Reading a few of the best romantic stories of all time may be a good way to get in the mood for the weddings coming up among our friends and families this year.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the clear winner among the random eight top-ten lists surveyed. It appeared on five of the lists with a weighted score of 32. This is a time travel romance. Married World War II nurse Claire Randall mysteriously finds herself in 1743 Scotland where she is forced to marry young clansman Jamie Fraser who turns out to be a lot more desirable than she thought at first.

Jane Austin fans, of whom there are very many, would certainly move Pride and Prejudice up a notch, but in this informal survey, it came in second with a score of 22, only appearing on four of the lists. Of course, the story centers on Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who also find each other less than compatible at first.

Next on the lists is The Bride with a score of 19. In Julie Norwood’s novel, Jamie is the choice of a powerful Scottish laird to be his new bride. They marry, but Jamie vows he will never have her love. She further learns that there is a rumor that he killed his first wife.

Also high on the lists of favorites were Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.

VALLEY WRITERS

Kings River Life declares itself “A California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.” It can be found at kingsriverlife.com. The magazine was created by Lorie Lewis Ham, a journalist and mystery author. Ham’s four-book series featuring gospel singer and amateur sleuth Alexandra Walters includes the titles Murder in Four-Part Harmony, The Trouble with Tenors, Out of Tune, and The Final Note. She also wrote a mystery not in the series titled Deadly Discrimination.

Del Rey organic farmer David “Mas” Masumoto writes periodically for The Fresno Bee. Some of his columns are available for reading here. His topics include, “What kind of a legacy are you creating,” “My father’s cubbies,” “Farms and food forgotten in 2016 campaign,” “Voter shaming: What if the neighbors knew you didn’t vote?” and “My grandmother became a Gold Star Mother while held captive.”

WRITING CONTESTS

The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College is holding the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards honoring the poet’s contributions to American Literature. Prizes are $1,000, $200 and $100. The winner will be asked to participate in a reading in the Paterson, New Jersey, Historic District. Up to five unpublished poems may be submitted. Deadline is February 1, entry fee is $18 and includes a subscription to the Paterson Literary Review. For details visit: poetrycenterpccc.com/awards.

The Bulwer-Lytton Contest to write the worst opening sentence in literature is open to submissions every day of the year. However, to be considered for the 2017 prize, entries must be received by June 30. Entries may be any length, but no longer than 60 words is recommended. Read the 2016 winners and find details at bulwer-lytton.com/2016win.html.

WRITER’S WORKSHOPS

The St. Augustine Author-Mentor Novel Workshop takes place Feb. 24-28 in Florida. Writers work with a Pulitzer Prize winner, Hollywood producer, an editor, and literary agents who teach writing skills and critique the attendees’ work in progress. The schedule calls for private meetings and small group workshops. Applicants must be accepted prior to registration. Fee for registration without housing is $1,789. Details at: algonkianconferences.com/conferences.htm.

The deadline for applying for the Tin House Workshop scholarship is March 27. General applications are due by May 1. Acceptance depends on the strength and promise of the writing sample and the board’s determination of how the writer will benefit from the workshop. The workshop takes place July 9-16 at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Details at: tinhouse.com/writers-workshop.

THE LAST WORD

“Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing, and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.”
– Ann Landers (1918 – 2002)