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Sunday, June 24, 2018

 

Sharon Gerger, A Creative Essay Winner Interview with a Very Funny Lady

This is an interview and a winning nonfiction creative essay you won't want to miss. Sharon Gerger is hysterical. Even her bio is funny. So, you definitely want to check out her essay, "Stuck" here, and then you'll want to read on to get some great tips while chuckling and smiling along the way.

Sharon is an award-winning writer with work published in New Yorker, Glimmer Train, Harpe...okay, that’s all balderdash. She writes a lot and sometimes people publish her work and that fills her with bliss. If they happen to pay her well, good-gosh-galoshes, she gets sorta delirious.

You can find more of Sharon at sharongerger.blogspot.ca and on Twitter @sharongerger1.

WOW: Sharon, congratulations on placing as runner-up with your essay, "Stuck." It's about being stuck in an elevator with a co-worker. But really, it's about so much more. Tell us about the themes you were exploring with your essay.

Sharon: Thank you, very much. My knee-jerk reaction to your question is to holler, "Hold up there, lady, I'm not Ernest Hemmingway exploring the human condition, I'm just writing funny stories." I realize though, that is exactly what I'm doing.

My story is about two very different reactions to a situation everyone fears. Lots of people will identify with either Calm-Carol or loony me. Being stuck in an elevator removes our control, some folks, like Carol, can just sit back and let what will be, be. I'd called for help, so she knew it would all work out, and she'd eventually get out and get home. I knew they'd someday, find our rat-chewed bones in a pile in the corner of the elevator if I didn't stay on top of the rescue efforts and keep everyone in motion.

WOW: I promise I wasn't expecting you to answer like Ernest Hemmingway, but your answer was fantastic! :) Now on to your story--it has some funny parts! Any tips for putting humor in an essay? It is not easy to do well. (or humor in anything really--even your bio is funny!)

Sharon: You cannot worry about whether or not everyone will think you are funny. Everyone won't; don't let that stop you. If you think it's funny, then add it and send it out to the world for feedback. If you make even one person laugh, what a wonderful human being you are!

Lots of people will "get it", but there will be folks who don't see what's so funny. Those people are humorless statues, and you need to get away from them before the pooping pigeons arrive!

I think the trick to humor is to go gently in longer pieces, a little humor here and there stands out. In a short piece, I think you can go all-out ridiculous.

WOW: Great advice! We love the name of your blog (also hilarious!) Sharon Gerger's Tree Farts. Where did you come up with the name for this blog and what in the world does it mean (winks);?

Sharon: Tree Farts - little stories equal little farts of paper. I know, I slay me, too. I'm married and I have two adult sons. So many boys, so much fart humor. It's been a big part of my life for a long time.

WOW: Boys and potty humor! Well, my 7-year-old daughter likes it, too. (smiles) What are a couple of your writing goals and projects for the rest of 2018?

Sharon: This year I decided to have at least twelve short stories or essays out for consideration, at all times. I submit to contests or magazines or anyone who will consider paying me to write.

I am also working on getting all of my existing humor writing, both essays (creative nonfiction) and short fiction assembled into a book format. Then I will wait to be discovered, or I'll use my newly purchased Writers Digest membership to search for and hound every agent I can find who deals with old ladies who think they are a hoot.

WOW: You are a hoot! I love your goal of having twelve things out at all times. What does it mean to you and your writing career when you win a contest or get a publication?

Sharon: I've been published several times, in magazines, newspapers on the internet and recently in an actual book and it never gets any less exciting. Publication, paid or not, makes me feel valued as a writer, like I can actually do this. And if I am fortunate enough to get paid, I can use the money I earn to pay for stuff. Inexpensive, dollar store stuff, but stuff I paid for with my writing. Pretty cool.

WOW: Totally--being published never gets old. Thanks for your time!

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

 

Transparency: How Much of Yourself Do You Put Out There?


When my son entered high school, the principal had a talk with the students and their parents. “Be careful what you put out there,” he said. “A photo of you drinking at a party can cost you a scholarship down the road. Anything you put on social media can come back to haunt you.”

