Saturday, November 01, 2014


On Your Mark…

The race to the NaNoWriMo finish
line is on! Photo credit | EKHumphrey
The race is on!

Today marks the start of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. I don’t know if you are like me, but I have signed up for NaNoWriMo each year for the past gazillion years. In fits and starts, I have tried to reach the finish line. This year is the first year I think I may actually complete my novel. Why? Well, besides the fact that I’ve finally added a couple buddies (and hopefully more!) to my account, it’s the first year I decided I wasn’t going to try to finish. I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either. But stick with me.

Each year, I sign up and I’ve set my expectations really high, which includes the idea that not only will I finish, but that I will win, be discovered, and…you probably can imagine the rest. Each year I’ve received the emails from the organizers for motivation or to check in. Many years I leave them unread. Some years I’ve read them and quickly deleted them, but with a sinking, guilty feeling.

What makes this year different? Three reasons:

  • This year I have created no unwieldy expectations for myself. This is probably the key to my deciding to jump in because setting expectations almost always creates a place for me to step in and fail. With no expectations going into NaNoWriMo 2014, I have nothing to lose and only something to gain. Expectations can create an incredibly high hurdle and this year I vowed to simply try, which generally brings me a more positive outcome. (I’m not setting the expectation, as I have in the past, that I will reach the daily writing goals or that I’ll make it the full thirty days. Effectively, I’m hoping to trick myself into crossing the finish line.)
  • Organic encouragement. Since my graduate school days, joining a writing group has been on my list of things to do. Instead, I signed up for NaNoWriMo each year and made excuses for not finishing. Now I have two capable and fun writing buddies—one who lives overseas and one who lives nearby—to encourage me and for me to encourage. (And it doesn’t hurt that my oldest child has discovered the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program. She’s gung-ho, so now we can be in this marathon together.)
  • Thirty days of writing: a beginning with an end. I search for writing retreats with the dream that I will finally have time to write. (See family obligations noted above.) It’s foolish to think my life’s schedule will change in the near future, so thirty days of writing in the midst of Thanksgiving and teaching editing and my daily job is a goal I can work toward. Keep my chaos going and I will conquer it! Even if I find time to write for only twenty minutes during the month, then that equals twenty minutes more than if I hadn’t decided to participate. And I need to start somewhere toward writing the novels that are in my head.

One of the best reason to do it this year? You. I’m kicking off the month of November writing on The Muffin, then I’ll be back in the middle of the month and then at the end of November. It seems like destiny!

Whether you are diving into NaNoWriMo or not, I hope you will check back on my progress. And if you are diving in, good luck!

Have you tried NaNoWriMo? Are you signed up for NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what keeps you going to the finish line?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer, editor, and serial NaNoWriMo unfinisher living in North Carolina. She just realized that she needs to write about three times this amount daily for the next thirty days…and has fainted from the thought.

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Friday, October 31, 2014


Friday Speak Out!: A Tale of Two Outlines

by Jessica Levine

Mention the word "outline" to a novelist and you're likely to get a grimace as a reaction. But outlines are necessary as road maps. Let me explain how I suggest using them in writing fiction.

1. An outline is a list of steps in your story.

The outline simply divides a story into segments that form a list. This is not the kind of outlining you were taught in high school, where Roman numeral I is followed by A and then 1) and 2) and so forth in order to create a logical argument. This is simply a condensed, step-by-step narrative of contents. The sequence may in fact run contrary to logic, go back and forth in time, change narrative point of you. But your outline will enable you to keep track of what you've done. Think of it as an annotated list of scenes in a screenplay.

2. Have two outlines: a "projected story outline" and a "working outline."

Usually I have two outlines in two different docs going at once.

The "projected story outline" is the outline you make before writing. It contains your first ideas about how the story will unfold and how it will be divided into sections and/or chapters. This document may start off as a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs. Then as your ideas accumulate, the outline will grow and you divide it into steps. These steps may correspond to chapters or sections of chapters.

Ideally every section of your novel, even if it consists of psychological rumination, creates forward impetus. Sometimes I have used titles in my projected outline to help me focus on how a section is moving the story along.

