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Saturday, April 30, 2011

 

Entering a New World: Reading or Writing?

When I was a child, I used to marvel at my father: I could be standing a few feet away from him and he wouldn't acknowledge that I was in the room (or maybe that there was a raging blizzard outside). Of course, it was because he had a book in his hands. Perhaps medical emergencies might have roused him from his reading, but I have yet to test out that theory.
Fast forward several more decades and, low and behold, my oldest daughter has become as focused a reader as my father. (Or she's turned on her selective hearing and will continue reading if the words "clean your room" hang in the air versus "as much ice cream as you can eat.")
I consider myself a voracious reader (as much as one can working, writing, and performing my many required motherly duties). But I've never been able to tune out my surroundings and enter a new world through books. Sure, I get involved in my reading whether it's a collection of short stories or my favorite magazines. But I've never been able to tune out my surroundings.
Well, never when reading. But I do have a strong focus when I'm writing. Time rushes past. My husband can run errands or rearrange the furniture and, while I may recognize there is a rumble surrounding me (I may even engage with him, a bit). But ask me a couple hours later and I've been so focused in my writing that the time has bounded past.
It's the passion for the world I'm writing that consumes my focus. Watch out, however, when something doesn't engage my writing interest. Not only do I lose my focus, but I tend to doubt the value of that writing. I treasure the writing that can transport me.

So, do you find you can enter a new world (void of distractions of daily life) with you reading, writing or both? And how would the "eat as much ice cream as you want" work with you?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: 3 Tips to a Successful Audio Interview, Guest Post by Dana Pittman

3 Tips to a Successful Audio Interview

by Dana Pittman

I love talking. I'm not sure whether it's a virtue or a fault. However, I turned my favorite pastime into a vital component of my business. I interview authors for my podcasts (Nia Promotions Podcast and Reading, Writing and Rants). Often I am asked the "How Tos" of interviewing which are simply narrowed down to three key requirements for having a great interview about your book.

1. Relax.

You have to relax.

The open line communicates a lot to listeners. They can hear your anxiety, nervousness, excitement. They will know through your voice whether you are likeable--likeable enough to continue listening, which is the reason you want to have a successful interview.

Relieving yourself of tension and placing aside your concerns about the interview should help calm any anxieties you have. Your comfort can dictate the overall vibe of the interview, assisting in an ease that will help listeners, hopefully, convert to readers.

I would suggest preparing before the interview. Not rehearsed responses but maybe having a cup of tea or taking a quick walk around the neighborhood. Then look to your environment. Sitting in a comfortable chair instead of your desk may assist as well.

2. Know Your Work.

I interview mainstream to indie authors. For an author published by a traditional publishing house I could be asking questions about a book they wrote almost two years prior. I feel bad for them because it makes them fidget and stumble over their responses.

You should know your work. Or consider reading your book before starting your promotional campaign.

Get reacquainted with your characters and the themes in your book. This is what carries an interview. It makes #1 (relax) happen with ease because you and the interviewer now have something in common--your book.

3. Listen to Previous Interviews

I strongly encourage interviewees and their publicists to listen to my archives. I like to have fun. Laugh. Giggle. I've even cried a time or two. But this type of interview does not mesh well with everyone. Listening to prior shows will help you determine if a show or interviewer pair well with you and/or your book.

Sitting through an uncomfortable interview is worse than not having the interview at all. Why? Because it usually feels forced. Listeners go to another show and you leave the experience determined to stay away from podcasts and internet radio shows.

Save yourself the grief and research the show. The numbers of listeners are important but not more important than your ability to share your work with others.

In conclusion, audio interviews about your book are a fantastic, and affordable, way to connect with readers. Make the most of them. And if you ever feel like talking, consider swinging my way.

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Dana Pittman is an author and host for Nia Promotions Podcast and Reading, Writing, and Rants podcast. She enjoys reading, writing, crocheting, and running...and not in that order. She plans to read, write, and talk her way into every household she can. Dana is married with two kids and resides in Texas.

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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, April 28, 2011

 

I Won’t Write Today

"You can't say, I won't write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then...you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer." - Dorothy C. Fontana

Earlier this week, co-WOW woman Robin did a post on handling life's
challenges and staying on course with your writing. I loved her description of being in a “ bus-runneth-over state” at the time of writing. I am so there right now and got the tire tracks on me to prove it!

