An Interview with Diana Flegal of Hartline Literary Agency

by Elizabeth Griffin

EG: In your career of working with books and authors, what has been the highlight—e.g., working with specific authors or on specific projects?

DF: Truthfully, I enjoy all aspects of working with writers; the fledgling and the accomplished. I particularly enjoy brainstorming fiction plot developments and nonfiction chapter outlines and book titles. Hanging out with such creative minds always infuses me with high energy. It is a total rush to hold a book in your hands you have played a role in getting to market that contributes to honest and worthy conversations.

EG: Why do you come to conferences like our Northwest Christian Writers Renewal— what do you like about them? What is the best way to approach you at an event?

DF: I enjoy meeting and speaking with the conferees. The various ways a writers mind entertains a thought amazes me. Even on similar topics, they come at them with such unique perspectives.

The best way to approach me is first as a fellow word lover, then, as one who might have a helping word. I tend to shy away from the one who believes they heard from God I am to represent their writing. If God has told you that, keep it to yourself, and let God tell me. Then we will both be delighted at the prospect of working together.

EG: How do you interact with authors whom you represent? Can you explain briefly the process you go through of preparing and selling their book to a publisher?

DF: My clients and I go back and forth polishing their proposals in an attempt to answer ahead of time any questions a publisher might have in regarding the merits of their title. In the midst of that process, I will prepare a list of publishers looking for a book of its genre, and prepare a query letter which I will tweak to each publisher’s unique list. When it is ready to go, I will place it on five to six desks simultaneously, and we will wait three months max to hear back from them. At the 1½-month period, I will make a phone call or frame a nudge e-mail. Though it is rare, a submission can end up going astray or into a spam folder. If we have received any helpful rejection letters, or an offer to make a change and come back to them, my client will rewrite, and we will then begin a second round of submissions, hopefully resulting in a sale. The one exception is for “requested by a publisher titles.” I will follow up on those in two weeks with a phone call.  In the waiting, we will work on various ways to further develop my clients platform and career. I will send them opportunities I learn of for them to contribute to anthologies, or write and submit an article on an area of their expertise.

EG: Anything about your personal life you care to share that helps us get to know you and feel more comfortable?

DF: I am an encourager and caregiver on personality assessments. I stick with my clients through many ups and downs, longer than many other agents might. I no longer question if this is a negative in this line of work. I believe I am where God has placed me. Though this business is challenging in this present economy and political environment, I am grateful to work in the CBA and ABA publishing markets.

Diana Flegal has been an agent with Hartline Literary Agency for eleven years. She represents mainstream and inspirational titles, fiction and nonfiction, but nothing that conflicts with the Christian worldview. She is currently looking for nonfiction authors who have a substantial platform, as well as outstanding contemporary women’s fiction, issue fiction, and formula romance. When she is not reading submissions or stealing away with a recreational read, she is hiking in the mountains or kayaking the many lakes of her home state, North Carolina.

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • A one-sheet that includes a tagline, back of the book blurb, and short bio
  • A synopsis if fiction, or a chapter outline if nonfiction
  • A list of the social media you are currently using and the number of followers for each one
  • Your marketing strategy (what you plan to do to help promote and market your book)
  • The first chapter of your manuscript
  • A notebook and pen/pencil

Diana will teach two workshops at the Renewal this year:

First Lines and Great Beginnings – This is a fun and interactive class where first line and opening page examples will be shared in a safe and friendly environment. Fellow conferees will be asked to honestly express if they would read on. Suggestions will be offered to improve the chances a reader would read on.

The Agent Author Relationship – Do I need an agent? If so, when do I need one? What does an agent do? And…what should I do that an agent won’t? Understanding the relationship between the author and agent is paramount to a successful career. In this class, you will learn what to expect and what is expected of you as an author. A Q&A time will end the workshop and a writer’s resource list will be offered.

To request an appointment with Diana and also attend her workshops, be sure to register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

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Steve Laube: Eclectic Experience in the Marketplace of Books

by Elizabeth Griffin

Steve Laube is well-known by regular attendees at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. A literary agent and president of the Steve Laube Agency, he’s been in the book industry for over 37 years, first as a bookstore manager, then with Bethany House Publishers, and now as an agent. He and his agency have represented more than 1,500 new books. In addition, he is the publisher at Enclave Publishing and serves as president and owner of The Christian Writers Institute and author of The Christian Writers Market Guide and Book Proposal Tips and Tricks.

