Meet the Members: Allyson Neal

“Writing is truly my passion and I’ll be doing this for a long time.”

— Allyson Neal

A member of the Writers’ League since July 2020, Allyson lives in Sugar Land, TX.

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

Allyson Neal: I mostly write children’s literature and I’ve also written two non-fiction history books about the community where I grew up in New Orleans. I was inspired to become a writer after reading Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, and Judy Blume in my youth. They’re all great storytellers and I longed to join them in telling stories that would entertain, inform, and inspire.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

AN: Right now, I’d like to have drinks with Jason Reynolds or Kwame Alexander. They’re both very accomplished children’s book and young adult book authors. I would ask them about what inspires them and how they were able to successfully transition from independent publishing into traditional publishing, which is something that I long to do as well.

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

AN: If there could only be one book, it would definitely be the Bible. The Bible, to me, is more than literature. It contains everything that I need to nourish my Spirit and it has great stories of God’s partnership with mankind that move beyond inspiration and into fueling the greatness of our capabilities to love, forgive, and strive toward a higher calling of being human. So, I would need the Bible to keep me sane and to fuel my hope that I would be rescued and not die on the island.

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

AN: I hope that my writing will take me around the world to share my stories in multiple languages and with children of diverse cultures. I also hope that it allows me to interact with children and to read portions of my books to them. They are the best critics and when they love a book, they are its best cheerleaders.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

AN: In Search of the Blues: A Journey to the Soul of Black Texas by Bill Minutaglio is a book that I would recommend. Black people are now faced with even more disparities with regard to our race and differences. Sharing our stories, our pain, trials, and triumphs is a great way to tear down the walls that separate us from others.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AN: I love writing children’s stories! For the past five years, I’ve been collaborating with my daughter in writing the books that I’ve published independently. And, last year, we completed our first chapter book. I had an opportunity to read it to her fourth grade classmates at their school’s career fair and it was so much fun! I read a little bit of the first chapter which included a cliff hanger and the kids were hooked! To experience the joys and pain of the readers was amazing. I also received a lot of great feedback from the kids. Writing is truly my passion and I’ll be doing this for a long time.

Thank you, Allyson!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Community Member: Austin Community College Creative Writing Department

Special Guest Post: Austin Community College student, Maya Landers, shares her experience taking classes in ACC’s Creative Writing Department!

The idea that writing is a solitary pursuit has been thoroughly disproven: we realized that behind every great person is another great person, or two or three or twelve, whose ideas and encouragement offered a crucial form of support. I know that writing requires connection more than isolation, but it wasn’t until I started taking creative writing classes at Austin Community College that I realized how accessible — and how vital — a writing community could be.

Taking classes at ACC has introduced me to a range of voices and perspectives that I might not have otherwise encountered, both in the classroom and in the literary canon. It’s all too easy to get lost in my own particular world, studying only the authors and regions and worldviews which are familiar to me. Suggested reading lists and classroom discussions have led me to some of my favorite new-to-me authors, and they’ve also introduced me to ideas that I hadn’t yet considered.

When I write by myself, my writing practice seems like just that: practice. I write in my journal or on my laptop, and I accumulate pages and pages of half-formed ideas that never make it past the first draft. Taking a creative writing class allows my writing to shift from practice to product. Knowing that someone else will read my drafts inspires me to work harder and write better, and having a deadline also gives me permission to stop: at a certain point, I have to put down my pencil and share my work with someone else.

Before I took creative writing classes, I didn’t share my writing with anyone. I loved to write but it felt too personal to share: I imagined that the stories or essays I wrote would reveal some aspect of myself I’d prefer to keep hidden, or would touch on some concept that I’d rather ignore.

There’s something exhilarating about sharing your work. Writing is ultimately about communication, and a community — of peers and mentors, other writers — forms a critical part of that equation.

Right now, as I find myself physically separated from many of the people and activities that I used to enjoy, I turn to words more than ever. Books offer some consolation, but at the end of the day, I still find myself searching for a more personal connection. The creative writing classes at ACC have shown me the power of a writing community, and I’m so excited to continue participating in Austin’s vibrant literary scene.

Maya Landers, ACC Student

Thanks, Maya!

For more information about Fall courses, click here, and to learn more about enrolling through continuing education, click here. Or you can call or email the department chair, Charlotte Gullick, at 512-913-4479, cgullick@austincc.edu

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

Meet the Members: George Hollenbeck

“Stranded for life? The Bible. A year? All of Michener’s books. A month? All of Agatha Christie’s.”

— George Hollenbeck

A member of the Writers’ League since July 2020, George lives in Livingston, TX.

