Monday, September 14, 2009

"New" Lamar University - Downtown

The Lamar University - Division of Continuing Education
on September 1, 2009.
Non-Credit Programs
Adult Studies Program
Community Outreach Program

Please visit us at the
“New” Lamar University - Downtown
We are relocating to the ground floor of the Beaumont City Library
located at
801 Pearl St, Beaumont

You can also visit us at
Or call us 880-2233

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hurricane Ike vs. Writing Classes

Hurricane Ike has put a dent in our class schedule. Our links are down so you must call 409-880-2233 if you want to register.

Kent Conwell's Writing the Novel class has been rescheduled for November 3 through December 8. They will meet on Mondays from 6-8.

If you have any questions, please call or email us.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Changes - Make a Note

There have been a couple of changes you should be aware of:

Fiction Writing to Sell by DJ Resnick will meet on Mondays, August 18th through September 29th from 6:30 -8:30. This class is taught on campus.

Write for Teen Magazines by Jessica Burkhart will be taught on Mondays, August 18th through September 29th. This class is taught online.

Please note that it is possible to sign up for both of these classes. Because Jessica's class is taught online, you can juggle your time. Our instructors work with you. You aren't graded on your attendance or assignments, or reprimanded if you don't participate. However, what you put into your class is exactly what you get out of it. :-)

Call 409-880-2233 to register or online at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meet Carol Thomas - Writing Magazine Articles that Sell

Carol Thomas has written many feature articles for national magazines. She received the award for Best Magazine Article of the year 2000 from the San Diego Christian Writers Guild of which she has been a member since 1995. If you're interested in selling to national magazines, consider her course:

Writing Magazine Articles that Sell -
October 6 thru week of November 16

How did you get started writing?
Once upon a time I was riding my horse on a very remote trail. A rattlesnake slithered out of the brush right in front of my mare’s feet. We avoided contact but on the long ride home I wondered what I should have done had she had been bitten. Tie her up and hike out? Ride her back? Do horses die from rattlesnake bites? I was so curious that I called some vets and after finding the information decided other equestrians would probably be interested in my findings. I wrote it up and Western Horseman published it in 1992.

From that point on I was addicted. I could research things I was interested in and make money selling the article to magazines. I soon learned that I could meet all sorts of interesting people that I would never get to speak to otherwise. This appealed to the introvert in me. Since then I’ve interviewed hundreds of people from professional football players to actors – certainly something I would never have been able to do otherwise.

What is your writing schedule like?
LOL. I have a full time job and homeschool my three daughters. My writing schedule is “whenever and wherever”. When I wrote my first novel I sat on the floor for 15 minutes at a time while my three daughters (then 9 months, 3 years, and 7 years) crawled all over me. Someone in my critique group asked how I could write that way. It was either that or nothing, so I did it that way.

How long does it take you to start and finish an article?
The hardest part is making contact with my interview subjects and finding a quiet time to do the interview. I procrastinate making contact because I don’t like to intrude on people. Email has been a real help in that area. Once I’ve done the interview I think about what the most interesting thing I learned about the subject or person is. I usually lead with that.I try to let it sit for at least two days before looking at it again. It amazes me how something that made sense a few days ago can be totally incomprehensible!

Do you do much research?
Magazine article writing is almost all research. After I get as much background information via the web as I can then I do up-to-the-minute research using human sources. I don’t want to write a report anyone could go to the library and find. I want interesting insights from knowledgeable people.

What is your favorite type of article?
Profiles. Profiles on people or on their life’s passion. Their passion can be a ministry, a hobby or their vocation. Like I said, I’m an introvert and would never go up to someone and just ask them about themselves. But as a writer I feel more empowered and at ease.

My favorite articles that I’ve written are: one about the Budweiser Clydesdales (I got to play with the “babies” after the interview!), one about the new Benji movie (I got to hold Benji on my lap during the 2 hour interview at Joe Camp’s home), one about the first disabled person to compete in the Olympics (Kevin Scott is blind and competed in the Sydney Olympics in judo).

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
For professional writers the answer to this question should change over time as they identify areas of weakness and strive to improve that area. Then they should move on to the next area.

When I first started writing I noticed that I was very terse. I’d write a topic then bullet, bullet, bullet (a list of facts) and I’d be done. This came from my background documenting technical material (I’m a computer scientist). It took a while before I could write transitions between paragraphs. When I started writing profiles I struggled to write interesting quotes (vs. quoting everything the person told me) and weaving them into the story. When I wrote my first book my dialogue flowed like melted butter but I couldn’t write a descriptive paragraph to save my life. I’m working on that area now.

