Saturday, July 28, 2012

Writers4Higher features Robert W. McKnight

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features
Robert W. McKnight

Hi Senator McKnight. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1. Tell Me About Yourself. Your Book(s), Your Life, Your Inspiration.

I am a 68 year old retired former businessman and politician. When retiring a couple of years ago, my wife, Susan and I discussed how to plan our next phase of life. We agreed that we wanted to stay closely together, active involved in causes and issues in which we believed, and most all, dedicated to our two wonderful children and six outstanding grandchildren. I decided my initial professional focus would be politics and business consulting, but not lobbying. Without laying out a "for hire" sign, I thought that I would start by building both an external identity and portfolio to demonstrate my acumen.

Although I had no experience at professional writing, I really thought I had to put down on paper my political and business experience in the form of a memoir, and did so with the help of a wonderful publisher and mentor, Dr. Bill Rogers of Sentry Press in Tallahassee. With the additional help of experienced editor Caroline Claiborne, The Golden Years...The Florida Legislature. Reflections on Campaigns and Public Service, was launched in November of 2007. Now in its second printing, The Golden Years has enjoyed over 30 print, television and radio reviews across the country, and won nomination for national literary awards from Fore Word Magazine and the Eric Hoffer Award. Perhaps most significant, it is now under contract to be made into a documentary by public television.

With that book laying a small identity footprint, I proposed another to be co-written with my good friend and veteran southern novelist, Rhett DeVane about Florida politics--but this time, fiction. Rhett, who had counseled me on Golden Years, was receptive, but pointed out her general disdain for politics, at least in its' traditional sense. So we sat and agreed on roles and responsibilities, and then charged off for the better part of 2008 writing the 400 page political thriller, Accidental Ambition. Upon release, we were thrilled with the number, quality, and breadth of book reviews, many of which are available today at We were advised that Accidental Ambition received the 2010 Premier Book Award runner-up for outstanding political thriller. Based upon advice from a number of experienced novelists, we are now circulating the book for review as a screenplay or movie. We know the chances are remote, but Rhett and I are certainly enjoying the ride.

One of the book reviews mentioned above was by ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD in Tallahassee. The station management followed up the interview with an invitation to do regular, weekly political commentary, and we are now completing our 3rd year with the station, discussing a more expanded role in the future.

So we are well on our way to satisfying our goal of providing political and business consulting. One of my business clients is the prestigious Plastics Environmental Council, based in Atlanta, providing technical support for plastic producers to accelerate the biodegradation of their products. We have a full schedule of presentations around Florida on politics, combined with signings of the sale of my two books. I also market to associations intellectual property that I copyrighted a number of years ago, connecting to my business consulting goal.
As far as my inspiration, it remains as it has been for over 40 years, my family--Susan, Michelle (Von, Riley, Bailey, Andrew, and Noelle) and Bob (Heather, Miles and Norah Rose); and my brother, Jim.

2. Where Do You See Your Writing Taking You?

Although I continue to knock around both fiction and non-fiction ideas for writing, I sense that most of my near term writing will be of the Opinion-Editorial variety, which seems to be of the most interest among students and professionals of politics. I mentioned a possible expansion of my television commentary program, that could very well require additional writing as a part of the expansion. If the Accidental Ambition screenplay materializes, it will definitely require additional writing, probably by both Rhett and me.

3. How Do You Use Your Talent to Help Others?

I am fervent that all of us get more involved in our government to improve it. At the end of each of my television segments, my tag line is, "This is our government...let's make it work." I am fortunate to have the experience of serving in government at a very high level, and I think I know of the “good and the bad” of most political activities. I am not naive nor Pollyannaish, but feel that public service can be a high calling, carried out with integrity. I had the privilege of serving with such icons as Governors Reuben Askew, Bob Graham, and Lawton Chiles, and feel their examples can be an inspiration to all seeking and serving in public service today.

Would you like to find Senator McKnight?

