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Saturday, October 31, 2009

 

What Makes a Story Scary?

I can think of a few things that scare me: rejection letters, unpaid bills, and me in a thong. But I'm talking really scary, the things that send chills up your spine when you read a short story. It takes a certain type of writer who can plow the depths of darkness, build suspense, and twist a story ending so the reader doesn't see it coming.

What are some other elements scary stories need in order to be truly scary? Here are a few tips from a great book on horror writing, aptly named On Writing Horror, by the Horror Writers Association.

Suspenseful Beginnings:

You might launch your story with the mud having already filled up the entire basement and swallowed the plumber, but it's far creepier to show the mud growing mysteriously over time before the plumber kicks the bucket. You want to find a starting place close enough to the action to be compelling but distant enough to allow for suspense; that's a delicate (and difficult) balance to strive for in every story.

Find the Thing that Frightens You:

Giving a strategic glimpse of what frightens you can lessen the effect of writing about that thing's impact on you, and it can, at the same time, increase the impact of that thing (whatever it is) on your readers. Find the single facet of that thing that frightens you--that which most everyone can relate to--and use that one facet as a weapon to frighten your readers.

End with a Twist:

An ending that defies expectation and adds a new twist can make for a memorable story, but please remember, I said twist, not gimmick. The gimmick, that which is utterly unexpected because there has not been even a telepathic hint of its possibility, risks totally blowing the suspension of disbelief and ruining all your previous hard work.

Those are just a few excerpts from On Writing Horror. If you are a horror writer, it's a great reference book that you'll want on your shelf.

The popularity of horror novels and stories attest to the fact that most of us love a scary story. They get our blood pumping, our adrenaline rushing, and bring out our most primal instinct: fear.

Here are a few things that make a story scary for me:
  • The fear of what could happen
  • The probability that it will happen
  • Believability, even if the subject matter may seem unbelievable
  • If the story is true
In celebration of Halloween, I'd like a treat from you. And this is not a trick question. Excuse the pun, couldn't resist! What frightens you? What makes a story scary to you as a writer or reader?

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Friday, October 30, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: A Revelation!, Guest Post by Jennifer Flaten

A Revelation!

by Jennifer Flaten

A few days ago, I finished my usual day of writing. I was proud of myself I completed almost all of my to-do items. This is a big deal for a procrastinator like me.

One item scratched off my list, a short profile piece on Patsy Cline.

As I clicked send on the piece, I realized I really enjoyed writing it. Not only did I learn about Patsy, but also I thought I managed to make the profile interesting, not dry.

It was fun and I looked forward to doing another one.

Later as I was telling my husband about my day and talking animatedly about my work, I realized just how much I liked what I did.

It was a wonderful feeling. Too bad, it had been missing for so long.

Prior to writing, full time I worked as an office manager/administrative assistant.

I loved what I did. My heart went pitter-patter at the thought of spending the day wrestling bank statements into submission and making journal entries.

I knew I was good at what I did I always came home with sense of accomplishment.

Then one day I was laid off. In an instant both my job and identity vanished along with my steady paycheck.

I turned to my writing which up until that time, was a little sideline that I did for fun and spending money. Now I was trying to turn my writing into my full time job.

I spent a lot of time building relationships with clients, looking for gigs and writing pieces that paid money but I wasn’t enjoying myself.

There was this little voice was whispering in my ear that I wasn’t a “real” writer. I worried about “making” it, about being a “real” writer and being good so I could get more work.

I wasn’t having fun. Each day I just worked away with no sense of love or feelings of accomplishment.

Even publication didn’t lessen my feelings. If I was published I still worried it wasn’t good enough. I wondered would a real writer read it and think Pffft who gave this woman a keyboard.

I couldn‘t shake the worry. I was drowning in what ifs-what if this isn’t good enough, what if this leads nowhere.

I still felt like I was pretending to be a writer.

Then came that fateful day, when I finished a piece that I really had fun writing that I knew was good piece.

I realized that-Hey, I am pretty good at this and I like it.

This came in the same week that I had some other small, yet exciting, offers come my way.

All of sudden I knew that I really liked what I was doing. I wasn’t just pretending to be a writer I was a writer.

Jennifer lives with her husband, twin daughters and son in Wisconsin. She is a freelance writer. She has found the kids provide and endless source of amusing and not so amusing topics. When she is not in front of the computer, she and the kids can be found baking, cooking or playing outside. Read her work at Baby Chapters, Life123.com, Examiner, and Grubstreet.

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Thursday, October 29, 2009

 

Inspiration to Keep the Idea Well Full


Two questions I’ve been asked a lot lately have been, (1) “What influences you the most when you sit down to write?” and (2)“How do you keep coming up with new stuff? Surely, the well must run dry at times.” I’ll start with the second one.

You would think the idea well would be a bit arid at times. I mean how can a person have the brainpower to continuously pump out one story after another with some sort of inspirational message in it? I guess those writers specializing in the Inspirational genre don’t really think about it. I know I don’t sit at my computer every day and say, “Okay, I’m going to be motivating today!” Because, man, there are days where I am so unmotivated.

This may sound over-simplistic but I’ve found that all you really need to do is listen and pay attention to everything around you. I compare it to seeing the world through a child’s eyes: Get down and investigate, ask questions, be curious, and, most of all, find beauty where you never thought there could be.

Most of the people and situations I’ve written about have been…well…simple things. You know, an every day person doing extraordinary things that would normally go unnoticed. I write about people who’ve touched me so deeply my heart overflows. How about writing about how you, or someone else persevered over adversity, beat the odds or “made it”? These make the best stories because people can relate to them. They inspire because they are about every day people: People we know, people we strive to be, people who are told they “can’t” but do it anyway.

There is enough tragedy and negativity in the world today and, unfortunately, these feelings are contagious. But do you know what? So is happiness, love and peace. Think about what happens when you throw a smile at someone as you pass her. Even the sourest of faces will return a smile (most of the time).

So, dear writers, you can see the well will only go dry if we let it. All we need to do is look around. There’s inspiration all around us. And as long as I’m writing, I’ll be sure to keep making deposits into that well so other people’s thirst for hope will always be quenched.

Oh! And to answer question #1, I think I’d have to say what influences me the most is my daughter, Jaimie who lives with SPD and Dyspraxia. If she can get up every single day uncertain how the environment around her will make her feel with her beautiful, brave face…I can too (albeit with a much older, more wrinkled and tired face). How can I not find inspiration from that?

