool writers-in-residence gig for a while.  I love finding the gem in someone’s rough draft and enjoy the whole, transformative writing process, so I may go back to teaching college classes.  And I still have a backlog of writing projects I want to finish, too!
WLT:  Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world?

LCS:   Life is exciting when you are open to unexpected experiences.  My new nonfiction book Buoyant started with a chance meeting at a neighborhood pool, when the mother of a seven-time Olympic backstroker asked me to tell her story.  At first, I was nervous about working with sports celebrities, but once we got to the crux of the matter, it dawned on me that my own interests and experiences made me the right person to shape this story.  Buoyant narrates the journey of a young mom–with very few resources but some serious challenges–who guides her children from single-parent welfare to world-class success in sports. Writing this book gave me a whole new understanding of current research relating exercise to brain health, and it taught me to have faith in my own instincts and talents in handling challenges.


Wednesday Writing Prompt

This writing prompt is a tad late, considering Halloween has come and gone. But hopefully you can rally yourself from your post-candy coma and find the mental clarity to write a Halloween story. I’ve never been a big fan of Halloween, honestly. I can never think of a costume idea that I like. Or, if I think of one, I can never think of how to implement it. These past few years, I’ve rarely done much for Halloween other than gorge myself on too much candy. But this past week, I attended a Halloween carnival for kids and families at a non-profit that I’m involved with. I dressed in overalls and cowboy boots and passed out candy with some middle schoolers that I mentor and heck, I had fun. The experience has led me to re-think my Halloween scroogery and try to see the fun in the holiday.

For this week’s writing prompt, write a story that takes place on Halloween. The genre, plot, setting, and characters are up to you, but the date of the story must be Halloween. Write a spooky ghost story or a poem about a family that goes trick-or-treating. You can even write a non-fiction account of your own favorite or least favorite Halloween memory. Happy writing and don’t eat too much leftover candy!

– Annie


     As the October Third Thursday panel began, the audience was sequestered on the third floor of BookPeople with no means of escape except a small lackadaisical elevator.  Jennifer Zeigler, the Writers League program director, moderated the panel, featuring four authors of high adrenaline fiction who had drastically different styles and genres.

Gaylon Greer began writing suspense after becoming tired of nonfiction.  Janice Hamrick says she is a suspense writer with little mystery in her work.  She became a published writer in a backwards fashion, first winning a contest, then getting a publisher, then finding an agent.  Don’t try this at home.  Lee Thomas began writing for young adults but after deciding the genre to be too structured now writes gross horror that is socially aware.  A reviewer said of his recent short story collection ” not for the faint of heart or optimistic.” Kathy Clark came to mystery from a long, successful career in romance writing when she ran out of synonyms for “nipple”.

One thing all the authors agreed on was that this kind of writing was fun and you get to kill people, sometimes even cats.  Sick?  Maybe, but it is similar to real life without the boring parts.  It also gives you a chance to explore the evil in society.  The genre has a certain magnetism made obvious by its large audience.

Each author brings a personal approach to writing their manuscripts.  Gaylon concentrates on conflict between characters creating tension in the reader. He completes the first draft before sharing his work with critique partners.  Janice writes character driven fiction using a map but not a solid outline, then letting the story take on a life of its own.  Lee became frustrated with outlining while writing YA.  He now writes multiple drafts before even considering his readership.  He has been known to write five or more endings to a story before deciding on one. Kathy likes to get the idea for a story in her mind and allow the characters to run with it in an organic fashion.

All the authors agreed that a critique partner could be an asset, whether you have a writing partner as Kathy does or use a critique group like some of the others.  Rewriting and multiple drafts were also a common thread, as was the use of “red herrings”, which are plot twists that throw the reader off course.  These need to be used sparingly and become an integral part of the story so as not to be too cliché.

It was interesting to find that each author had a different path to publication, some conventional, some not so much.  This was the topic of most of the Q & A session after the main program.  That, and of course, how many synonyms there are for “nipple”.

These panels occur every month on the third floor of BookPeople at 7:00 PM.  Please join us  next month.  We promise not to lock you in.  And don’t forget NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org) in November, you might be on a Third Thursday panel next year.

Meet The Members

Our next post in our ‘Meet The Members’ series we have one of our staff members, Alex Loucel! Alex is the Writers’ League webmaster and social media maven. She graduated from the University of Texas in 2011 with degrees in both Journalism and English. Alex started as an intern back in January and plans to stick around until they kick her out.


In what genres do you write?

Alex Loucel: I like to write YA fiction typically. It’s a lot more fun to play with the melodrama of your teenage years when you’re finally out of them. I like to experiment with different genres but YA is where I feel happiest.

What authors would you like to have coffee or beer with?

AL: Now that’s a hard question. I should be super literary and pick a historic symbolic author but I have to say Jennifer Donnelly. She writes YA historical fiction and ever since I picked up ‘The Tea Rose’ by her in high school, I’ve been following her religiously. I really admire her writing style and I think she’d be a fun person to have a beer with and pick her brain.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to keep you sane?

AL: A book that has edible pages? That’s a tough one. I think I’d have to take ‘The Princess Bride’. Every single time I read the book, it’s like I’m reading the book for the first time and watching the movie in my head. There’s action, romance, and comedy. What better way to spend your time on a deserted island?

What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?

AL: I’ve learned to be more comfortable with myself as a writer knowing that I am not the only one who struggles with plot holes or having a character disappear from me. I’ve been lucky enough to take classes and I get more out of them than I did when I took a creative writing class in college. If anyone has a chance to sign up, then they definitely should.

Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?

AL: I write for myself so I don’t see it taking me too far in the future. I love to read more than I write and I’m hoping that takes me into the publishing world where I can read all the different stories people have to share.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

AL: I’m a huge race fan so if anyone ever wants to talk MotoGP or Formula 1, I’m always up for a great discussion! Race weekends will always see me saying goodbye to any semblance of my social life to keep up with lap times and race results.

Make sure you stay tuned as we bring you another member each week!