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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

 

Words of Inspiration: What Inspires You?

I had a zero hour drama class in high school. We woke up before the sun several days and met together, often tired and stressed out high school students. So our teacher started each class with words of inspiration. She was also smart. Instead of creating more work for herself, she assigned each of us the task of presenting words of inspiration to our classmates about once a month. We could share a poem, a song, a small skit, a quote, a talk from the heart--we got creative (we were drama students after all), and it was a fun and inspiring way to start the day.

Some of you may begin the day now with your own form of "words of inspiration." Maybe you read a devotional or do morning pages. Some people read a particular blog or sit out on their deck with coffee and watch the birds (and other wildlife depending on where you live) in their own backyards. I've seen all these posts on Facebook and Twitter, and love to see what inspires other writers. I've kept it no secret that I've had a hard time for over a  year now with inspiration and fiction writing, and so inspiration is currently on my mind. I am being led a different direction with my writing and continue to be inspired by making plans for a new blog that could turn into more. Stay tuned, because if I ever turn these plans into reality, you all will be the first to know.

Anyway, let's talk a little about what inspires you!

Is it. . .

Nature?


Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon by Joe Kopp (See more at joekoppart.com)

Your family?
My daughter & friend at the Magic House in St. Louis

Other Works of Art?


Photo book by Sheree & Russell Nielsen;  Painting by Irina (Henri Edmond Cross-Antibes-Afternoon)

I would love to hear what inspires you. Currently, I have a bulletin board full of notes I write myself, in hopes that I follow my own advice, and I start that blog I'm beginning to feel inspired to write. Here's a glimpse:


So please share with us: What inspires you to write? Do you use "words of inspiration" in the morning to help with your creative process?

Margo L. Dill is a published children's author, writing teacher, and editor. She teaches the novel writing class for WOW! Women On Writing, which is another form of inspiration--teaching and learning. 


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 

Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Supie Dunbar!

After retiring Supie Dunbar surprised herself by becoming a writer. Her poetry and flash fiction are published in print (Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Blotterature Literary Magazine) and online (A Quiet Courage, The Voices Project). Supie lives in Chicago with her good dog Charlie.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2016 Flash Fiction competition. What inspired you to enter the contest?

Supie: My story, "Call Home", made it to the second round of judging in your Spring 2015 contest. That motivated me.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “A Shirt Tale?” I like the play on words with the title.

Supie: Usually an image or line of dialogue or a character’s name enters my head and lingers there for months until it becomes a story. With "A Shirt Tale," I had an image of a shirt running along the side of a country road. Months later, Lorraine appeared with her clothes-pins and cluster of bruises. This is my first story with an element of unreality in it. It had a fairy tale quality, hence the title. When Angela informed me I was in the top ten, she commented on the magical realism of the piece. I had to google that. Thanks, Angela, for enhancing my knowledge.

WOW: You mention that you surprised yourself by becoming a writer during your retirement. Since then, your flash fiction and poetry have been published in several places. Tell us about your writing journey so far, which seems like it would be a lot of fun.

Supie: I’ve always been creative but my focus was on visual art. Four years ago, I accompanied a friend to a one-day writing session. At the end of the day I had two stories generated from prompts. I continued writing. My friend didn’t. It can be fun—an acceptance letter will leave me giddy for days. But I have over 100 rejections. Surprisingly, some rejections are supportive and positive. Not many, but some. Recognizing a talent late in life can be bittersweet. Of course "Better late than never" is true. But there is a little bit of regret. If I had started earlier maybe I coulda been a contender.

WOW: You still are a contender, keep at it! Do you have any writing goals in mind for the rest of the year?

Supie: Well, I’d like to place in the top three in one of your contests.

WOW: That's a good goal to reach for. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Supie. Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Supie: Submit. Submit. Submit.

*****

Our summer flash fiction contest is currently OPEN!
For details and entry, visit our contest page.

*****

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Monday, July 25, 2016

 

Book Review: The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan

I was excited for the chance to review the middle grade novel, The Friendship Experiment, by Erin Teagan, as I have a daughter in this age group who is obsessed with science much like the main character. The book will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers in November 2016, so put this one on the wish list for the young readers in your life now!

Synopsis:
Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

Age Range: 10 - 12 years
Grade Level: 5 - 7
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0544636228
ISBN-13: 978-0544636224

Review:
Eleven-year-old Madeline Little is about to start middle school, still absorbing the loss of her beloved scientist grandfather, and generally feeling ill-at-ease about many things in her life, including the rare blood disorder that she shares with her older sister. She’s so obsessed with science and microbiology that she swabs random items she finds at school and then sees what kind of fungus grows from them in the petri dishes in her closet.

Readers soon learn that Maddie’s mind works a little differently than some middle schoolers—for example, in her lab notebook that she always has in her possession—she writes Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), that help her navigate through her world. Below is an example:

How to Fake Sleep to Get Out of a Conversation with your Mother About Your Social Life.
Step 1. Yawn and then go limp. Like complete and total limpness.
Step 2. Open your mouth and breathe like you have a nasal blockage.
Step 3. If you are on a couch, or a bed, or a chair, dangle an arm or leg off the side for extra effect.

