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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

 

Interview with Fall Flash Fiction Runner Up Bernadette Yannacci

Originally from New York, Bernadette Yannacci has called New Jersey home for the past 20 years. She attended Rutgers University’s Douglass College where she earned a BA in English. Before shifting her focus to raising her family, Bernadette worked as a local newspaper reporter, earning awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

Her entry in the WOW flash fiction contest is Bernadette’s first foray into getting a fictional piece published. She is currently working on other short stories and the beginnings of a novel. Bernadette wants to extend her sincere thanks to the Women on Writing editors and judges along with guest judge Marie Lamba for considering her story among the finalists.

Read Bernadette’s winning story, The Opal, here. Then come back to learn more about this writer whose work starts with theme.  

WOW: First of all, congratulations! I love the subtle hints about relationships and past events in “The Opal.” What inspired your story?

Bernadette: In flash fiction, there isn’t the room to fully flush out a character or backstory. You tell a lot by those subtleties that you put in there and that’s a lot of the fun. I started out with an image of a woman digging. I wasn’t sure if she was covering or uncovering something, but I did know that the story was about family and loss and her need to save something for herself. At the center, this was something she had to keep for herself, something that was central to her and her development as a character. In her life, it was something she didn’t want taken away from her.

WOW: How did this story change between the time you contemplated writing it and the finished product?

Bernadette: I started writing the scene of her digging. It changed because at first I didn’t know if she was covering something or uncovering something.

Initially, there were more characters. She had a brother who was a state trooper and he stumbled across her as she was digging. There was a conversation, back and forth, but there was no tension. It was just wasting words. He wasn’t working, but she needed a sense of urgency. She needed that feeling that she would have to answer to authority.

 That’s where the sirens in the story came in. They lent the urgency and pushed the action forward. She’s assuming “they’re after me,” but it had nothing to do to her. It was a great tool for that frantic pace.

I had to pare the story down for the word count. I was going to flesh out the father more but there wasn’t room for it. I had to cut the story and characters to bare bones and, in terms of characters, ended up with Collete, Jackie and the dog, Ned. Fortunately Ned doesn’t have any dialogue so that helped my word count!

WOW: Can you describe your writing process?

Bernadette: I don’t have a set in stone ritual. I take a look at my day and block out the time I have to write. Sometimes it’s all morning. Sometimes it’s half an hour. It’s a matter of having the discipline to do it when I can.

If I have time but I’m not feeling like writing, I set an alarm for an hour and I make myself keep writing, keep going. I have found that even when I feel like I’m wasting my time, there’s that little nugget of something that turns up, something really good, and forcing myself to write was worthwhile. Making myself show up is the most important thing.

For flash fiction I find that being a pantser is the way to go. In a way having that word count is a challenge but it is also freeing. You get to use those hints at backstory. You can have a lot of fun with that.

But in terms of trying to get the novel that I’m writing off the ground, I need a road map. I need an outline. It helps me feel that I have more direction and I know where I’m going. I’ve had several false starts because I tried pantsing. I’m new to this so I’m still experimenting with what works for me.

WOW: How else does working on a piece of flash fiction differ from working on your novel?

Bernadette: Flash fiction is a scene, capturing a scene, more than telling a full story. For “The Opal,” I had this feeling that if I turned this into something bigger I could go this way or this way, but right now I’m just writing this scene. You can only do that type of exploration for so long in a novel because the reader is going to want some satisfaction.

I find it very frustrating as a reader if there’s a question in a novel and at the end I’m left hanging. As I writer I reflect on that. I want to write what I want to read. I want to give my reader the sense of satisfaction and of completion. I want them to think “Oh, I got it.”

Maybe that’s why I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies because you get that whole story. I like to see things from beginning to end.

WOW: What words of advice do you have for writers who are new to fiction? Who are new to flash fiction?

Bernadette: I’m just at the starting gate myself. Keep your head down and keep going. Just show up to write, because that’s what matters.

 Be kind to yourself. It should be fun. You should be enjoying this. If you aren’t enjoying it, think about why you aren’t enjoying it. Are you trying to write for someone else? If you are writing for yourself, then you are going to enjoy it more. If you are trying to fit a mold, “my goal is to write the next supernatural themed best seller,” that’s harder to enjoy. Write what your heart is telling you to do.

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards, writer and WOW instructor.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

 

Choose Potential Clients Carefully

Writers and editors are hungry. We’re constantly brainstorming ways to earn extra money, collect clips, expand our portfolios, and make important connections in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, sometimes we rush to work on projects without first protecting ourselves and our time and integrity. This happened to me last year, and I’m still angry with myself for being so naïve and gullible. In my case, the potential client was a friend of a friend, so I felt more confident getting involved in the project.

