A Tribute to Michele Kay

by Cyndi Hughes
WLT Executive Director

It’s with a heavy heart that we share the news that Michele Kay, a Writers’ League Board member in 2009, passed away on Feb. 15.

As I’ve been thinking about her this week, the two words that come to miind are “diminutive dynamo.” Michele may have been a tiny person physically, but her inquisitive mind and generous heart fit her big personality.

Michele and I went way back to our days at the Austin American-Statesman; she lasted longer there than my paltry three and a half years. At first, she could come off as brusque and intimidating, for Michele did not suffer fools. But once you got to know, you couldn’t help but admire her curiosity about life and the world and the warmth of her friendship and hospitality.

Not only was Michele  a top-notch journalist, but she was also a true child of the world. She’d live in exotic places like Hong Kong  and Paris and Egypt (she was born there), and her French mother and British father lived in England, and that gravelly voice with its vaguely British accent was unmistakable.

I’d seen her on and off for years. When we reconnected in 2008, I had just taken on my job with the Writers’ League, and Michele was just stepping down from her position at St. Edward’s University, where she revamped the student [click the red “Read More” button below to continue] Continue reading


Meet Author Helen Simonson on Monday!

The Writers’ League of Texas is pleased to team up with BookPeople to host an event with Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 10.

WLT Executive Director Cyndi Hughes will talk with Helen about her books, the craft of writing, her writing life, and much more!

Here’s a preview of the book: The courtly Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet, quite proper life in the English village of Edgecomb St. Mary’s. When his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village, they soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. This debut novel charmed the staff at BookPeople and introduced a wonderful new writer to the world.

For more details, visit BookPeople’s website. Let’s have a great turnout to welcome Helen to Austin!

Helen also has a great post about writing on Timothy Hallinan’s Blog Cabin. Among our favorite quotes:

“My writing style can be best described as procrastination plus panic.” (we think a LOT of writers can relate!)

“Sometimes I really like the writing. What I like is the completely blank mind that comes …after I have said aloud the awkward meaning of what I am trying to say, only ungrammatical…and just before the perfect phrase pops up; syntactically shiny and glowing with freshness. Those moments make me get up from my office chair, numb-bottomed in my jeans, and do a little jig of joy.”

Read the whole post here.

Favorite Books of 2010: Cyndi Edition

With the end of the year upon us, it seems that everyone is publishing their Best Books of 2010 lists (Huffington Post has quick links to 13 lists!). Here at the Writers’ League, we thought we’d share our staff favorites. So here’s my list. I tend to read locally (books by Texas authors) or specifically for events and programs, so I don’t always get to the big books on The New York Times or Publishers Weekly lists.

Fiction: The Passage, by Justin Cronin. I was delighted that this stunning literary thriller lived up to the hype (it was one of the big books flogged at Book Expo). I had sworn off vampires, but when this book came out and I had the chance to interview Justin at his BookPeople appearance, I dove right in and devoured it in less than a week. It’s one of those books that continues to haunt you in between reading sessions; I half-expected to turn around and be in that post-apocalyptic world. Even better, by taking his time unfurling the story via various back story lines and developing some amazing characters, Justin managed to write a story that was something of a throwback, a cross between Michael Crichton and The Road.

Nonfiction: On the Outskirts of Normal: Forging a Family Against the Grain, by Debra Monroe. First off, Debra and I are friends, just so you know. Reading memoirs by friends does make me a bit nervous. What happens if I don’t like the book or I learn some intimate detail that I Continue reading

Friday Filler: Book News

These stories all caught my eye the last couple of weeks. So without further ado… read on!

— Cyndi Hughes

Figment for the Young Imagination: Figment hopes to do for teenage fiction writers what Facebook does for everyone else. It’s designed to be a writing community where young writers (13 and up) can post their work and share it — or not — with their friends or the entire Figment community. Readers can also browse and discover new fiction, Anything that encourages young people writing is FINE by me! Check Figment out!

Finally, a Reason to Root for Google: Google’s entering the e-book sales market doesn’t exactly make me do a Herkie jump and wave my pompons, but here’s what does: Google is offering independent bookstores a way to sell e-books — and actually make some money! Up until now, most indies have been cut out of the e-book market, but this just might work. So go visit your favorite indie store and order some e-books for the holidays!

Romance Steams Up e-Book Sales: We always knew romance was one hot genre,. Now it’s topping the charts in e-book sales! Read all about it in the New York Times: “Lusty Tales and Hot Sales: Romance E-Books Thrive.”