Of all the roles he plays, Steve loves being an agent most because it involves all the fun of publishing with none of the meetings. Like a parent, he loves working with all of the authors he represents equally and says they are each wonderful in and of themselves. Each project moves along at its own pace, with some taking months to develop a strong proposal and others only days.

Steve will be looking for the following at this year’s Renewal:

  • Fiction – women’s fiction, romance, thriller, suspense, romantic suspense, literary, military, historical (all eras), contemporary, science-fiction, fantasy, supernatural, YA … in other words, every genre published in the industry.
  • Nonfiction – Christian Living, biography, apologetics, theology, Bible study, reference, health, finance, self-help, psychology, grief, suffering, marriage, family, women’s, men’s, philosophy, church life, devotional, inspirational, social issues, politics, parenting, music, and art.

According to Steve, “The subjects are vast and the opportunities endless.”

On a more personal level, Steve has been married for 36 years. He and his wife have three married daughters and one grandson. He lives in Arizona, but enjoys visiting Seattle because his 93-year-old mother lives here. He reads about 100 novels a year for relaxation after work and teaches the Bible in an expositional style each Sunday.

Steve will teach these workshops at the Renewal:

Landmines in Your Book Contract – A look at some of the more egregious things that can be found in your book contract. Contracts are a legally binding agreement. What is signed must be followed. Unfortunately, there are certain clauses that can bite authors if they are unaware of their implications. Using real examples from real contracts, this class will take a close look at clauses being placed in front of authors today. This is a rather advanced topic. Be prepared to wear your lawyer hat!

The Complete Book Process: From Idea to Print – What is the route a book takes while in-house?  How the writer can help or hinder? Discover what happens along the entire process inside a publishing company. From book proposal evaluation to pub board decision making to editorial responsibilities to cover design issues and more, this information is applicable whether one is working with a traditional publisher or is publishing independently.

Writing the Nonfiction Book – There are common elements in nonfiction books that contribute to their success. This class will explore them and help apply the elements to your work. Issues of craft, presentation of ideas, and connecting with the reader will be discussed.

Check out all the workshops being offered this year.To request an appointment with Steve, register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Nick Harrison: A Friendly Face Returns to the Renewal

by Elizabeth Griffin

Nick Harrison is a familiar face at the annual Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, and we are thrilled to have him return again this year. His friendly demeanor makes him approachable and invites questions that he is highly capable of answering after many years in the book business.

Nick started out as a bookseller and then moved on to a successful 15-year stint as an editor at Harvest House. When he retired from there, he chose to begin working as an agent for WordServe Literary. Nick says, “I love this industry and hope to stay in it as long as I can.”

WordServe Literary was formed by Greg Johnson. Nick has found Greg to be a helpful mentor in his transition from editor to agent.

“The great thing about being an agent is that if I love a certain proposal and it finds rejection at one publisher, I can keep championing it to other publishers. As an editor, if I loved a proposal and it turned out not to be a good fit and had to be rejected, that was the end of my relationship with that proposal,” Nick says.

As an agent, Nick expected to represent several fiction authors, but so far he only represents one and has another under serious consideration. He also represents an author of children’s books. He has found himself taking on projects he never thought would exist, and he likes the surprises he’s encountered so far on this journey.

In addition to representing authors, Nick has authored 10 books of his own. Several of these are devotionals and prayer books that can be seen on his website and Amazon.com.

Nick’s next release is called One-Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer. It’s the book he wishes didn’t have a market.

Nick loves what he does and especially enjoys meeting new writers and helping guide them in their writing career. Be sure to say hello to him at the Renewal. He is looking for adult fiction in all genres except speculative fiction. For nonfiction, he will look at self-help, spiritual growth, social issues, women’s books, men’s books, and personal experience books if the lessons from the experience are applicable to a large segment of the population. He is not looking for children’s books, prophecy, poetry, or gift books.

