Monday, March 23, 2015

So Long, Swagger!

Kim Van Sickler

I was always amused by the name we chose for ourselves, three plus years ago. Swagger Writers. We were mostly a group of writers with lots left to learn. There was talent galore, but room for improvement. We wanted to become even better. Hardly the quintessential essence of boastful or arrogant. We liked the confident, talented connotation. We were writers with plenty to say, and heart and soul and grit galore.

Swagger took many of us to the next level. It made us better writers and more tech savvy. It was a huge part of my life for more than three years. I will miss it, but I am also able to see it for what it was; a chance for a group of writers to bond, grow, and stay connected.

And even though we won't be writing under the Swagger masthead any longer, Swagger will always be an important part of me.

For now, you can find me on my website . Twitter . Goodreads . LinkedIn

Swagger Salute,
Kim Van Sickler

Children's-Fiction-Author Kathy-Cannon-Wiechman
Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Today I write this post from a place called the Barn at Boyds Mills. Built in 2010, this building is where the Highlights Foundation holds its workshops, and it is the place where Swagger was born.

From the Barn, I can look down the hill to the old white farmhouse, where the workshops used to be held. I attended my first Rich Wallace workshop in that house in 2003. (I had previously met Rich at Chautauqua in 1999.) In 2006, I met Jon Egan in that farmhouse, and in 2009, I met the rest of the original Swagger writers there. Both the Barn and the house hold special memories for me, and it seemed appropriate to write my final Swagger post in this place.

I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing a part of myself with the readers of this blog, and plan to keep visiting the blogs I've met along the way. Swagger has had a run of three and a half years, and I will miss it. No longer being part of it will not keep it from always being part of me.

Please stay in touch with me via my website . Twitter .  Goodreads .

Swagger Salute,
Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Melissa Kline
And you can find Melissa Kline here: website . Twitter .  Facebook

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

I have always been a busy person. In my younger days, I worked numerous jobs, raised four kids, served as president of the PTO, did volunteer work, planned family reunions, and (more or less) “kept house.” But I always made time to write. I wrote poems, short stories, and novels. My dream was to be a published novelist.

Now, by virtue of my age, I am a Senior Citizen. And my dream has finally come true. As my peers retire or think about retirement, I am a published novelist, a working writer. While they take up hobbies or relax on their decks or patios, I am busier than ever.

 My debut novel (LIKE A RIVER) will launch next month, and I work tirelessly to promote it. I arrange school visits, book signings, and speaking engagements. I answer interview questions, select excerpts, and write blog posts for Swagger and other blogs to get the word out. I post on Facebook and I “tweet.”
Kathy and her husband Jim with Kathy's debut novel.
The contract I signed for my second novel gives me a deadline of March 31 to have my revisions finished. This one needed a ton of work, and I feel that deadline breathing down my neck every minute.

I am also planning the next family reunion, while keeping house has become one of those intentions that rarely comes to fruition. But my dream has come true! I am a published novelist.

As soon as I finish these revisions and wait for notes from my editor and copy editor, I will begin work on another novel. I have already scheduled a research trip to delve into background for the novel after that.

If I were younger, maybe I’d slow down. But when one is a Senior Citizen, one is more conscious of the “ultimate deadline” that grows closer for all of us each day. I still have a lot I want to do. And I am busier than ever.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sex, Lies, and Social Media

by Kim Van Sickler

This month I'm veering in a new direction with this bloghop. Insecure readers. 

IWSG Badge

ISIS recruiters are preying on our insecure, idealistic, rudderless youth.

The last thing they care about is honesty. They will say anything to recruit gullible people. And they know the place to spin their web is social media.

Take, for instance, these Q & As with ISIS recruiters on, designed to show how ISIS is misunderstood because their members are really just like us, except with a dash more romance.

Submitted question: What is your favorite dessert?
ISIS recruiter's answer: Hot apple pie with ice cream on top.

Submitted question: How do you maintain your beard?
ISIS recruiter's answer: Shampoo, scented oils, and a comb.

Submitted question: Have u ever fallen in love?
ISIS recruiter's answer: The day I fell in love with Islam.

ISIS illustrates the sad fact that if you tweet and post enough BS, some people will believe.

It's hard enough to imagine ISIS recruits naive boys and men to fight for them: 20,000 foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq since last summer. 4,000 of those fighters come from Europe, 100 from the US.

But what is beyond belief is that ISIS is able to reach isolated, bored young women and convince them, despite all of the evidence to the contrary, they will be doing a noble and adventurous thing by giving up everything they know to become a part of the glorious Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. Current estimates are at least 550 girls/women have been enticed through this rhetoric.

Last week three affluent and well-educated teenage girls from Britain disappeared into Turkey and are believed to have been smuggled into Syria to connect with ISIS.
Image result for british girls trying to join isis
Three British teenagers who disappeared last week on their way to join ISIS.
In October 2014, three teenage girls from Denver were apprehended on their way to ISIS.

Hundreds of women from western countries have made it to ISIS. They have married ISIS fighters and some even fight alongside their husbands.