The "working outline" is the outline you make after writing. It contains a record of everything you have actually written. Every time you finish a section (which may be a chapter or a unit of action or thought), you record what you've done in this working outline.

Of course, the working outline may not following the path set by the projected one! You may find the story veering into an unexpected direction. So you will want periodically to update your projected outline to reflect the story you are actually producing.

In my working outline I usually record: chapter numbers, manuscript page numbers, main points of action and psychological development, and any unresolved issues I need to return to.

Right now I'm working on a novel that goes backwards and forwards in time. I'm using a different font color for the two narratives in my summary so that I have a visual aid that helps me.

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is keeping track of which elements of plot, characterization, and description you have already introduced. Your outlines will help you keep track of what Henry James called the "baggy monster" that is the form of the novel.

* * *
Jessica Levine’s first novel, THE GEOMETRY OF LOVE, was published in April by She Writes Press. Her stories, essays, poetry, and translations have appeared in many journals, including Green Hills Literary Lantern, North American Review, The Southern Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. She earned her Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Delicate Pursuit: Literary Discretion in Henry James and Edith Wharton (Routledge, 2002) and has translated several books from French and Italian into English. She was born in New York City and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her website is

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 30, 2014


Stand Up, Write and Live

I've been trying to get in the habit of sharing inspirational quotes (mostly related to creativity and writing) on my whiteboard. I don't post them as regularly as I'd like, but doing so at least once a week serves its purpose.

I found a great quote by Henry David Thoreau the other day and it got me thinking.

So many times, if I 'm having a rough day, I'll let the negative "have nots" take over. Things like:

  • I have not had the chance to travel internationally.
  • I have not made as much money writing as I should have at this point in my life.
  • I have not made an effort to climb any sort of corporate ladder.

When I first saw the quote by Thoreau, my mind immediately went straight to the things listed above. Then I made an effort to stop myself from wallowing and flipped those "have nots" around. I made a different mental list:

  • I became a writer on my own terms, even when so many people doubted me.
  • I am the mother of two brilliant, gorgeous children, who enrich my life every day.
  • I have a husband who loves me and supports me, regardless of how much money I do or don't make.
  • I've battled mental illness, and came out on the other side.
  • I've lived through poverty, but still managed to work my way through college and get a degree in four years.
  • I've traveled, and visited places I never had the chance to see when I was younger, such as Mexico and California.
  • I've survived toxic personal relationships, with my dignity still (mostly) intact.
  • I've read hundreds of books, and written two of my own.
  • I've loved, and most importantly, I have lived.

If I hadn't lived this life, I would never have had the chance to be writer. My life experiences, and my life experiences alone, give me an unmistakable voice. These experiences shape what I choose to write about, and when. They help me develop a unique twist on universal themes and what I hope are richly layered characters.

So if you think you haven't really lived and have nothing to write about, think again. Then sit down and start writing.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing. She is currently seeking blogs to host D.A. Russell's upcoming blog tour for Lifting the Curtain: The Disgrace We Call Urban High School. Contact her at

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Penner Publishing: An Advance-Paying Small Press Looking for Submissions

Today, we welcome Jessica Gadsden, publisher and founder of Penner Publishing, an independent traditional publishing house that PAYS ROYALTIES AND ADVANCES! Read the interview below to get inside information from Jessica, and then check out their website to see if you have a manuscript they are looking for. Here's the link:

WOW: Welcome, Jessica, we are excited to talk to you today about Penner Publishing. Let's just start out with some facts about your company. First, is this a traditional, royalty paying publisher?

Jessica: Yes, we’re a traditional publisher. We will edit, create beautiful genre specific cover art, and distribute our authors books. All books will be released in eBook and print.

WOW: Sounds great! Are you currently accepting submissions? And if so, what types of manuscripts are you looking for?

Jessica: We are open for submissions. What we’re looking for are books driven by strong heroines. Whether that’s romance, women’s fiction, or a genre bender doesn’t matter. These are the stories we’re looking for. We are accepting books from new authors, published authors and agents.

WOW: Strong heroines? I bet we have a lot of writers with those type of characters who read The Muffin! What are some tips for our readers who have something to submit to you? Can you give us a link for submission guidelines, too, please?