First Amendment, Censorship, & WikiLeaks: Columbia University first banned students from tweeting or writing about the latest WikieLeaks posts then reversed the ruling. Professor Gary Sick used them in his class and gave this fascinating interview to PRI’s The World. An intriguing journalistic/academic quandary.

Friday Filler: A Pep Talk From Lemony Snicket

This is courtesy of the good folks at National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who hit your word-count goal, read no further. For those of you who didn’t quite make it (such as yours truly), well, you’re that many more words ahead of where you were on Oct. 31. But we can all use this pep talk from Lemony Snicket. Enjoy!

— Cyndi Hughes

Lemony Snicket, one afflicted author

Dear Cohort:

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and Continue reading

Friday Filler: Nov. 12 Edition

This week we seem to be bigger on resources than anything else, so here goes!

National Novel Writing Month: For those of you who are obsessed with carving out writing time and counting words for NaNoWriMo (count me in on that!), take a laugh break with Fake NaNoWriMo Tips on Twitter (@FakeNNWMTips). My current favorites:

  • “Only NaNoWriMo Premium Subscribers may count “the” and “a” as words. Upgrade your membership today!”
  • “If you put a gun in the first half of your book, it should go off in the second half. Or turn out to be a vampire gun.”

Save the Words: If you love words, this one’s for you! NPR did a great piece this week, “Website Helps Rescue Obscure Words.” Give it a listen, the go to Save the Words and adopt a word (better yet, pick a word and work it into your next book or Continue reading

Friday Filler: Nov. 5 Edition

Here’s our weekly roundup of publishing news, resources, contests, and whatever else struck our fancy this week!

Publishing News

Top 10 Lists: For the first time ever, Library Journal has posted a Top 10 books of the year list, complete with  Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, Michael Cunningham’s By Nightfall, and the one that has Cyndi jumping up and down, Justin Cronin’s The Passage.

Publishers Weekly announced its own top 10 of 2010, with Franzen (naturally), Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad — but we were tickled to see Patti Smith’s Just Kids and Lauren Hillenbrand’s Unbroken on the list too. The full list of 100 books comes out in Monday’s issue of PW.

Why E-Books Aren’t Scary: Stephen King weighs in on ebooks in this interview with the Wall Street Journal. Best quote: “I wonder if one or two atom bombs went off, Continue reading

Friday Filler: Oct. 29 Edition

Okay, here’s our usual Friday round-up of publishing news, contests, resources, etc. But first: I just signed up for National Novel Writing Month, and I want to invite all WLT members to join me in writing at least one page a day for the month of November. We’ll be hosting member write-ins throughout Texas — if you’re interested in hosting or finding a write-in, sign up on the Writers’ League Facebook page!

Tip of the Week

This one comes from Reel Social Media’s Weston Norton, who was our featured guest at the Oct. 21 Third Thursday program. We all know that videos posted on YouTube and then linked to your website or blog can be huge traffic drivers. But Weston pointed Continue reading

Friday Filler: News You Can Use

It’s that time again, time for a roundup of book news, contests, resources, events, and WLT member news! So let’s get going:


Indie Writers: With the ever-expanding options for self-publishing, Amy Edelman (right) of IndieReader.com raises an interesting question this week at Publishing Perspectives: “Why Is Indie OK for Musicians and Filmmakers… But Not for Writers?” Good question. Read it and let us know what you think.

The Agency Model: No, we’re not talking Ford or Elite. Doris Booth, editor-in-chief of AuthorLink, posted an eye-opening opinion piece, “Publishers’ Agency Model Punishes Mid-List Authors.” It dissects how the new agency model struck by publishers and Amazon in attempt to agree on how to set retail pricing for books in the e-book world. Turns out the agency model actually slashes author royalties. Read “Publishers’ Agency Model Punishes Mid-List Authors.”

Facing Rejection: Writers are always puzzled by not getting explanations from agents about why they were rejected. Here’s agent Rachelle Gardner’s explanation Continue reading

It’s Banned Books Week

The American Library Association has designated Sept. 25-Oct. 2 as Banned Books Week, to  highlight  “the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”

The ALA’s list of the top 10 books banned in 2009 includes:

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle

2. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

3. The Perks of Being A Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

4. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer

For the complete list and the reasons cited for potential banning, click here.

According to the ALA website, “The books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings. …  In a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.”

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association; American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression; the American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of American Publishers; and the National Association of College Stores.  It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.