The client was a start-up media company (I’m not going to name names here) producing historical children’s books that were similar to the “choose your own adventure” books of my childhood. From my understanding, the books were only going to be available through an app produced by the company. I sent writing samples to the development director (not the friend of a friend), and he gave me a list of historical fiction topics they were looking for. I picked one, and he then asked me to develop a lengthy proposal on the subject, complete with sample chapters and examples of how they could have different outcomes if the character made different choices.

This should have been a red flag, because I didn’t have a contract at this point and no guarantee that I would be commissioned to work on the book. But I thought to myself that educational companies sometimes go through a similar process when hiring writers, right? (Looking back, maybe not!) So I kept going. It was a very complex process, and required hours of research and work to make it all come together. I put together a 10-page proposal, including a flowchart of how the book would be laid out. My contact came back and asked for revisions of the proposal and more sample chapters. This took more time away from clients I already had.

I began getting frustrated at this point, but I made the revisions. I didn’t hear back from him for a few weeks, and then he came back to me and told me his new CEO of the company didn’t think my topic would be a good fit for their target audience. This confused me, because the company had given me a list of topics to choose from in the first place! They then asked if I could put together another proposal from another list of topics. At this point I was angry. I told them I could not, as I had paying clients I needed to focus on. To this day, I’m not sure any books that were in development for this company have seen the light of day. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what I had gone through because it would make me look foolish. But this happened over a year ago and I now feel I should warn other writes of these types of writing scams. Maybe it wasn’t a scam and just poor management, but I suffered regardless, because I spent 15-20 hours alone on a project that went nowhere.

Have you ever experienced a writing scam? How did you resolve it if so?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also blogs at Renee's Pages. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

 

Book Review – Allen Long’s “Less Than Human” by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Review:
Allen Long’s writing style is unique in that in draws the reader in, tells of sadness experienced by the author, but has an undertone of triumph and joy. Even as you read the chapters outlining Long’s abuse at the hands of his parents, you still know there will be a triumphant ending. I enjoyed this memoir much more than most memoirs telling of abuse. This was a quick read and the pace of the book is excellent. I had no idea what to expect next.

Each individual story is told with such imagery it’s as if the author himself is having a glass of scotch and reminiscing with a kindred soul or old friend. I feel as if Allen and Elizabeth are friends I would enjoy having over for a dinner party. I also am reconsidering how I ask for “mom time” as I hope there’s no “Linda” creeping into our lives. (you’ll have to read Less Than Human for yourself if you want more details about that…).

Thank you Allen Long for sharing your life with readers. Less Than Human is well written, well edited, and I certainly enjoyed the short glimpses into your interesting life. The triumphant tone of the book really speaks volume about your resilient character.

Official Book Blurb: In Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown. And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph. He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than... he is, indeed... human. Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology. These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, creates its own form of suspense-in what direction will this book take us next?

• Paperback: 120 pages
• Publisher: Black Rose Writing; First Printing ed. edition (January 14, 2016)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1612966381
• ISBN-13: 978-1612966380

About the Author: Allen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines. He lives with his wife near San Francisco.


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Saturday, May 21, 2016

 

Don’t Forget to Build that Bridge

“Don’t send us what we’ve already seen. We want something new. New settings. New situations.  New stories. We want true diversity.” 

Editors, agents and publishers are singing this refrain or something much like it which makes sense.  They want to publish work that is new.  They want to publish work that represents the diversity of readers they hope to reach. They are also coming to recognize that diverse reading leads to greater empathy.  If you have seen Grace Lin’s Ted Talk on this subject, it is well worth the time. 

Duchess Harris and I are working on our second book together. Our first book was Black Lives Matter.  Our second is African-American women at NASA. Yet again, we are discovering how tough it is to write diversely. It isn’t the partnership that’s difficult although that can be challenging. 

What we are rediscovering is the need to build bridges for our readers.  It doesn’t matter if this reader is your agent, your editor or the person you hope will curl up with your book, if the subject matter is new to them, they will need a bridge. They will need a way to cross from what is familiar to what is not. 

In our case, we have to build a bridge between the dominant culture and the realities of racism and civil rights. Although we are familiar with the topic and often discuss race, we live in a society that has long sidestepped race. We can’t just plunk our subject down in front of someone and expect them to read long with us. It just feels too foreign, too extreme. To get them from where they are to where we want them to be, we build a bridge of facts, laying these details out one beside the other like the stones in a bridge.

But this problem isn’t ours alone. One author I know had written about both her native West Indies and her current Midwestern home.  In both cases, she was questioned by her coastal editors about details in her stories.  “Surely people don’t live like this?” “I’ve never seen a town with an empty street corner?” “Is the New Madrid fault a real thing?” She too had to build a bridge using sensory details and facts drawn from her own experience. It was the only way to make her settings real and accessible to big city readers who were more accustomed to skyscrapers than gravel roads.

