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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

 

Meet Kristen Olsen, Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Kristen Olsen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and cat. After practicing law for 17 years, she’s now on a creative sabbatical. Kristen studied creative writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Madeline Island School of the Arts and through writers.com. Her flash fiction has been published on the website fiftiness.com (prize winner) and in the online literary journals Panoply and Exposition Review. Kristen loves writing flash fiction and short stories and is working on revisions to her second novel. Besides writing, she enjoys going to the YWCA and volunteering at a performing arts center for actors with disabilities. Follow Kristen on Twitter @kolsenjd.

Check out Kristen's thought-provoking story "Dandelion" here and then return to see how Kristen's explores real life through fiction.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson



WOW: You are one busy lady, having practiced law AND studied creative writing in a number of places. What has been the most beneficial part of participating in such programs?

Kristen: Legal writing is very different from writing fiction. For instance, in writing legal briefs, emotion is a big no-no, but readers of fiction want to feel. Writing classes helped me understand the craft of fiction, as well as story structure.

WOW: Having read a few of your flash fiction stories (loved "The Truth of the Evening" over at Fiftiness.com) I'm sensing a theme or epiphany you may have had after you had established a career in law. Could you share some of that wisdom with our readers?

Kristen: I had a lot of false starts early in life and went to law school in my thirties. Shortly after I began practicing law, I also started creative writing. I think I needed to establish a strong structure in my life (both as a career and my internal sense of self) before it felt safe enough to start asking the bigger questions. I was on a writing retreat on Madeline Island in Lake Superior when it became clear to me that my outer life no longer matched who I was inside. It took three years after that (which weren't comfortable) to make an internal and external transition to letting my law job (and part of my identity) go. I don't believe there are any shortcuts. The wisdom is to listen to your insides, and take the name you need, but follow those big dreams.

WOW: That is such sage advice! We are so glad you are continuing to follow those big dreams and encourage others to do so as well. What do you think is the most important thing to focus on when writing flash fiction?

Kristen: Flash fiction is a little like poetry in that you need to use image and language to reveal a character and emotion in very few words. I try to focus on one emotion that I want to communicate and find one primary image throughout the story to help evoke it.

WOW: That's a great way of looking at writing flash fiction. Could you share a little bit of what the novel you're currently revising is about?

Kristen:  I'm turning the flash fiction story you mentioned above into a full-length novel. It's about a burned out lawyer in Chicago who, while on a road trip to Arizona with her aunt, realizes the life she's been living no longer fits her, and she needs to find her way back to herself.

WOW: Good luck with that novel! Those characters instantly came alive in that story so I have a feeling you're on to something there. What have been some of your favorite moments volunteering at the performing arts center for actors with disabilities?

Kristen: As a volunteer, I participate in everything the actors do, such as improvisations, theater games, and singing. My favorite moments are when each actor shares who they are inside. My first day, an actor came up to me and said "don't worry about how good you are. Just try, that's what's important." She can never remember my name, but she could tell that day I was a little nervous and wanted to reassure me. Another time, one of the actors led the group in a warm-up tai chi exercise that was so beautiful, it blew me away. One of the center's slogans is "work with your quirk." That's a good message for everybody.

WOW: Thanks again for chatting with us today, Kristen, and we look forward to reading more of your work!


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Monday, October 15, 2018

 

Cheryl Carpinello launches her blog tour of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

...and giveaway!

His one desire...To be a knight.

His future queen...At times reckless.

Best friends…Bound by Friendship and Loyalty.

When their adventure turns deadly & dangerous, Guinevere & Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle.

Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle.

Renegades—foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess—steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger.

As the plan quickly unravels, Cedwyn chooses to turn his dream of becoming a knight into reality.

Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice?

Series: Tales and Legends for Reluctant Readers
Paperback: 150 pages
Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated (May 12, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781946229441
ISBN-13: 978-1946229441
ASIN: 194622944X
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend is available as an ebook or in print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest!

To win a copy of the book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on October 22nd at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl Carpinello is an author, a retired high school English teacher, and a Colorado native. Since retiring from teaching, she devotes her time to writing, traveling, and family. Although she may be away from teaching, she is still a teacher at heart and especially enjoys meeting with kids and talking with them about reading and writing. Cheryl hopes she can inspire young readers and those young-at-heart to read more with her Tales & Legends.