Happy writing, everyone!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

 

Words We LOVE to Overuse

by LuAnn Schindler

Read through your writing, and you will undoubtedly find a word, several words, or even phrases you tend to repeat. For those of us who write on a daily basis, the practice of penning the same word in the majority of our stories may seem like happenstance.

Or maybe it plays out like the movie Groundhog Day - no matter how we try to cut the word, it keeps popping up in our writing And then we begin a new day, with a new goal or assignment, and guess what happens? That's right. There's the pesky word or phrase, taunting us, daring us to strike it from the page.

It happens to the best of writers as often as it occurs with the novices. Recently, I flipped through a handful of poems I was contemplating for a contest entry. In three of the five, one word and one phrase glared at me and begged for a fresh reprieve.

At first I thought it was a coincidence, but then I scanned my memory bank and remembered what was happening in my life at that time. I understood why those words and the connotations stood out.

But a quarter-life crisis doesn't excuse a writer from overusing a word. No, I'll keep that until I reach my three-quarter life crisis (which, luckily, is still close to 30 years away!).

Yesterday, a New York Times standards editor instructed Times reporters to delete the word 'famously' from their vocabulary. Precision is necessary, and 'famously' doesn't always create a sense of preciseness.

Like most of you, I have a personal list of words that make me cringe when I see them in print. I could share the entire list, but I'm afraid some readers may not have all day to peruse my laundry list of pet peeves associated with writing vocabulary.

Sure, many of them are basic grammar errors that can be easily solved.

But some words, like 'love' and 'hate' bother me. When writers overuse emotional words that have a strong meaning, the words become watered down and run off the page, splashing into a puddle of jumbled letters that simply want to be rescrambled and formed into new words.

When that happens, a writer loses the connection she's established with readers. She alienates potential clients when she chooses to fill the page with overused, often misused, terms. Yes, say what you mean, but be precise! Love the new fill-in-the-blank-NYT-bestselling-author's-name-here book, you say. Love it! Love it?

No, tell me how you really feel about it.

Tell me the truth and tell me precisely why you enjoy it.

What words are on your overused (or often misused) list?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

 

Interview with Doris E. Wright, Runner Up in WOW!s Spring 09 Flash Fiction Contest

Congratulations to Doris E. Wright of Homer, New York. Her flash fiction piece, You Can See, earned runner up honors in the Spring 2009 Flash Fiction Contest.
In addition to short stories and poetry, Doris completed her first novel about a the offbeat relationship between a middle-aged man and his philosophical bedding plant. Now, Doris ponders if agents that specialize in quirky, philosophical, comical, literary-satirical character studies actually exist.

A workshop veteran, Doris has participated in a poetry workshop at Colgate Writers' Conference and previously attended the Colgate Conference's novel-intensive workshop, a fiction workshop at The New York State Summer Writers' Institute at Skidmore College, and the Algonkian novel workshop.

Doris has a varied background: she's been a teacher and a newspaper reporter and feature writer. Now, she concentrates on traveling around the world. In the last three years, she and her husband Don, an African historian, have traveled in China, France, Spain, The Gambia, and Mali.

If you haven't had the opportunity to read her story, saunter on over and read it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!

WOW: Congratulations, Doris, on receiving runner up honors for your story. I'm super impressed with the quality workshops you've participated in. How have these opportunities helped your writing skills?
Doris: While each has had its value, the workshops I attended at Colgate University were especially helpful. This summer I took the poetry workshop and, though I’ve written poetry since high school and studied it in college, I found there was a lot to learn, especially in terms of form. The craft talks and readings were wonderful; inspiring. But for me, the most valuable thing about workshops is being immersed in the writing world for a week or two. Even at meals or on a walk across campus, you are talking and thinking about writing all the time. So you start to take yourself seriously and really think of yourself as a writer (which means, you better get busy).

WOW: I like the idea of being immersed in the writing world and learning to take the craft seriously. What advice would you offer a writer contemplating attending her first conference?
Doris: Don’t be afraid. Most everyone is open and accepting. Approach people, even the established writers, and ask questions about their work and writing experience. Take advantage of every opportunity, don’t miss a talk or a reading; and read your work to others if you have a chance. It can be exhausting, but it will be over soon and you don’t want to miss anything.

WOW: A conferences sounds like workable fun! Imagine how much a writer can learn while participating! You previously worked as a news reporter. How does your background as a feature writer shape your fiction?
Doris: I suppose any writing, in the sense that it’s practice, contributes to your ability. You are constrained by time and style requirements, which is a useful writing exercise. And, when you work for a newspaper you encounter interesting situations and unusual people who can stimulate your imagination.

WOW: Imagination and unusual people and situations really do help stimulate the writing mind. Your story has an unusual situation and even the title lends itself to various interpretations. Plus, the title contains a touch of irony. How important is the title for flash fiction?
Doris: I think finding the right title is fun—I love words, and plays on words. The title in flash fiction is important: it gives you the opportunity to tell the reader something you couldn’t say because of your word limit and point them in a certain direction.

WOW: That's a great point to make. Flash fiction can be limiting, but quality stories create a strong story arc and are filled with details and symbolism. You Can See contains a lot of symbolism about seeing and sight. What's your method for incorporating so much symbolism into the prescribed word limit?
Doris: I have no method. To be honest, it wasn’t deliberate. Perhaps I injected symbolism reflexively or intuitively? I suppose writing poetry might bring that element to my writing. I’m not sure.

WOW: Perhaps you did! It's so fascinating to see how a story and all its details take shape. Let's talk about how the writing process works for you. When do you write? How do you develop ideas?
Doris: I don’t have the discipline I should and tend to let things distract me. I’m better off writing in the morning, before other things snatch me up. At one point I ordered myself to sit down and write for at least an hour most days of the week. I got a lot done that way because once you start you tend to keep going. It’s the starting that’s hard. As far as developing ideas, they mostly just come to me. I tend to see things ironically—like, what would it be like if I was out driving and suddenly there was a rhinoceros crossing the road—and that’s why my writing could be considered dark or quirky.

WOW: I agree that it is all to easy to get distracted. Eventually, I get back on track and stick to my schedule. It helps when deadlines must be met and the project list continues to grow. What current projects are you working on?
Doris: Although my novel is finished, I’m still tweaking it and seeking an agent. I have several longer, short stories that I want to polish, poems that need work, and ideas for other short stories. There’s a memoir in my future, I think.

