Friday, August 29, 2014


Friday Speak Out!: Birthday & Writing Messages

by Marcia Peterson

Today is Friday Speak Out day, and it's also my birthday.

Birthdays are times to reflect, dream and plan. I'll share some favorite inspirational messages that seem to fit birthdays as well as the writing life. See if any of these messages might be directed at you too!*

*As a fun game, close your eyes and pick a number between one and ten right now. Then scroll/count down to the image that correlates with your number--that's your personal message. Tell us what you got!

We're also accepting submission for Fridays Speak Out posts from our readers (for September--and beyond!) . Check out our guidelines and join the fun.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014


Write for Your Health

A healthy cup of tea for productive writing.
Photo credit | EKHumphrey
Generally writers sit a lot. Obviously, this can be hazardous to your health.

If you are steadily working at the keyboard, what are some other ways to keep a focus on health? In no particular order, here are five tips I use to keep my eye on writing deadlines and my health:

1. Water! If you spend your time typing, you have little time to reach out and grab some water. But if you do nothing else, keep a glass of water nearby. One of the tricks I have, especially when my desk is overflowing with papers, is to put a reusable water bottle by my feet. If I don’t follow through on numbers two through five, drinking the water helps keep my mind sharp. I also often feel tired if I don’t drink enough water, so I work to stay hydrated when I sit at my computer.

2. Stretch! Even the speediest of writers needs to take a break every now and then. Sometimes I’m in a public library and feel as if I can’t leave my computer, so I’ll sit up taller in my chair and reach my hands above my head and clasp my hands. Moving my hands from side to side helps to keep some of my stiffness at bay until I can take a proper walk. (I also try to give my neck a break and gently roll it around regularly.)

3. Healthy snacks! You know you’re going to get hungry…so make it healthy. A candy bar can be an occasional treat, but if you’re spending more time sitting than you are exercising, candy should be kept to a minimum. Instead of placing a candy bowl on your desk, start your writing day with a handful or small bowl of nuts or seeds on your desk. As the day moves into night, you can swap out the nuts for sliced apples or carrots. For drinks, I avoid coffee and drink tea—especially green tea.

4. Breathe! Even when you’re under pressure, remember to breathe. Sounds simple, but try thinking about your breathing next time you are on deadline. It can help to refocus your mind, as well as keep you more relaxed. Even when you are not in a rush, shifting your mind to think about your breathing can help to destress you. When you take a deep breath, you also might try to focus on something other than your computer screen. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Move! It’s easier said than done when you want to hit that 5,000-word daily goal, but moving can help you focus on your health and your writing. Try planning a walk during your day, especially when you might need some additional time to think through some of your writing. A walk can be restorative and help work out your body’s kinks, as well as you mind’s! If you don’t have time to take a walk, then plan mini-breaks during your writing. Create a path around your home or take the long way to the bathroom. Not getting up enough? See tip #1 and drink more water!

Sitting at your desk doesn’t mean that you have to be completely unhealthy and sedentary.

What do you do to try to stay healthy when writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She enjoys walking along the river in downtown Wilmington.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Aloha Writers Retreat: Tap Into Your Naturally Creative Soul

What could be better than spending a week relaxing and writing at the beach with other like-minded writers? Doing it in Hawaii! That's what writers and workshop leaders, Dawne Knobbe and Svette Bykovec, are offering writers this fall (November 7th through 14th). As their website states, come to the Aloha Writers Retreat and "join us . . .for a unique journey into your creative soul."

Dawne is the author of Runaway Storm, a young adult novel, and is very involved with SCBWI-LA. You can find out more about Dawne below as she talks to us about the Hawaii retreat, or you can visit her website. Svett is an award-winning author and illustrator; her books (writer/illustrator) include See Into the Sea and Crazy Crustaceans. Her website is MoonDog Manuscripts.

Read on to see what you will do in Hawaii, what the price includes, and special discounts for WOW! readers and/or if you are willing to have a roommate.

Dawne & Svett
WOW: Hi Dawne, thank you for being with us today to discuss the Aloha Writers Retreat. Please start by telling us how this wonderful retreat began.