But the reality is far different from the promises, as two Austrian teenagers, who are married to ISIS fighters and reportedly pregnant and desperate to come home have discovered.

According to a recent United Nations report, here is the reality: ISIS confines women to their homes. Detailed rules determine what women wear, who they socialize with and where they work. Girls older than ten must be fully covered. Girls as young as 13 are forced to marry ISIS soldiers. Girls who aren't recruited are routinely captured and forced into sex slavery. Females are not allowed to consort with men outside of their immediate family. Women who break the rules are lashed, or for more serious infringements, stoned to death.

It's a deadly mistake to trust everything you read. We've got insecure readers looking for fulfillment. And very secure writers reaching out to tell them exactly what they yearn to hear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

A few weeks ago, I went to the ALA (American Library Association) Conference in Chicago. I had never been to the conference before, and was going there to introduce my about-to-be-released novel LIKE A RIVER.

My flight into O’Hare was uneventful, just the way I like a flight to be. It had been many years since I’d been to that airport, and it took me a while to get my bearings, but soon I was in a taxi heading to my hotel.

I wasn’t scheduled for anything until a 7 PM dinner with folks from Boyds Mills Press, and it wasn’t even noon yet. It gave me several hours to have a reunion with dear friends (and former Swaggers), Juliet Bond and Gina Gort. I hadn’t seen them in over 3 years and getting reacquainted was wonderful!
Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 8.27.46 PM
Kathy (far right) reconnecting with former Swaggers in Chicago.
Around seven, several of the BMP folks and I walked to the Exchequer restaurant, an old-fashioned gangland-themed place that served deep-dish pizza and ribs. The dinner was low-key and delightful, and everyone present made sure all my needs were met.

Snow was forecast, though not a single flake had fallen. But I was informed that my 5:25 PM flight for Sunday afternoon had been cancelled and I had been re-booked for a Monday morning one.

By the time we left the restaurant, snow was beginning to fall, and I chose to skip the walk back to the hotel in favor of sharing a cab with a few others.

Sunday morning found me glad for the cancelled flight. Snow was still falling, or more accurately, blowing sideways on powerful winds. The news called it “a blizzard.”

I shared a taxi to the convention center, marveling with a bit of trepidation at the way the driver maneuvered the cab through traffic on the snow-covered streets.

But the conference was extraordinary! So many booths! So many books! Just my kind of happy place. I signed Advance Reader copies (ARCs) of LIKE A RIVER, while people apologized to me for the small attendance. Since this was my first time, I had nothing to compare it to.

Boyds Mills Press hosted a luncheon to introduce its Spring, 2015 catalog. My best guess estimated the attendance at about 60, and I shared a table with some librarians from Texas. Senior Editor Liz Van Doren regaled them with the catalog’s picture books, and Gail Jarrow followed with a talk about her non-fiction book on Typhoid Mary (FATAL FEVER). I closed with a short talk on LIKE A RIVER, from which I also read a few pages.

Original plans would have seen me gathering my things together and heading to the airport, but the cancelled flight kept me at my hotel. And my flight the next morning ended up being cancelled also.

My overnight stay in Chicago ended up being a three-nighter. But the BMP folks took great care of me. And on Monday, I got a chance to visit with friend Jennifer Sommer, who had driven in from Dayton on Sunday. Driven through the blizzard that cancelled flight after flight at O’Hare! What a woman!

On Monday evening, I had a chance to discuss revisions for my next novel with editor Carolyn Yoder, who was also grounded an extra day by the blizzard. An unplanned productive use of time.
Kathy with Carolyn Yoder at the ALA Conference's Boyds Mill Press booth.

I finally got a flight home on Tuesday morning, with a not-terribly-long delay on the tarmac at O’Hare. I had books with me to occupy my wait time. (A prepared reader seldom gets bored.) 

I was glad to get home, but I have wonderful recollections of good food and great people I spent time with. My introduction to ALA is one I will never forget.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How I doubled and diversified my reading

by Kim Van Sickler

Since October 2014, I've been working a job that requires lots of car time. Look what I've read since then:

Image result for bad monkey carl hiaasenThe Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasan
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord
The Witness by Nora Roberts
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Zoo Station, A Memoir by Christianne F.
Wild from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Smack by Melvin Burgess
Image result for hector and the search for happiness bookImage result for anansi boys neil gaimanImage result for the call of the wild jack london
The first nine titles were listened to in my car.
The latter five titles were read while I was curled up on my bed or couch.
Conclusion: I get almost twice as much reading done while traveling.

The first nine titles were snatched on impulse by either myself or Hubby during library visits.
The latter five titles were books I'd placed on hold at my library or previously purchased.
Conclusion: I'm more spontaneous and less genre-bound in my car reading.

Not only does my travel time fly by, but I'm discovering new authors (Evans, Lelord, Grafton, Roberts), prepping to see the movie versions (of Gone Girl and Maze Runner), rediscovering a beloved classic (Call of the Wild) and continuing my infatuation with known authors (Hiaasan and Gaiman).

Do you "read" while you drive? Or listen to books on tape at other times? What's your ratio of "reading" to "listening"?