You can find her online at:

Website: http://www.cherylcarpinello.com

Writing Blog: http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.carpinello1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ccarpine1/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Cheryl-Carpinello/e/B002GGGZY6

Twitter Home Page: https://twitter.com/ccarpinello

Linkedin Page: www.linkedin.com/pub/cheryl-carpinello/25/671/a02

Google URL: https://plus.google.com/110918922081424857545/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ccarpine/

Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on book two of your series. Tell me about the process of writing Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend. How does writing this book compare to your experience writing the first?

Cheryl: Thank you, Nicole. Comparing my writing experience between the two stories took me back to 2006 when the idea for Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend first gelled and to 2007 when I actually wrote the story. It’s hard to imagine, but I actually wrote the entire story in my head. In 2006, I took a position as a teacher coach that afforded me the opportunity to collaborate with teachers on teaching strategies for a variety of classrooms and students. Consequently, I didn’t have papers to grade, tests to make, or editing to do. I made a few changes in 2007 when I actually put pen to paper. By the way, I always write out my complete stories before ever putting those on the computer.

Writing At the Dawn of Legend followed a similar pattern, but the story wasn’t as complete in my head as book 1. The first book flowed nicely from my head to paper. Book 2 presented problems throughout with the 3 timelines that ran parallel to each other. Many hours were spent consulting maps and figuring distances traveled for the 3 groups. Then about one-third into the story, one of the timelines dropped out, but toward the end another took its place. Up until the final draft, I was still tracking those timelines on chart paper in order to be sure that they synced. In that sense this was a tougher book to finish. The crowning glory of writing this book was that we had spent 3 weeks in 2014 driving through the UK, so I was familiar with most of the areas used in Book 2. That was an advantage I didn’t have for Book 1.

WOW: I'm so impressed with the time you too to research in book two! Not to mention that you had the chance to actually travel the very areas you were writing about is impressive. Why write about the Arthurian legend? What draws you to this?

Cheryl: I’m a romantic in the medieval sense. I love the adventures of knights and kings filled with mystery and fantasy. The idea of heroes striving to do their best for all is the basic idea behind the Chivalric Code. If you look at the stories, the movies, and the television shows out today, it’s easy to see that Arthurian Legend is hugely popular.

The legend is also very flexible. There are few hard and fast rules when adapting it in a new story line. That’s one reason why I chose it. There are so many stories about Guinevere, but none like mine. I’m able to put this queen in a down-to-earth situation that explains why she did what she did, essentially fall in love with another man. Interesting tidbit about this is that in the medieval romances of France there is no mention of Guinevere and Lancelot together.

Probably one of the biggest reasons I’m drawn to Arthurian Legend is that is contains that element of hope for tomorrow. Arthur is known as The Once and Future King: a king who will return when England (and the world) need him most. I like that. I really like that piece of the legend.

WOW: I love that aspect of the legend as well. So, I was reading an interview you did with Beach Bound Books and you describe how the Cedwyn character kept pestering you. Tell me about that experience and how it led you to write book 2.

Cheryl: My original intent in writing Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend was to introduce younger readers (ages 9-12) to this princess. I couldn’t believe that my high school students knew little about her and blamed Guinevere for the disgrace of Arthur and the fall of Camelot. This happened year after year, each time I would introduce the unit and ask what they knew of King Arthur. So essentially I accomplished that with On the Eve of Legend.

I moved on to write The King’s Ransom, another Arthurian tale and my Ancient Egyptian stories. Over the years, I’d be writing or reading or just sitting around, and I’d hear this voice. “Hey, what about me? You said I could be a knight, a real knight. Why not now?” Or words to that affect. I ignored it for years, nearly eight. Over time a story line started to form despite my resistance, and I finally gave in. I wrote At the Dawn of Legend; Cedwyn got his wish to be a knight. Now I have to write another because I can’t leave those two (Guinevere and Cedwyn) where they are. So what was one book will be a trilogy. Not at all what I had planned way back when.

WOW: Characters have a pretty incredible way of moving our hand at writing don't they? Since you write middle-grade fiction, I can't help but ask, what were some of your favorite books during your own middle-grade years?