Check out the links to this talented author:

ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD Video Segments (middle of home page): Senator McKnight's segments on ABC TV news/WTXL

Thank you, Senator McKnight! On a personal note, I enjoyed working with Bob on Accidental Ambition. He has a way of making the world of politics come alive.

 Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writers4Higher features Ginny Stibolt

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features

Ginny Stibolt

Hi Ginny. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family.

1. Tell me about yourself, your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I'm an accidental writer. With a BS in Math with minors in science and education and an MS in Botany, writing was not high on my list of priorities. I started out as a teacher--first junior high math and then college level science. In 1981, *things* changed for me (and so many others): the first home computers were released. I opened a computer retail store where we sold computers and taught classes. That lasted for five years, and then for the next 20 years, I held various computer-oriented jobs including writing a user manual for a complex software package and designing websites.

You can't have a good website (or blog) without good content that others will want to read. "Content" = "Writing." So helping people create good websites meant that they needed help with their writing. Even writers needed help with their online writing, because the attention span of web surfers is a nano-second! There's no time to waste your headline with a throw-away like, "Welcome to my website. Here you'll learn about me and my books."

In 2004, when my husband and I moved to Florida from Maryland, I tried gardening here and was pretty much unsuccessful in many ways. So I created a fun website called "Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener," where I kept a garden log. In addition, I wrote a more or less month article on my gardening successes and failures. Remember I was a teacher, so this writing was a way of teaching folks what I had learned and probably consolidating information for myself as well.

In 2006, I was a speaker at a writers' conference in Jacksonville where I met John Bryam, editor-in-chief of University Press of Florida (UPF). After his presentation, I asked him if UPF would be interested in publishing a collection of my adventures of a transplanted gardeners columns. He declined, but asked if I could write a book on organic gardening in Florida instead. I agreed, but after more research on the topics involved in Florida gardening, my formal book proposal was for "sustainable gardening" instead of "organic gardening," because I reasoned that was a larger topic with wider appeal.

The writing process included a great deal of research, using online and printed materials plus personal communication with various experts. Several rewrites with major changes were made with suggestions from experts hired by UPF, from my own contacts, and finally from the copy editor who is also a master gardener. It turned out to be a three-year process, and the book was published in 2009. I went on a self-designed and self-funded book tour of Florida and over the next 11 months I made 53 appearances including 11 garden fests. Since then, the book has done quite well even through some "down" years for book selling.

My latest book is about growing vegetables organically in Florida, which will also be published by UPF. I have a co-writer in Miami because it's four planting zones away so it's really a whole different gardening world down there. Our book, "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida," will be published in Feb. 2013. Ironically, this is the book that John wanted me to write back in 2006, but it's so much better to have written it at this stage because of all the experience I've gained in both Florida gardening and writing.

2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

At this point, I'm a niche writer and spend my time writing about Florida gardening and the environment. Fortunately, I'm retired and do not depend upon writing for an income. I will continue to write about these topics because I think they are important, and I’m committed to making this knowledge accessible to our state’s gardeners.

But I do have three novels in various states of completion sitting on the back burner. Whether I ever do anything with them is anyone's guess.

3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?

Before I switched entirely to garden writing, I'd written several articles about online writing and websites. These are posted at Although they were written several years ago, most of my advice is relevant today. You still want people (and Internet search robots) to find you above others. Managing your online presence is tricky, but if you stay on target with comments and online writing, you'll be better off. In other words, it's best to steer clear of politics or religion unless that is your niche. In my case, both Democrats and Republicans like to garden, so why would I want to irritate 50% of my audience with a political quip or a rant? So whatever I'm doing online, I'll comment on articles, write letters to the editor, interact in a forum only if I have something to add to a gardening or environmental discussion.

