Friday Speak Out!: The Gifts We Are Given
by Carie Juettner
Last weekend, my husband and I went camping with some friends at South Llano River State Park, near Junction, Texas. We hiked and fire-gazed and ate s'mores and herded children away from hot things and pointy things and things that might bite. We watched the sky fill up with stars and saw the Milky Way stretch itself across the dark. Then we watched it fade away again in the light of the three-quarter moon. Just before nine, moon glow, star light, and campfire flames all dimmed as a bright blue-green meteor lit up the sky on its descent through our atmosphere. At some point, I heard from my tent the mournful cry of my cell phone battery dying. It was music to my ears.
I didn't write anything during our campout, but the smoke and the stars and the moon and the meteor all followed me home. They slipped into the poems I wrote on Sunday afternoon and curled up in the picture book draft that flowed from my fingers on Monday.
I remember thinking, as I watched the meteor light up my campsite Saturday night, that it was a gift, a rare sighting that need not be taken for granted. But then again, wasn't the Milky Way a gift too? And the smell of wood smoke? And the cold air that snuck in between my layers of clothes? And the dead cell phone battery? And the moon? Wasn't the moon a gift too? Isn't it always?
There are so many times when I sit at my desk, trying to force the ideas to come, attempting to wrangle words, kicking and screaming, onto my page or screen. Why do I do this when the world is full of gifts just waiting for me to notice them? All I have to do is step outside for a few minutes. Or read a poem. Or open a photo album. Or drive down a street I've never been on before.
As writers, we have to make the most of the gifts we are given—a snippet of conversation, a dog rolling on his back in the grass, the taste of an unripe raspberry, the moon.
The next time you're slouched over your desk trying to hog tie some poor piece into submission, take a break. Stand up. Turn around. Open your eyes.
The world has a gift for you.
* * *
Carie Juettner is a poet and short story author living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in over a dozen publications, including
The Texas Poetry Calendar, di-verse-city, Dark Moon Digest, and
WritersWeekly. Carie splits her writing time between her home office and her favorite Austin coffee shops. She has one husband and five pets, and she never leaves the house without at least a little bit of cat hair on her clothes for good luck. Her favorite color is purple. Follow Carie's blog at www.cariejuettner.com.
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!
Labels: Carie Juettner, Friday Speak Out, Inspiration, nature, taking a break, writer inspiration
My Progress? Wrapped in Gratitude
Earlier this month
, I promised to update everyone on my
progress with NaNoWriMo. Here’s the latest: I've made slim progress in my numbers and I’m not
going to win NaNoWriMo. (Now what am I going to write for the rest of this post…!)
Last week I had lunch with a former classmate who is an successful,
published author and we talked writing. She offered to be a reader for one of
my works, which I’ve been fiddling with for too long. Her offer touched me
because my manuscript is the biggest hurdle I see in front of my progress for other
Then I went on a walk with one of my NaNoWriMo buddies. I asked
about her progress—going great!—and she kindly dismissed my sheepish response
when she asked after mine. I easily received her encouragement—not for increasing
my word count, but for the act of writing.
Both encounters blew me away.
|Graphic credit | EKHumphrey|
Not because I didn’t expect if from such fabulous writers,
but because I realized how grateful I am that I have such supportive friends who
happen to be writers…and that they always seem to know the right, reassuring
words to say.
My focus on NaNoWriMo was to make progress in my writing. In
so many ways, I’ve made progress. It just hasn’t been in word count.
The past month I’ve spent time thinking and writing that I
wouldn’t have had a chance to if I hadn’t even thought about joining a writing
marathon. It made me push my boundaries to talk about my work with others,
including WOW! readers
Even without a hefty word count, November has given me
fabulous opportunities to reiterate the value of writing and being with other writers.
I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and NaNoWriMo ends in a
couple of days. This seems to be a perfect day to show gratitude for many things, especially our
writing lives, friends, WOW! and The Muffin
, and all of our works in progress. That’s what I’ll be
doing...while throwing in a side of writing!
What writerly things are
you grateful for?