Cheryl: I was horse crazy growing up. I read almost every book written about horses, fiction and non-fiction. Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books and Rutherford Montgomery’s Golden Stallion series were my favorites. I read and re-read those many times. Another was King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry about the history of the Godolphin Arabian, and her story Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague. I still have all of them in my library. Along the way I picked up the Timber Trail Riders series, Drinkers of the Wind, and many of Thomas Hinkle’s stories.

I don’t buy many horse books anymore, but I did just recently make a purchase from the British Museum. It is a lovely hard cover copy of The Horse, from Arabia to Royal Ascot. It is an in-depth history from the beginnings of the horse in the Ancient Near East and of the Godolphin Arabian, the Darley Arabian, and the Byerley Turk, the 3 ancestors of all Thoroughbred horses. The book is a story and a collection of images which were on display recently in the British Museum and at the International Museum of the Horse in Kentucky in 2010.

WOW: These are pretty amazing sounding books! So, what tips do you have for writers interested in writing for a younger reader?

Cheryl: The best tip: Get to know the age group you want to write for. I’m fortunate in that as a teacher I was able to observe first-hand the quirks and workings of young minds. Even though I taught high school, my interactions with our feeder elementary/middle schools helped me understand what the kids were looking for in literature.

Readers of any age want characters they can relate to and escape with in stories. In other words, your characters must be realistic with faults and in situations that kids can imagine themselves actually being there.

Know the difference between the ages of kids. We talk a lot about this when I do writing workshops with the 4th-8th grade classrooms. For example, if you are writing a story for ages 9-12, do not include kissing. Mention kissing to the age group and what you get back are huge groans. Some may be okay with this but not many. And if they are, they don’t want the other kids to know.

WOW: This is fantastic advice - knowing the age groups you are writing for is so essential! I have to say, I ADORE the animated Disney movie the Sword and the Stone, which I notice you love as well. For those interested in the Arthurian legends, what books do you suggest they read to learn more?

Cheryl: Wow! The list is enormous. Since you mention the Disney movie, let’s start with book it came from: The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Most don’t realize that Disney didn’t write the story. White’s book has four tales in it and The Sword in the Stone is the first one. The entire collection comprise the fabulous story of Arthur from a young boy named Wart through his battles to instill honor and loyalty in his people up through his death at the hands of his son Mordred. This was my textbook for my freshmen.

For younger readers there is T. A. Barron’s Arthurian series, Sir Thomas Malory’s Tales of King Arthur, and the Magic Tree House books. There are wonderful books for young adults and adults including The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Last Legion by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, and the fabulous work by Deepak Chopra The Return of Merlin.

There are some talented Indie authors out there today who have written their own stories in Arthurian Legend. Some of these are Tyler R. Tichelaar’s The Children of Arthur series, Nicole Evelina’s Guinevere’s Tales books, and Kim Headlee’s King Arthur’s Sister in Washington’s Court.

If you really want to delve into Arthurian Legend, try Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. And, of course, I hope you’ll also read my stories.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing all these resources! Lastly, what are you working on now? What is next for you?

Cheryl: I’m fleshing out Guinevere: The Legend. It takes place in Gaul, what France was called during and after the time of the Roman Empire. I’m also working on a time travel series (The Feathers of the Phoenix) through the Ancient Worlds with Rosa from Sons of the Sphinx. And my three characters from The King’s Ransom are starting to chatter about another adventure.

WOW: That all sounds so amazing! I can't wait to see what you have coming next. Thank you so much for chatting with us today and best of luck on your book! 

--- Blog Tour Dates

October 15th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Be sure to stop by the launch day post for Cheryl Carpinello's blog tour for her book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend where we interview the author and you have the chance to win a copy of the book.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

October 16th @ Write Like Crazy
You'll go nuts today over at Mary Jo Campbell's blog where author Cheryl Carpinello talks about finding stories within stories as you write. You can also win a copy of the book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
https://www.writelikecrazy.com/

October 19th @ Lori's Reading Corner
Visit Lori's blog where you can read Cheryl Carpinello's post about where her search for the Legend of King Arthur has taken her.
http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

October 19th @ Jill Sheets Blog
Visit Jill's blog today where Cheryl Carpinello talks about the continuing popularity of the King Arthur Legend.
https://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

October 19th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
You'll want to stock up your bookshelf once you visit by Veronica's blog, where she reviews Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello.
https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogspot.com/

October 20th @ A New Look on Books
Stop by Rae's blog and take a glance at author Cheryl Carpinello's blog post the importance of reading and understanding myths, legends, and mythology.
https://anewlookonbooks.com/