You’ve critiqued others and judged contests, what do you see as mistakes beginning writers make?
Mechanical mistakes such as point of view problems, writing in the passive voice, lack of conflict in their story, no focus or freshness in articles (wanders around or an article that could have been printed in an encyclopedia 10 years ago), poor leads/transitions/conclusions, and poor use of quotes.

Emotional mistakes such as taking personal offense to rejection/critique, sending unprofessional queries or generic articles (no slant, not appropriate for audience), failing to recognize the level of competition and not striving to produce a superior product.

What four things can people do to become better writers?
  • Write. Writers write. There are thousands of people who “want to write a book” or “write for magazines.” Few of them do.
  • Read. Good writers are voracious readers. Not just in the same area they write but broadly. Newspapers, novels, non-fiction. Study, learn and improve. Read good books on writing (ask successful writers for their suggestions.)
  • Get involved with a writing writers critique group (not a mutual admiration society).
  • Take classes. Attend conferences and seminars. Grow a thick skin. Take constructive suggestions to help improve your writing and learn from them instead of being wounded by them. Get over rejections.
    (Look at that! I’ve reverted back to bullet lists!)

    Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
    I’m a practical person and enjoy authors who can convey what they know in an organized way. My bookshelf sags from “How to” writing books such as Stein on Writing (Sol Stein), Story (Robert McKee), Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King), How to Write Killer Fiction (Carolyn Wheat), and How to Write Irritable Queries (Cool). I also read tons of books on Biblical exegesis by authors such as Donald G. Barnhouse, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, John MacArthur, Rick Warren, and Henry Blackaby.

    I read lots of fiction too. I love Jack Cavanaugh, Randy Ingermanson, Bill Meyers, and Robert Ludlum (probably because I teethed on Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series).

    Are you a member of any writers groups and why? I’m on the board of directors of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild (, the largest countywide Christian writer’s guild in the U.S. I faithfully attend monthly critique meetings to improve my writing, mentor new writers and get mentally refreshed and motivated to write. I also participate in their online critique group which we established to help those who, because of schedule or child care constraints, can’t attend a physical meeting each month because of their schedule or child care issues.

Spending time with fellow writers is the most motivating thing I do for myself whether it is at a conference or local critique group.

What do you want the students who take your magazine article course to learn?
That if an unpublished computer scientist can get an article published in a national magazine, so can they. People aren’t born knowing how to write and market magazine articles. It is a skill that can be learned by those who are committed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Meet Kent Conwell - Writing The Novel

Meet my good friend, Kent Conwell, author of The Tony Boudreaux mystery series by Avalon Books and numerous westerns. If you have an interest in learning how to write novels, Kent can help. His class is as follows:

Writing the Novel - Kent Conwell
October 6 - Nov. 10
6:00 - 8:00

How did you get started writing?
Always wanted to, but being a country hick, I didn’t know how to go about it. I read constantly. When I was in the third grade, I loved Red Ryder. I could read one of his books in a single day. Then came college and English Literature. Over the next few years, I wrote a couple bad, bad novels, and then life got in the way. It wasn’t until ’71 I wrote another. Still have it, Kronk. One of these days, it’ll sell, but like Robby Robison, the agent said, it is probably too brutal for some of these young sensitive editors.

What is your writing schedule like?
Everyday, as long as I can manage. Sometimes thirty minutes, but on the average of two or three hours—or ten pages.

How long does it take for you to start and finish a book?
I can do a first draft of a western in four to six weeks. That’s with doing what experienced writers tell the inexperienced never to do. I write ten pages a day, then next session, I go back over them. This not only keeps the story straight, but permits rewriting. After the first draft, I put it aside and start a first draft of a mystery. When I finish it, I work on the western. Back and forth.

Do you do much research?
Constantly. I know I’m doing a western and mystery, so I make sure to read both fiction and non-fiction in those areas.

What's your favorite part of writing-the plotting, rewriting, etc.
It’s all enjoyable, plotting because of the twists I can put in; rewriting because that is when you can polish your words, put them together in such a manner as to elicit various reactions from readers.

How do you plot your stories?
Along with a premise, I like to know where I am at the beginning and at the end. I try to follow the precept of H. Bedford-Jones, king of the pulps back in the 20’s and 30’s. “Get your hero in danger and keep him in danger.” I usually have an outline, but it is more of a device to make me think in the beginning rather than a rigid guide.