WOW: Doris, you've traveled to so many interesting spots, I hope your memoir includes stories about your travels. Good luck with your projects! Contests can help a writer fine-tune her craft. You've had success in previous WOW! contests. What elements do you feel are necessary to make a solid flash piece?
Doris: Certainly you must convey an idea or event that is, in one way or another, complete in itself. But, I think, it needs to have emotional weight to it—something that makes the reader think or moves the reader, and makes them reflect back on it. With that emotional component, you expand your word limit, involving the reader and their own experience.
WOW: Great advice, especially for writers contemplating entering a flash contest. Congratulations again, Doris, and I hope to read more of your work.

Interview by LuAnn Schindler
Follow luann on Twitter @luannschindler

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WOW! Facebook Friends and Fans Contest


If you're on Facebook and are a fan of WOW!, we are having a contest for Fans. You could win a really cute tee, tote, and hoodie, as well as a subscription to Premium-Green Writers Markets. If you are not a fan yet and you are on Facebook, consider becoming a fan today. Visit our Facebook Fan Page.

Official Rules:

WOW! FACEBOOK FRIENDS & FANS CONTEST #1

Thank you for being a fan of WOW! Women On Writing on Facebook. We would like to have a contest to thank you for becoming a fan and to encourage you to invite your Facebook friends to be our fans, too! It’s simple to enter.

1. Invite anyone interested in writing, books, magazines, and so on to be a fan of WOW! Women On Writing on Facebook. Underneath our logo on the fan page, there’s a link that says, “Suggest to Friends.” Click on this link.

2. Your friends should pop up, and you can click on their photos and names. Then send an invitation to any of your friends who you think will be interested.

3. On the wall of WOW!’s fan page, please leave a comment, such as: “I just entered WOW!’s Friends and Fans contest. I invited 10 friends to become fans of WOW!”

4. Your friends need to be invited and your comment posted on our wall by Saturday, October 31, 8:00 p.m. CST. One winner will be announced on Sunday, November 1 on the fan page and with a personal Facebook message. (Winner drawn randomly from comments left on the wall.)

5. The prizes are a WOW! Women On Writing t-shirt, tote bag, hoodie, and 12-month subscription to Premium Green.

6. You can invite between 1 and 1,000,000 friends and be eligible to enter the contest. As long as you invite at least one of your Facebook friends to be a fan of WOW!, and you leave a comment on our wall, you can enter the contest.

Thanks in advance for participating, and stay tuned for our next fan contest in November, which might just have something to do with photos. . .!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

 

Having Multiple Projects on the Burner

I am loving to write more and more as time goes along. I was thinking about this the other day and my thoughts led me to the following question: what is it about writing that most excites me and keeps me feeling such a high level of satisfaction from my work?

For me, the answer is that it allows for multiple projects going on at the same time. I always enjoyed switching among subject areas when doing homework growing up. I likewise always participated in multiple extracurriculars and thrived in times where I had a lot to do and continuous deadlines approaching.

Sure enough, that's the same thing that gets me jumping at any chance to write. For example, in recent weeks, I have put some final revisions to soon-forthcoming publications. In the same week, I would likewise start first outline sketches of new articles or find a random contest and submit an essay to try my luck. In other words, in the writing world, there are not only different genres to try, but different medium as well as different stages of the writing process. I can drop one submission in a person's email box and instead of waiting to hear back, I can begin tinkering with another contest entry or a new creation altogether. When something comes back for revisions, I can drop writing for a while to do edits or proofread a colleague's work.

In short, I enjoy writing not because I have a particular story or creation I have to get down because of an inner compulsion, but rather, because I enjoy the tick tick tick of the clock, the challenge to put a quality product out by deadline, and more over, because I know that there are more opportunities and stages of the writing process awaiting me. That next stage is unknown, but alluring nonetheless. Success or failure-bound, the best thing a writer could do in my opinion, is to have multiple projects on the burner. It's amusing, extends the mental agility and skillsets of a writer, and moreover, it keeps one learning on the job so to speak.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

 

The 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference

By Jill Earl

I’m finally coming down from my annual Muse high. This year, from October 12th to October 18th, I attended the Muse Online Writers Conference, an annual event packed with more than enough activities to satisfy any writer. The first Muse Conference came on the scene back in 2006, when co-founders Lea Schizas and Carolyn Howard Johnson saw an opportunity to create a conference where writers from around the world could attend, without the limits of money or distance. And best of all, everything is FREE!

I first started attending the Muse three years ago, and have seen it grow better each year. I’m consistently amazed at the quality of the conference, how Lea manages to line up an excellent roster of presenters, putting together a vast array of workshops and chats, pretty much accomplishing everything by herself. Her dedication is awe-inspiring.

I continue to register for the Muse each year because it’s a great way to experiment with various forms of writing. Right now, I’m focusing primarily with nonfiction, so I signed up for workshops in pet writing, personal essays and writing for trade magazines. The beauty of this conference, however, is that you don’t have to limit yourself only to the sessions you’ve signed up for. Because everything’s online, you’re free to pop into any workshop or chat that piques your interest, whether that’s children’s writing, writing press releases, setting up your website or preparing your headshot.

A new addition to this year’s conference was pitch sessions with various publishers. Special workshops and chats were offered beforehand, so attendees could prepare their pitches and be ready to meet with presenters during the conference. Great opportunity for writers to acquire and improve pitching skills, and perhaps get an offer from a favorite publisher.

If attending the Muse Writers Conference sounds like a plan for next year, check out WOW!’s review of the event with Lea Schizas, which appeared in our September 2007 issue here: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/13-review.html

Also, keep an eye out for registration notices for the 2010 Conference, which should appear sometime next month.

The Muse Online Writers Conference. Consider adding it to your conference list next year, you’ll be glad you did!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

 

Take A Walk Towards Inspiration


I'm always trying to find a way to inspire a story or an article idea. Believe me, there are thousands of ways that I've tried going about getting inspiration. But, there is one way that, well, frankly works quite a lot, but of course I have to get motivated to do it.

How many of us really like to exercise? Not many, let's face it. We all feel like it is a chore to get out there and walk, run, ride a bike or go to a gym.

Today, after listening to my husband trying to get himself motivated to go on is Saturday jog, I finally kicked myself to go on a walk. I actually did it because, well, I didn't have an idea to write this particular BLOG. I wanted a way to think of how to inspire myself and, hopefully, others to find a way to write. The past few days, I haven't felt like writing or frankly wanting to write, which is bad for me. I love to write, but for some reason, I haven't wanted to. I felt as if there was nothing to write about. So, one way I have found that helps me kick my writing into gear sometimes is through exercise, but not just any exercise, it has to be a form I want to do. Walking and hiking are great ways to help get my mind to working. There are things around to see and, heck, some story is sure to pop out at me or jog a memory. Today, as I walked through my neighborhood lots of ideas started to jump out at me. The first was a kid climbing up in a crab apple tree. I got to thinking about a time when my cousins and I sat up in one eating crab apples 'til all of us has upset stomachs. I actually couldn't stop giggling. Then I walked by the first of three yard sales. This made me think about my Grandmother and her passion for yard sales. If it weren't for age I am sure she would be out there shopping for the next pretty trinket. She loves to find little things she might need around her home. I have to admit, I actually stopped and looked around for some little bobble that she might like.