October 22nd @ A New Look on Books
Come by Rae's blog and get a new look on Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
https://anewlookonbooks.com/

October 23rd @ A Day in the Life of a Mom
Stop by Ashley's blog where she shares Cheryl's guest post about do boys respond to reading and writing differently than girls? And what should parents do about that?
https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

October 25th @ A Day in the Life of a Mom
Check out Ashley's blog again where she shares her opinion on Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

October 25th @ Fiction Thoughts
Stop by Emilie's blog where she shares her opinion about the book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
https://www.fictionthoughts.com/

October 28th @ Leonard Tillerman's Blog
Stop by Leonard's blog where he shares his thoughts on Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
http://leonardtillerman.com/

October 29th @ A Storybook World
Journey to today's blog post where Deirdra shares Cheryl Carpinello's blog post about how the author's years as an educator led her to writing Tales & Legends, (or why the author writes Tales & Legends for Reluctant Reader).
http://www.astorybookworld.com/

November 1st @ Look to the Western Sky
Make sure you look to Margo's blog today where she interviews the author Cheryl Carpinello, author of the Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
http://margoldill.com/

November 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Visit Anthony's blog where he shares his thoughts about Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend and read an interview with the author.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

November 3rd @ The World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole's blog where she shares her thoughts on Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

November 4th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Stop by Anthony's blog today where you can read author Cheryl Carpinello's blog post about whether it is really necessary for kids today to read the classics such as stories and plays from Ancient Greece, Rome and Shakespeare.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

November 5th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab a cup of your favorite brew, and join us at Lacey's blog where Cheryl Carpinello talks about the definition of reading and what medium qualifies as actual reading.
https://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com/

November 7th @ Choices
Visit Madeline Sharples' blog where she shares Cheryl Carpinello's blog post about building characters that young readers bond with and how the author uses a combination of traits from my students over the years.
http://madelinesharples.com/

November 8th @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Stop by Fiona's blog where she interviews a character from Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

November 9th @ For the Hook of a Book
Make sure you stop by the book blog For the Hook of a Book and catch their review of Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend. 
https://hookofabook.wordpress.com/

November 10th @ Chatty Patty's Place
Stop by Patty's blog where she spotlight's Cheryl Carpinello's book and also does a giveaway of the book for one lucky reader.
http://www.chattypattysplace.com/

November 11th @ Bri's Book Nook
Stop by Briennai's blog where she shares her thoughts about Cheryl Carpinello's book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend. 
https://brisbooknook.wordpress.com/

November 18th @ David Chuka Blog
Stop by David's blog where he interviews author Cheryl Carpinello about her and her book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend.
http://davidchuka.com/blog-2/

Keep up with the latest blog stops by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

*****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

To win a copy of the book Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on October 22nd at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, October 14, 2018

 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself when Choosing What to Write


A call had gone out for queries for Writer’s Market. At one time, writing how-tos and interviews for other writers were my bread-and-butter. I wrote for Children’s Writer newsletter and their annuals, Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, and Writer’s Market. But the deadline is tomorrow and I hadn’t had time to rough one query let alone the three or four pieces I normally pitch. Me being me, I whined about this to my husband.

“Have you talked to the editor?”

No.

“Is he expecting a pitch?”

No.

“You had a deadline Friday. You have a deadline Wednesday. You can let this slide.”

What? Wait? I can do that? Sometimes I need the gentle reminder. We writers have only so many hours in the day. We only have so much energy to give over to our writing. Both of these things mean that we have to pick and choose. Here are five questions to ask yourself as you try to decide which opportunities to pursue.

1. Do you have a deadline it will interfere with? I could have written the query but a requested rewrite was due Friday. A first chapter and outline on another book are due Wednesday. I might have been able to squeeze in a query but it would have been taking time and energy from these projects.

2. What are my short term goals? The vast majority of my writing income comes from a single packager. The good news is that I’m making enough from this one company. The bad news is that all of my eggs are in one publishing basket. I want to break into some new markets.

3. What are my long term goals? I love the nonfiction books that I write for educational publishers. But they are scattered between various series. I’d like to write my own nonfiction series. I’d also like to write trade nonfiction. Writer’s Market isn’t going to move that goal forward.