Whether your story is set among the Ancient Maya, a futuristic Wild West culture or a fantasy world of elves and magic, you will need to create a bridge for your reader.  Lead them step by step, fact by fact, detail by detail, from the world that they know to the world of your story. No matter how much they want the experience, they need the bridge to get there.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Slow and Steady?

by Sara Codair

I’ve always hated the phrase “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” During my brief stints with competitive sports, I was a sprinter. I loved diving in the water and pushing myself to the max. I tired quickly, so I was often placed in shorter races. I’d win the 50-yard free style, but never the 200 IM. I swam the last leg of the relay, closing the distance between me and the other swimmers before climbing out of the water to stuff my exhausted face with cookies.

My impatience and sprinter mentality have been both a gift and a curse in my excursion into wild world of writing and publishing.

When it comes to first drafts, the sprinter mentality is my strength. My brain works fast and doesn’t stay focused long. If I have a story in my head, I sit down and let my fingers type at light speed until the first draft is done.

I get in trouble with revision. Once I clean up my draft and revise a couple times, I want to send it out to every publication. I have to fight with myself because experience has taught me that when I let a draft rest then return to it, I see things related to both content and grammar that were invisible to me earlier. With every rejection, I find myself wondering “Did I send that one too soon? Would it have gotten accepted it I have revised it a fifth time?”

The numbers tell me the answer is probably “no,” but there is enough doubt to make me wait a little longer. Sometimes I send things out prematurely, but more and more, I am waiting until I know the piece is truly done.

The sprinter mentality is great when I am submitting to places that accept simultaneous submissions. I’ll write a cover that just needs minor adaptations for the different publications, troll the Submission Grinder, and fire off one submission after another, only pausing long enough to make sure everything is following the proper guidelines. Most of my acceptances have been simultaneous submissions.

The waiting kills me. I avoid certain publications because their response time is too slow and opting for ones who promise to get back to writers promptly, like Clarkes World, Shimmer and Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The rejections come quick and hard, but this is where I see personal growth. I don’t climb out of the pool for a cookie break. I keep swimming. I revise my story and send it elsewhere.

I’ve had a few swift acceptances to unpaid markets, but the ones I had to wait for are the ones that pay. It took nearly a month to be accepted for Centum Press’ 100 Voices anthology and 149 days to find out I was in the WOW Top 10. I’ve learned that versatility is key. My sprinter mentality is great for finishing first drafts, but it takes a slow, steady persistence to get published.

* * *
Sara Codair writes because her brain is overcrowded with stories. If she doesn’t get them out, she fears her head will explode. When she isn’t making things up, she is either teaching college students how to write essays, digging in her garden or just enjoying the beauty of nature. Her short stories have appeared in or are forthcoming from Women On Writing, Foliate Oak, Centum Press, Sick Lit Magazine, Fantasy Crossing and Mash Stories. You can find her online at https://saracodair.com/.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, May 19, 2016

 

Bake Your Way to Happiness Review and Giveaway

If you liked Julia & Julia – either the book by Julie Powell, or the wonderful movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep – you will love this book! In Bake Your Way to Happiness: Recipes and Strategies to Nourish and Heal, you will find fifteen recipes along with fifteen strategies to nourish your body and spirit, and which will help you heal from all kinds of modern-day stresses and ails: sadness, body image issues, low self-worth, negative thinking, fear, insomnia, mood swings, anger, inner child issues, self sabotage, anxiety and more.

How do you bake your way to happiness? The answer is easy. You bake the wonderful recipes that have been tested especially for you by food editor, Gilean Watts, and you follow the creative workbook reconstructions that have been formulated by registered expert therapist, Marilyn Riesz.

Both the recipes and the reconstructions have been proven to work! The recipes come from Gilean’s granny and, during Gilean’s time at university, when she was suffering from a bout of depression, Gilean used these very recipes to overcome depression. And Marilyn’s unique therapy of reconstruction has been called miraculous by her clients, who are amazed by the level of healing that they bring.

A friend of WOW also has a hand in Bake Your Way to Happiness! Lisa de Nikolits, who had several books of hers tour with WOW, traded in her author hat for something different this time. This publication sees her wearing her art director and designer hat, more than that of author. But she hasn't relinquished her writer hat! In fact, Bake Your Way to Happiness was inspired by one of her books – the protagonist in one of her forthcoming novels pens a collection of Bake Your Way therapy cookbooks and de Nikolits realized that her character's cookbooks could be a real thing! So, with the help of the extremely talented Gilean Watts and Marilyn Riesz,  Bake Your Way to Happiness became a reality.

Bake Your Way to Happiness is available as a paperback here.