If you ever feel stuck, slip on a pair of walking shoes and head out the door. Not only are you getting a great little bit of exercise but it clears the mind, it helps you to think and clear things out. Heck, I actually had almost forgotten about it. I was actually getting so frustrated that I wasn't sure what to do to clear my mind to write. Now that I am more open and can think a little bit, I feel that I am now inspired to get busy on a few articles and make my clients happy. Okay, so I hope to make them happy.

Hiking is another great way to come up with ideas. If you like to get out and hike, find a place that you like to go and just start walking, look around you. There might be a critter up in the tree that talks you into a great article that could lead to another one and so on.

Living in a small town as I do has its advantages and disadvantages. We are low on crime but high on a lot of other things. One of which is nature and another is great friendly neighbors. If you live in a big city, you might find inspiration as well. How about the neighbor fixing a flat tire, or the one that looks like they're going to be late to work? What story could they help you create?

Take a walk towards inspiration, you may be surprised at what you can find!

Happy Writing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: The Value of Critiques, Guest Post by Kim Smith

The Value of Critiques

by Kim Smith

I recently entered a writing competition that offered a critique of my entry by no less than three judges. Excitement filled my heart. In the absence of any literary professionals in my life, ie: teachers or editors or authors, I'm not always sure of what is working, and what isn't.

Sure, I've entered various online critique groups, but I've never taken them that seriously. After all, these are other novice writers, like myself, and the critiques offered usually contain only vague words of praise. While some writing peers do offer helpful advice as to what they think is awkward, or wordy, or redundant, what I really crave is a nuts and bolts analysis of grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation.

So, I awaited this particular critique with bated breath. When the envelope arrived, I ripped it open on the spot, ignoring the slight drizzle that misted the cool air. All three judges praised my fourth-place entry, pointed out what they loved, and said I was an excellent writer.

Disappointment flooded through me. I was hoping for little red notations all over my story. I wanted to know WHY I didn't take first place, and what I could have done to improve my writing. I wanted to know what I'd done wrong, as well as what I'd done right.

The only point of contention involved the title of my story. Two hated it; one loved it. I thought to myself, "This is it?" However, after rereading the three critiques and calming down in the process, I realized that I still appreciated the time and effort the judges put in for this contest. They would have read hundreds of entries, and it would be too time-consuming to nitpick their way through all of them.

Will I opt to receive another critique? Of course I will! The critiques did bolster my writing self-esteem, which can always use elevating. Each one did say, after all, that I was a good writer, and who doesn't like to hear that? I will continue to take advantage of critiques where they are offered, because any nugget of concrete advice, no matter how small, is invaluable. And frankly, the anticipation of receiving opinions/compliments on my writing is an irresistible lure!



Kim lives in the country with one needy dog, three perfect cats, one long-suffering husband, and far too many chickens. She tries to write on a regular basis after a suffering a writer's block of thirty years.

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Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Thursday, October 22, 2009

 

Finding--and keeping--the love of reading

Paddington Bear, to let you in on a secret, started my love of writing. Michael Bond, the author of the Paddington Bear series, became my hero when I wrote him as a 9-year-old and told him I wanted to be a writer. While he was never my mentor, his approachability has left a mark through my reading and writing career.
We carried on a correspondence--heaven knows what I wrote him as a pre-teen fan--and each time he kindly responded and sent along a note from Paddington, as well. I remember discovering each new volume of Paddington and then being led into other books by my growing enthusiasm for reading.
As I watch my children devour books, it makes me wishing for the first blushes of a first favorite childhood book. Although I get it secondhand in the wide-eyed discovery I witness as my son checks out all the Magic Tree House books as the characters take him around the world or watching the hours my daughter spends alongside Nancy Drew as she unlocks another mystery.
Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy finding a new voice in literature. I love reading a well-paced mystery or an excellent magazine article ... any author who is able to bring me out of my day-to-day life and transport me to Brazil or to a farm in France.
But there is something magical about that first book crush.
And, while I miss reading my old friend Paddington and his creator, or exchanging letters with them, they taught me so much. In fact, those two are the beginnings to my long-term love story with books, which continues to this day.
What was your first book love?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. She also blogs at www.TheWriteElizabeth.com, delving into creativity in everyday places and is planning a series of workshops. She plans on taking at least one scrumptious book while her husband is traveling. Any suggestions?

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

 

Children's Short Story Dos and Don'ts (Part 1)


Many writers who want to pen short stories for children dream of getting published in a popular kids' magazine like Highlights for Children or Cricket. Those are great goals, but writing for children is not as easy as it looks. As a matter of fact, many children's writers will tell you it is more difficult. Here are some Dos and Don'ts to make the journey a little easier:


**Do tackle difficult issues that kids are curious about such as drug abuse, lying, sibling rivalry, jealousy, peer pressure, and so on. Do feel like you can also write about simple topics such as picnics, recess, or a day at the river.


**Don’t make your story preachy. The last thing children want to read is a story where a lesson is being preached at them. You can have a lesson in your story, but it needs to be subtle!


**As a rule, do make your characters a little older than your target audience. For example, if you are writing for a magazine with a target audience of 9 to 12, make your main characters 12 or 13 if possible. Children enjoy reading stories about older children more than younger children.


**Don’t follow the age rule if it messes up your story. Don’t feel like you have to tell in the first few paragraphs how old the main character is. If you can work the age into the story naturally, fine. If not, then the reader should just get a feeling that the main character is around the age of the reader.


**Do allow children to solve their own problems and be the main characters in the story.


**Don’t allow adults to come in and save the day. In most children’s stories (and of course, there are always exceptions), adults should play a background or minor character role.


**Do follow guidelines exactly. If the magazine says the story must be between 300 and 500 words, then make it no shorter than 300 and no longer than 500 words. Titles do not count in the word count.


I have some more Dos and Don'ts, but I will save them for my next post on writing for children--part deux as they say. Do you have any others you've learned that you can add to the list?