While I’ve continued writing assignments and projects---I’m participating in Script Frenzy this month---the above quote applied to my journal writing. In fact, I hadn’t journalled in a little over six months. While there are some who have lengthy periods of time between journal entries, I’m not one of them. Days, weeks, a couple of months at the most. Journalling serves as a catharsis for me, but seemed like ‘the bus kept running over’ me. My “I won’t write today,” stretched days, weeks, months and I saw some of my writing suffer.

Then one day last month, I spotted my journal near my bed, still new, waiting to be opened. That day I wrote, releasing months of pent-up crap. Ideas started to flow. It was lovely.

By the way, Fontana has some serious street cred. Better known as D.C. Fontana, she’s written numerous episodes for various Star Trek shows including the original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and so on. She’s also written for The Waltons, children’s shows such as Land of the Lost and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; Six Million Dollar Man and Dallas. Imagine if she decided not write!

Ever said “I won’t write today?” Share how that turned out for you.

By Jill Earl

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

 

Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks

Have you ever wanted to write a children's book? Are you working on one right now and feeling lost? We have a great interview in store for you then! We welcome to The Muffin today Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley, authors of the book Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks. 

Shirley Raye Redmond is an award-winning writer and frequent conference speaker. She has sold more than 26 book manuscripts and over 450 magazine and newspaper articles. Her children’s book, Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Random House), has sold 200,000 copies and was a Children’s Book of the Month Club main selection in 2003. Jennifer McKerley is a teacher and award-winning writer. She has authored Random House books for grades 1-3: Man O’ War, Best Racehorse Ever (2005) and Amazing Armadillos (2009). Amazing Armadillos was the 2010 Winner for Young Readers Book in the New Mexico Book Awards and was named one of the best children’s books of 2010 by Bank Street College of Education. She has also written several other children's books.

WOW: Welcome, Jennifer and Shirley Raye, to The Muffin. We are excited to have you here with us today and to share your book, Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks, with our readers. To start off, please tell us a little about the purpose of your book and your target audience.

SRR: Many people dream of writing a children’s book, but don’t know how to get started. Our workbook walks the reader through the process in about two hours a day for seven weeks. We’ve used this method dozens of times to write manuscripts that sold to major publishers, such as Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Gale Cengage. Some of our titles have even won contests and awards.

JM: When we wrote this workbook, we had in mind the many people who’ve told us they have an idea for a children’s book, but they felt lost about how to begin and about the publishing process. They knew it was hard to sell a book and wanted to avoid false steps. We show writers how to begin on sound footing and keep going. Part of this involves understanding the publishing world, and we provide a quickie-education.

Jennifer McKerley
WOW: Sounds great and like it can save aspiring writers hours of unnecessary work. Which types of children's books does your workbook help writers write? How do you break up such an enormous task?

SRR: You can use our plan to write a picture book, a chapter book, a reader, a middle-grade nonfiction book, or a middle-grade novel in seven weeks. I used this user-friendly 7-week plan to write my very first children’s book, a 96-page humorous juvenile novel, Grampa and the Ghost. It went on to become a Weekly Reader selection. I’m pretty proud of that!

JM: We first show writers how to analyze the market in order to evaluate their ideas and understand the different categories of children’s books. In order to write a marketable book, they must know what age and category they are targeting. We further break down the process by guiding writers through two weeks of planning before they begin writing. We provide a simple plotting method along with many other helps. We apply our method to fiction and nonfiction and give specific tips on producing exciting nonfiction.

WOW: You bring up a good point that in today's competitive publishing world, you really have to know the market and where your idea fits. It's not as easy as just writing a good book. Your book gives writers assignments and tips. What type of assignments will writers be completing while reading the workbook?

SRR: The assignments are not esoteric. They are practical and to the point and actually guide the reader toward the completion of a marketable manuscript.

JM: An example of an assignment is to find five books that are like the one you want to write 
and follow our guide to analyze them.

WOW: How is your book organized? Is it easy to use even for the beginning 
writer?

SRR: The book is conveniently organized into a concise 7-week program, allowing a teacher, parent, librarian or other aspiring children’s book writer to complete a manuscript during summer vacation or before attending a writer’s conference. Just as someone who uses a sewing pattern to successfully complete a sewing project in a weekend, our “writing pattern” will help both beginners and experienced writers stay focused and on track as they complete their writing project.

JM: It is user-friendly because it gives writers meaty information without overwhelming them. It is organized into the steps of learning from the market, using that info to plan and 
plot a story for a specific niche, writing with lots of aids along the way, and a guide to revising. 

Shirley Raye Redmond
WOW: Seven weeks does seem very manageable--great idea to write it during summer break! It seems like everybody wants to write a children's book these days, and lots of people actually are. How do you break into the market when publishers are overwhelmed with submissions? Is it "worth it" to write a children's book?

