Chris Smith, manager of adult programming at Jefferson Parish Library, speaks to SOLA!
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Our January Speaker: 


                 Chris Smith

The Library – A Writer's Natural Ally

(But Few Authors Know How to Use Libraries as a Marketing Tool) 

Chris Smith has served as manager of adult programming at Jefferson Parish Library for seven years. In this role, he schedules more than 100 authors per year for book signings or other author events. Of all the events that he organizes – genealogy and history talks, music concerts, art talks, business and marketing discussions, etc. – his heart is with authors and the author events. Besides, he is about to join your ranks as a published fiction writer.
During this presentation, Smith will talk about libraries and how they can help authors market their work. Yes, we’ll talk about book signings, but that’s just the start. Through the years, Smith has seen it all, and he can tell you what works and what doesn’t. How do you have a successful book signing? What about a news release? And what about these new programs that libraries are using to promote local authors by “publishing” their work?
Chris Smith is a public relations/communications professional who has worked at the American Dental Association, Louisiana State University, Tulane University, Sierra Club, New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. He holds a degree in English from Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, a master of arts degree in liberal arts from the University of Chicago, and a master of arts degree in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans. He lives in New Orleans.

This Month's Stories

  • Speaker Bio

  • President's Message

  • Meeting Dates

  • Member News

  • Program Report 

  • Market News

  • About Me

  • See links at the bottom to check out our social media pages.
  • Have news for the newsletter? Email the editor at
  • You can contact any of our board members by clicking on their name in the list below.

President's Message

By Vicky McHenry

Happy New Year to each of you, and I am hoping for a wonderful year for all of us. Of course, it’s not enough to just hope, is it? It’s up to us to make it happen (with a little help from Lady Luck). I firmly resolved this year not to make any resolutions because it usually is just another invitation to fail. Patted myself on the back for being one savvy cookie!
And then, coming out of yoga class last week, I spotted a book on sale on the shelf with all those cute little candles and essential oils.  The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron. Yep, that book. I’d heard so much about it from so many people. And here, it had practically leaped into my hands. I had to buy it, right? The beautiful young thing at the desk looked up at me and smiled. “It changed my life,” she said.
So, long story short: today was my first day of “Morning Pages.” This, after reading the chapter on the pages about 5 times and googling Morning Pages on the internet for several days, and wondering if I have to do this longhand, does it have to be in the morning, can I just write about my dreams? I just sat down and did it, and it took me 20 minutes. Everyone said it would take at least 45 minutes, so I’m not sure if I’m doing it wrong or if I’m just good at it.
I have a New Year’s resolution this year. It is to follow the Artist’s Way and to finish a first draft of a novel. There. I’ve said it. Please hold me to it.
Please feel free to join me. Maybe we can start one of those “creative clusters” and help each other along. Maybe not. Either way, I’m committed.
I am looking forward to reuniting with y’all Saturday, January 21, the first meeting of our new year.

Board Members

We're all volunteers, and there is always room for more help. Consider joining the Programs Committee or helping out with Fundraising. 


Other Important Positions

Click on a name to email that member.
2017 Programs
January 21 – Chris Smith: The Library – A Writer's Natural Ally

February 18 – 
Cherie Claire: Cajun romance writer and former SOLA member. Program will be on publishing.

March 18 –
Erica Spindler- 25 Years, 35 Books, A Writer's Tale 
April 15 – Deborah Burst 
Pay Your Dues!
Member dues should be paid by the February 18th, the day of the February meeting. Dues are $40 per person and are considered late after the February meeting, raising the price to $45. They can be paid in three different ways:

1) PayPal using a credit or debit card. The link is provided 

2) Check brought to either the January or February meeting.

3) Check mailed to Treasurer Ann Cantrell at 9012 Camille Court, River Ridge, LA 70123
SOLA Writer's Retreat
Meant to inspire, the event will feature some inspirational talks, lots of writing time, wonderful food and a beautiful, evocative environment. The Southern Hotel is a great supporter of the arts, and registrants are welcome to use the public space in the hotel for impromptu plotting, brainstorming sessions, quiet reflection or furious writing. A book signing is planned for the evening and is open to registrants subject to available space. (If signing books, an additional $10 fee will need to be paid to the hotel for set up – it will be billed separately.)

Lunch and afternoon refreshments are included in the cost for registration. There are several excellent restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel as well as Ox Lot 9, the Southern Hotel's own restaurant.

Register on our webpage!

Date: February 4, 2017. 

Where: Southern Hotel in Covington, LA. Discounted rooms will be available for the night before an the night after (Friday and Saturday nights). 

Cost: $45.00 per person
SOLA Anthology Contest
The SOLA Mardi Gras Anthology writing contest will open for submissions starting April 1, 2017. We will update the contest information page in soon. Feel free to get a jump start on your submission with the details we have below.