Happy writing!
Margo Dill
http://margodill.com/blog/
"Read These Books and Use Them"
photo from Highlights.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

 

Madeline Mora-Summonte: Spring 2009 Contest Runner Up

Congratulations to Madeline Mora-Summonte for placing in the Spring 2009 Flash Fiction contest with her story, "Poster Child."

Here's a little information about Madeline:

She has written poetry, personal essays, and book reviews; but her first love is fiction in all its forms--from flash to novels. Her work has appeared in over twenty publications, including Highlights for Children, Storyhouse, and Every Day Fiction. Her story, “The Empty Nest,” will be included in W. W. Norton's upcoming Hint Fiction Anthology. She attends mystery author Blaize Clement's weekly writing workshop where the talent and creativity of the group continues to amaze her. Madeline is currently busy writing and revising her women's fiction manuscript. She lives with her husband/best friend in Florida. You can visit her website at www.MadelineMora-Summonte.com.

WOW: Congratulations, Madeline, on being a runner up in the flash fiction contest. What was your inspiration for "Poster Child?"

Madeline: I’d glance at the “Missing” posters on my way into those big box discount stores, but I’d never really see them, you know? I think for many of us they do start to seem like wallpaper like the woman in the story whose own child is safe and sound and playing beneath them. One day, I just stopped and looked at them, really looked at them. Then I just kept asking myself questions: “Who else is stopping and looking?” “Why?” “What if?” And that’s when Megan appeared.

WOW: Great points. It is interesting how your story came out of something that we see every day, but only when you really stopped to think about it. Your description is amazing in "Poster Child," from the coin-operated kiddie rides to the actual description of the old MISSING posters. Was it difficult to describe everything you needed to with such few words available?

Madeline: Thank you! It’s a constant balancing act. Too much description overloads the story, and the plot and characters get lost; but too little makes the story seem set in limbo. It’s tricky, finding just the right detail and then the right amount of it. I wanted people to know that store, to have been in that store, without me naming it or describing it brick by brick. I hope I accomplished that.

WOW: You definitely did describe well for me and obviously the judges, too! Why do you enter contests? Would you suggest entering contests to most fiction writers?

Madeline: I tend to enter mostly flash fiction contests because they give me a nice, tight word count; a deadline; and sometimes, a theme. When I’m working on a novel, I’m in this murky place that seems to have no discernible framework or an end in sight. Flash fiction generally, and contests in particular, give me a structure to work within and a finish line I can see.

I think contests are a great way to stretch that writing muscle, but you also have to be aware of the scams out there. Make sure the contest is legit. Read the fine print about rights, etc. before entering.

WOW: I agree with you that contests are a great way to maybe try something new without investing a ton of time in it. It is nice to focus on more than one project at a time. I think that helps writers' block! You attend Blaize Clement's weekly writing workshop. Can you tell us a little about this? Is it like a critique group, mini-conference, writing/brainstorming time?

Madeline: I am extremely lucky to be a part of this workshop. It’s like a haven for creativity and expression. We are a diverse group: different ages, different backgrounds, different goals. But one of the things we have in common is this desire to create and to play with words and to tell stories.

Blaize, who is the author of the Dixie Hemingway mystery series (St. Martin’s Press), has created this safe place for all of that to happen. We usually do timed writing--Blaize gives a word or a phrase, anything from “a room” to “an omen”--and we write for about five minutes. Then we take turns reading aloud what we wrote. NO critiquing allowed! We can only mention something that strikes us--a great line or a vivid turn of phrase or an interesting character. If nothing strikes us, then we just move on to the next reader.

Blaize also talks about craft, and she gives us some insight into the world of publishing. We all sometimes talk about great or not-so-great books we’ve read or movies or TV shows. But it always starts and ends with the writing.

WOW: That group sounds awesome and like a lot of fun. Your description might encourage others to start a group like it in their communities! Congratulations on your publication success. What are some goals you have for yourself and your writing career?

Madeline: Thank you! Well, one of my goals is to break into the top three of a WOW! Flash Fiction Contest! Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled to previously make Honorable Mention twice and now the Top Ten twice, but to rank higher has become a personal challenge of sorts. Although, maybe I should change my goal to be the person who makes it into the Top Ten the most times!

My writing goals are pretty much the same as they’ve always been. I want to keep writing stories and hopefully one day, novels, that move people the way I’ve been moved by the many wonderful books I’ve read, and will continue to read, in my lifetime.

WOW: (laughs) Madeline, I love your writing goals and the fact that you are going to keep entering WOW!'s flash fiction contest. Think of how many interviews you could accumulate! (smiles) Seriously, we are glad you took the time with us today to share your thoughts on writing. Good luck in your future endeavors.

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, http://margodill.com/blog/




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Monday, October 19, 2009

 

Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, launches her blog tour!


& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Therese Walsh planned to be a sleep researcher but, through the twists and turns of life, ended up as a researcher at Prevention Magazine. She began writing bits and pieces for the magazine and soon found her true passion—writing.

Therese’s love of writing led her to co-found Writer Unboxed, a blog for writers about the craft and business of genre fiction, and begin her own novel. Her debut novel, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was released on October 13, 2009 (Shaye Areheart Books).

When she isn’t writing, Therese feasts on dark chocolate to keep up with the boundless energy of her husband, two children, and Jack Russell dog.

Find out more about Therese by visiting her website: www.ThereseWalsh.com.


The Last Will of Moira Leahy
By Therese Walsh


Maeve was the fun loving twin; Moira was the quiet twin. Eventually, young love began changing Moira when they were 16 years old. But then tragedy struck. After the loss of Moira, Maeve became more like her—quieter, more orderly, even boring.

After a decade of being a shadow of herself, Maeve wins a keris or Javanese dagger that reminds her of her childhood playing pirates with Moira. Not long after she finds her life plunged into chaos: anonymous notes, travel to Rome, and a strange riddle with roots in the past to unravel. Is Maeve’s adventure a gift to jolt her out of her routine existence or a punishment manipulated by a twin from beyond the grave?

Published by Shaye Areheart Books
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN# o307461572

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Therese's book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.

We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Most writers will confess to having one...or two...or three practice novels in "the drawer" that helped them learn how to write. Do you have any unpublished works in your "drawer" that helped you learn how to write?

Therese: The novel in my drawer is “take one” of The Last Will of Moira Leahy (then called “Unbounded”), which is an entirely different book and has the structure of a traditional love story/romance.

WOW: Take one! Tell us how two unpublished manuscripts equals one published novel. You began with a man-woman love story and ended up with a story of twins. Were these two separate manuscripts that you combined or was it a drastic rewrite of one?