Dawne: For many years, Svett Bycovec and I organized two writers' retreats in California. One year we would hold Critiquemania, which was a very fast-paced, intense 3-day retreat; then the next year, we would organize Sense and Sensibility, which was more about the creative process and nurturing your inner muse. When Svett moved back to Australia, we started thinking about doing something that would combine the two, and the idea for the Aloha Writers retreat was born. There is something so magical about Hawaii that we couldn’t think of a better location to inspire writers.

WOW: Yes, that is so true! I'm sure Hawaii would inspire me. Who should attend this workshop? Are there any specifications for certain writers, genres, etc?

Dawne: This retreat is for writers of all genres. It is geared towards people who are actively working on writing projects but beginners are welcome. Writing is a creative process, whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction, or for children or adults. I personally have a background in many genres, so I hope to help people explore different genres.

WOW: Great! What can attendees expect during their seven days in Hawaii at your retreat?

Dawne: It will be a week of healing and nurturing the writer within you. We will work through stumbling blocks in your creative process and specific issues in your stories. We will critique each others work supportively and participate in different exercises designed to inspire our muses. Attendees will come away with new friends, the inspiration to move forward with their writing, and new methods to help achieve their goals. We will also have a lot of fun exploring the island culture and relaxing in this tropical paradise.

WOW: That sounds wonderful. What all is included in the price for the attendees? Who leads the retreat?

Dawne: The price of the retreat includes 7 nights of accommodations. 

Breakfast and dinner daily, plus some lunches and lots of snacks. 

If you have uncomplicated special dietary considerations, we are happy to work with you. Otherwise, we have an open kitchen policy, and you are welcome to prepare your own dishes.

 Besides food and lodging, the price all program fees include: materials including entrance fees on planned excursions

, transportation (with some limitations), 
daily “writing fun-shops” 

inspiration and exercises with faculty, plus one-on-one editing and group critiques. There are also

 specialty supplies and surprises.

 So there's time to relax, reflect, write and enjoy beautiful Hawaii. If you mention WOW, we will extend our early bird discount rate of $2269.00 (which is a savings of $300).

WOW: This sounds so amazing! Thank you for all the details. What else do WOW! readers and writers need to know about the Aloha Writers Retreat?

Dawne: Svett is a published writer, illustrator, and art therapist. I have a master's degree in professional writing and have made my living as a journalist, creative director, writer, and publisher. We run a non-profit press called The Nature Kid, which is all about teaching children about conservation in a fun and wacky way.

And here is some really good news for WOW readers. We have a special early bird discount ($300) and also a roommate discount ($200). We will extend the discount rate for all WOW! participants past the posted deadline.

WOW: Thanks, Dawne, for all the information. It sounds fantastic! 

Okay, Muffin readers, to sign up for this amazing experience, please go to Hawaii Retreat 2014 website by clicking here.

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Monday, August 25, 2014


Sacrifices of the Writing Life

Me at 17
I'm not sure what happened, but the time between the photo on the left and the present seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. One minute I was a senior writing essays in English class and the next I'm staring at the invite for my 20-year high school reunion.

For the past few years, there's been a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I have yet to publish a novel and I'm not getting any younger. For awhile, I was able to momentarily silence that voice, but it's starting to get louder and louder lately. Never mind that I have experienced success in the freelance writing world, won awards for my writing and interviewed hundreds of expert sources on a number of different subjects. I can hear the voice of my senior English teacher, asking me to dedicate my first book to her, and it makes me hang my head in shame because I haven't done it yet. I haven't been working hard enough toward my goals and I know it. There are days when I wimp out and tell myself that I'm probably too old to keep pursuing this particular dream.

My heart sank when I realized the weekend of my reunion is the same weekend as the Carolinas SCBWI Conference, which I registered for months ago. I've signed up for an intensive workshop on using imagery and metaphors in my writing and purchased two critiques for the first 10 pages of my YA novel. I was pretty down for a few days. After all, this is the conference where I got a pretty harsh critique on this very same book last year and I really would love to see some of the classmates I haven't seen since high school graduation.

Then I happened to get on Facebook and read a great inspirational post by author Jessica Bell. She shared the story of getting dismissed by a publisher who basically told her she was kidding herself if she ever thought she would be an author. But--and this is the thing that struck me--she kept on, eventually building a great career for herself as an author, editor and literary magazine publisher.