In true middle school fashion, Maddie is separated from her best friend, Elizabeth, who is attending a private school instead. She is also jealous once she learns about all the homework, special projects, and science labs Elizabeth will get to be a part of in her new school. There is a new student at the public middle school, Riley, that is just as interested in science as Maddie, but Maddie refuses to consider a friendship with her.

When I received this book to review, I knew it would be right up my 13-year-old’s alley. She’s also fascinated by microbiology and finished the book within a day. She loved all the descriptions of the lab Maddie’s dad works in and the storyline about the blood disorder Von Willebrand disease, which causes public humiliation for both Maddie and her sister Brooke at the worst possible times.

At first I was frustrated with Maddie’s character, because of her extreme stubbornness and unwillingness to see other people’s point of view and her refusal to be friends with anyone but Elizabeth, a friendship which hits a major roadblock. But then I realized this is middle-grade literature at its finest—the characters can’t be perfect at the beginning of the book because they won’t have any room to grow.

In the end, Maddie learns a lot of important life lessons, along with strengthening the relationships among her own family members. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed The Friendship Experiment and has read it several times, and mentioned she might want to start swabbing items for her own fungus experiments. That should be interesting!

About the Author:
Erin Teagan is a former research scientist who now writes for readers full-time. The Friendship Experiment is her first novel. She lives with her family in Virginia. Visit her website at www.erinteagan.com.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also enjoys reading and writing fiction for middle grade and teen readers. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

 

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie - a book review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

I recently had the pleasure of reading Hidden by Catherine McKenzie and I enjoyed it so much I recommended it for our recent book club discussion. I must say a special word of thanks to author Catherine McKenzie who included book club discussion questions at the end of the book and upon hearing that we were discussing her work offered to Skype in to the discussion. We did not take her up on this gracious offer, but isn't that absolutely sweet?

Here's a quick summary of Hidden:
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is
struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

About Author Catherine McKenzie: A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine's novels, SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN, HIDDEN and SMOKE, are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. HIDDEN was also a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller for five weeks. SMOKE was named a Best Book of October by Goodreads, one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by Amazon, and was a #1 Amazon bestseller.

Her sixth novel, FRACTURED, will be published on October 4, 2016.

And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots.

Visit her online at www.catherinemckenzie.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/catherinemckenzieauthor, and on Twitter and Instagram at @cemckenzie1.

And now...onto the review!



I generally find it confusing when a book is told in multiple voices. However, McKenzie's writing style has a beautiful flow to it and Hidden was quite easy to follow even though it jumped from voice to voice. This was a quick read because of the underlying suspense as you tried to figure out exactly how the pieces of the puzzle were going to fit together. I enjoyed the surprise ending and even though I knew it was coming, I was still a bit shocked. Since reading Hidden, I have purchased copies of several other books by the same author and must say I am equally impressed with those. McKenzie is an author worth following. I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve in the future. Hidden is a nice summer read (or anytime for that matter) and you'll find yourself enjoying each of the characters.

During a recent book club discussion about Hidden, we were speculating about what would happen next for Claire and Tish. I think that is such a good sign that the characters were well written. Had we not felt connected to each character we likely wouldn't care about what happens next in their lives. The wee bit of irony, the lovely flow of the writing, and the depth of which McKenzie describes her characters all make Hidden a 5 star book in my opinion.

Special thanks to amazing friends Cathy and Alison for this evening's lovely book club discussion - I'm looking forward to chatting about Forgotten next month!


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.


You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at:http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/ Today is Crystal's birthday so be sure to leave a thought or some unicorn poop in the comments on this post - show her some love ya'all!!!!

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Friday, July 22, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Failure Doesn't Have to Be Forever: Overcoming Writing Disappointments

by Lindsay Detwiler

When my husband came home from work, I was crying in our pantry, convinced my writing career was over. He found me somewhere between the tomato soup and cheese crackers, sobbing like someone had died.

In many ways, someone had died—the writer within.

A few weeks before my less-than-admirable pantry-crying moment, I’d received the wildest news. My first novel was accepted by a small romance publishing company. My biggest dream was going to be achieved at the age of twenty-five. After dozens of rejections, I was on my way to being a published author.

I was just getting ready to shout it from the rooftops, to announce my big secret. I hadn’t told anyone I was writing a book, the fear of failure perhaps stifling my confidence. Now, though, it was time. I was breaking out my true persona, sharing my dream with the world.

Until the email that seemed to seal my fate. The publishing company who had finally signed my book had gone bankrupt. The pre-editing I’d done, the cover design forms were all for naught. My book was done before it had even started.
Once he decoded my snot-filled detailing of what was wrong, my husband wrapped me in his arms and said the words that, at the time, infuriated me.

“That’s okay. Just try again. Someone else will pick it up.”

Try again? Was he crazy? I’d just ridden what I’d thought was the most extreme emotional roller coaster the publishing world had to offer. Going from a first contract back to square one was draining.

The tears eventually dried, though, and the disappointment simmered down. I came back down to earth, as reaching for the stars seemed to be pointless. But then I did something crazy, something unexpected—I listened to my husband and tried again, sending my work off to another publisher.