SRR: Yes, editors are overwhelmed by manuscripts. Most of them are not even remotely suited to their editorial needs and are quickly rejected. A savvy writer will send an editor what that editor is looking for. Breaking in with nonfiction is the easiest way—and the path few beginners chose to explore. Is it worth it? For me, yes. The advances and royalties on my children’s books have consistently been higher than those I receive for my romance novels. It’s also a lot of fun to receive letters from children who have read my books and to learn how teachers are using the titles in the classroom and to read the blogs of home school moms across the country to learn how they are using the books at home.

JM: Shirley Raye and I “broke in” by meeting editors at conferences, signing up for appointments, and then sending editors manuscripts aimed at their interests. Sending a stand-out query and cover letter also gets an editor’s attention, and we provide tips and examples for both.

WOW: The book sounds like it has everything an aspiring author needs to succeed. Wonderful! What do you think is the most difficult step in the process for children's writers? How does your book help overcome this?

SRR: I think many individuals who want to write for children do so because they enjoyed reading when they were kids themselves. They want to write books like the ones they loved--Five Little Peppers and Caddie Woodlawn, Tom Swift, etc. Too often, they jump into writing without doing market analysis—beginners need to spend time learning what editors want and are willing to pay for. Our workbook walks beginners through this crucial market analysis process.

JM: A difficult step is getting in the habit of writing regularly. Creativity and inspiration play a part in writing, but not as big a part as just doing it. We want those who dream of writing to bite the bullet and get a manuscript completed. We know it is an empowering feeling, and if they keep writing, they’ll learn that the writing habit itself triggers inspiration and creativity. Our goal is to get people writing whole projects—not dreaming, starting, stopping when they hit a snag, and never finishing. 

Our workbook offers a straightforward, step-by-step approach. Our plan emphasizes persistence not speed. We provide a simple plan that does not overpower, but that encourages, guides, and shows a writer how to steadily reach writing goals. 

WOW: Jennifer, you hit the nail on the head when you said that you just have to write it and write it regularly! Shirley Raye, thank you for pointing out how important it is for writers to know the market. To you both, we appreciate you sharing your insight with us today. 

If you are interested in writing for children, click here for more information or to order Shirley Raye's and Jennifer's workbook, Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks. 

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










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Monday, April 25, 2011

 

The Juggling Act: How Do You Handle The Unexpected?

"There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full"--Henry Kissinger


Most of the time I feel I am jogging alongside the bus; happily busy checking off my list. Other times the bus runs me over. For the past few weeks I’ve been in a in a bus-runneth-over state.

I’ll bet you’ve been here…juggling a colicky relationship, financial matters, the care of aging parents, deadlines, social obligations and the weeds in your front yard. Just when all the balls are in the air and you’ve got the rhythm down someone tosses another ball--of a different weight—and it throws you right off. Please excuse the mixed metaphors, it’s 1 AM and the little editor in my head has clocked out.



This isn’t the first time I’ve been clicking away while the neighborhood sleeps. On the up side, there are no distractions and it is a short commute to my bed. I do wonder though, how common is it for those of us working from home to put in extended hours? Do unscheduled demands throw off your juggling act? How do you handle life’s little emergencies?



Share your thoughts with your friends…



Robyn Chausse

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

 

Find More Than Friends on Facebook

Smart writers use Facebook to their advantage. They network with fans and writers, promote their work, and create engaging dialogue.

Smart writers also know that smart readers use Facebook and book apps on the networking site. On Friday, Jason Boggs listed the top 20 Facebook apps for book lovers on the Media Bistro site. As I perused the list, I discovered I had only heard of four of these apps. Book lovers and writers may want to check out:


  • I'm Reading. List and rate books you're reading. Share reviews.

  • Lendle. This is a Kindle app that lets you share or borrow Kindle books.

  • Avon Romance. Perfect for women searching for a great forever and ever read.

  • The Ultimate Harry Potter Quiz. Questions from the novels and movies are listed. I've taken it. It's tough!

Smart writers will think of ways to connect with readers and potential readers through these book applications. You never know how future readers will learn about your work.


Which Facebook book apps do you use?


by LuAnn Schindler. Follow LuAnn on Twitter @luannschindler or read more of her work at LuAnn's Writing on the Wall.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

 

Quick Blog Post Ideas

So, you started a blog, and at first, you took a lot of time and care to write each post. But as you soon found out, blogs can take up a huge chunk of your writing time each day or every other day, depending on how often you post. It is important to blog on a regular basis and update your material, but it's also important to work on your creative material or freelance articles.