Nick will teach these workshops at the Renewal:

Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Correct Them by Nick Harrison – In addition to having been an editor at Harvest House Publishers, Nick is also a writer. He understands the frustrations every writer faces. To the beginner, he can offer to show his pile of rejection slips.  To the advanced, he can offer to show his pile of rejection slips. Becoming a published writer takes time, talent, and persistence. The mistakes Nick will talk about are indeed common—and he says he has made them all.

What to Do When You Don’t Have a Platform by Nick Harrison – Writers hate the word platform, but increasingly it can make the difference between a book sale to a publisher…or rejection. While slowly building your platform, there are some things you can do to compensate for not having a platform. We’ll look at some of those ideas. (For fiction and nonfiction authors.)

Check out the rest of the workshops being offered at this year’s Renewal. To request an appointment with Nick, register soon.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Michael Duncan Explains Path to Indie Publishing

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

MichaelDuncanWhenever he preaches, NCWA board member and area pastor Michael Duncan receives immediate feedback. “I can watch the effect of my words in the eyes of those who are listening—and in the yawns of those who are not,” he says.

But he can’t see the faces of those who’ve purchased his books. “We writers want to know that our work is well received—wanted, even needed,” he points out. “It’s hard to continually remain motivated to do something when there are very few quantifiable indicators that the work is valued.”

As with many Christian authors, Michael tries to console himself with the idea that it’s not about the numbers. We truly do write to honor and obey God. But how can any of us know that our work is reaching anyone?

There is one singular gauge: sales. “Every book sale, to me, is like having another person come into the worship center—filling up the sanctuary with hungry hearts,” Michael says.

In his quest to continue honoring God through his writing and to fill up the “sanctuary” with hungry readers, Michael has authored or coauthored multiple fiction and nonfiction books through both traditional and independent venues. At the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, he will teach a workshop on the basics of indie publishing:

7 Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author7 Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author – Learn from someone who’s been there what it takes to be a successful indie author; investing in your career; selecting great covers; tips on selling books, building your platform, and growing your readership; as well as how to diversify for added benefit.

At the Renewal, Michael will also serve as worship leader in the general sessions.

To learn the basics of publishing your work independently and/or to request an appointment with one of our seven editorial reps at this year’s conference, sign up for the Renewal today!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and coauthor of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

New Publisher Miralee Ferrell Specializes in Debut Authors

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

Are you a pre-published writer with the dream of seeing your name in print?

Are you a multi-published author with out-of-print books?

Or are you a traditionally published author who wants to write in a genre that doesn’t work for your publisher?

Award-winning author Miralee Ferrell founded Mountain Brook Ink in 2014 to fill a need in the publishing industry. “We are asking the Lord to bring the authors and manuscripts that we can believe in and bless,” she says.

MiraleeFerrellPinableWhile defined as a small press, Mountain Brook Ink is not a self-publishing company. “There is no charge for authors to publish with us, other than taking care of their edit,” Miralee explains. The publisher pays for the proofreading, cover, formatting, uploading, and printing and will help authors with promotion and publicity. Authors can even purchase their print copies at cost.

Traditionally published authors can also work with Mountain Brook Ink to release their out-of-print books in e-book and paperback formats, thus realizing a higher royalty rate than they originally received.

Miralee accepts fiction in two general areas. The first is inspirational fiction in almost any genre (except children’s fiction). The second is general-market fiction. Although by definition it doesn’t have a faith thread, it must nevertheless be clean and contain no sexual content or offensive language. Learn more from Mountain Brook Ink’s submission guidelines.

As a representative for Mountain Brook Ink, Miralee Ferrell will be available to meet with authors at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Because she is a recent addition to our slate of editors, she is handling her own appointment scheduling, and instead of meeting with conferees in group appointments, she will schedule 20-minute, one-on-one appointments for both days of the conference.

After studying what she’s interested in, you may contact Miralee through her website to set up an appointment to pitch your novel in the genres listed above. Instead of sending a proposal at that point, simply state in the comment section that you’re coming to the conference and would like to make an appointment with her.

If you haven’t yet registered for the Renewal, there’s still time. Sign up today!