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

George Hollenbeck: It has varied over the years, but always non-fiction: Currently, commentary on the world around me; newspaper articles on fishing; club news for clubs, and opinionated emails with friends discussing current issues and events.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

GH: John McPhee, a master writer and one whose writing I like to think is similar to mine. My question would be: Would you critique some of my writing?

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

GH: Stranded for life? The Bible. A year? All of Michener’s books. A month? All of Agatha Christie’s.

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

GH: It provides me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment, that’s enough! I share some with a few friends who invariably tell me they like it! I have pondered writing “The Iron Laws of Aging”, or alternately “Making it Through Old Age,” but I have neither the time, the discipline, nor the intense motivation required to get that done!

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

GH: God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright, although it came out in 2018. It was written as a response to The New Yorker piece, “Why do you live in Texas?” It is a readable, hilarious, and sad — unbelievable at times.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

GH: Writing has been important throughout my life. My writing about our fishing club, Polk County Hookers, has played a big role in giving me an identity of my own where we live. That’s no small thing when you move to small-town East Texas at age 60 to marry your college sweetheart, a revered community citizen, favorite teacher of hundreds, and thought by some to be an angel. With 275+ people on our Hooker email list, people now know me as the Head Hooker, no longer just “Ruth’s husband.” Some even know Ruth as “The Head Hooker’s wife.”

Thank you, George!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Andrew Mitin

“I have no grand dreams of my writing taking me anywhere except deeper into my own imagination and ideas about the world.”

— Andrew Mitin

A member of the Writers’ League since May 2020, Andrew lives in Spring, Texas.

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

Andrew Mitin: I write fiction, screenplays and poetry.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

AM: If I could ask any writer about the love and sorrows of these endeavors I’d have a cigar with Kierkegaard while ambling around Copenhagen.

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

AM: If I were stranded on an island (or in my apartment, as the last few months have seen) I would need the Bible and Plato’s Republic to keep me sane.

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

AM: I have no grand dreams of my writing taking me anywhere except deeper into my own imagination and ideas about the world.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

AM: I’ve only recently moved to Texas so I can’t pretend to know about the books it has inspired.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AM: I look forward to meeting all of you and wish you continued success upon the blank page. Feel free to check out andrewmitin.com to see what I’ve been up to. Cheers!

Thank you, Andrew!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Ann Stout

“[The WLT has taught me that] there are a lot of excellent writers in Texas.”

— Ann Stout 

A member of the Writers’ League since April 2020, Ann lives in Houston.

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

Ann Stout: Memoir, personal essay, poetry, medical public policy  issues, personal letters to friends.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

AS: Barbara Kingsolver. What comes first when you write a novel with a climate issue (ex: “Flight Behavior”) – which comes first, the story or the climate disaster and how do you go about crafting the book?

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

AS: Mary Oliver “New and Selected Poems” for poetry and “Pride and Prejudice” for clarity of writing and mental escape. 

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

AS: That writing as a vocation can be all-consuming, that a lot of writers are willing to share of themselves, that there are a lot of excellent writers in Texas, that writing takes time.

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

AS: I have practiced pediatric ophthalmology for 25 years and now have rediscovered my passion for writing. I hope to use it to engage and educate others, to brighten their days, to share my own story of vision problems, and possibly affect public policy in expanding health care access.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

AS: The last Texas-related book I read was “The Drowning House” by Elizabeth Black, published in 2013 about a woman returning to Galveston and exploring her family history with links to the the Galveston Hurricane. It was great to read when I moved back to Houston in 2014.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

AS: I have only just returned to writing after years of medical practice and raising a family, I have been encouraged by some small publications – in Doximity Op-ed and the local neighborhood paper. I have been working on a book about losing vision in one eye from the point of view (no pun) of an ophthalmologist, but am not sure yet of my audience and where it will have the most impact. I have found writing to be the most immersive consuming experience I have had in a long time. It leaves me breathless! One of my favorite authors is the former editor of the University of Portland magazine (a city where I was lucky to live for 14 years), Brian Doyle. He writes wonderfully, and once said: “We are only here for a minute, we are here for a little window, and to use that time to catch and share shards of light and laughter and grace seems to me the great story.” – Brian Doyle.

Thank you, Ann!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Denise Bossarte

“My dark urban fantasy novel, GLAMOROUS, is a bronze medalist in the 2019 The Wishing Self Book Awards in Adult Fiction.”

— Denise Bossarte

A member of the Writers’ League since May 2020, Denise lives in southeast Houston.