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, gratitude, NaNoWriMo
5 Fab Literary Gifts
|One of my favorite Christmas gifts from last year.|
I’ve been trying to pretend the holidays aren’t practically upon us, with trying to meet several deadlines and wrap up my NaNoWriMo project (12,800 words to go), but I can’t deny it any longer. This week I had to jump online (and hit one store) to go ahead and order a few gifts on my kids’ lists that are sure to be sold out after Black Friday. I refuse to pay premium prices on things as I have in the past because I didn’t shop ahead of time. And earlier today I got a text from my husband that said, “It’s time for you to drop stronger hints about what you want for Christmas.”
That got me thinking about a gift he bought me last year that I absolutely adored--and still love to use--a coffee mug he ordered from CafePress. If you and the other writers in your life are anything like me, you’ll appreciate thoughtful, creative, or even practical gifts such as that mug just as much as a gift card to your favorite store or a cappuccino maker. And as a bonus, these could double as a great gifts for teachers and book lovers!
Here are a few ideas for you. And yes, I may or may not have scrolled through Pinterest to get some of these ideas. Feel free to print this out and hand over to your loved ones if you agree!
1. Novel Teas Box.
We all know writers are so much more productive when they have a hot beverage to sip, and with Novel Teas, you can pretend you’re having tea with the likes of C.S. Lewis and Alice Hoffman. Each box contains 25 individually-wrapped English Breakfast teabags featuring literary quotes from all over the world. This site also has great tea-related gifts for teachers, girlfriends, gardeners and more!
2. Printable Library Card Pillows.
I don’t know about you, but I miss those library due date cards that used to be in the back of the books you checked out. Such history! Pay homage to them with these stylish and fun accent pillows.
3. TOMS Live Your Dream Women’s Classics.
In the past, the popular shoe manufacturer has put out some cute slip-ons that featured dictionary quotes. This year, they have a neutral shoe that encourages the wearer to “live your dreams” and “believe.” For the writer who also worships shoes, it’s a win!
4. Out of Print Tote Bags.
These tote bags are both inexpensive, fun and functional. Whether a writer prefers the classics, children’s literature, banned books or library memorabilia, she will love this great conversational piece.
5. Book Scarfs by Storiarts.
These cozy yet literary handmade scarves have received scores of rave reviews on their site. Choose from Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Les Miserables, Doran Grey, Romeo and Juliet, A Tale of Two Cities, and Alice in Wonderland.
What are some writing-related gifts you're hoping for this year?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and WOW! Blog Tour Manager who also blogs at Renee’s Pages. She is currently looking for bloggers to host children’s book author Fiona Ingram’s blog tour for The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, launching in mid-January.
Labels: gifts for writers, holiday shopping, Renee Roberson, teacher gifts, themed gifts
Marci Mangham, Runner Up, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
Please welcome back Marci Mangham, runner up in our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. This is Marci’s second win in our Flash Fiction Contests; her first time was in Spring 2007 with The Wedding Zinger
. Marci has a knack for little, ending story twists! Please enjoy her winning entry, Behind the Curtain
, and come for a chat with the author.
Marci is the worst writer on earth. Okay, maybe not. But creativity comes in spurts these days, so she is very happy to have written a little something new. Marci published a short story collection called Both Ends Burning
in 2007 and has 2 unfinished novels waiting for some attention. This is her second time placing in the WOW contest, so here’s hoping it will be a catalyst to get her writing “groove” back. She has also been featured in WOW’s Friday Speak Out
. Marci lives in Dallas, Texas with her German Shepherd, Louis, and daydreams of living in Colorado and writing the great American novel...or HBO’s next great series.
WOW: Welcome back, Marci! When did you first realize you enjoyed writing stories?
I was in the gifted and talented program when I was in 6th grade and one of our assignments was to write, illustrate and bind our own little book. The binding part wasn’t so great as I’m not particularly crafty, but I loved writing and drawing. I won 1st place for my story about a German shepherd who saved his family from an intruder.
WOW: First place; what a thrill for a young writer!
Marci, in Behind the Curtain you captured the tense relationship between the doctor and her patient perfectly! What was your inspiration for Mr. Watkins?