Jessica: Please include a polished query letter, a synopsis, and your full manuscript. We’d like to know what your book is about and whether it’s for us.

WOW: What makes Penner Publishing different than other small publishing houses?

Jessica: Penner Publishing is different because we’re an advance paying publisher. Many small presses have forgone advances, some in favor of higher royalties, but not all. We strongly believe a publisher needs to invest in an author and their story. If there’s little investment, there is sometimes little incentive for a publisher to market the book. I’ve met many authors who have written five or ten books for a publisher with little remuneration. We strongly believe that for the arts to be a strong and positive influence in our society, artists have to be paid.

WOW: We agree! Thank you for paying artists for their work! I also noticed on your website that you are interested in hiring some editors. What positions are open and how do qualified people apply? Are these work from home positions?

Jessica: We are nearly fully staffed. But we are still looking for a few editors. These are work-from-home independent contractor positions. The editors we’ve hired, and the editors we seek to work with, have substantial industry experience whether that’s with other publishing houses or with agents. We are looking for men and women who love books and reading, first and foremost, but also want to bring out the best in author’s stories and are eager to share those stories with readers.

WOW: Anything else you'd like to add?

Jessica: We are excited to join this new and changing world of publishing. We ask authors and readers to keep an eye out for announcements about our 2015 and 2016 lists.

WOW: We definitely will. Thank you so much for talking with us today! Muffin readers--if you have a question or comment for Jessica, now is the time to ask!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Runner Up Interview with Janet L. Cannon

Janet’s Bio:

Janet L. Cannon is a technology instructor for the public schools and also enjoys educating people of all ages in world music and a variety of obscure crafts. Editing newsletters, blogging, acquiring science fiction and fantasy manuscripts for Walrus Publishing, networking on social media, presenting, freelance editing, and working with her critique group all carve out time from writing, but those are all pieces of the success platform she’s building. She is active with both the state and local writers’ guilds. Her publishing credits include a technical manual, short stories, flash fiction, and Twitter fiction. With a BA and an MA in English, she hopes one day to use them to publish the next best-selling YA urban fantasy series. Her literary blog, features weekly articles on how the metaphors of speculative fiction revise our view of the world, interviews with authors, and reviews on a variety of books. You can contact her at and find her web page at

If you haven't done so already, check out Janet's award-winning story "Elevator Pitch" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Janet: At one of the writing conferences I attended, the hotel was also hosting a beauty pageant for young girls. Glitter and empty Pixy Stix wrappers littered every floor, and screaming three-year-olds raced down the hallways at two o'clock in the morning. I ended up missing half of Saturday's events because of a migraine due to lost sleep from said screaming children, including a presentation I was supposed to give and awards I was supposed to receive at the banquet that night. Needless to say, that was one of the most miserable conference experiences I've ever had. The second part of the story--being caught in the elevator with your ideal agent--is the pipe dream (or nightmare) of most writers. I figured pairing these two events would make for a fun story.

WOW: Glad to know that you got something positive—your award-winning story—out of a bad conference experience. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Janet: My favorite part is the creation of the story. When my characters are truly alive they do things I don't expect. I love it when they surprise me and the story takes on a life of its own. The most difficult part is revision. I don't dislike it, but I have high standards. When I send something off, I want it to be as close to perfect as it can be. I may spend too much time worrying about details, having editors or beta readers give me feedback, etc., but my stories represent me and I want my reputation to reflect me in a positive light. There are a couple of errors in this story that irk me, but no one is perfect. I can always revise for next time!

WOW: I love your up-beat attitude! Do you have any strange writing habits?

Janet: The ones I'm willing to share: *grin*

  • I have a bottle of scented moisturizer by the computer because I hate typing with dry hands.
  • I usually listen to instrumental music (electronica, electro trance, synth-ethnic, world drumming, or head-banging metallic) depending on the scene I'm writing (The reason this might be considered strange is that I'm a classically trained violinist/violist.)
  • Sometimes I use aromatherapy to trigger certain emotions or calm myself down after writing a particularly difficult scene.
  • I have to take off all my jewelry except my wedding ring: earrings, bracelets, and necklaces bother me to the point of frustration.

