Saturday, March 29, 2014

Writers4Higher features Amy Kirk

Welcome to Writers4Higher

Photo by Amy Kirk

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

Amy Kirk

Hi, Amy. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

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

I hail from the “Mt. Rushmore State.” My family and I ranch near the rural town of Pringle (population 125), the elk capital of South Dakota, located about 35 miles from Mt. Rushmore and 20 miles from Crazy Horse Monument in the southern Black Hills. I am a proud born-and-raised South Dakotan. I am also a proud rancher, although most of the time I refer to myself as “ranch wife.” My husband Art and I and our two teenagers, Myles and Renee, operate a Hereford-Angus cattle ranch together. In other words, as a family, we raise beef cattle that eventually ends up in grocery stores across the U.S. as well as across the globe. It is very rewarding knowing that we are contributing to feeding people all over the world and we take great pride in raising our livestock. My husband is 4th generation rancher to run his family’s ranch.

Our family’s ranching lifestyle is where my writing comes in. Ranching is a humbling lifestyle, yet an addicting one, full of great stories too comical not to share. I write a weekly humor column about ranch and family life called A Ranchwife’s Slant for newspapers in South Dakota and surrounding states. Our lifestyle involves working with a triple digit number of animals, so our cattle and all the work involved provide me with a constant flow of topics to write about.

My first book, A Ranchwife’s Slant: Cowboys, Kids, and Ranch Life is an anthology of my columns about ranch life from the past six years. I included photos from our ranch of our livestock and family, and interspersed in the book are numerous kid witticisms spoken by my own ranch-raised kids. Writing a book was on my list of long-term achievements, but I was very fortunate that I was approached about publishing a book of my essays before I felt I was “worthy” of book publication.

When I write, I write with five core values in mind: connect, inform, delight, entertain, and expand. 1) Connect with readers about real-life subjects: marriage, gender gap issues, parenting, life with animals, problem-solving, to name a few, by sharing my stories in ways others can relate to. 2) Properly inform people unfamiliar with ranching about the beef industry and what we do, but do it hidden under the guise of humor. 3) Delight readers with positive, happy reading material that makes them feel good and feel better about their own life struggles, challenges, and hardships—by sharing my harrowing mayhem moments dealing with daily ranch life problems. 4) Entertain readers regardless of their knowledge of ranch life—by giving humorous vignettes of ranch life about general, everyday subjects everyone can relate to. 5) Expand just means I want to broaden my readership by reaching more readers in my region, country, and world.

I am inspired every day by where I live. I love being outside in nature and my time outdoors inspires much of my writing. Our cow herd and their antics are also a big source of inspiration, as well as all the work that farmers and ranchers like my husband and I do every day. My family, our family life, our lifestyle, and other women who also farm or ranch whom I feel are so much more actively involved in agriculture than I am inspire me as well. I love journaling, which also stirs up writing inspiration for me. I really feed off of what other women in the world do and always go to pen and paper or computer screen inspired by women who do amazing things in their field of work and life.

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

I would like to see myself broadening outside of my writing comfort zone into other genres; especially fiction, maybe short-stories, and to continue to add to my guest-speaking engagements speaking about “my story” of how writing a humor column (and now a book) has helped me see the humor in adversities regarding ranch life and how I discovered during my search for humorous column topics, that humor can be an excellent coping tool when events happen to me that try to bring me down. Living in a rural area, I love opportunities to meet people and network through my columns, book, social media, and speaking engagements. I want my writing to positively impact others’ lives, especially those who farm and ranch and don’t have regular opportunities to meet and connect with other people. Our industry experiences all sorts of hardships, criticism, and setbacks, making it hard at time to keep going. I see my writing as encouraging others, especially those in agriculture because what farmers and ranchers do helps feed and clothe people around the world and that’s an important humanitarian livelihood to be involved in.

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

I share my gift of writing to help others see the positive/humorous side of drudgery and problems. I highlight the humorous, lighter-side of negative situations in hopes that readers will view their own life-struggles with a better attitude by looking for what’s humorous in their own situations when problems arise. I openly share my faults, quirks, shortcomings, mishaps and dilemmas so that others can see that they are not alone in their struggles and maybe say, “Hey, if she can grow a rose garden out of a pile of manure, then I probably can too!” Oftentimes farming and ranching families live an isolated, sometimes lonely lifestyle that can lead to burn out because of the daily demands of caring for land and animals. It is my hope to boost the spirit of these people as well as those who aren’t involved in agriculture.

Would you like to find Amy?

Check out the links to this talented author:

My blogAmy Kirk's Blog

Purchasing information on my book:

Buy the book on Amy's Blog. Books that are ordered through my blog may be signed if interested.


Barnes & Noble:

Facebook page: A Ranchwife’s Slant Amy on Facebook   

Twitter handle: @RanchwifesSlant Amy Kirk on Twitter

A special note: The barn photo at the top of this blog was taken by our featured author, Amy Kirk.