My garden and environmental writing is mostly to help Mother Nature, who has been under stress here in Florida. For the past few years I have been one of two main bloggers for the Florida Native Plant Society (, which does an amazing work in protecting Florida's native ecosystems, educating the public about native plants, and making more native plants available for homeowners. My garden writing also includes writing for The Lawn Reform Coalition (, and the Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens blog (

Recently, I started a new blog,, which is now my personal garden writing vehicle. I have left the old transplanted gardener website up, because new people moving to Florida can still learn from my adventures and avoid some newbie pitfalls with my frank and honest, "How I learned to garden in Florida."

While I think I have helped gardeners over the years, last year I received an email from a woman who lives in the town north of mine. She was stationed in Iraq and told me that reading about my garden helped her stay sane in that awful place. She is now back home and she and I are scheduled to go out to lunch together next week. I'll be writing about that interview, to encourage others to share their gardening adventures, too, because when you're online, you never know who's day you may have brightened.

Would you like to find Ginny?
Visit these spots to learn more about this talented author:


Thank you, Ginny! You make me want to go out and dig in the dirt. 
Rhett DeVane

Visit the Writers4Higher market. A fun place to find gifts and clothing for the writer in you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Writers4Higher features Tricia Booker

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features

Tricia Booker

Hi Tricia, welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I’m a 48-year-old suburban housewife who just tried Botox for the first time. My forehead wrinkles are gone, but my eyelids are droopier, so it’s a wash. I still look 48. I have three children adopted from Vietnam and Guatemala who are 10, 7 and 5, and they kick my ass every day. My husband is a former journalist who used his mid-life crisis to turn into a firefighter/paramedic. My dog eats paper.

I work part-time as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, and my specialty is boxing. I love to box. Hence, the name of my blog: My Left Hook. It’s good. My left hook, I mean. Although the blog is pretty rockin’, too. I’ve also worked as a journalism instructor at the University of North Florida, but I’m taking a break from explaining to college students that its’ is not a word.

I’ve had the heart of a writer since I was a kid - I’ve sketched a thousand stories in my head. Sometimes I’m just driving down the road and think, “What if I cheated on my husband and he left me and took the kids? That would be a great story!” Seriously, though, it’s just in my head.

I started my writing career as a journalist. I wrote for magazines and newspapers in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Florida, eventually coming to focus on creative nonfiction stories portraying social justice issues. After my oldest daughter came home, I cut back on writing, and it took me years to realize what an important role it played in my personal fulfillment. So a few years ago, I started my blog. I write about parenting hilarity, current events, adoption, fitness, boxing, and sex. Sometimes I make things up.

I’m inspired by my children, of course, who pretty much ruined my life, but, you know, in a good way. The idea that my husband and I are in charge of ushering these three little bugs into a respectable adulthood is both terrifying and humbling. But I’m also inspired by the routine of life, and by how lucky I am to breathe and eat and sleep on (relatively) clean sheets every night. So many people have so little and manage to be happy. I have a nice home, a hot husband, healthy children, and an unlimited supply of Cymbalta. Certainly I can be, at a minimum, content.

Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

Whew, this is a tough one. It’s astounding to me that Oprah hasn’t called and declared me Blogger of the World. Let me just confess right here: I HAVE NOT WRITTEN A BOOK. Don’t judge me.

If I died tragically right now, I’m pretty sure someone would bundle up my blogs into a book and make me a famous writer for, like, 15 minutes, complete with appearances by my family on the Today show. I’m trying to preempt that possibility by writing and e-publishing a book myself. (Informal survey: would you buy it? What if I just gave it to you?)

The book would consist of personal essays and stories about my childhood in New Orleans, our decision to undergo infertility treatment, and how we adopted our children. I’ve written about all of these topics in my blog, so I’d be re-using some material, then expanding and organizing it.

Beyond that, I just don’t know. I feel confident that writing will always be a part of my life, and I have high hopes of one day being interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. That might be just a pipe dream.

How do you use your talents/time to help others?

Okay, let me just be honest here. Many people assume my societal contribution consists of rescuing my children from their impoverished birth countries and teaching them how to use spoons. But as most of you know, our children give us so much more than we ever give to them. So that doesn’t count at all. Which means: I got nothing. I do zero volunteer work. I barely help out at my kids’ school. Last week I picked up my neighbor’s paper while she was out of town, and currently I’m editing a friend’s daughter’s college entrance essay, but I’m guessing those don’t count.