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

Denise Bossarte: Dark urban fantasy, nonfiction – self-help, and poetry.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

DB: Brandon Sanderson. How do you keep all the worlds and characters straight across your multiple series?

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

DB: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

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

DB: Just joined!

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

DB: More in my series of dark urban fantasy. Audiobooks of my poetry and dark urban fantasy series. Recording them myself and with help of friends.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

DB: My dark urban fantasy novel, GLAMOROUS, is a bronze medalist in the 2019 The Wishing Self Book Awards in Adult Fiction. It is also a 5-star Readers’ Favorite and an Amazon bestseller.

Two of my short stories in the world of GLAMOROUS also have received 5-Star Readers’ Favorite reviews: RETURN and BEGINNINGS. These are both Amazon bestsellers.

My unpublished nonfiction self-help manuscript, Thriving, was a quarterfinalist in the inaugural 2019 Booklife Prize Nonfiction Contest, Self-help category. It is entered into the 2020 Readers’ Favorite Nonfiction Self-help competition, winners to be announced in September. Hoping to find an agent for this once things get settled into a new normal.

Thank you, Denise!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Marian O’Shea Wernicke

“I have been humbled by the collegial spirit of the writers I have met in the League.”

— Marian O’Shea Wernicke

A member of the Writers’ League since 2019, Marian lives in southeast Austin.

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

Marian O’Shea Wernicke: I have written a memoir about my father, and self-published it with Create Space. The title is Tom O’Shea, A Twentieth Century Man: A Daughter’s Search For Her Father’s Story. I write poetry, and now I have my first novel coming out in September of 2020 published by She Writes Press, an independent publisher. The title is Toward That Which Is Beautiful, and it is set in the Altiplano of Peru in the early 60s. I have the first draft of another novel in the process of revision.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

MOW: I’d love to sit on a terrace in Austin and have a gin and tonic with Eudora Welty. I’d ask her about the importance of place in her fiction, how she is able to convey the atmosphere her characters live and breathe in so seamlessly.  I am thinking about her short story, “A Worn Path” especially as well as “June Recital.”

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

MOW: I’d be lucky to have Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love In the Time of Cholera.  Come to think of it, that is a perfect book for right now as we are stranded at home because of this plague. His world is complex yet at the same time so vividly portrayed in sensual detail.

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

MOW: I have been humbled by the collegial spirit of the writers I have met in the League.  The speakers I have heard have been encouraging and nurturing to those of us who are just beginning to publish, whatever age we are. There is never a whiff of superiority.

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

MOW: I have a historical novel in a first draft based loosely on the life of my Irish great-grandmother, whose story has always intrigued me. It takes place in the 1870s in Ireland and then in the States. Once that book is launched (fingers crossed) I want to return to poetry. Maybe a memoir?

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down?

MOW: I loved Oscar Casares’s Where We Come From.  I heard him read an excerpt from this at Book People, and his prose is limpidly clear and engaging. I recommend it highly to everyone.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

MOW: To all writers I would say, never give up on your vision for a work.  I had many publishers reject my novel before it was finally accepted, saying that although they liked the story, the characters, and the writing, they just did not see a market for the book. I think too many books are shoved into a niche in order to sell, but not all books fit so tidily. Imagine Flannery O’Connor trying to get published today! Or Walker Percy. If you keep at the work, it will find an audience.

Thank you, Marian!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

Meet the Members: Chris Mullen

“I live by the motto, “Tell me I can’t.””

— Chris Mullen

A member of the Writers’ League since February 2020, Chris lives in Richmond.

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

Chris Mullen: I am currently writing Western Adventure. I write Children’s picture book stories as well. I also have a Young Adult Romance, a Thriller, and a Sci-Fi in the works.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

CM: Stephen King – Inspiration is sometimes found in the craziest of places- following your accident, what were the first bits of inspiration that came to mind, and how hard was it to create those thoughts into a self-gratifying manuscript?

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

CM: Am I on the island because of something I’ve done, or to discover something I am meant to do? I suppose it would be the Bible. I haven’t read it cover to cover, but the books within it provide hope and inspiration and has people with all sorts of stories to tell. For me, it’s not only a Christian thing, but would certainly be a symbol for me.

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

CM: As a new member I find it helpful that WLT has several resources available that provide opportunities for me to grow as a writer.