4. Do you have a ready-made idea? Sometimes I’ll pursue a project if, when I see the call, I have the perfect idea already in mind. If I had an idea that was ready made for Writer’s Market that would be one thing, but I don’t.

5. Why do you want to pursue this? Dream job. Dream publisher. I’ve got a great idea. I need the work. I don’t know why but I feel driven. All of these would be viable answers. You can probably think of a few more. The problem was, I couldn’t have given any of these answers.

The answers to these questions can help you create priorities and identify steps to take. By letting a query slide, I’ll have a little more wiggle room on my second deadline. With that time, I can work up a nonfiction series proposal for another publisher. A new market. Something much more in line with my goals.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins November 12th, 2018.

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

 

Dialogue Isn't Everything (How to Keep Your Characters Busy)

Actors setting the scene in a local production of "Deathtrap."

They say everything happens for a reason. I’m starting to think I was meant to work for a theatre company so I could be exposed to a different type of writing. And while I haven’t attempted to write any plays yet, I’ve discovered ways I can take what I see in scripts and performed on the stage and translate them to my own creative pursuits.

When you watch a musical, it’s obvious that the characters are kept busy. Most of them are part of company or individual dance numbers, or ready to break out into song at any minute, complete with hand gestures. With straight plays, the characters can’t just stand (or sit) around talking because there’s not much for the audience to engage in visually. When our company produced the beloved play “Steel Magnolias” this past summer, I made an effort to watch what the characters who weren’t speaking were doing. While Shelby and Truvy were chatting it up in one corner of the “salon,” Clairee was rifling through a recipe box on a sofa. Annelle was across the “salon” shampooing and setting M’Lynn’s hair. Ouiser was swaggering around the stage, scowling at everyone. These were subtle actions, but they all blended to make one cohesive scene.

In our most recent production, the murder mystery “Deathtrap,” characters often strolled across the stage to pour themselves “brandy,” and the wife, Myra, fidgeted in the corner, working on a needlepoint, trying to ignore the fact that her husband the playwright was cooking up a murderous plot twist. The psychic in the production, Helga Ten Dorp, would not have provided the comic relief she did if she had not sauntered all across the stage touching the weapons that hung on the walls and pressing her palms to her forehead dramatically.

I started looking at the way my own characters were behaving in my creative writing. In my short story about a summer camp murder, I tried to build tension when introducing the children at the beginning of the story.

Nine-year-old Tammy Morgan bent over her notepad, pencil scratching across the lined paper, occasionally stopping to tug at the ends of her shiny blonde pigtails and chewing on the end of her eraser.

In “Amelia,” I worked on a description of a female cult leader hospitalized for dementia, trying to show the reader how much her appearance still meant to her.

Amelia stared for a long moment at the closed door, and then removed the glasses from her face. With gnarled fingers covered in sparkling rings she slowly picked up the ornate-handled mirror from the table that sat beside her, using two fingers to pull back the already-tightened skin around her eyes. She pursed her plumped lips in the mirror, and then set it back down.

I’m now looking at my work with a more critical eye. So the characters are sitting around and talking. What else can they be doing? How can they convey that they are nervous, worried, or angry without actually saying the words? How can these actions help carry the story along?

What are some ways you’ve used actions to help describe a character’s demeanor? Is it something you notice when you’re reading a book by a favorite author or is it done so seamlessly you don’t notice it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Renee Roberson is a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company as well as an award-winning writer. She enjoys writing stories for young adults, but has recently become more interested in writing suspense/thriller stories. She blames her addiction to true crime podcasts for that. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com

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Friday, October 12, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writer’s Space

by Elizabeth Joyce

I have been living a lazy, decrepit writer’s life. Just ask the spider who built a web condo on the bottom of my desk. This sad realization came upon me as I ventured downstairs and opened the curtains. The sunlight revealed a thick layer of dust on my once pristine writing spot in our furnished basement. Laundry baskets full of dirty socks surrounded the bookcase. The solid oak desk with its brass knobs became a holding place for expired magazine issues. Inside the drawers were cables, appliance warranties, and a floppy disc. This used to be where I spent countless hours creating plays, short stories, and personal essays on my desktop ‘95 and ‘04 models. Then the call of new technology enticed me into purchasing an iPad. Now I had the chance to write in a coffee house, a plane, or even on a beach.