I’ve been wondering lately just how many writers worry about this. We post about attending protests and knitting hats. We share and forward and tag - #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t put these things out there. If you look at what I write, it is pretty clear where I stand in terms of politics.

I write books about race and social justice. I also write about evolution and for a prayer blog. Those things are all out there and anyone can find them pretty easily. So I do post about politics and religion both, but I don’t post every time I write a letter to my congress person or sign a petition.

There are a lot of other things I don’t post about. My personal life is personal. I may drop a bit of info here and there but there’s a lot I don’t talk about online.

Other people are much less circumspect. This morning I was reading an interview with one of my favorite writers. She told the interviewer that she and her spouse have an open marriage at least in theory. Why only in theory? Because with the progeny in tow it is really hard to have an open marriage in practice.

Can I just say eww? That may be the thing you let your closest friends know. Maybe even your Mom. Heck, I don’t know that type of relationship you and Mom have. But really? I did not need to know that. In my opinion, a little mystery between writer and reader is perfectly acceptable. In this case, it would have been preferable.

Am I old fashioned? Quite possibly. I am a historian.

What you reveal in an interview is very different from what you post on Facebook. But there are similarities. Once the information is out there, it is out there for all to see. Is this the kind of thing that can hurt future sales? It may depend on what you write. But it is something to think about when a simple search can reveal what you had for breakfast as well as details about your would-be sex life.

--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 July 9th, 2018.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

 

The Beauty of a Blog

It’s always a good idea to have someone proofread your website before it goes live. Yes, we’re writers and all that jazz, but you’d be surprised what might slip past when a writer is focusing on all the bells and whistles.

So the other day, I was checking links and text, making sure a writer friend’s sparkly new website had easy navigation and sure enough, the calendar functionality was wonky. If you’re an author who wants to get school visits and/or speaking gigs, the calendar functionality matters. We met a few weeks later for lunch and talked about the website (and her new book!) and she said her webmaster had finally fixed the glitchy calendar.

And that’s when I said, “You need a blog.”

“No,” she said. “I don’t have anything to blog about… I don’t think I need a blog.”

“Would you like to promote your book launch?” I asked. “And then have lots of pictures of your book launch afterwards of you with your new book? Would you like to promote some of the fun activities tied into your book? Share about school visits? Awards you might receive?”

My friend’s salad paused midway to her lips. “Yeah,” she said. “That sounds awesome. But won’t all that be on the website? The webmaster will take care of it.”

Maybe, I told her. But maybe it’ll take a month every time you want something new posted on your website. Especially if it’s a basic static website.

So we had the conversation about the beauty of a blog.

Lots of my author friends have websites once they sell the book. They usually hire someone to do the website because time is money to a writer. Which is also why authors often balk about blogging. It’s just one more thing to add to their “To Do” list.

But authors often miss the advantage of adding a blog to a website: it can be the fluid, responsive, and immediate part of your web presence. And it’s a simple and easy platform to learn.

A blog on an author’s website doesn’t need to have posts on a regular schedule; in fact, it’s probably best to leave dates off the posts. It’s more about getting information about the book (or books!) out there then introducing readers to the author. But that doesn’t mean that an author’s blog can’t shine a spotlight on personality, too. Think of the blog as the news and events related to the book(s) with a dash of author, and update accordingly.

Ultimately, the blog saves all that time and trouble of tracking down the webmaster, and all the stressing that goes along with getting the updating job done. Because with a blog, you can do it yourself and take care of your own business.

And that, my author friends, is the real beauty of a blog.




Cathy C. Hall uses her blog platform as her website because that's what works best for her now. But writing paths can veer off into all kinds of wonky places, so who knows where she'll end up next? (Pssst. She'll let you know, of course.)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

 

Past, Present, Future

I wanted to pass along one of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve come across this year. It came from the book Bring Your Fiction to Life by Karen Wiesner – a book I had the pleasure of reviewing. Feel free to read the review here.

She offered a lot of great ideas, but one of them stood out to me, and it’s something I’m utilizing in my current manuscript. Wiesner asserts that your protagonist cannot simply exist in the present. You must also establish their past and their future, and this must be done in every single chapter.