The Kirk family barn was built in 1914 by her husband Art's great grandfather, John A. Kirk. Art and Amy were married in front of this historic barn in South Dakota.

Gosh, she writes and takes amazing photos...more than one talent!

Thanks, Amy!

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

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Writing Process: A Blog Tour Interview

My Writing Process: A Blog Tour Interview

A big thank you to my author friend Nancy Hartney, short story writer found at website: or her blog .

Her collection of short stories, Washed in the Water, was released in June 2013. Described as "gritty," the stories meander through violence and beauty among her hardscrabble characters as they traverse their religious and social landscapes. Since release, Washed in the Water has garnered rave reviews on, GoodReads, and the Deep South Magazine .

Rhett DeVane

The "Four Questions" (and my best-guess answers):

1) What am I working on?

I always have multiple projects in various stages of completion. Guess that helps stave off boredom. Like most writers, I relish creating that magical first draft: the time when I adore every word and I am the most amazing author to ever breathe life into characters. Ah, the blush of new love. Then I let a manuscript simmer, and the riff-raff floats to the top. But I am growing to like revisions. Might as well. Revisions are like that unbalanced aunt who shows up drunk for the family reunion, draped with a scarlet feather boa and ready to get down with her bad self. She’s part of the family and you have to learn to live with her. Besides, doesn’t she add interest?

The next in my middle grade fiction series, Dig Within, will pass through my critique group and into its third set of revisions. I plan to have it completed and in production by the fall. The next Southern fiction book, Secondhand Sister, idles in my files, awaiting a turn through the group, and my red pen. Not to mention my line editor, a patient, kind soul who has had more than a bucket of laughs from my errors.

Marketing my two latest books, Elsbeth and Sim (middle grade fiction) and Suicide Supper Club (Southern fiction novel), is further stretching my brain. If we buy dementia-free years by acquiring new skills, then learning to market has provided at least a few months’ reprieve. Thank goodness for my author friends. I watch what they do, then do my best to mirror.

2) How does my work differ from other of its genre?

Truly, there is nothing new, only an author’s unique spin on age-old human storylines. My twist comes from my Southern upbringing in a beloved North Florida town with a state mental institution on its main drag. I understand “colorful.” I descended from a long line of storytellers, and I have been writing since I was old enough to hold a fat pencil.

I have been told my humor is what sets me apart. Laughter flowed easily in my family of origin; still does. We look for the funny side, and this trait has buoyed me, and my characters, through some horrendous trials.

Though humor permeates my work—both the Southern fiction and middle grade pieces—I don’t shy from serious subject matter. My first novel, The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate, featured a hate crime. My fiction includes death of loved ones, child pornography rings, end-of-life issues, cancer, and suicide. The middle grade work features environmental issues, family ties, bullying, and self-subsistence.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Might as well ask why I breathe. To stay truly alive. To make sense of the things I perceive in my world. To add a little shimmer of light and humor into the universe. Heaven knows, we need all the light we can summon.

I don’t like to be corralled onto a certain “platform.” The experts want a writer to choose one direction, one genre, and run that into the ground. I suspect this is why many talented authors grow stale, why their novels start to sound identical after a few years. I enjoy the challenge of penning both Southern fiction and middle grade chapter books. Two collections of short fiction rest in my line-up. I don’t see myself writing non-fiction, but who knows?

As long as it makes me happy, and I do my best, who is to tell me what to write? The muses are in control. I shall follow their lead.

4) How does your writing process work?

When I am hot on the path, I write for a few hours each day. No set word count. I have tried using an outline. The muses chortled. Instead, I allow them to take my fingers to task, sit back, and let it flow. One of my Southern fiction novels generally takes about three months for a first draft. I allow it to sit for at least four weeks, then dig in for the word and scene kill.

After that, the manuscript falls under the scrutiny of my trusted critique group, the Wild Women Writers. More revisions, chasing the typos like sprayed cockroaches. Finally to my line editor. Then back for more culling for critters.

If I’m lucky, I have a published book. Then I find those last illusive typos that keep me from being perfect. No worries about remaining humble. Writing is the best way to never be full of yourself.

Well, gee, that was fun! Thank you, Nancy Hartney!


Next week, April 7th, tune into these three talented author friends' blogs, where they will carry on this fun blog tour:

Malcolm Campbell:

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal and fantasy short stories, including “Emily’s Stories” and “The Lady of the Blue Hour,” and the comedy/mystery novel “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.” He lives in northeast Georgia.

Website Link:

Weblog for the blog hop: Malcolm’s Round Table: 

Melinda Clayton:

Melinda Clayton is the author of Appalachian Justice, Return to Crutcher Mountain, Entangled Thorns, and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken, as well as the self-publishing guide Self-publishing Made Simple: A How-to Guide for the Non-tech-savvy Among Us.