All short stories submitted must have a Mardi Gras/New Orleans theme and must have a romantic element in the story. The contest is open to both published and unpublished writers.

Submission Length: Between 2,500 and 7,500 words.

Subgenre Categories: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal/Futuristic, Inspirational, Romantic Suspense, and Young Adult

Contest Timeline: Open for submissions on April 1st  2017. Entries limited to the 1st 100 submissions.

Deadline: Contest closes June 17th 2017 (Midnight Standard Central time.)
Winners will be included in the anthology, notified via email, and posted on SOLA’s website.

Entry Fee/Submissions: $20.00 through PayPal. All entries must be submitted electronically. (Do not submit funds or manuscripts until the contest officially opens.)

Member News

June Shaw announces the released of her new book, A Fatal Romance. It is the first book in her Twin Sisters series set in south Louisiana.
Twin divorcees Sunny Taylor and Eve Vaughn struggle to get their remodeling and repair business off the ground when their newest customer drowns in his pond near a seating area they created. He must have accidentally fallen in, police determine. But dyslexic Sunny, with an eye for detail from her former job fitting the small town’s women with undergarments, notices things about the man’s widow entering the church for his funeral with his ashes that makes her decide otherwise. When the wife stumbles and ashes land on Sunny, she and her twin are off in a race to return them and prove the widow’s guilt. Discovering another body leads to both sisters becoming persons of interest. Word spreads quickly in their little town, and being suspected in a murder or two isn’t helping to improve their business’s image. While Sunny is haunted by witnessing the childhood murder of a sibling, Eve’s life becomes endangered. Toss in a love interest attracting the attention of both divorces and sibling rivalry with an aging mother and her quirky compadres who share rumors and advice from their retirement home, and a killer’s warnings and gunfire, and the twins must rush to locate the real killer before their similar looks become hammered down to one.
Congratulations to Charlotte Parker, who received a contract with Desert Breeze Publishing to write a short story for the new anthology Southern Comfort
The anthology will be released at this year's RT convention in Atlanta. Her story will be titled "Shadow Chasing."

November Program Report

Bridget Hodder
Going All the Way:
From Page, to Pitch, to Publication

Are you really ready to be published? Bridget began her presentation with this question and then went on to explain that she was not asking who you want to be but what kind of lifestyle you want. To illustrate, she related her own writing life journey, which led to her finally becoming an author.

When she started college, her father wanted her to major in science, but she wanted to major in English because she enjoyed reading. However, she found that analyzing texts killed her love for reading, so she finally decided to major in history. That way, she could write stories as long as they were true. Then she went to graduate school and studied archeology and discovered that giving voice to the voiceless was useful.

Later, she married and had a child who was diagnosed with autism. During that time, reading romances became essential to her survival—something she believes romance writers should never forget. Reading romances helped her plug into the universal truths—there is a dawn after the darkness, and strong women can make the right choices and change their lives.

So she began writing romances and joined RWA. She even entered the Golden Heart Contest and was a finalist. But when she went to the conference, all the people she met knew so much more than she knew that, when she returned home, she decided she wasn’t ready to publish. Around the same time, her marriage started falling apart and ended in divorce.

“I think we need to give ourselves permission to assess ourselves,” Bridget said. “When you’re in a relationship with a person and become successful, sometimes things happen because it’s not all about them anymore. Now I had no more stories in my life. No more romance. I stopped writing.”

Eventually she met and fell in love with another man who asked, “What do you want to do? When have you ever had a choice?” She realized then that no one had ever allowed her to choose. So she decided to write again.

Bridget went on to relate how she came up with the idea for The Rat Prince, which is based on the story of Cinderella. She wrote it in six months and then started querying agents. But she did her research on who might be interested in the kind of book she wrote, and she queried methodically—not sending out queries to everyone at once. She admits her success wasn’t typical, but she had an agent within three months.

“Believing is not enough,” Bridget said. “Dreaming is not enough. It takes work and research.” And once you’re published, you need to learn about social media, even if you’re published by one of the “Big Five.” There are all sorts of other things a published author needs to do. Are you really going to enjoy it?  She suggested taking workshops that talk about what to expect after you’re published.

Publication, she emphasized, is not the only goal of writing. There is deep value in the life of an unpublished writer. When you work for a publisher, you owe it to them to meet their deadlines, use their formats, and keep up your brand. In addition, your unpublished friends become reluctant to let you critique their work anymore.
Bridget's tips on query format:
You’re writing something that will be skimmed. Keep to the format. Above all, follow the publisher's/agent's directions to a T. If they say, “no attachments,” do NOT send an attachment. They will not open it.
1. Subject line (for email):
IF YOU MET THE AGENT: State where you met him/her in the subject line.
Example: Met at RWA (or wherever)

IF YOU DID NOT MEET THE AGENT: Research agents so you’ll know everything about them to see if they are a good match for you.
Example: Follow them on Twitter. If one of them tweets, “Today I want to see romances set in the French Revolution” and you wrote one, send a query with “French Revolution” in the subject line.