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

CM: I would love to see my (Western Adventure) Rowdy series find success, either through traditional publishing or self-publishing. Will I ever be able to quit my day job? I guess we’ll see. Either way, I will continue to develop and write the saga of Rowdy. As a writer I dream and create, so why not think big…let’s have Netflix or Amazon pick up the first book in the series and see it come alive on screen! I plan to heed some advice from my WIP, Rowdy: Redemption “Shouldn’t dwell on things that are out of your control, Rowdy. No man can go back to fix the past, but he can shape the future.”  I’ll keep writing and shaping ideas. Any way you look at it, I’ll end up where I am supposed to be.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

CM: I usually read Jonathan Maberry, Craig Alanson, and Stephen King; however, Don Winslow released his book The Border last February (2019). This book was the third installment in a series of thrillers and was definitely one that was hard to put down. The storytelling was fantastic, gruesome and truthfully gut wrenching at times (in a great way), and provided such an open window into a world so different from the one that I live in, yet scarily too close for comfort. Although The Border is his most recent release in this series, I would suggest starting with The Power of the Dog (2005) followed by The Cartel (2015).

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

CM: I’m simply a PreK teaching, Taekwondo fighting, book writing, guitar playing Husband/Dad that is still searching for the best corral to handle my adult ADD while continually looking for action and adventure, keeping up with my two teenage sons, and searching for the best Literary Agent that finally realizes they really DO need a Western Adventure series on their “list.” (Breathe…) I live by the motto, “Tell me I can’t” – basically a more sophisticated version of “Hold my Beer”, but with more control and less of an opportunity to wind up in the emergency room. I’d also be crazy not to say that my first novel- Rowdy: Wild and Mean, Sharp and Keen, will be released as an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) through BN.com in April 2020. You can find out more about it as well as me at www.chrismullenwrites.com, or follow me on Facebook & Twitter @Rowdy2019.

Thank you, Chris!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!

What We’re Reading Now:

Sam Babiak, Program Director / Member Services Director

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
Penguin Books
September 25, 2014

Mary Karr said, “Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.” This is true for all memories, but if you’re writing about traumatic events you’ve experienced, these memories work differently and will likely be much more difficult to write about. The Body Keeps the Score breaks down the way that trauma affects our bodies and minds and the ways that traumatic memories differ from other kinds of memories. For a memoirist writing about trauma, this is a must read. Untangling these memories and understanding their impact is an essential step in writing memoir, and although reading this book is by no means a substitute for therapy, it is an incredible companion to have on this journey. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I first heard of this book in November 2019 at our Texas Writes in ATX event. The wonderful memoirist Rachel Starnes gave a presentation on memory in memoir and recommended that anyone writing about trauma should read this book. Then a few weeks ago, this book was recommended again. This time, by Jessica Wilbanks in her Memoir 101 class. This book keeps popping up for a reason and although it was published in 2014, the human experience, our minds and bodies after trauma, the core of writing memoir, that is all timeless and that’s why I’m recommending The Body Keeps the Score once again.


Evan Parks, Project Specialist

Rules for Being Dead by Kim Powers
Blair Publishing
May 12, 2020
Almost immediately in Rules for Being Dead, Powers roots the reader into the setting and narrative. In it we follow Clarke, a third-grader, as he struggles with his mother’s death during the ’60s. That’s a fairly standard plot, however Clarke’s perspective is followed up with the perspective of his mother’s spirit as she watches over him, and the rest of the small Texas town where they reside. There’s a mystery surrounding her death, and it’s one that haunts everyone. This book is drenched with the ghosts of movies at the drive-in, familial drama, and heartache.

Meet the Members: Melinda Wyers

” …[I]f I’m indefinitely stuck somewhere it would be nice to read about immortality.”

— Melinda Wyers

A member of the Writers’ League since February 2019, Melinda lives in Hutto.

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

Melinda Wyers: I currently write mid to late Victorian Historical Fiction.

Scribe: What author would you most like to have a drink with, and what’s the first question you would ask them? 

MW: Virginia Woolf. “Why would you try to cook eggs in bed?”

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

MW: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, if I’m indefinitely stuck somewhere it would be nice to read about immortality.

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

MW: I’ve only started but hope to attend a few of the events this March and get to meet folks.

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

MW: I’m hoping to write at least two more books in the same genre or with the same characters, then move on to write about something more modern.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

MW:  I haven’t read one that has come out in the past year, most of what I read was written a while back but I’m starting research on Galveston in the late 1800’s (before the hurricane) so I’m about to jump into Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.

Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!

MW: My current book, The Widow of Redbriar has been out for a year now, and is available in print and ebook. To get updates on my work and other projects you can visit my website.

Thank you, Melinda!

If you’re a Writers’ League member and you’d be interested in being interviewed for our Meet the Members feature, email us at member@writersleague.org for more information. It’s a great way for other members to get to know you and for you to share a bit about what you’re working on!