WOW: Thank you for that insight into your writing life. I love the behind-the-scenes details of writers’ lives. In a previous interview, you mentioned you were working on a “YA Urban Fantasy novel Shadow of Redemption, a story where the Big Bad Wolf and the Monster Under the Bed are good guys.” How’s that project going?

Janet: Right now, it's in the "simmer on low" stage. As much as I would love to hop right in and rip and revise it into shape and start querying it out, my work schedule won't permit me to do so. And as I said earlier, I don't like to send out shoddy work. I've read through my editor's comments, read through my critique group's comments, and I'm thinking about where to cut, where to expand, and plotting the demise of several sections that don't quite belong. It's going to be a painful process when I get to it, but just like making bread, sometimes you have to let the yeast do its work to make a better tasting loaf.

WOW: I like the analogy! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Janet: I'm reading/content editing a manuscript for a client who is going to self-publish in the fall. He's done a great job of self-editing and he's already sent it through a line editor, so all I'm doing is giving him a few last-minute suggestions. I'll be helping him promote the book when it comes out. As for fun reading, I'm finishing off Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch (chosen by my ladies' lit circle) which is beautifully crafted but I can't say it's the best book I've ever read. I appreciate the craft but the story doesn't intrigue me. Next up is either Heather Brewer's Eighth Grade Bites or Angie Fox's Accidental Demon Slayer because I saw them speak at an event and they were both marvelous!

WOW: Thanks for the recommendation! Anything else you’d like to add?

Janet: While I'm waiting for time to work on my own manuscript, I'm excited to be working with Lisa Miller and Walrus Publishing in St. Louis, MO, to be putting together an anthology of science fiction short stories named Building Red: The Colonization of Mars. My teaching schedule and other factors have slowed down my reading progress on submissions, but so far we have some really strong pieces and I'm looking forward to reading more. We look to publish in the spring of 2015. Seeing the selection process from the editor's side has educated me on what to do and what NOT to do for my own pieces. It's amazing how a little perspective will change your attitude about "those people." I think I'll be a bit more forgiving of form letters from now on. ;-)

WOW: Thanks so much for your responses, Janet! Happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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Monday, October 27, 2014


Mid Tour Interview with Kathleen Pooler

Kathleen Pooler chose WOW! Women on Writing to help promote her memoir. She's taken a few moments to chat about the tour and her fabulous book Ever Faithful To His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse.

WOW!: Kathleen, I've known you for a long time and I'm flattered you chose WOW!, but can you give readers some insight as to what helped make this choice a good fit for you and Ever Faithful To His Lead?

Kathleen: Writing can be a very lonely endeavor and marketing, a daunting task. Since most of us are not celebrities, we all need a little help from our friends, especially when it comes to getting the word out about our work. I feel strongly that we need to support one another and have been participating in Wow Blog Tours for other writers for the past several years. I trust the professionalism and support of the Wow staff so when it came time to market my memoir, it was an easy decision. As an aside, I had conducted my own virtual blog tour right after my memoir was published and gained a new appreciation for all the work involved it pulling off a successful tour. I wanted to extend my reach beyond my blog and I wanted professional assistance in the organization and delivery of the tour.

WOW!: Glad to help extend your reach and you certainly had a lot of interest in your tour. Your connections helped make my job easier. What tips do you give upcoming touring authors?

1. Take ownership in your own tour: This is your chance to meet new readers and you want to give them a reason to host your tour. Generate a list of interesting topics to address related to your book and your work.

2. Prepare for your tour: I started planning about six months before the actual tour date. The Wow staff provides excellent support throughout the entire process so you have a partner to help get you started and keep you on track.

3. Expect to work hard: You will get out of the tour what you put into it. That sounds obvious, but I found being aware of the level of commitment required ahead of time helped me stay the course.

4. Have a plan for announcing and sharing on social media (without sounding spammy). Remember, this is a media blitz and you want to keep the momentum going without boring or annoying your audience. My best advice in relation to this is to try to be creative in how you share and present each stop on the tour.

5. Watch your manners; If someone is gracious enough to host your tour, be sure to recognize and thank them. Show up at each stop and respond to comments. This is a party in honor of your book and you need to show up and do your part to keep the conversation going.