"If you want something, LEARN IT. BELIEVE IN IT. DO IT," she said.

So as much as I would like to make the drive and spend the day with my old friends, I had to decline the invitation. I told them, that I'm sorry, but I'm still chasing my dream of becoming a published children's author and have a conference to attend instead. And I still have a lot of work to do.

Maybe by the next reunion, I'll have a book to share with them.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at

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Saturday, August 23, 2014


5 Tips for Submitting Your Work: Help From an Editor

I'm a writer, as you all know. But I'm also an editor for WOW!, High Hill Press, and my freelance business. Because of this editing experience, I've learned a lot about submitting writing work, from both sides. So here are my 5 tips to follow when you're ready to submit a manuscript to a magazine, publisher, or literary agency.

1. Research the publisher, publication, or agency.  Usually, I get queries from writers who have visited the High Hill Press website and researched which editor to send their manuscript to. That's the thing. No longer do you have to guess what a magazine or literary agency is looking for. Most likely, you can find information on a website or blog, on Amazon or, that tells you what types of books or stories this place is looking for and has published in the past. You can also use the online archives or "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to read samples. 

2. Know something about the editor/agent. This takes number one another step further. Most editors and agents have either a blog, website, Twitter account, Facebook page, or Goodreads account, where you can find out more information about this person (including how to spell his or her name) than you ever could before. If you're writing a dystopian horror young adult novel, and you love a certain editor, you can Google his name, see if he has ever worked on something like this or wants to, with a 30-minute research session. But you should not contact an editor or an agent through these sites to pitch your work! You can interact with writing professionals on these sites as a writing professional--that's it (unless they invite you otherwise). 

3. Learn how to write a query letter. This tip probably should have been number one, but first you need a list of places to send your work (number 1 and 2), and then you need to write a proper query letter. Honestly, sometimes, I'll open a query letter for High Hill Press, and I have no idea what the story is about when I finish reading the query. I'm not tough either--I give everyone a chance (this is the writer in me). Query letters have three paragraphs: a hook, a basic plot summary (including genre & word count), and your bio paragraph or why you are the one to write this book. THAT IS IT! Take the time to write a good query and get it critiqued by writers you know. Then send it out. Go to this link for help:

4. Know your own work. You know your work. You've been sweating over it for years now. But do you know how to describe your book in two to three sentences that make someone want to read it? Well, you need to. This is the hook. This is what goes in that first paragraph I was talking about in number 3 above. When someone asks you, "What's your book about?", this is the answer. For example, here's the answer for my book, Caught Between Two Curses, when I'm now asked what it's about: "It's about a 17-year-old teenager living in Chicago whose boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex. She thinks this is her biggest problem until her uncle falls into a coma because of a curse on her family. This curse is connected to the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and she's the key to breaking both curses.
5. Know your strengths and weaknesses. As a writer, you probably know that you're fantastic at dialogue but need help with sensory details in your description. But what about your strengths and weaknesses at pitching your work? Even if you decide to self-publish, you have to know how to sell your work to others. So, what are you good at? What do you need help with? How can you get this help? For example, I'm terrible at writing a query letter for my own work (I know that's ironic, right?). But it's a weakness, so I always write one and have my critique group help me with it as well as enter any free query contests. But a strength of mine is grammar and editing, and so I know my manuscript is pretty close to perfect in that area (my critique group has seen it too), and so is my query letter and synopsis. Don't assume you're good at everything or bad at everything--you aren't. Get help where you need it, and help other writers with your strengths.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have another to add or an experience to tell us about, please do! We learn from each other. 

Besides an editor, Margo L. Dill is also a children's author and writing instructor, both online and in-person. This fall for WOW!, she is teaching a class that helps writers figure out their career in writing for children from their personal goals to submitting their work. Find out more about this class (which starts on September 3) and others in the WOW! classroom.

photo by Pink Sherbert Photography (

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Friday, August 22, 2014


Friday Speak Out!: 5 Excuses Women Use Not to Write

by Lilia Fabry

Oh, the horror of the blank page. There’s nothing like staring at a white document with a blinking horizontal cursor counting down the seconds until you create something to make you say, “Don’t I have a load of laundry to do?” I have many excuses to get out of writing that can be just as ridiculous as what is written. These are some of the most common:

1. “What’s with that speck of dust?” – I seem to take special notice of dust, grime, off-color surfaces, etc. when I’m writing. Reserved for when I try to impress with the few recipes I can prepare well enough to garner semi-sincere compliments from guests, my inner Martha Stewart seems to spring to life whenever it’s time to write. Much like the Martha Stewart show, that’s fine – but in small doses.