Therese: Let me first say that if I hadn’t believed in this story wholeheartedly—not my ability to tell the story but the story itself—I never would’ve done this. But I did believe, and I had to press on and do my best.

Here’s what happened: I started writing in 2002. I’d never written adult fiction before, and I hadn’t studied my craft either, so I pretty much didn’t know what I was doing. The story drifted all over the board. It had the structure of a romance but with content that veered into decidedly unromantic territory—including the emergence of my heroine Maeve’s deceased twin sister and a Javanese dagger (keris) that insisted on being center stage. When I submitted the story to agents in 2003, some were very encouraging—they liked my voice and thought the story was interesting, some even admitted the story had personally touched them and made them cry—but the overwhelming consensus was that it would not sell as a romance. It was agent Deidre Knight who told me I should be writing women’s fiction, as the emotional tenor of the book spoke to that genre.

Drastic rewrite? Oh, yes. I rewrote pretty much every word, and changed the plot and structure of the book. I pitched some characters and created some new ones. I maintained my two prior settings—Betheny, New York and Rome, Italy, but I introduced a critical new setting—Castine, Maine, where the twins grew up. The love story component, though still important to the book as a whole, took on a lesser role.

WOW: I can't imagine having what was, in your eyes, a finished novel and going back almost to square one. Some of us have trouble just rewriting an opening chapter! Did you have pangs when you were asked to rewrite?

Therese: I definitely had pangs. I still remember the night Deidre’s email came in, how sick I felt. Because even though I’d started as a newbie, I had evolved throughout the process of writing that story—I’d embraced critique and worked for months to edit my tome, at one point trimming 30k words from its pages. I’d spent two years on that version. So, yes, pangs.

WOW: What made you come around to Deidre’s way of thinking?

Therese: I thought hard about Deidre’s advice, and considered which scenes were most central to the story and best reflected the heart of the book. Surprise! They didn’t involve the hero, Noel, but rather Maeve’s twin, Moira. That’s when I knew Deidre was right, and the book should’ve been written as women’s fiction. Before I started writing, though--I moped, I doubted. Did I have what it took to make it in publishing? Was I wasting my time tackling this story again? Should I trash the concept and start something new? But the characters wouldn’t let me be; I had to try.

WOW: Any advice for writers about how to decide what is helpful criticism and what is just the whim of some agent or editor?

Therese: I think it’s important to be wide open to criticism. That can be hard, because as writers who hone in on emotional truths, we can be thin-skinned peeps. Criticism can hurt. But it’s what we need, in part, to become better writers. You have to put yourself in a Zen place to accept critique—assume that others have your story’s best interests at heart when you hear what they have to say, then think deeply about what they’ve offered you. If you’ve successfully set aside your pride, your gut will tell you if that person is right or wrong.

If you’re still in doubt, bounce professional advice around with your critique group. What do they think? Pay attention if you’re hearing the same criticism from more than one source.

WOW: What was more difficult--the original writing or the rewrite? How long did it take?

Therese: I first started writing in 2002, and that draft was much easier for me—in part because I was happily ignorant! I started the big rewrite in 2005, then scrapped everything again and started for a final time in 2006—this time with an outline. (Yes, finally, an outline. I was learning and had studied my craft over the years.)

The hardest part of the book was managing the interwoven narratives between Maeve Leahy in the present day and the twins in the past. These “out of time” sequences are their own narrative and not your traditional flashbacks (think English Patient). I remember nearly ripping my hair out as I worked to sequence everything, wanting each present-day and out-of-time sequence to share a vibe, and needing for the stories to dovetail at specific times and in important ways.

WOW: I can’t imagine juggling not only twin characters but also the present and the past—all in one book! Twins and their relationships are key to The Last Will of Moira Leahy. Tell us, are you a twin? If not, how did you come to such an understanding of this unique interaction?

Therese: No, and there aren’t any twins in my family. When I was drafting the first version of the book, Moira just popped up one day, unplanned. I didn’t have more than a common-man’s knowledge of twins until I began research for the big rewrite. At that time, I read a lot of books and online articles. One of the very best books, in my opinion, was the slim and accessible Twin Stories: Their Mysterious and Unique Bond by Susan Kohl. I loved it for its firsthand accounts of twin phenomena. So, so many of the things I’d already included in the story were supported by that book—another sign Last Will wanted to be written, I thought.

WOW: What did you do to advance your craft? Take classes, read writing books, enter contests?

Therese: I didn’t take any classes and entered few contests, but I have a library of craft books. Here are a few of my favorites:

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (plus the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook)
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman
Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

WOW: I’m sure we’ll all be devouring those books—hoping they can help us create a novel as riveting as yours. So now that The Last Will of Moira Leahy has finally been released what's next? Is there another novel in the works? More twins?

Therese: Yes, I’m writing another women’s fiction novel with elements of psychological suspense, mystery, romance and mythical realism. It’s a quirkier book than Last Will, but so far I love it. And so far, no twins. But I am still drafting. :-)

WOW: Quirkier than a journey of discovery involving a lost twin and daggers? I can’t wait!

Want to join Therese on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

October 19, 2009 Monday
Therese will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Therese's book!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

October 20, 2009 Tuesday
Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy, stops by The Divine Miss Mommy to discuss: The Importance of Being True to Yourself.
http://thedivinemissmommy.com

October 21, 2009 Wednesday
Visit Peeking Between the Pages for a review that peeks between the pages of The Last Will of Moira Leahy.
http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/

October 22, 2009 Thursday
At A Book Blogger’s Diary, Therese tells us how you can manage to inject foreign lands into a book even if your passport has never been stamped. Stop by to tell where you’ve always dreamed of traveling and enter to win a copy of The Last Will of Moira Leahy!
http://abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com/

October 23, 2009 Friday
How can a traveler have an insider’s experience at their destination? Therese stops by Suzanne Kamata's blog, Gaijin Mama, to explain how conversations with the locals can make your destination come alive.
http://gaijinmama.wordpress.com/

October 26, 2009 Monday
Twitter have your head spinning? Therese Walsh stops by Whole Latte Life to give us the lowdown on Twitter. And don't forget to enter for a free copy of her novel: The Last Will of Moira Leahy.
http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/

October 27, 2009 Tuesday
Stop by Writer Inspired today for a great interview with debut novelist Therese Walsh. Find out more about a novel that evolved from a romance to an eerie story of twins and then enter to win a copy of her book The Last Will of Moira Leahy.
http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/