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

You Can’t Just Say “I’m a Writer”

 

Written by Dennis Brooke, NCWA President

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During a workshop at the recent Northwest Christian Writer’s Association Renewal Conference, Kathleen Kerr, an editor at Harvest House had a very funny observation about being a writer. She told about an exercise at another conference where the speaker asked everyone to stand up and announce, “I am a writer!” They were then told to turn to the person next to them and encourage them by saying, You are a writer.”
 

During this motivational exercise she thought, “This is the only industry where you can just say you’re a writer and be one. Imagine if you stood up and said, ‘I’m a pediatric neurosurgeon’.”
 

TweetThis is the only industry where you can just say you’re a writer and be one.

 

Kathleen Kerr 3Kathleen’s point is right on—saying you’re a writer needs to be followed up with developing the craft. You wouldn’t want to roll your kid into brain surgery and find out that their neurosurgeon had just announced they were a neurosurgeon, but had no training to back it up. And frankly, you don’t want to read something written by a writer who hasn’t spent any time developing their craft.

 
TweetSaying you’re a writer needs to be followed up with developing the craft.

So how do you develop the craft? Over 150 of us were at that conference to sit in on workshops taught by Kathleen and other industry professionals. In between events like this many of us participate in critique groups and spend hours in practice.
 
Personally, I also like to read or listen to the audio version of books on the craft to get some focused guidance. And I like to ask professionals for their recommendations on books. When I asked our keynote speaker, Davis Bunn, for his recommendations I thought he might give us a couple of good ideas. But he provided three pages of fantastic resources, including an on-line master class.
 
Davis is a great writer and teacher so I was very interested to get his perspective and am glad to share them with you. Following is his annotated reading list of books on the craft. Are any of these favorites of yours? What would you add to the list? Use the comments function to answer those questions. Everyone who posts an answer by next Friday, April 25 will be entered into a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and a half pound of Starbucks Coffee.

Dennis Brooke


Dennis Brooke
is a pre-published novelist who currently serves as the President of the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. He has written for Focus on the Family, Toastmasters, and Combat Crew Magazines. He tells stories at http://www.dennisbrooke.com

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T. Davis Bunn’s Annotated Reading List

Davis Bunn 5

 Writing The Breakout Novel, by Donald Maas. Writer’s Digest Books

A breakout novel is one that rises out if its category – such as literary fiction, mystery, romance, or thriller – and hits the bestseller charts. Maas explains the elements that all breakout novels share and shows readers how to use these elements to write a novel that has a good chance of succeeding in a crowded marketplace. They’ll learn to: – Create a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place – Develop larger-than-life characters – Sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish – Weave sub-plots into the main action – Explore universal themes that will interest a large audience

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Al Zuckerman. Little, Brown        

Practical, very helpful, and certainly readable. He takes a number of bestselling novels and de-constructs them to illustrate the points he’s making about plot construction, pace, characterization etc. All essential elements of novels that will sell. And he’s in a position to know these things because he is the founder and managing director of the highly successful New York literary agency, Writers House…

 Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. Michael Wiese Production

In 1993, The Writer’s Journey became one of the most popular books on writing of the last 50 years, shaking up Hollywood, and becoming a best seller among writers everywhere. This new edition will reawaken established writers and inspire a new generation with fresh insights on creating great stories. An indispensable guide to the inner workings of stories, to the ancient and deep-seated patterns of emotion that speak to us through the symbolic language of myth. It applies the classic principles of Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey” to modern storytelling. Christopher Vogler, one of Hollywood’s most renowned story consultants and teachers, expands his vision to show how storytelling evolved from sacred rituals and how its inexhaustible powers can be adapted to the needs of modern storytellers. “The Writer’s Journey” is now the most widely used book in the movie, TV, publishing, and computer gaming industries. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Anchor Books

Best Anne Lamott gives witty and wise advice on the process of writing, while offering an entertaining and inspiring take on the difficult parts of the writing life. She encourages writers to take a more non-judgmental attitude towards their own writing, particularly during the first-draft stage. Covering everything from plot to professional jealousy, Lamott’s down-to-earth approach is both comforting and encouraging.