Days of hurrying down to my space in the basement with a cup of tea in my hand were gone. I ignored my sacred corner like a forgotten childhood stuffed bunny. One day, upon seeing an old script of mine lying on a chair when using the printer, a pinch of nostalgia took hold. I wanted to write, but was still under the illusion of living a writer’s life with an iPad.

I spent the rest of the winter scribbling thoughts in a journal. Unfinished stories filled the pages. My imagination still worked; the motivation to complete a finished piece vanished.

These thoughts milled around as a spider scurried across the rug. Experienced writers stress the importance of carving out a space for creativity. Something as basic as a pen and paper or keyboard and monitor in the right spot can spark a new manuscript. My carelessness affected my approach to writing.

In one hour, drawers were emptied. Useless items ended up in the garbage. The next day I purchased a laptop, sat in my big leather chair behind the desk, inhaled the clean scent of lemon Pledge, and felt ready to write… again.

* * *
This is Elizabeth's third submission for Friday Speak Out. Besides being an Assistant Children's Librarian, she has written plays for her local theater company in Brewster and belongs to the Candlewood Writers. 
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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, October 11, 2018

 

Writing Through Pain and Coming Out The Other Side

I don't like to wait til the last minute to write my WOW! blog posts (Okay, who are we kidding here? I'm a last-minute blogger and a pantser novelist! #trueconfession), but I wanted to attend the Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman event in St. Louis last night before I wrote this one. They are on their Moxie Matters tour, and I just new that author, momma, speaker, humanitarian, and HGTV star Jen would have some fabulous words of wisdom to share with you all.



Somehow, I can be the messenger and convey her inspirational message of courage, faith, and love to us women writers this morning. And this message will carry us through this month that is no longer known as October, but OMG-is-there-another-Halloween-event-we-have-to-go-to month.

One more true confession before we move on...I have never read a Jen Hatmaker book (bows head in shame), and I didn't know that Nichole Nordeman was an extremely talented songwriter and singer who will bring you to tears. (If you are a mom, grandma, aunt, godmom, teacher, etc., watch the video at the end of this post with plenty of tissue.)  Of course, I've already requested Jen's books from my local library and am trying to decide which Nichole songs to download on to my "exercise" playlist on Amazon Music, but I digress. You want to know what I learned that you can apply to your life and your writing so let's go...

Both Jen and Nichole have been through some stuff; they have been through pain, and that was a big theme last night. I felt like they were both talking directly to me. You see, last night, I almost didn't go with my MOPS group (Moms of Preschoolers--I'm a mentor mom!) because my almost 8-year-old daughter is having a lot of trouble adjusting to the divorce that I've written about so freely on here. She was upset, and I was thinking to myself: You always do too much, Margo. Stay home and be with your daughter. Maybe that's what she needs. But she was fine after a while, and she wanted to see her grandparents who were babysitting, AND extremely important, they wanted to use my oven because theirs is currently broken! So, I went to the Jen and Nichole event with a few tears in the car along the way, wondering what to do to help my daughter.

The show started, and Jen and Nichole were funny! Holy cow, they had me crying for a different reason, talking about being moms and the things our lovely children do, such as Nichole telling the story of how her sweet daughter gave her a Christmas present, which was a book titled "10 Things I Love About My Mom." But then, Nichole wouldn't let her daughter get another leotard, and her daughter crossed out the 10 and put a 6 above it ("6 Things I Love...). So funny!

Jen had just taken her second child to college; and if you know her from her HGTV show or podcast, she has three more children still at home. But going from 5 kids to 3 at home made her feel like an empty nester. However, she stated last night, these people in her home, including her husband, still expected some dinner and care sometimes (tongue in cheek, I assure you). So I laughed and laughed, but then came the message I needed to hear.

Jen talked about pain. For those of us currently living in pain, there's another side. Pain is the warning sign that makes us jump into action. We do all kinds of things to try to avoid pain or ignore it. If you believe in God and prayer, sometimes you pray and expect the pain to be gone, and you should now be happy. Some of us self-medicate--Jen confessed trying to use Netflix and wine. But pain is actually a teacher. Whenever we experience great pain in our lives and we have worked through it, coming out the other side, we are usually stronger and wiser, and there's new life. There's a new us. There's new energy.