2. Quick Introduction
Address it to the agent by name, “Dear Ms. ______”. Include the genre and word count. One sentence only. No fancy fonts. DON’T MISSPELL.
3. Book blurb
Think of a quick movie blurb—one or two sentences. Read Variety.
4. Pitch
Main plot and main characters only. Just get the information across. Get some beta readers to look it over, but not the ones who read your book. Try to use the same tone as in your book—somber, light, etc.
5. Bio
Short and relevant (if relevant). If you have an MFA, are an RWA finalist, or are a lawyer who wrote a legal thriller, that’s relevant. You can say, “Readers of ____ might enjoy this book,” which shows you know the type of things they publish.

Further Suggestions:
Send out five queries to second tier agents first to see what kind of replies (if any) you get back. Their comments can help you. Whatever you do, don’t “paper the town” (send out hundreds of queries at once). Agents talk to each other.
Q: How do you decide on agents to query?
A: I use Query Tracker. There may be a small fee now; I’m not sure. They post what agents are looking for.
Query Shark

Market News


Jambalaya Writers' Conference: The 14th annual conference will be held on March 4, 2017 at the Terrebonne Parish Public Library in Houma. Speakers will include Lisa Unger, M.O. Walsh, Nick Maineri, Ashley Elston, and SOLA's very own Farrah Rochon. For more information, see this PDF.

About Me: Alice Kemp

1. Where were you born and where do you live now?
Born and raised in Baltimore, MD. Moved south with my first husband, and I have been living in New Orleans for 34 years.

2. Do you have a day job or other responsibilities that compete for your writing time? If so, how do you carve out time for writing?
Started writing fiction mostly after I retired from UNO as a sociology professor. Other responsibilities include my health (too many surgeries--joints mostly), family (my grown kids and grandson living with us--only 1 son left now), and I love to quilt, crochet and knit. My writing schedule went to hell after extra hip surgery, sciatic nerve pain, and then a broken femur. Still doing physical therapy -- no energy left for writing right now.

3. What sub-genre is your current Work in Progress? How far along are you?
Writing romantic suspense, and about 1/2 through latest - The Tenure Scandal

4. How many books have you (1) written (2) published?
Written 7 (fiction), published 4 fiction plus 1 text as a sociologist.

5. Name your 3 favorite books or authors.
Dick Francis (unhappy he's deceased now) plus John Sandborn, and Frederick Forsyth. But John Foxjohn is #4. (-:

6. What would be your dream come true? 
I'm living it...only better when my husband retires.

7. What is your favorite thing to do (aside from reading and writing!)
Designing a new quilt...picking the colors, fabric, etc. and traveling...Europe, cruises, and US National parks.

8. What do you like best about SOLA?
The community. I've been absent a lot recently, but remain grateful to the current officers keeping the group together.  

9. What specific programs or speakers would you like to see SOLA sponsor?
I think writers doing workshop-type programs on how-to topics. How to plot, add suspense, or do dialogue, etc. What I don't want is "how I succeeded." Not interested. We've had way too many in recent years.  

10. Where do you get your inspiration from?
They come from dreams, random ideas, stray spin offs from existing books, TV shows, etc. The Taste of Her came from a slip of paper I'd put in a folder for New Ideas, and all that was there was a quote I'd copied from a book where the character said he loved the taste of her skin. The whole story appeared in front of me, and all I had to do was write it down.

Want to be featured? Answer these questions and send them to me at
  1. Where were you born and where do you live now?
  2. Do you have a day job or other responsibilities that compete for your writing time? If so, how do you carve out time for writing?
  3. What sub-genre is your current Work in Progress? How far along are you?
  4. How many books have you (1) written (2) published?
  5. Name your 3 favorite books or authors.
  6. What would be your dream come true?
  7. What is your favorite thing to do (aside from reading and writing!)
  8. What do you like best about SOLA?
  9.  What specific programs or speakers would you like to see SOLA sponsor?
2017 Meeting Dates

Jan 21 - Chris Smith: The Library – A Writer's Natural Ally

Feb 18 - Cherie Claire: Cajun romance writer and former SOLA member.

Mar 18 - Erica Spindler - 25 Years, 35 Books, A Writer's Tale

Apr 15 - Deborah Burst

May 20 - 

June 24 - 


July 15 - 

Aug 19 - 

Sept 16 - 
Oct 21 - 

Nov 18 - 
Dec: no meeting

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“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.” —George Singleton
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