About the Authors

Marilyn Riesz
Marilyn Riesz, MA, RP is a registered psychotherapist with over 16 years private practice experience treating eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and relationship issues. Marilyn has published numerous academic articles, led workshops, seminars and conferences. In addition to supervising and training graduate psychology students, she has enjoyed making guest television appearances, and presenting inspiring lectures in the mental health community. For more information about Marilyn and her therapeutic techniques, please visit eatingdisorderstherapy.ca

Gilean Watts
Gilean Watts is a recipe developer, food editor and writer with over six years of experience in food media. She is currently a food editor for Canadian Living, and has previously worked for brands such as Clean Eating magazine and Yahoo Canada. Gilean is a graduate of George Brown College’s prestigious Chef School, and the founder of the food blog Stuck in Thyme. For more of her work, visit stuckinthyme.com.

Lisa de Nikolits
Lisa de Nikolits has art directed and worked on international magazine titles including Marie Claire (South Africa), Vogue (Australia), Vogue Living (Australia), Cosmopolitan (Australia), SHE (Australia), Canadian Health & Lifestyle, Cosmetics, and Canadian Living. She is the acclaimed author of five novels: The Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, A Glittering Chaos, The Witchdoctor’s Bones and Between The Cracks She Fell (all Inanna Publications). Visit Lisa at lisadenikolitsdesign.com and lisadenikolitswriter.com.



*****Book Review of Bake Your Way to Happiness*****

I'm on board for any book that's going to encourage me to bake, but Bake Your Way to Happiness is so much more than that! Each chapter is a mini-self improvement course addressing a different issue: everything from mood swings to negativity to overextending yourself. Things we all deal with everyday but too often ignore because we "don't have time" to think about them or change bad habits.

Each short chapter is laid out the same way: a short writing on the chapter's issue, an activity or writing assignment to get you thinking about the issue in your life,  the recipe, a long term activity to change negative habits, a drawing (they even leave space in the book so no searching for paper needed) and space to write down some conclusions on the issue's affect on your life and the activities you've done while addressing it. The recipes are Watts' grandmother's recipes and are uniquely chosen to "fit" the issue. I love the body issue chapter with orange-cranberry bread where the discussion is about how orange-cranberry bread is wonderful no matter if it's oval or round and how different ingredients are equally important and delicious no matter what their size and shape.

This is a great book where (like a recipe book) you can pick and choose what chapters appeal to you and your needs. There's no wading through endless discussions. Instead they identify a common problem and dive right into what you can do to make simple changes if you have that problem that can add up to big changes in your life. Things like the recipes and the drawings add a light-hearted aspect to the book. Bake your Way to Happiness makes self-improvement fun!

Paperback: 142 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (May 1, 2016)
ISBN: 1530539862

BOOK GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win your own copy of Bake Your Way to Happiness. This giveaway ends June 1st at 11:59pm. You can also enter a second giveaway until June 15 by visiting Goodreads.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

 

Bring Traffic (People) to Your Website through Power-Blogging - Build Authority and Make Sales

by Karen Cioffi

If you were to ask any marketer what the most important online marketing strategy is, each one is sure to say: Get traffic to your website.

Why is this such an important element of your online platform?

Well, without website traffic . . . no one will know what you’re about or what you’re offering.

So, how do you go about getting that traffic?

Below are 5 simple strategies to use.

1. You’ve got to blog. There’s no way around this one. You need to generate ‘valuable’ content on a regular basis.

2. Make your blog posts search engine and reader optimized.

If you’re wondering what this means, it simply means to use relevant keywords and format the post for easy reading.

An example of using relevant keywords: suppose your article is about cooking French food. You will want to include “French food” or “French cooking” in the title, the first paragraph, and near the end of the post.

3. The next essential element is to share those great articles you write to all your social networks. You should have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GooglePlus. While there are many others, these are a few of the biggies.

Sharing on social media will help broaden your marketing reach in leaps and bounds.

4. Visit other bloggers’ sites and leave comments. Be sure to actually read the article you’re commenting on. If your comment is interesting or informative, the author and/or other commenters may click on your link – bringing traffic back to your site.

5. It’s still a good idea to use article directories to generate more traffic. It gives you another pond to fish at - each of these directories has its own set of readers. And, many of the directories allow reprints, so simply use your blog post.

A few of the top directories to use are: eHow; Hubpages; Ezinearticles; Examiner; Articlebase; and Technorati.

When using article directories, be sure to include a brief, but effective bio in the provided resource box. And, include a link back to your landing page or sales page.

There are lots and lots of other article directories you can use, just do a Google search.

These are some simple ways to bring traffic to your website to gain visibility and authority. Keep in mind that marketing is an on-going journey. Just keep producing that content. And, be sure it’s valuable enough so others will want to share it.

***

Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.

>>>>Join Karen Cioffi's upcoming online class, BECOME A POWER-BLOGGER AND CONTENT WRITER IN JUST 4 WEEKS. Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

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