What's the most difficult part of writing for you?
At first, it was the discipline—making myself plop in front of the typewriter, then computer, but after a few years of forcing myself to start each day, it becomes such a habit that I experience a surge of guilt if I don’t.

You've critiqued others and judged contests, what do you see as mistakes beginning writers make?
Don’t read enough; don’t spend enough time; don’t study the markets; don’t follow guidelines; don’t try to be themselves.

What word of advice would you give beginning writers?
Like Hemingway is purported to have said at a college commencement, “go home and write.” If you want to write, write. It must be almost like a holy mission, like the mythical pursuit of the Holy Grail. Next, be yourself. Don’t copy successful writers. Oh, read them, certainly, but then write your story the way you want.

Is it important for writers to be readers?
Essential! Writing without having read copiously is like a mechanic trying to rebuilt an automobile engine through the muffler.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
I grew up on pulps, then along came Hemingway, Faulkner, Steinbeck—they all seemed to capture the core of the human existence. They’re all my favorites as are every mystery writer I can get my hands on. I read theirs, compare to mine, sometimes ridicule them, sometimes marvel at their techniques or flashes of insight. As far as westerns, I’ve read them all. I do have a favorite. I’ll buy everyone of his books I can. Elmer Kelton.

Are you a member of any writers groups and why is it important to "hang out" with other writers?
Golden Triangle Writer’s Guild, Western Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America. Associating with other writers provides excellent support, but every writer will reach his epiphany that what he does, he must do himself. Conferences are a natural contact place for editors and agents.

What do you want the students who take your novel writing course to learn?
There is no deep, dark secret to writing a novel. It is simply a logical sequence of steps to a conclusion. At the completion of the course, each student will have a premise, a beginning and an end. All he has to do then is fill in the middle by following Bedford-Jones’ advice, “put the hero in danger and keep him in danger.”

To read another interview by Kent Conwell, or to check out his publisher’s website, click on

Be sure to look for Kent's latest mystery: The Crystal Skull Murders-
A Tony Boudreaux Mystery

Monday, July 28, 2008

Meet DJ Resnick - Writing Fiction to Sell

DJ Resnick has been involved in writing, mentoring, agenting, teaching and editing for many years. His writing career began in Wichita, Kansas in 1953 with his first credited byline. Resnick has been teaching through the Lamar University, Department of Continuing Education since 1988.

We appreciate DJ taking the time to answer the following questions, and teaching Writing Fiction to Sell, Part I and Part II.

Fiction Writing to Sell - Session 1
August 11 - Sept. 15
5:30 - 8:30 pm

Fiction Writing to Sell - Session 2
September 29 - Nov. 3
6:30 - 8:30
On Campus
You may register over the phone with a credit/debit card by calling 409-880-2233.

Interview with DJ Resnick:

How did you get started in this business?
I started as a photographer for my high school paper and yearbook, then carried that over into college. Soon I was having to write the tag lines for the photos then I found myself having to write the articles to go with them and never stopped. I found it was a great way to earn some extra money and I was reasonably adept at it. Since high school I have always written, but it was in addition to regular jobs. First rule of writing is, don't give up your day job.

You’ve critiqued others and judged contests, and you own an editing service, what mistakes do beginning writers make? Some things common to most new writers (and some pros) is wanting to overwrite; explain too much. They want to give the reader more information than is really necessary to show the story. Telling the story rather than showing (experiencing) it through the characters. Use of passive voice, watch the use of was, were, has been and make sure you use an active voice. Repetitive use of words and terms. Underuse of contractions in dialogue which tends to make the character too formal and stiff. Overuse of dialect in dialogue--keep it simple.

What word of advice would you give beginning writers?
The single word of advice to new (as well as seasoned) writers is, WRITE.

In your opinion, is it important for writers to be readers?
It is extremely important for writers to read and reada lot--particularly what they want to write. Reading is more than half of writing. You need to keep up with what's in the market, and it helps the writer to learn and understand the structure of what they are writing.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
My reading is pretty eclectic and to try to list my favorite authors would take too much room here.Needless to say, all my favorite authors are excellent storytellers and are able to immerse me in the characters and story.

Are you a member of any writers groups and why is it important to “hang out” with other writers? Over the years, I have belonged to several writer's organizations such as the Romance Writer's of America, The Mystery Writers of America, and several local writer's groups and clubs, both professional and otherwise. The only organization I have belonged to continuously is the Golden Triangle Writers Guild. It is an organization which combines the membership of professional and novice into a support group for both ends of the writing spectrum. It is very important for writers, especially new writers, to associate with other writers. Writing is a relatively solitary occupation and it's great to have the support of others who understand the sometimes eccentric seeming antics of writers. It is through other writers you are able to keep up with the markets in this fast-paced, ever changing business. Almost without exception, seasoned writers are willing to share their experience and knowledge with new writers and that is vitally important to learn the craft of writing.