October 28, 2009 Wednesday
Fellow readaholics unite! Bridget Hopper has invited novelist Therese Walsh to visit her blog Readaholic. First read Therese’s post and then enter to win a copy of her book The Last Will of Moira Leahy.
http://bridget3420.blogspot.com/

October 29, 2009 Thursday
Stop by A Book a Week today for a review of Therese Walsh’s novel The Last Will of Moira Leahy. Then stop by her sister site Donna’s Book Pub tomorrow for a chance to win a free copy!
http://donnamariev.wordpress.com/

October 30, 2009 Friday
Donna Volkenannt interviews Therese Walsh about the challenges of writing her first novel. And gives everyone a chance to win the book that keeps you guessingThe Last Will of Moira Leahy!
http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com/

November 2, 2009 Monday
Should Therese Walsh’s The Last Will of Moira Leahy be on your To Be Read list? Swapna Krishna tell us on her blog Skrishna’s Books and also gives everyone a chance to enjoy the tale of a twin’s journey of discovery with her book giveaway!
http://skrishnasbooks.com/

November 3, 2009 Tuesday
Anne Walls of Word Hustler delves into the imagination of Therese Walsh to uncover how she weaved twins, daggers, and pirates into The Last Will of Moira Leahy, a book you can’t put down!
http://wordhustlerink.wordhustler.com/

November 4, 2009 Wednesday
Cindy Hudson of Mother Daughter Book Club shows that even adult daughters and moms can enjoy books together with an interview of Therese Walsh. She also gives everyone a chance to win a copy of her novel The Last Will of Moira Leahy!
http://motherdaughterbookclub.wordpress.com/

November 6, 2009 Friday
Stop by Eclectic Book Lover for a great review of The Last Will of Moira Leahy and a fascinating post on mythical realism! And don't forget your chance to win a copy of Therese's book.
http://www.eclecticbooklover.com/

November 11, 2009 Wednesday
Don’t miss a post by Therese Walsh, debut novelist of The Last Will of Moira Leahy at the blog Meryl Notes.
http://www.meryl.net/section/blog/

November 13, 2009 Friday
It may be Friday the 13th but it’s your lucky day! You get a fascinating peek into a world of Javanese daggers via a post by author Therese Walsh at Day by Day Writer.
http://daybydaywriter.wordpress.com/

We may have many more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Therese's page turner, The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

 

A Chat With Jennie Linthorst: Sensational Mom, SPD Advocate and Poetry Therapist

For the Parent’s Eyes section of my newsletter this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing an amazing poet, writer, Poetry Therapist, mom and SPD advocate, Jennie Linthorst. Jennie is not only the amazing and dedicated Mom to a sensational little guy, she’s also found a creative way to cope with everything that goes on in her very busy life. I can’t say enough about this wonderful women and thought WOW/Muffin readers would be as inspired by her story as my newsletter readers will be.

Enjoy!


Chynna







______________________________


CHYNNA: Jennie thanks so much for taking some time out of your very busy day to chat with me. Why don’t you start with telling us a little about yourself.

JENNIE: My name is Jennie Linthorst. I am the mother of a little five-year old guy named Graham, who struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder. The compelling story of our journey with Graham with early intervention therapies is captured in the documentary film, Autistic-Like: Graham’s Story. Go to http://www.autisticlike.com/ for more information.

I also work in the field of Poetry Therapy as a Certified Applied Poetry Facilitator. I work privately with women, exploring their personal histories through reading and writing poetry. I captured my own experience as a mother of a special needs child in my book of poetry, “A Mother’s Journey”.

CHYNNA: Thank you for sharing of your bio with us. Let’s start with your writing. What sparked your interest in writing? When did you begin journaling and writing poetry?

JENNIE: My grandmother, Marion Cannon, was a poet who didn’t start writing until her late 60’s. Her writing was well received and had a very honest, autobiographical style to it. In my early twenties, I began reading her book aloud to a group of seniors at a retirement home, and the reaction to the poetry changed my whole career. I found that the participants responded so intensely to the poetry and it sparked discussion of their own memories in their lives. I created my first poetry writing class for these seniors and we simply wrote in reaction to my grandmother’s poetry. I later discovered the field of poetry therapy, and went on to get my certification, and to create a career in therapeutic poetry writing. I found my own voice around this time as well, and worked privately with a writing coach exploring my own history through reading and writing poetry.

CHYNNA: That’s awesome that you are a Poetry Therapist! You know, I’d heard of Poetry Therapy awhile ago and loved the idea. Writing can be a powerfully healing thing on so many levels. Now, you have two amazing men in your life. Did you want to tell us a bit about them?

JENNIE: My husband, Erik Linthorst is an amazing man. He wrote, directed and produced the documentary about our son. He has become a major advocate in the field of Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder exposing the troubles in the system of diagnosis and treatment options for children who struggle with these special needs. We both hope to inspire change in the system and a separate diagnosis for Sensory Processing Disorder. And of course, my son Graham is amazing too. He continues to be my best teacher in this world, as I watch him work so hard to overcome his struggles with his body and his attention. He has a heart of gold, and his loving of all things shines the brightest to everyone who knows him.

CHYNNA: You and Erik are both doing amazing things for the SPD community and you were both very courageous putting your film out. And anyone who has the chance to see you and your little guy together—like in that gorgeous photograph on the cover of your book of poetry—can see the bond you share. Jennie, as you know, Moms just “know” when their child is struggling with something. When did you “know” with Graham? What signs did you see?

JENNIE: As soon as Graham could crawl, he became obsessed with following and crawling on lines and patterns on the floor. He was also consumed with the spinning of wheels. I was in enough “Mommy and Me” classes and things like that where I was watching the other kids play with toys and be interested in engaging people and new things. His repetitive behavior was extreme and by 15 months I knew that he was not “outgrowing” this behavior. He was so social and verbal with us though, that the word autism didn’t quite fit, but the behavior was very concerning. He also was not gesturing or waving bye-bye which is a major developmental delay. He had low muscle tone and he had great trouble using his hands to play and manipulate his environment. We now can see after so much expert intervention that these were all signs of a sensory system that was out of whack, and a body that was unable to motor plan. The behavior was a way for him to comfort himself.

CHYNNA: I think it’s phenomenal that you never gave up and kept forging ahead to find what worked. You are both incredible parents. That must have been so hard on all of you. You’ve personally gone through so much over the last few years with assessments, diagnoses, and treatments. How difficult was all of that for you? How did you cope with it all?