I suppose I help others through my blog by assuring them that they’re not alone when they’re tempted to scream, IF YOU PINCH YOUR SISTER ONE MORE TIME, I’M GOING TO TIE YOUR FINGERS TOGETHER! I give them something to laugh about, or cry about, or just think on.

One day, when all of my children can use the bathroom independently, I would love to teach creative writing to young girls, particularly needy children.
In the meantime, I believe that the best way to serve humanity is to be kind, generous and knowledgeable about the world. I’m mostly kind, very generous, and Husband keeps me informed on current events. He remembers every political fact going back to 1983.

Would you like to find Tricia?

Check out these links to this talented author:

Tricia on Twitter

Tricia's blog fan page

Thank you, Tricia. I have to learn not to take a sip of coffee before I read your stuff. I always end up nearly shooting it from my nose. :)

Rhett DeVane

Fiction with a Southern Twist

Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Writers4Higher features Susan Malone

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features

Susan Malone

 Hi Susan. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1. Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I am probably the most blessed person on the planet—I live in a world of words! My entire life revolves around them, whether writing, editing, speaking at literary conferences, etc. I’m one of those odd birds who writes full-length fiction and nonfiction, and short stories, and have been published in all three venues. When I’m not writing my own work, I’m editing someone else’s, or reading authors I love. Now you tell me—how does it get better than that! LOL. Nothing turns me on like a brilliantly crafted phrase, that take-your-breath-away moment where you can only sit back in awe and be glad you got to experience it.

2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future:

I have to laugh, I am going in the opposite direction of the market. Well, not entirely, as I am writing something fairly commercial right now—WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY FAMILY—which I’m co-authoring with my psychiatrist brother (we collaborated on Five Keys for Understanding Men, which has seen a nice resurgence via e-books). But my own fiction is becoming more literary, which is my first love. I’m working on a novel right now set on a Texas vineyard. Dang, but all that research is such a hard job, which of course someone (me) has to do!

3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?

Well, that’s actually what I do every day. As a freelance book editor, I work with writers to not only bring their books up to publication standards and make them the best they can be, but to also teach them the skills and tools of great writing. Very little in this world is more gratifying to me than to see a writer “get” it. And I get to do that all the time. I’m a coach and mentor as well as an editor, and it’s like teaching baby birds to fly. When one of them takes off, no one is more proud than me!

Did I mention I get to live in a world of words? :)

Would you like to find Susan?
Stop by and check out this talented writer and editor.

Here are links:

Susan's book on Amazon

Thank you, Susan. Your expertise on writing is so appreciated!

Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher market. Find great gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A note from Rhett DeVane

A note from the Writers4Higher blogger

Rhett DeVane

July 4th, 2012

Through my affiliation with the writing community, I have met some of the most outstanding people. We support each other in this often solitary and lonely calling. And it is a calling. Most writers will tell you, they don't do it for fame or money, but because they feel compelled to gather words, tell stories, make some sense of the world around them. Truly, writers hold the key to change.

When I started this blog, I had no idea how much I would enjoy learning about the human side of my fellow authors. Over and over, I am surprised by the people I thought I knew well. Such big hearts, these folks, and they don't often crow about the things they do for others.

On this day in the United States, we celebrate our independence, our freedom. Many places around our world do not share the luxury of free speech, the ability to put thoughts down without fear of prosecution or imprisonment.

For this, I am highly grateful.

Thanks to all of the authors who have taken their time to join me on the Writers4Higher blog. You are golden.

And to those who are waiting in line...the response has been phenomenal!

My best to all of you, wherever you are on the planet.

Rhett DeVane

Deep Thoughts, Bruises and All. First of all, Happy Holidays . No matter your outlook or what you celebrate, I wish you renewed ...