I was without insurance a couple of years ago and had to go to the ER of our local county hospital. While I was waiting I saw two deputies bring in a shacked prisoner. I could feel the tension as they walked him past us. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to meet that guy in a dark alley, even in shackles. Well, maybe if my dog were with me!
WOW: You’ve published a book of short stories and have two novels on your desk; how would you compare the experience of, or discipline needed, between short stories and novels?
I haven’t finished a novel since 1994, and even though I threw it away, I actually enjoyed the experience of writing and growing with the characters and story over a year’s time. But as I’ve gotten older, I have become more ADD and my attention span is roughly that of a 6-year old these days, so I really need to recapture the dedication and discipline to get back to my unfinished novels. I was cranking out short stories at a pretty fast pace 7-8 years ago and so I decided to put them all together and publish a little collection. I’m currently not so prolific, but I’d like to at least start writing them more frequently again.
WOW: Tell us about your writing process; do you tend to know the ending and work backward, allow the story to unfold with time, or…?
I’ve done both, actually. It really depends on what my idea and inspiration are. For this story, I pretty much knew right away how it would end. One that I submitted for the summer contest began with me consulting a writing prompt app that gave me a setting of a dry cleaner, and paper clips as object. Then I just started writing, and ended up being inspired by something that had just happened to a friend. I had no clue how that one was going to end up when I started writing.
WOW: We’d love to hear more about your novels—tell us a little about the one you are working on now.
Well “working on” might be a bit strong (back to the attention span thing), but one is about Santa Claus. It’s definitely not a children’s story, though. It begins with him sitting on a toilet unable to go, thinking about what he has in common with Jesus. He is in crisis and is very depressed about how he treated Rudolph, the never-ending snow and cold, and being stuck for eternity at an age where everything hurts and creaks.
WOW: Fantastic opening scene! Be sure to let us know when that one is finished!
Thank you, Marci, for visiting with us today. Maybe we’ll see you back here with a third win!
Will you win our next round?
Entries for the 2014 Fall Flash Fiction Contest
are now being accepted. We can only allow 300 submissions so don’t wait too long to send your in!
Labels: Contestant interview, Fiction Contest, Marci Mangham, Robyn Chausse, Runner up, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
Book Review: Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby, Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Passing Through Perfect will be released January 10th 2015 but is available for pre-order now: http://betteleecrosby.com/books/passing-perfect
Overview: Passing through Perfect
, Book 3 in the Award-Winning Wyattsville Series
It’s 1946. The war is over. Millions of American soldiers are coming home and Benjamin Church is one of them. After four years of being away he thought things in Alabama would have changed, but they haven’t. Grinder’s Corner is as it’s always been—a hardscrabble burp in the road. It’s not much, but it’s home.
When Benjamin attends a harvest festival in Twin Pines, he catches sight of Delia. Before their first dance ends, he knows for certain she’s the one. They fall madly in love; happily, impatiently, imprudently, in love. It doesn’t matter that her daddy is staunchly opposed to the thought of his daughter marrying a cotton farmer, never mind a poor one.
It’s true Benjamin has little to offer; he’s a sharecropper who will spend his whole life sweating and slaving to do little more than put food on the table. But that’s how things are in Alabama. Benjamin is better off than most; he has a wife, a boy he adores, and a house that doesn’t leak rain. Yes, Benjamin considers himself a lucky man until the fateful night that changes everything.
Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t start by saying I am a huge Bette Lee Crosby fan, so I went into Passing through Perfect
knowing I would absolutely love this book. However, Passing through Perfect
is unlike any of the other books Crosby has written. In Passing through Perfec
t Crosby writes in the voice of a young black man. This was definitely a stretch for Crosby, but I only know that because she said so herself.
If I didn’t know better, I would think Passing through Perfect
was indeed written by a young black man. The characters were rich and believable, the settings and scenery were perfect to depict the living conditions during the mid-1940’s and once I picked up Passing through Perfect
I couldn’t put it down. I was so drawn into the lives of Benjamin and Delia I finished the book the same evening I received it.