What do you think about critique groups? Do they help or destroy one’s confidence? Regular critique groups are the best tool a writer has. They are important to keep pushing you to write and it give the writer an immediate feel for what they are writing and eliminate errors before they compound. But one must be careful and choose their critiquers with care. It is one area where the "Golden Rule" applies, 'do unto other as you would have them do untoyou'. Always remember, it is still your story and what a critiquer or others give you is just their opinion.

You are teaching Fiction Writing to Sell. What do you want your students to take away from your course? Out of my Fiction Writing to Sell class, I hope the writers come away with an understanding of all the elements which go into making a well structured, clean(and hopefully saleable) manuscript. To gain a foundation and understanding of the craft of writing. Also how and why it all works together to lessen the chances of rejection.

In your opinion, what is the one how-to book all writers (beginning and seasoned) should have in their library? All how-to books on writing contain something a writer can learn. If I had to choose a single book which a writer should have in their library, it would be, The Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain, published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Meet Jessica Burkhart - Writing for Teen Magazines

Jessica Burkhart started freelancing at 14 to feed her lip gloss addiction. Her course, Writing for Teen Magazines, provides the fundamentals of writing non-fiction articles for teen magazines. Participants will learn how to produce teen-friendly pieces including articles, quizzes and fillers. At the workshop’s end, each student will have an article outline, one polished article and one query letter to an appropriate magazine editor.

Writing for Teen Magazines
August 11 - September 22
You may register over the phone with a credit/debit card by calling 409-880-2233.

Interview with Jessica Burkhart:

How did you get started writing?
I started writing magazine articles when I was fourteen and got my first publication at fifteen. I’ve been freelancing for five years and have racked up over 65 credits in leading teen magazines such as Girls’ Life, Listen and The Next Step. In fall of 2006, I decided to try writing tween and teen novels and I have four tween books scheduled for publication from Simon & Schuster starting in summer 2008.

Did you major in creative writing in college?
Actually, no. I got my BA in English literature from Florida State University in 2007. I took a couple of writing classes from FSU, but I’ve taught myself most of what I know about writing through online classes and books.

How many queries do you have out at one time?
My goal is to have 30 magazine queries circulating at any given time. Since I’ve started writing books, I’ve cut that in half but continue to actively freelance.

Do you encounter lots of rejections in writing for teens?
No matter what field you try, there are always rejections. I have boxes of rejections and still get them. With every rejection, I remember that it’s not a rejection of me as a person, but rather that my work doesn’t fit the magazine’s current needs. Each rejection drives me to keep writing and pursuing publication.

Did writing for teen magazines help you write a book for tweens?
It helped tremendously. After writing so many articles for teens and tweens, I learned how to keep a brief word count, use language that engaged teens and pick topics that interested a wide variety of teens. I used all of my tricks and tips that I used in magazine articles when I wrote my first book.

What do you want the students who take your Writing for Teen Magazines course to learn?
The students will learn how to target appropriate teen magazines, how to find a teen-friendly voice and how to query an editor. I want writers to leave the course confident about writing for teens and the course will provide a solid foundation to pursue publication in teen magazines.

Where can students learn more about you?
For more information about my credits in teen magazines, check out my Website at

You can find Jessica's writing in magazines and newspapers such as: A Girls' World,, Barefoot Path, Beautiful Girl, Characters, Florida Trend's Next, FSView & Florida Flambeau, Girls' Life, Guideposts Sweet 16, Howl!, Kid Magazine Writers, Lake City Magazine, Listen, NE Chronicle, Positive Teens, Rainy Day Corner, Romance Writers Report, Teen Ink, Teen Scene, Teen Voices, Teenage Christian, The Famuan, The Next Step, The Tattoo, The Writer, Writing for Dollars, Young People's Press and Young Writer.

We're very lucky to have Jessica teaching for us this semester. She has deadlines monopolizing her time. She'll soon be busy with booksignings. Her forthcoming debut middle grade novel TAKE THE REINS (CANTERWOOD CREST), hits shelves in January 2009 and is available for pre-order now! This is the first book in her series for Aladdin M!X. Jess blogs for Teen Fiction Cafe. Visit her Website for more! She cross posts to LiveJournal.