I got another contract within a few weeks. Now, four books under contract and a publishing company I adore, I’m happy I didn’t let the tears or the feeling of failure stop me. Other than the negative side effect of constantly having to hear my husband say how right he was on that day in the pantry, my initial failure helped me in so many ways. It prepared me for this crazy-hard journey as a writer.

As writers, we know the publishing world is the most extreme roller coaster of emotion you can imagine. Since that failed contract, I’ve had many more tear-filled days. I’ve dealt with rejections and criticism, disappointments and let-downs. However, thanks to my husband, I learned a valuable lesson—failure doesn’t have to be forever.

So when it feels like your entire writing career is dying an agonizing death or when a sudden change throws you off-course, cry a little. Cry a lot. But then, pick yourself up off the pantry floor—or wherever you do your crying—and take my husband’s advice.

Try again.

You never know what is waiting just around the corner.

* * *
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author and high school English teacher. She has published three novels: Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. Her next book entitled Where Love Went is set for release in August with Hot Tree Publishing, and To Say Goodbye is set for release in September. She currently lives in her hometown with her husband Chad, their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay’s writing at www.lindsaydetwiler.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler, or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lindsaydetwiler.
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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, July 21, 2016

 

Choosing Your Path: Writer’s Groups, Self-Publishing and More

Last weekend, I spoke at a writers’ conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri sponsored by the All Write Now! chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. At lunch, we discussed flash fiction, science fiction novels, self-publishing and more.

Eventually, someone asked me why I don’t belong to the Missouri Writers Guild.

Early in my writing career, I sampled several chapters of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. I quickly discovered that the majority of their members were interested in self-publishing. That would have been okay if they were also working to perfect their craft or learn how to build a platform. But that wasn’t the feeling I got. Again and again, they asked about self-publishing -- how to do it quickly and affordably and how much money you could make. It didn’t seem to matter what they were writing or who the audience might be. Self-publishing, to their way of thinking, was the only way to go.

Most of them wrote for adults and I was already focused on writing for children. That meant that there wasn’t even an overlap in terms of audience. Besides, I was already a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Why pay two sets of dues when only one organization felt like a good fit?

I was a little nervous about sharing this because sitting next to me was Liz Schulte who gave the presentation “Taking Control through Self-Publishing.” Liz didn’t even bat an eye. Instead, she asked what I wrote. We discussed my ABDO books -- Ancient Maya, Trench Warfare, The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Black Lives Matter.

“Your books are a perfect match for an educational publisher, but if you self-published, you’d lose the school and library sales.” Liz may be the first person I’ve ever met who self-publishes but doesn’t see it as the one and only way to publish. She sees it as a good fit for some topics and a bad fit for others.

Throughout your writing career, you are going to have to make choices. These include:

  • Which writer’s organizations to join.
  • What to write.
  • Whether to traditionally or self-publish.
  • What rights to sell.

As you try to decide, remember that you are only choosing what is right for you right now. You might want to make different choices later on as your interests change or new markets open up.

Just because I only belonged to one organization early in my career doesn’t mean that that can’t change. Most of my work is educational so traditional publishing makes sense. That said, if I come up with a topic that suits a well-defined niche, perhaps something for my fellow-writers, I may choose to self-publish.

The high road. The low road. The road in the middle. There’s more than one road that leads to publication. The key is to choose the one that leads there from where you are today.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on August 1, 2016.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

 

Back in the Saddle

Over the past three decades I've had many jobs: waitress, bookkeeper, toy saleperson, teacher, typist, writing tutor, blog tour manager. Of course writer was always somewhere in the mix. For the first decade of my son's life that's all he knew. To him I was a mom and I was a writer. Then a job that offered a few things most writers can only dream of--a steady paycheck, regular hours, insurance, contributions to my 401K, an office that didn't double as the kitchen table--came along. Plus, I could get my son on the bus in the morning and be home early enough to make supper for the family before my husband headed to his night shift job. It was perfect.

Except it wasn't. Yes, the job was great but it wasn't writing. Not only that but it had a negative effect on my writing. On my list (my long, long list) of things to do at the end of a work day, my writing continually was pushed to the bottom. I tried but I never seemed to have the time or energy. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that maybe that aspect of my life was over. I had tried to be a writer. I hadn't been able to make a living as a writer. Now I was something else. I believed no one had even noticed that I had stopped writing. Seven words challenged that belief.

"I liked when you were a writer."

My son had noticed. That offhand comment made in passing as he was setting the table one evening forced me stare the facts in the face. I wasn't a writer any longer. Writers write. It also jump started the writer in me. I began writing again. Maybe not as a living, but enough that I can feel that joy again. I've accepted a writing assignment at my "real job" and am working on a curious idea that even if it isn't published makes me happy. And I can say to my son, "I still am a writer."

Did you ever take a break from writing (voluntary or not)? What made you "get back in the saddle" again?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. You can find her at Building Bookshelves. Today Schuylkill Heroes, a feature about military personnel that she's writing for The Republican-Herald, begins. She's also found inspiration for a new WIP at her non-writing job.
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