This made me think of why many of us start writing. Yes, we have something to say to the world. Let's be honest, we all dream of seeing our name on The New York Times Bestsellers list and accepting our Oscar for best screenplay, but that's not really why we started writing. We started writing because of pain (teenage angst poetry, middle school diaries, memoirs, first novels where we fictionalized ourselves). Even humor writers often write because of pain--they have the gift of taking that pain and seeing the funny side to make us laugh. Funny mommy writers out there? You know you're writing these hysterical blog posts and personal essays because if you weren't, you'd be crying at how hard it is to be a parent. Writing is cheaper than therapy (although therapy is good, too. Well, sometimes the harshness of the publishing world leads us to therapy, but I digress...again).

So..gosh..Jen and Nichole might have given me enough material and inspiration to write a PART TWO post on my next turn on The Muffin, but I encourage you to do three things:

1. Check out Jen and Nichole if you haven't before. You can start on their websites to see if you'd be interested in their work.
2. If you're currently in pain, there is the other side that you WILL reach. I've written on here before about how I stopped writing creatively for so long when going through my divorce. Today, guys, I'm at 65,000+ on my latest WIP, and I currently don't think it totally sucks. So keep writing! Keep using your creativity.
3. If you have a chance to go see an author live, once again, I encourage you--do it. Whether it's a friend of yours, someone at the local library, or a big name, go. It's like professional development for us writers.

All right, grab your Kleenex:





Margo L. Dill is a writer, speaker, editor, instructor, and mom, living in St. Louis. You can find out more about her writing on her website here, her editing business here, and the classes she teaches for WOW! here

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

 

Tearing Down Walls

Inspiration. For these posts, for me, it often comes on Sunday mornings.

On a Sunday morning in early September, I saw this story. It focused on a woman who insisted on displaying a Confederate flag in her front yard.

Her neighbors built tall wooden fences to block the view. She installed a taller flagpole. I won't tell you how it ended, but there was a twist in the woman's life that resulted in the climax.




The towering fences made me think of the walls we build around ourselves--as people and as writers. It made me reflect on my journey as a person and as a writer as I attempted to categorize the myriad of reasons why we construct barriers.

This is some of what I came up with:
  • The fear there's no talent. I recently read Lin Wilder's essay titled "Nostalgia."  Apparently she's been writing since she was in high school but it's only been recently that she's shared her work. I don't know why it's taken so long for Lin to declare herself a writer, but I was bowled over by her piece. I mean... the craftsmanship. Many writers I've met lack self-confidence. Do we have have talent or not? How do we know until we let down our guard and let others in?
  • The fear of being judged. You might be thinking, Whoa, Sioux! Isn't that the same as your first bullet? No, I mean sometimes we build walls because we're worried if we share personal stuff, we'll be judged as crazy. Easily riled up. Emotional. Depressed. From my perspective, we all have, uh... excrement in our lives. All of us either are messy ourselves or have messy families (or Dingdingding! We're the winner--we can check both boxes). It's just that some people are better at hiding it than others. I figure if somebody judges me without getting to know me, it's their loss. I'm an open book. I'm adopted, so I was rejected at birth. (Of course, the story's much more complicated than that, but that is how I felt at times.) I've made some stupid decisions when it comes to boys and men. (Haven't most women?) I have a brother who ruined my family with his addiction to OxyContin. (He's so estranged--and so strange--I don't even know where he lives or if he's still living.) I deal with depression. That's most of my mess. Judge me, or join me in a conversation about it as you get to know me. The choice is yours.
  • The fear we don't have a story to tell. I think everyone has a story to tell. I'm a firm believer that if we allow ourselves to get to our very essence, if we're brave enough to tell our story in an honest way, we'll end up with a compelling piece. I always tell my students that a great writer can write about ordinary things in an extraordinary way... and it ends up elevating/illuminating the subject. Case in point: one of my critique group partners has lived a fascinating life. Her childhood is a rich tapestry of events. She's lived in Alaska. She's been a single mother for part of her life. She found true love with a second marriage. More than once, we've tried to convince her to work on her memoir. Her response? "No way. Who would be interested in my life?" The truth? Just about everybody would be fascinated by her story. 
How about you? What kind of walls have you built around yourself... and how are you working to tear them down?



Sioux Roslawski is a teacher, a writer, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a writing accountability group member and a dog rescue volunteer. She's currently working on a historical novel for middle-grade readers... and it's slow-going right now. 
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