2. “Just 5 more minutes of Facebook” – AKA, the time I think it will take to find a worthy item on the site. Long story short: it will take more than five minutes.

3. “Someone will recognize my plagiary, inspiration” – I make no secret of my writing inspirations and incorporate these tricks and treats on a regular and partially successful basis. The takeaway: As long as it’s not a cut and paste, nothing can be made to stick. Probably.

4. “You probably think this work is about you” – In Carly Simon fashion and on more than one occasion, I’ve been asked for the basis for a certain character, leading my paranoia to tell me my interrogator thinks they recognize him/her and are about to narc on me. In Metallica fashion, the sad but true fact is most characters are derived from my unapologetically demented imagination.

5. “This sucks” – It’s very easy for me to blame my work, i.e. turning it into a perfect excuse not to write. The solution? That never stopped me before.

All (or most) kidding aside, the above and their offspring can’t really compare to what I tell myself to actually get writing: “I’m going to die one day, and I’ll be extra-damned if this story dies with me.” Morbid, but effective.

I’d love to hear what your excuses are.

* * *
Lilia Fabry is the author of Ordinance 93, a novel set in a world where having a baby without permission is against the law and follows the first four people to break it. She also writes about everything from reaction injection molding to low fat recipes while indulging her need for creative outlets including novels and screenplays. Find out more on her site or her Twitter feed .
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, August 21, 2014


The Importance of Comps

The first time I heard the expression “comps” at a writer’s conference, I had no idea how important that word was. Or even what “comps” meant.

That’s the way it is, when you hear a new term. Your brain doesn’t have time to stop and figure it out, especially when you’re listening intently to a speaker. But eventually, your brain skids to a halt and goes, “Wait. What?” And if you’re lucky, there’s a knowledgeable person sitting next to you and you lean over, and ever so politely, whisper, “What’s a comp?”

Think of me as that person sitting next to you at the writer’s conference. Because now, I’ve got this.

Comps, General

So when you hear an agent or an editor discuss comps, they are referring to comparable titles, books or stories that are similar in some way to the book you’ve written.

Sometimes, it’s just an easy and quick way to get everyone on the same page.

Let’s say, for example, that a speaker tells you that she’s just come across the most amazing Romeo and Juliet manuscript. In a succinct manner, she’s relayed a couple key points about a manuscript you’ve never read:

a. It’s a romance (with at least two protagonists, the lovers, and at least one antagonist)
b. It involves some sort of forbidden love (the conflict)

It’s often very helpful to use well-known stories, fairy tales, novels or plays as comps, particularly if you’re pitching a novel and word count is limited. Saying that your manuscript is a Cinderella story gets to the heart of your pitch in a snap. And then you have all those additional words to explain the twist that makes your well-known story unique!

But sometimes, using a well-known story as a comp is not such a good idea.

Comps, Specific

Many agents like to see comps in a query. But there’s a good way to use a comp and a not-so-good way to use a comp. It’s really swell to know the difference.

Let’s say that you have written a middle grade book about a child who is on a journey to fulfill his or her destiny. You might think it’s a good idea to say that your book is the next Harry Potter! But what you have done, instead, is projected an image of a writer who’s over-confident and amateurish because there is no way that your book can compare to J.K. Rowling’s tour de force.

But you can use comp titles to let an agent know where your book fits in the market, thus giving a forecast of how your book might perform with the same target audience. Look for similar books, in subject, reading level, and word count, but stay away from comparing your book to best sellers. And do explain how your book fills a need in the market that the comps do not meet.

Do your homework well and the agent can pass on your comps to an editor, who can use those comps as a selling tool when your manuscript arrives at an acquisitions meeting.

And that’s the really important part of knowing comps!

~Cathy C. Hall

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