WOW!: Those are fabulous tips and now I see why your tour has been so smooth. Thank you especially for the pre-work and ownership! Which stop has been your favorite or which are you most looking forward to and why?

Kathleen: That’s a tough question because I enjoyed all my stops from longtime members of my memoir community and from new friends who represent new and different audiences. Overall, I think the best part of the tour has been connecting with new friends from both arenas. These are people I never would have met had I not participated in the tour. And isn’t that what matters the most—making meaningful connections one person at a time. At this point I have no idea what direct impact the tour has had on book sales. It is probably too soon to tell. But I can tell you, from my point of view, it has been a success in increasing exposure to new audiences and in keeping the conversation going about my memoir.

WOW!: Thank you again for choosing WOW! This has been a pleasure from the word Go!

Ever Faithful To His Lead : My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse is a memoir, a true life tears to triumph story of self-defeating detours and dreams lost and found.

A young woman who loses sight of the faith she has been brought up with attempts to find her way in the world, rejecting her stable roots in lieu of finding adventure and romance. Despite periods of spiritual renewal in which she receives a prophecy, she slides back, taking several self-defeating detours that take her through a series of heartbreaking events.

When Kathy's second husband, Dan's verbal abuse escalates, Kathy finally realizes she must move on before she and her children become a statistic.

How does a young woman who came from a stable, loving family make so many wise choices when it came to career, but so many wrong choices when it came to love, so that she ended up sacrificing career and having to flee in broad daylight with her children from an abusive marriage? What is getting in her way and why does she keep taking so many self-defeating detours?

The story opens up the day Kathy feels physically threatened for the first time in her three-year marriage to her second husband. This sends her on a journey to make sense of her life and discern what part she has played in the vulnerable circumstance she finds herself in.

She must make a decision--face her self-defeating patterns that have led to this situation and move on or repeat her mistakes. Her life and the lives of her two children are dependent upon the choices she makes and the chances she takes from this point forward.

Paperback: 242Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Open Books Press (July 22, 2014)

Twitter hashtag: #EFaithPooler

About the Author: Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose
memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28.2014 and work-in-progress sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog:

Photo Courtesy of Oh! Photography
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. Crystal and her husband, Mark, are expecting another daughter early next year. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: and keep up with her WOW! tours and blog posts at:

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Saturday, October 25, 2014


Character Talking

While paging through a writing book I have (Writing from Within: the Next Generation by Bernard Selling) I came across an interesting exercise – write in your childhood voice. Mr. Selling’s book is about writing personal histories and he finds that by “reliving” their childhoods his writers come across more interesting stories than when they are just an adult looking back.

But I quickly found that this exercise translates well to fiction writers as well. Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to talk to my dog Daisy when I’m stuck while writing. She’s my walking, barking thesaurus; knows everything about my characters that drives me crazy and constantly has to answer questions like “Does that come off as funny or just weird?” 

I’ve started combining my tendency to talk aloud with Mr. Selling's advice to write from your childhood voice. When I run into a dead end (or a road with just too many possibilities) I try talking in my character's voice. No, I don’t do actual imitations but I do try to think the way my characters would and say the things they would say. You’d be surprised once you get started how quickly you “get into character”. It’s a way to work through what happens next not as a writer, but as the actual character.

I have a few tips:

  • Do this when you’re alone. You feel less self-conscious if you’re not around family and friends and you’re less likely to find yourself explaining to concerned baristas that you are not hearing voices, you’re just a writer.
  • Don’t go into it with a firm purpose like, I need to find out why X would do Y. Start with a few things you know and let it snowball from there, saying whatever pops into your head. It’s like free writing aloud.
  • Record yourself. If you’re busy listening to what you’re saying and searching for the perfect solution to your writing problem, you can’t really let go and become the character. And when you do play that tape back you’ll often be surprised with what you said. Sometimes it’s just one word. I tried this when one of my characters died and I thought another character was angry. But as that character, I mentioned being afraid. It gave me a whole new direction to consider. Was my character afraid? And of what?
Good luck with your character talking!

Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author. Contact her at  Her blog Words by Webb is at She also blogs for her local newspaper about books at Building Bookshelves. In her free time (!) she works on her historical novel Cookie Ladies.

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