It seems like such a simple idea – one that, really, no one would disagree with. But I don’t know that it’s a concept I really thought about until I read her book. I mean, it’s something I hoped I was doing. But that’s just the point. Hoping doesn’t make it happen. And when I started looking at what I’d done so far, I realized that I wasn’t achieving it with my “make things up as I go” approach.

Aware that I was, perhaps, not creating enough depth, I made a chart. (For all of you non-chart people, hear me out). In each chapter, I wrote down how I addressed my protagonist’s past, present, and future. It will come as no shock that I was inconsistent, at best.

I went back to my first fifty pages and added this dimension with new scenes and information. Sure, it took extra work. Yes, it took extra time. And no, I didn’t increase my word count. But as I completed my chart, I could see a well-rounded, multi-dimensional, relatable character emerging.

I urge you to consider if your characters have the depth they need. If you are getting feedback that your protagonist needs work, isn’t likeable, or seems superficial, creating a chart like this might be of use. We all have a past, a present, and a future, and utilizing this concept can make our protagonists even stronger.

In case you’re wondering, my chart looks like this:

[Click to enlarge.]



Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

 

Interview with Elizabeth Eidlitz: 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Elizabeth’s Bio:

Elizabeth Eidlitz is a retired independent school English teacher, a writing workshop facilitator, and newspaper columnist who recently became intrigued by the demands of flash fiction. She has coedited a textbook, published a few short stories and many feature articles. She is amazed at what writers have created with only 26 alphabet letters. In her own work she tries to define both factual and emotional truths. She loves E.B. White, animals, laughter, French onion soup with lots of melted cheese, and unvarnished people. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts.

If you haven’t done so already, check out Elizabeth’s award-winning story “Our Day” and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Winter Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Elizabeth: Confronting ghosts. Wondering if I really told my mother’s classmate that I was adopted—or simply wanted to—has always haunted me. Though never discussed, the unresolved moment, like much flash fiction, illuminates a landscape of conflicts.

WOW: I like that connection between unresolved moments and flash fiction. I’d never thought about it like that before. Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Elizabeth: It sharpened my understanding of a critical moment by exploring what led up to it and what followed.

WOW: In your bio it says that in your writing you try “to define both factual and emotional truths.” Can you say more about this? How do you accomplish that feat?

Elizabeth: Truth is a slippery fish. A friend’s adult daughter in therapy asked, “Mother, how old was I when you locked me out of the house in the snow?” The feeling of maternal rejection and coldness is her emotional, imagined truth. The factual truth is that since she grew up in southern California, it could not have happened. Another friend remembers her terror at age six when she was held over her aunt’s open casket at the funeral. The imagined emotional truth is factually false. Her aunt died when she was 23.

We misremember events, particularly those of our childhood, and act on our conviction of powerful emotional truths. We forget the words people use, but we remember the effect the words had us.

WOW: Great examples. They sound similar to what you previously said about wondering about the actual versus imagined exchange between you and your mother’s classmate. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Elizabeth: I was interested in the NYTimes review of Our Souls at Night, written by Ken Haruf under a death sentence. The premise is original and convincing and the back story is suspenseful as it develops.

Actually, I frequently reread Charlotte’s Web and essays by E. B. White, an inspiration, for his unique point of view, vivid descriptions, humor, and absolutely perfect last lines.

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Elizabeth: Real writing is REWRITING. Does anyone get it right the first time? There’s a huge difference between deboning a chicken and being a skilled thoracic surgeon or running down the street and winning the Boston marathon.

Like swimmers, writers have times when they can only splash in frustration and times, when stuck, they need to tread water until they find a new direction. And then there are nourishing times when they feel they’re swimming with the current. Because “Our Day” was one of these, it partially wrote itself.

WOW: Such vivid metaphors! Thank you for sharing that advice and for your other thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

 

Trant-Parency ... Goodbye Dear Friend

I don't want to be writing this post. I've even toyed with taking a break from writing entirely. A good friend of mine passed away this week and the same day he passed, I was asked to do a book blog tour for a memoir about loss. I don't feel strong enough to take on the tour and I certainly don't feel strong enough to tell you about the man and mentor who is no longer here. And yet, here I am. I'm putting one foot in front of the other because that's exactly what he did. And now, I want to tell you a little bit about an important man named Eric Trant.

