Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interview With Randall Harris VP of Mississippi Writer's Guild - Hattiesburg

I managed to catch up with Randall Harris, the Vice President of the Mississippi Writer's Guild: Hattiesburg Chapter.  He is the editor of the Guild's new anthology Pinebelt Poatery and Prose.  Randall  was generous enough to agree to talk with me about publishing the group's new anthology.

What is the Mississippi Writer’s Guild?

Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG) is a statewide network of individual writers and chapters, all of whom have a love of the written word, and putting into print the things that make Mississippi special.  All writers, at any stage of their development, published or unpublished, can join MWG. 

How many chapters in Mississippi?

Currently there are six chapters and one affiliate chapter.

How old is the writer’s guild?

It was founded in 2005 by a group of writers in the Meridian area, and has spread to cover the entire state since then.

What are some of the benefits of being a member?

Networking opportunities are definitely a big plus of membership in MWG.  For example, members can have a link on the MWG website to their personal blogs, webpages, or other online presences, to help in self-promotion. MWG also organizes an annual writing conference held in different parts of the state.  The conference includes a variety of speakers including published authors and literary agents.  Attendees also typically have an opportunity to receive critiques from agents and other industry professionals at the conference.

Where did the idea for the Anthology come from?

Every writer knows that getting motivated and staying motivated is hard.  Also, it can be hard to find publishing opportunities for short, stand-alone works such as poetry and short stories.  So we decided to make our own opportunity.  The prospect of being published in an anthology encouraged a lot of the members to become more productive (so they would have something to put in the anthology) or to dig out older work that had not been published yet, for whatever reason.  And since we were planning an anthology, it became the perfect vehicle for publishing those random pieces that would be impossible to publish by themselves.  We were also lucky in that we had an excellent model provided to us by Dr. Philip Levin and the members of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, who have published an anthology every year or two for the past several years.

Was it well received with the writers?

Exceptionally so.  We received submissions from 17 different authors, many of whom submitted more than one piece.  Everyone has been excited about the anthology and seeing their work in print – for some of the members, this was their first published work.

Who is the publisher?

For reasons of cost and efficiency, we decided to use the CreateSpace platform through  It was a good choice for us and for this project.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to get the book published?

I discovered that most people, including me, are not good with deadlines.  (Ha)  It took about a year to pull the anthology together, but that was mainly because it was hard to get the ball rolling and to get people to submit their work for consideration.  Then, when it came time to collect short biographies from the contributors, that also took additional time.  The rest of the obstacles came as I wrestled with formatting issues in getting the book in line with CreateSpace’s guidelines.  However, the entire process has been a great learning experience and one that I hope we will repeat (see below).

How was the cover decided?

We knew the title was going to be “Pinebelt Poetry and Prose” long before the cover was finalized, so I began looking for a photo that would fit the title somehow.  As part of the submission process, I solicited photographs from contributors, because we have some excellent photographers in our group.  When I saw the photo of the pine seedling that Jenny Wilson, one of our contributors, submitted, I knew it was the one that would go on the cover.

Is there any symbolism in the cover?

I think so, but it was absolutely serendipitous.  The pine seedling is a common sight in the Pinebelt – it’s who we are, in a sense.  And the seedling represents this first anthology, which took time to grow and develop from the germ of the original idea into the finished book that we are now publishing.

Are you planning to do a second book?


What will the theme of the second book be?

It’s too early to tell.  We knew the first anthology would not have a theme, because the range of submissions would be so diverse.  The second anthology may be the same way, just because it’s exciting to see all the different kinds of writing people submit.

How does one get to be a member of the Mississippi writer’s guild?

Easy!  The Guild’s website is, and there are links to membership options via PayPal.  They have regular memberships, senior and student memberships, and if you join in the middle of the year, they also prorate the membership fees.

If one wants to be a writer, what advice do you have?

The process of writing is different for everyone, and sometimes you have to flounder around to find the way that works for you.  But I think the most indispensable thing for a writer is endless determination and a willingness to take the millions of baby steps that are required for the writer’s journey.

Link to the book on Amazon:

Kindle Books:

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