Passing through Perfect
brought out so many emotions for me as a reader. The racism experienced by the main characters made me tense up and I was angry about the ignorance and injustice of the time. The love between Benjamin and Delia was so strong from the moment he laid eyes on her that my own pulse quickened with excitement about the thought of true love at first sight. These emotional ups and downs were felt throughout the book. I especially love the title of Passing through Perfect
because I think we can all relate to a time in our lives that was so absolutely wonderful we wanted it to last forever.
This is definitely a book I would recommend to others; in fact I’ve already told a friend that she absolutely MUST read Passing through Perfect
. Whether you’ve read the other books in the Wyattsville Series or not, you’ll find yourself drawn in and enjoying every turn of the page with this fabulous book. Thank you to Bette Lee Crosby for sharing her storytelling time and talents.
USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby’s books are “Well-crafted storytelling populated by memorable characters caught up in equally memorable circumstances.” – Midwest Book Review
The Seattle Post Intelligencer says Crosby’s writing is, “A quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about important things in life and madcap adventures.”
Samantha from Reader’s Favorite raves, “Crosby writes the type of book you can’t stop thinking about long after you put it down.”
“Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”
It is the wit and wisdom of that Southern Mama Crosby brings to her works of fiction; the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away. Her work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. She has since gone on to win nineteen awards for her work; these include: TheRoyal Palm Literary Award, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal, Reader’s Favorite Award Gold Medal, and the Reviewer’s Choice Award.
Crosby’s published works to date are: Blueberry Hill (2014), Previously Loved Treasures (2014), Jubilee’s Journey (2013), What Matters Most (2013), The Twelfth Child (2012), Life in the Land of IS (2012), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2011), Spare Change (2011). A Cupid inspired romance, Wishing for Wonderful, is scheduled for release in November 2014 and Book Three of The Wyattsville Series, Passing through Perfect, will be be available in January 2015.
Keep up with Bette - find links to her social media by visiting her website: http://betteleecrosby.com/
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 200 Holsteins. The Otto family is expecting an addition with Delphine Elizabeth Otto due March 1st 2015!
You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
and keep up with her WOW! tours and blog posts at: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/
Labels: bette lee, Bette Lee Crosby, book review, crosby, passing through perfect, wyattsville series
Friday Speak Out!: Beware Scams Targeting Self-Published Authors
by Penny White (Pen)
A self-published author promises additional exposure for your book if you purchase and review her/his book. It sounds like a fair and equal exchange.
Until you purchase the book and discover the true reason behind the offer.
The book you’ve just purchased is, in a word, horrible. Just a hint of a plot at best, underdeveloped characters, poor writing, little to no dialogue...you get the picture. The only way the author can get positive reviews is by making such an offer.
And you are expected to write a favorable review in order to get that extra exposure for your own work.
You can make something up. But do you really want to sacrifice your integrity?
Hundreds of people fall for this gambit. People rave about how wonderful the book is in droves. This leaves any writer with integrity scratching her/his head wondering how in the world these people could even like the book.
Chances are, they honestly don’t. But in order to get that extra exposure, they compromise ethics with the hope of receiving free promotion. It’s easy. All that’s required is purchasing the book and writing a glowing–albeit not completely honest–review.
This hurts more than it helps. Especially when it comes to building a platform or a brand. Do you really want to be associated with a terribly-written book? A book that has absolutely no redeeming value? It’s a given those reviews were written for the express purpose of getting that additional exposure and not necessarily an honest assessment of the book.
By engaging in such scams you not only compromise your integrity, you weaken your own platform. Are you willing to risk it falling out from under you?
It isn’t easy for self-published writers to gain the exposure and following hoped for. It takes hard work, often working on promotion and marketing when you’d rather be writing. It takes skills most of us don’t have. We end up learning and honing those skills as we go. Most of the time we learn by trial and error.
Earning that experience with those skills is a bonus in and of itself. In the long run, we appreciate what we endured to become a successful self-published author.
Is it worth it to engage in these scams? Certainly not. Not only do you compromise your own integrity, but the person running these scams is the one who truly wins. The author in question takes advantage of other authors while her/his book rises in undeserving notoriety. S/he is the one making the money with each sale and promise.
It casts a shadow over the self-publishing industry, already questionable by society at large. It makes it even more difficult for self-published authors–with actual writing skills–to gain the exposure they deserve.