If I had to chose one word to describe Eric, the word would be TRANSPARENT (which is where the title of this post comes from). I've had the pleasure of helping Eric promote his three novels which means we've had many laughs and interviews together. We were so kindred, we went on and became connected via social media. In our interview for Steps, Eric admitted the first story he ever submitted was to Playboy. Any question I asked, he answered. He answered the tough questions about family, time management, the death of his son, future writing plans, and even shared some sound advice about co-parenting through divorce. During his tour of Risen, he said he and his wife Amanda had come out stronger after weathering the storm that was his ex-wife. He was an open book. One of his favorite quotes was:

It's only impossible 
until someone does it. 

He shared that quote with me during our very first interview with his debut novel, Wink. Neither of
us could have imagined what the future would hold. His youngest child, Finn, was still a bump in Amanda's belly as was our little Breccan. We went on to add a D and E to our alphabet family. Whether it was our children's name choices, our love of writing, or our passion for reading and promoting authors, something brought us together on a regular basis. Eric recently reminded me not to toss knives in the sink. It's a silly thing, but he would tag his wife, Amanda, and myself on social media and give us little tidbits of information. Usually a few laughs and comments would be exchanged. The one thing that was clear in each and every communication, interview, etc...was Eric's love of life and his deep love and appreciation of his wife Amanda.

My heart breaks for Amanda right now and I can tell you we plan on continuing our friendship. It must seem impossible for her to go on - but she will - because it's only impossible until someone does it. She's got two special guys up in heaven who will be there cheering her on each step of the way. And while Eric and Dastan are cheering from their clouds, the rest of us can help if we are able or moved to do so, by contributing or sharing the GoFundMe created by Amanda and Eric's neighbors.

As for me - I'm going to go back and read those great interviews and allow Eric's advice to help me move forward. I'm going to take on that memoir. I'm going to keep helping authors, making friends, and promoting good books.

Thank you Eric for sharing so much. Thank you for being transparent. Thank you for your friendship and support. Thank you for introducing me to Amanda. See you on the other side dear friend!
~Crystal


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Sunday, June 17, 2018

 

Meet Essay Contest Runner Up, Marlena Bergeron

Marlena’s Bio:

I am the worker bee, I am the house jefa.
I keep the casa clean, I am the Marry Poppins Trifecta:
The activist mom, the fun nanny, the cockney kitchen wench all in one.
Everything feels urgent. It all has to get done.
Sometimes I pay for extra help. Sometimes I work alone.
I steal time for writing, art, and nature.
I make time to phone home.
So blessed: challenges and joys plus an untethered, unmedicated imagination are EXCITING.
But what to do with it all and where to share?
WOW! Thank you, Women On Writing!!

Find out more about Marlena by following her on Twitter @mrsmmwb

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q2 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Marlena: A friend told me about your contests.

WOW: Reading your essay, “Freezing Points,” I felt as if I was there with you. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Marlena: It kind of wrote itself. I was keeping notes throughout the ordeal, it was all so surreal.

WOW: As a busy mom, how do you find time to write? What works best for you?

Marlena: I steal time from other things I should be doing. When I find a routine that works, I'll let you know.

WOW: Stealing time works! Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Marlena: I have four years of notes of how I became an accidental environmental activist after moving to a county in Georgia with lots of trees. They are clear-cutting them as we speak. It's called, "Whispering Pines." Part fact, part phantom, part expose on racism and socioeconomics in Georgia's second largest city, and part love story. I love the wildlife in our area. We are on the Fall Line, where the ocean once met the foothills. I fell in love with the trees, so I don't mind playing a fool for them. Forests and farms are trending everywhere else. We have the real deal but are watching it get steamrolled into commercial development and suburban sprawl overnight. They didn't get the memo that trees matter more than parking lots, big box stores, and chain restaurants.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Marlena! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Marlena: Write on! The exercise of stringing more than 120 characters together in an interesting and entertaining way is worth it.

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For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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