Stein on Writing, & How To Grow A Novel by Sol Stein. Saint Martin’s Press

“The best reading experiences”, says Sol Stein, “defy interruption”. With Stein’s assistance, you can grab your reader on page one and not let go until “The End”. Stein–author of nine novels (including the best-selling The Magician) and editor to James Baldwin, W H Auden, and Lionel Trilling–offers “usable solutions” for any writing problem you might encounter. He is authoritative, commanding, and neither cheerleader nor naysayer. Instead, he rails against mediocrity and demands that you expunge it from your work. Perhaps the concept of scrutinising every modifier, every metaphor, every character trait sounds like drudgery. But with Stein’s lively guidance, it is a pleasure. Stein recommends that you brew conflict in your prose by giving your characters different “scripts”. He challenges you, in an exercise concerning voice, to write the sentence you want the world to remember you by. He uses an excerpt from E L Doctorow to demonstrate poorly written monologue and a series of Taster’s Choice commercials as an example of dialogue that works. Stein’s bottom line is that good writing must be suspenseful. Your job, says Stein, “is to give readers stress, strain, and pressure. The fact is that readers who hate those things in life love them in fiction”. 

Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing by Celia Brayfield. Fourth Estate

Elizabeth Buchan, The Times: “In this ambitious and fascinating book, Brayfield tackles the Zen of fiction bestsellerdom. Her premise is that stories define a puzzling world and help to defuse our more primitive fears, the most significant continuing to haunt and nourish our imaginations. This is based on a study of how myth works through cultures. From there she constructs her methods of story shaping, research, narrative techniques and, of course, style…….From the GCSE student upwards, writers and readers will enjoy this bold an illuminating tilt at unravelling the mysteries of the popular novel. Even, perhaps, the literary novelist.”
The Independent on Sunday: “Admirably thought-provoking and even profound. Books cited include Gone With the Wind, Damage, The Joy Luck Club, Scott Turow, J G Ballard, The Great Gatsby and James Bond. Best of all, she demystified writing but highlights the sheer craft.”

Story: Substance, Structure, Style by Robert McKee. Metheuen Press (trade paperback)

McKee’s work is genuinely inspiring, particularly in the audio version, which he reads himself. It’s to the point. And – although intended primarily for screen writers – it’s invaluable for anyone who thinks they have a story in them.

Perhaps we should let Bob McKee speak for himself: “When talented writers write badly it’s generally for one of two reasons: either they’re blinded by an idea that they feel compelled to prove, or they’re driven by an emotion they need to express. When talented people write well, it’s generally for this reason: they’re moved by a desire to touch an audience.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Scribner

Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King’s On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. It’s a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife’s intervention, which he describes). “There’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing.”   King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer’s “tool kit”: a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft’s arcane vocabulary, Hemingway’s leanness, Grisham’s authenticity, Richard Dooling’s artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman’s sentence fragments.

(Dennis Brooke’s note: The Audio Version of the book is read by Stephen King himself.)

Ken Follet’s on-line Masterclass: The Art Of Suspense

Found at: http://www.ken-follett.com/masterclass/index.html

QuestionsAre any of these books on the craft favorites of yours? What would you add to the list? Use the comments function to answer those questions. Everyone who posts an answer by next Friday, April 25 will be entered into a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and a half pound of Starbucks Coffee.

 

Davis Bunn The Turning

You can find Davis Bunn’s books in the NCWA on-line bookstore. Many of the books on the craft he mentioned are also in the bookstore. A portion of sales from the NCWA bookstore helps to fund our organizations activities.

TweetLeave a blog comment to enter a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and Starbucks coffee.


Sell Your Fiction in a Tough Economy

This video interview with Nick Harrison, an Editor at Harvest House Publishing, was filmed at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference in May of 2010. I attended a workshop taught by Nick and he had several interesting points that I thought were worthy of further discussion.

Watch the interview here to hear Nick’s thoughts on “the forty percent” of effort that an author needs to dedicate beyond the writing and the concept of a five year plan to help you set realistic expections.

Nick Harrison is an editor with a Harvest House publishing and continues to write books in his spare time. Visit his website at www.nickharrisonbooks.com

 

 

Dennis Brooke writes about Almost True Stories of Life at www.dennisbrooke.wordpress.com. He’s been a member of NCWA for three years and currently serves as Vice-President and Webmaster.