JENNIE: I am very honest in my poetry about how difficult these years have been for me as a mom. I have experienced major anxiety, depression and all of the feelings that come along when you are faced with a child’s diagnosis and a scary path of navigating the right treatments for your child. Erik and I both have sought out self-growth workshops that have been helpful in working on our own inner pain and expectations and judgments of our child that get in the way of being present and moving forward. We continually work on ourselves, knowing that if we can maintain inner peace and love Graham wherever he is in his journey, the more Graham will grow and we will move together as a family. I have to work on it everyday, and especially when we are in a transition like to a new school. The writing helps me be okay with being honest. It’s a way for me to put it on the page and know that it is okay to have those days. It allows me to be compassionate to myself, and to know that I can share my writing with other moms who will feel less alone on their journey. And lastly, we have turned a “crisis” into an opportunity to help others through the documentary, our advocacy and through our work with parents.

CHYNNA: What incredibly dedicated parents you are. I think what I am most impressed with is how you both work hard at being your individual selves so you can be an iron-strong couple and family—so, so important for families with special needs. I love your book of poetry, Jennie. Your poetry absolutely touches a person to the core of the soul. You are very brave to tap into the raw emotions that create such gorgeous imagery. How important is that ability to writing poetry? How can other writers do that?

JENNIE: I believe that everyone is a writer inside. We all have an inner voice, and if you inspire it, and create a safe place for it to express, you will be amazed at what it has to say. I like to tell my clients that a poem is a snapshot of a moment in our lives. We have thousands of those moments inside of our life stories. It is simply about taking the time to capture that snapshot in words. I guide my clients through discussion and inspirational poetry to bring out those moments, and to tap into the whole experience of where you were, what were you wearing, feeling, what was said inside and out- to recreate it through words. That is what I do in my poetry. I take a moment, and work it out on the page.

CHYNNA: I love your expression, “A poem is a snapshot of a moment in our lives,” and it’s so true. Whether an experience was good or bad, stressful or calm, a poem is a fantastic way to get it all out. You’ve done an amazing thing by combing your writing talents with your passion for helping other moms with special needs kids through your amazing “Life Speaks,” website. Can you tell us about that?

JENNIE: On my website, you can view my different class descriptions. All of the workshops are available privately, and many of my clients are from around the world. We communicate through phone or Skype to read the inspirational poetry together, and discuss the personal meanings it brings up for each client, and then I set you up with a writing exercise that you complete on your own and email to me before our next phone/Skype session. The five week workshop for mothers of children with special needs takes the client through the whole story beginning with the birth, the original dream, and then moves to when you know that something may be different, the diagnosis, the inner strength we call upon, how we meet the challenge, how we look for answers and help, how the experience redefines the family, marriage, and lastly the rebirth we experience of acceptance, blessings, our inner healing and our new dream for our children. In many ways, I take the mothers through their own hero’s journey—inspiring them to dive deep, honor their strength, and harvest the wisdom they have gained on this challenging path. The results are truly life changing.

CHYNNA: What a fantastic resource and service you offer. (I was tearing up just with the description of your class for moms with special needs children). I encourage all of our readers to check out your site. Jennie, you also seem very spiritual—I really felt that in several of your poems. Do you find that writing poetry, or writing in general, is a way to connect with that side of ourselves? How important is that for Moms, especially those of us raising special needs children?

JENNIE: Having a child is in itself a spiritual experience—the miracle of it, and the sense that these children come from something greater than ourselves. It was important for me in my own inner healing to find a way to surrender the sense of myself that felt it was somehow my fault, or that it was my responsibility to fix it and control every step of the journey. I have faith that my son’s life is bigger than I can imagine or control. This experience was given to all of us as an opportunity to grow and give back. In my writing, my inner voice is more connected to that place of inner peace, and I find that it will remind me in my poems what I most need to hear, to get back to that place of love and peace in any situation. We all have that ability to find inner peace however you want to define it spiritually or not. My hope is that I can help other moms find that voice of peace.

CHYNNA: I completely agree with you about needing to find inner peace. Thank you for reminding us of how important that is, especially for us Moms. How can we find out more about your work and your classes?

JENNIE: Please visit my website and read through the course descriptions, testimonials and information. You can contact me through the site or through my email to talk more and set up workshop sessions.

CHYNNA: Great, thanks for the links. What inspires you in life and in your writing?

JENNIE: Wow, big question. In life, being with others and sharing life experiences honestly and authentically is most inspiring to me. I thrive on real relationships with family and friends. I love to cook warm meals and invite people into our home, to laugh, cry and feel safe together. In my writing, it is the little moments of the days we live that inspire me the most. It’s the moments when that voice inside says, “I feel this.” It’s the thought you have at the grocery store, or on your drive home. It’s the thought upon waking as your child stands beside your bed at 6am. It’s those inner moments with yourself where you are truly honest.

CHYNNA: It’s the simple things that mean so much and can be so inspiring, isn’t it? It’s amazing how having special little ones remind us of that. How is Graham doing today?

JENNIE: Graham just started Kindergarten at the public school here in Manhattan Beach. He is in a regular classroom and is getting services with the school to help with attention, processing and handwriting. He mostly struggles with regulating his body to stay on task to finish center time activities. Fine motor skills are the hardest for him. We are working hard on handwriting, coloring, cutting and gluing. He seems to love school and his friends. We are still doing some therapies at home to help with homework and to get his body moving through swimming, my gym and one on one Neurofit exercise sessions that work the vestibular and visual processing systems through movement. He is super social and loves to cook, sing songs, ride his bike and go to playdates.

CHYNNA: He sounds like one amazing little guy. I’m so happy to hear things are going so well for him. One last question: Is there anything that you’d like to say to the other Moms or caregivers out there who may be out there searching for answers or comfort?

JENNIE: I want moms to know that they are not alone out there. I want them to know that it’s okay to have all the feelings that come up each and everyday with our special children. And lastly, I want them to know that they have all of the answers and all of the inner peace inside them. Just listen to that inner voice and be gentle with yourself.

Wise, beautiful words from a wise, beautiful woman, mom and friend. Thank you so much to Jennie for sharing her poetry with us as well as tidbits about her life as a Sensational Mom. Through the therapeutic experience of writing out her own story, Jennie has created her five-week expressive writing workshop for mothers of children with special needs. For more information about her wonderful writing workshops, please go to Jennie’s website at www.lifespeakspoetrytherapy.com


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Please be sure to check Chynna’s blog over the next few days as we’ll be posting a contest for a chance to win a signed copy of Jennie’s phenomenal book of poetry. =) We'll also be posting a few of Jennie's amazing poems over there too--you won't want to miss them, believe me.

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