Clayton has published numerous articles and short stories in various print and online magazines. In addition to writing, she has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado.

Weblog for the blog hop:

Susan Mary Malone:

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, I Just Came Here to Dance and By the Book, as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including What’s Wrong with My Family?, and many published short stories. A freelance book editor, forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to Traditional publishers.

Website link:

Weblog for the blog

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Writers4Higher features Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

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

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

Hi, Elynne. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

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

I have been blessed in my life with three careers that I have loved. I am Founding General Manager of WYCC-TV/PBS/Chicago. In addition to managing the station, I was on-air spokesperson. I have had several television and radio shows for which I was executive producer and interviewer. When I left the station, I became Professor of Communication at Wright College. Teaching is one of the great passions of my life. I retired from Wright in 2007 as Distinguished Professor. When I told my husband Richard that I planned to retire, he gave me wise advice. He told me to have a plan ready for my retirement so that I would remain fulfilled and active. I asked myself what I would like to do and the answer was immediately clear. I had always loved to write and decided to write professionally. Nonfiction was a natural fit for me. I had many true stories to share with my readers with the hope that my writing would offer inspiration, laughter and empathy. As I began writing my stories, they poured out of me. I wrote non-stop for years. I made the conscious decision to submit my stories to anthologies for publication so that I could reach broader and varied audiences. I knew that publishers would market their books. I have always been an active participant in the marketing of the anthologies that house my stories. My plan has worked well. In six years my stories have been published in over 30 anthologies and several magazines including one international publication.

As a memoirist, the inspiration for many of my stories has been the adventures my husband and I have lived. I have ten stories of our travels published in Forever Travels edited by Shelagh Watkins. My family has inspired several of my memoirs. I lost my beloved grandmother in a plane crash and eleven years later, I lost my dear father and sixteen year old sister in another plane crash. They were all great loves of my life. “Her First Grandchild” is published in Grandmother, Mother & Me edited by Donna Goodrich. “Golden Hands”, a memoir about my father, is published in Grandfather, Father & Me also edited by Donna Goodrich. Happily, the covers of the books have photos of my Grandmother and my Father. I have written about my cherished sister Ivy in “The Red Pen” published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving & Recovery and in “Four Sisters In Life & Death” published in This I Believe: On Love. I have also written about my family in six stories published in Forever Families edited by Shelagh Watkins. I have written these memoirs as a legacy for my family members. I hope my readers can connect their own lives to mine in whatever ways will help them.

My memoir “More Than Life”, about my mother who is 89 years old, was nominated by Kiwi Publishing for the Pushcart Prize. This story has been reprinted in Forever Families.
“The Hat”, a story about one of my students with a secret, was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade. This story is also published in several additional books including Living Lessons edited by Lynn C. Johnston and Thin Threads: Life Changing Moments edited by Stacey K. Battat. I have written about many experiences in my life. My stories and their books are available at and are listed on my website at

My inspiration for my work in all of my careers has always included the hopes, needs and hearts of my PBS television viewers, my students and my readers.

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

My story “The Hat” is being adapted into a short film. Monte LaMonte is producing and John Cates is adapting the screenplay. The film’s director will be chosen once the script is ready. I am thrilled to be part of this process and look forward to seeing others perform my work. The film will be produced in early 2014. I am also seriously considering the possibility of having all my stories published in one collection. The timing has to be right because I want to continue to support the anthologies that have published my stories.

The dreams for my writing:  I have had the honor of performing “More Than Life” in NYC at The Museum of Motherhood. The film of “The Hat” is in process. A collection of my stories is a future possibility.

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

I hope that my work and devotion as a PBS General Manager, Professor and writer have touched lives and inspired others. Through my program “In Her Own Voice”, I have had the privilege of performing my stories for non-profit organizations, universities, libraries, and senior centers. Seeing my audiences’ reactions to my stories has been a priceless gift.


Would you like to find Elynne?

Check out the links to this talented author:


 Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow is a Pushcart Prize nominated author and award-winning educator and broadcaster.  She is Founding General Manager of WYCC-TV/PBS and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Wright College in Chicago.  Her adult storyteller program IN HER OWN VOICE is renowned.  Her stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies and various magazines including the international Jerusalem Post.

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s performances of her stories have been broadcast on The Bob Edwards Show on NPR and Rick Kogan’s Sunday Papers on WGN radio. She performed her Pushcart Prize nominated memoir “More Than Life” in NYC at the Museum of Motherhood. Elynne has performed her stories for organizations throughout Chicago including the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. Her work has been part of the production “Dear Mother” in L.A. at The Lyric Theater.  Elynne was a featured guest artist performing her stories at the Acorn Theater in Michigan and in Ontario, Canada.


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

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

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