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January 2023

Message from the President


It's that time of year when we are encouraged to resolve to do better in the upcoming year. I have never resolved anything as a result of a New Year, but I have set new goals. Each January, I try to envision what the upcoming year might bring and attempt to put myself on a track for success.
I call them New Year's Renewals. I think of them as recommitting to excellence, not a rebuke for falling off the wagon. Football season gets us all, amiright?
My renewals last year included being present – fully connected on Zoom, fully in the room with the people I'm with, focused on the task at hand. It made such a big difference for me that I'm recommitting to PRESENCE in 2023. I'm also recommitting to a higher volume of writing (more blogging! more short stories!) since last year I did a lot of revision.
If one of your New Year's Renewals is to participate more in SCWA, I'd encourage you to consider joining a committee. Here are a few of them and their missions:
  • Membership, led by Reagan Teller, focuses on attracting and retaining members by creating an inviting and enriching experience for existing and prospective members.
  • Events and Education, led by Paul Davis, provides ongoing education on the craft of writing and the professionalism of publishing through virtual and in-person workshops.
  • Conference Committee, led by Paul Davis and Brad Land, will organize our fall conference, including finding sponsors, speakers and locations.
  • Finance and Fundraising, led by Lynn Volkenant, will find and pursue grants and other efforts at fundraising.
  • The Petigru Review, led in 2022 by Maria Picone and Yvette Murray, is published annually and will need readers for a fresh batch of submissions this summer.
  • Marketing is a new committee, currently being led by yours truly, and could benefit from you social-media-savvy, publicity and marketing gurus.
  • Diversity is an audit committee, led by Yvette Murray, to help us keep our commitment to diversity in everything we do.
You can contact the committee lead directly or email me at, and I'll be glad to introduce you to them.
If you're called to further service in SCWA consider stepping up as a chapter lead or serving on a committee. You'll get out of SCWA what you put in this year. Let's make it the best one yet, together.

Kasie Whitener
President, SCWA Board of Directors


For several years, Mary Beth Gibson has been the outstanding leader of the Aiken Chapter, but she now has passed the baton to Bettie Williams and Paul Davis, who will be co-leaders. We want to thank Mary Beth for all that she's done.

Here is some information about the new leaders:

Bettie has been an award-winning author of novels, short stories "and some really bad poetry" (according to Bettie) for more than 30 years. She has been published in numerous literary anthologies and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first published novel, The Rake's Tale, took first place in SCWA's 2014 Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards. While a longtime romance writer, she recently began dabbling in the world of science fiction. A former journalist and technical writer, she holds dual bachelor's degrees in English and communications as well as a master's in public administration. She works full time in higher education as a project manager.

Paul is a prize-winning journalist who has written for large and small newspapers, from the Tampa Tribune to The New York Times. At the Providence Journal, he chaired the newspaper's in-house writing group. His series on the Rhode Island-South Carolina-West Africa slave trade was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. A founding member of the Historical Writers of America, he lives on a former horse farm in Aiken, where he works as a book coach and freelance writer. He is VP/Events and Education for SCWA.

Thanks to Bettie and Paul for stepping up to assume this important role.

Two initiatives are being considered as a result of the 2022 membership survey. The first is piloting a periodic new-member orientation to give new members a chance to ask questions, to get help in finding the right chapter home, and for SCWA to support them in feeling connected with the organization. Membership will work with Events and Education to pilot these new-member orientation sessions.

The second initiative is offering virtual networking meetings. Since not all members belong to a chapter, these meetings would provide a way for those members to make connections with others. Those who are chapter members also would be welcome to participate. We plan to pilot a few of these sessions in 2023 to gauge interest. Stay tuned for details.

If you would like to read/download a copy of the survey summary, you can access it at 2022 Membership Survey Results.

Membership is looking forward to 2023 and in finding new ways to help you leverage your SCWA membership. Please contact us at for questions or comments.

Raegan Teller
Questions or suggestions about SCWA membership?

Congratulations to these authors whose works in 2022 The Petigru Review were nominated by the editorial board for the following awards:

Pushcart Prize:
Catherine C. Con*  - Deracinate
Alexander Seils - Shards of Rainbow
Sarah Pascarella - Solo Shift
Miho Kinnas - Where the Petals Fall
Lauren Wilensky - I want our geometry to come easy
Rohan Buettel - Jacaranda City

Best Small Fictions:
Allen Stevenson* - Fisherman's Knot
Catherine C. Con* - Deracinate
Mary Alice Dixon* - Bride of Wild
Abby Morales* - You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

*Denotes SCWA member
Events and Education

The Events and Education Committee is working on scheduling a year's worth of events, talks and classes based on the recent SCWA member survey. Thanks for your suggestions. You'll hear more about our plans in a few weeks.
A few things are clear. Our members are interested in writing and marketing and publishing. They want to hear from accomplished authors and agents, and they're interested in all writing genres –  nonfiction, thrillers, YA, children's books and literary fiction among them. We'll handle those requests in several ways, including monthly posts in The Quill.
Here’s the first E&E tip. It's a new year. What better way to launch 2023 than to heed the advice of literary agent and mystery writer Paula Munier, who knows a thing or two about new starts. She's the author of The Writer's Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings That Sell. I heard Munier speak at a Writer's Digest conference in New York City.
Here’s what she had to say.
Want an agent to read your manuscript? Hook them in the first few paragraphs. Agents read hundreds – even thousands – of manuscripts a year. If a book isn't working, they know it after just a few pages.

The good news? You can avoid early rejection by following Munier's advice.

Munier listed the Top 10 reasons she stops reading a submission:
  • Nothing happens.
  • She's seen it before.
  • The book lacks a strong voice. If you have a strong voice, agents and editors are willing to overlook other shortcomings.
  • She doesn't connect with the protagonist. "Give us some likable characters. We fall in love with Holden Caulfield, Bridget Jones."
  • She can't tell what kind of story she's reading. Is it a romance? Literary fiction? Historical novel?
  • She doesn't care what happens next.
  • The plot is unbelievable and cliché-ridden.
  • There are too many characters. Time is short. Who can keep up?
  • The dialogue doesn't sound real.
  • The manuscript is full of typos and grammatical errors. "If an editor or agent sees a misspelled word – it stops us cold."
Good novels, of course, spark a different response. The level of craft is high. There's a strong voice. The story is fresh. "The writer," Munier says, "has gained my confidence."

Paul Davis
VP/Events and Education

The American Heritage Festival at Graham's Historic Farm in Lake City is Feb. 18 and 19 and is open to authors. Exhibit cost is $50 a day. Register at Sell some books in 2023!
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