* * *
Pen has self-published 20 titles in print and ebook formats. Her latest endeavor,
Nero’s Fiddle, can be found here: http://bit.ly/1rsEQFX Follow her on Twitter @penspen
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!
Labels: book reviews, Friday Speak Out, Penny White, writing scam
Why Is It So Much Fun to Write the Antagonist?
Recently I was teaching an adult education class about characters in a novel, and I said, "Writing the bad guy is so much fun. At least I think it is. I hope I'm not the only one. I think this is normal." The students kindly gave a little laugh, and we went on to talk about famous antagonists and how to write your own bad guy to stand out in the crowd.
Come on, I'm not alone, right? Some of you out there also love to write your antagonist, don't you? Bad guys are fun to write because they can say and do things your protagonist never could, and these characters are usually what give your novel tension and page-turning action. From Darth Vader to the Wicked Witch of the West, from Cruella DeVille to Voldemort, readers have a love-hate relationship with each one. This is what you're also striving for in your novel. Here are a few things to consider:
Your antagonist needs a redeeming quality or at the very least, a reason readers can understand for their behavior.
This is the biggest detail about antagonists to spend time on when thinking about this character in your novel. Why is your bad guy bad? Here's an example. When I was writing my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place
, my antagonist, Mrs. Franklin, was mean just to be mean. She didn't have a redeeming quality or reason for her evil ways. Although she was fun to write and gave my 13-year-old heroine a lot of drama, the story wasn't as rich as it could be until I worked on Mrs. Franklin's character.
So, I gave her a reason for her meanness, and this reason was a bit of a redeeming quality, something that readers could possibly relate to. Mrs. Franklin was cruel because she loves her family above all else. Her family is the only important thing to her, and she's willing to treat others badly in order for her family to have comfort and safety during the Siege of Vicksburg (U. S. Civil War, 1863). She takes loyalty to her family to an extreme, which is also something many bad guys do. They have a normal desire (such as inheriting the shoes of your dead sister) to a crazy extreme (trying to kill or enslave a teenage girl to get the shoes).
Your antagonist has a past, favorites, and an appearance, too.
In my opinion, it's as important to spend time on a character study of your antagonist as it is on your hero. Writers will pen page upon page of their protagonist's likes and dislikes, family, appearance, and hobbies, and write two sentences about their bad guy--why he's bad and what he does that's evil. But your antagonist had a past too, and he or she also has a favorite color or food, does something in his or her spare time (even if it's making plans to destroy the world, it's still a hobby), and might even like to watch TV. Figure this out before you do too much writing, and even if their love for everything chocolate never makes it into your book, your antagonist will stand out on the page and be a real figure for readers.
Your antagonist may not be a person at all.
Another huge discussion we had in the novel writing class was whether or not an antagonist has to be another human or even paranormal (vampire, zombie) character in your novel. The answer is NO. In my young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses
, the antagonist is the curse. Well, actually, it's two curses that my main character tries to break. Readers could argue that the woman who put the curse on Julie's family is the antagonist, but she plays such a minor role and is not the driving force of tension in Julie's life. You could also argue that it's her boyfriend, Gus; but again, what is blocking Julie from her goal throughout the book? The curses.
How about The Perfect Storm
? Although this is based on a true story, the antagonist is the storm. Same for the movie Twister
. In Jaws
and Jurassic Park
, the antagonists are living things, but animals. Heck, your very own loveable flawed hero can even be your antagonist--Mr. Hyde, anyone?
So to sum up. . .have fun writing your bad guy or force of nature or hero with a split personality. Take time to develop this source of tension in your novel, and maybe one day, readers everywhere will be discussing your antagonist the way we have He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Margo L. Dill is a writing teacher and novelist for kids and teens. She teaches classes in the WOW! Women On Writing classroom about writing novels and writing for children. To check out her upcoming classes, please see http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html . To find out more about her books, including the current holiday sale, please see http://margodill.com/blog/books/ .
Photo above by The Western Sky, www.flickr.com
Labels: antagonist, creating characters, Margo L. Dill, novel writing, protagonist