Here are a few quick blog ideas when you don't have a lot of time, but you need a blog post for the day. (One note: blog posts should usually be between 250 to 500 words, but it's okay every once in a while to have a shorter or longer post.)

  • Start with a quote: If you are running out of inspiration, find a quote that fits the theme of your blog and post it. Then write a paragraph or two about what the quote means to you, and you are done! You can ask your readers to share a favorite quote of theirs or how they interpret the quote.  
  • Post a photo: Photos are always fun. You can use www.flickr.com to find some photos in the Creative Commons section that people allow you to use for free, if you give them the credit they deserve. You can also use your own photos. Post one, and write about it like you did the quote. OR for a fun contest to get reader comments and interaction, have a photo caption contest. Post the photo and invite your readers to leave a caption. If your blog has a theme, try to find a photo that fits the theme or ask the readers to leave theme-related captions. 
  • Ask a question: People love to share their opinions on hot topics. So, ask your readers a question, give them a little background on WHY you are asking this question, tie it to other posts on your blog, and you are done! For example, if you have a blog on elementary education, ask a question such as: "Do you believe children learn to read better if they are taught phonics?" You'll get a wide range of opinions and might even start a debate on your blog. You can't ask for a better quick post than that. 
Don't make your blog something you dread. If you are in a rut, try one of the ideas above and get yourself back on track. For tips like these and other help with your blog, consider taking my online class, Blogging 101 and More which starts Friday, April 29. To find out more information, click here or email margo@wow-womenonwriting (dot) com. Happy blogging!

post by Margo Dill (http://margodill.com/blog)
 
photo by TikTik  www.flickr.com

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Friday, April 22, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writing Each Day Keeps The Doctor Away, Guest Post by Kirsten Cliff

Writing Each Day Keeps The Doctor Away

by Kirsten Cliff

I didn’t discover my love of creative writing until I became too ill to work full time. My passion developed when I wrote a cathartic article about my chronic illness for a competition that I subsequently won.

I have always loved reading, apart from when textbooks bogged me down at university, but hadn’t thought about writing creatively myself. My experience included writing scholarly essays, recording meeting minutes, keeping a journal, and penning random poems as a teenager. I’d never noticed before, the instant gratification writing brought me.

Writing is how I experience and process the world, it allows me to stay connected to my spirit, and I soon realised its health benefits. It’s a bonus if someone else likes a piece I’ve written too, wants to publish it and, most exciting of all, wants to pay me for it. But the writing, the creating, the outpouring is the main event for me.

Being focused on an activity that brings me true joy helps me to forget my physical pain, if only briefly. Writing helps me to live in the moment; distracting me from the stress and isolation of chronic illness. Practising this craft helps me feel I have achieved something worthwhile and is a way of contributing to society. It has facilitated my involvement in the community through local writing and poetry groups, a social and inspiring avenue, which has been vital to my well-being.

I also do other arts and crafts projects, like photography and collage work, but I find writing is the best creative outlet for me. It’s inexpensive and I can do it anywhere. I found myself at the beach recently with a pen on my key ring but no paper. I ended up writing a few short notes on my used popsicle stick.

And being creative in this way doesn’t tax me as other crafts do. If I get tired typing or looking at a computer screen, I can write by hand; if too fatigued or in pain for that, I record my thoughts on tape.

Research shows that a 15-minute daily writing practice alleviates stress and boosts the functioning of the immune system. Of course, for some of us, writing itself can cause us stress.

But why not have a go yourself? Journaling is a great way to start. Try writing down all the thoughts swimming around in your head that stop you from getting to sleep at night.

You may thank me in the morning.

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Kirsten Cliff currently spends her days creating a collection of haiga (haiku poems with images) to help her mentally and spiritually process her recent journey through leukaemia. Her haiku have been published in journals and anthologies, and placed in competitions, in both New Zealand and overseas. Kirsten lives with her fiancé (also a writer and poet) in a house dedicated to writing, “Wordsmith House”, in Papamoa, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. Kirsten 'blogs' at http://kirstencliffwrites.blogspot.com/ or you can visit her website at http://kirstencliff.110mb.com/ .

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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, April 21, 2011

 

Adventures in Creating a Writers' Group, Part 2

It's only a few hours since I met with those interested in joining the writers' group I mentioned in a previous post. As you may recall, I'm a regional (three-county) representative for a statewide writers group.

My list of preparations for the gathering started with great intentions. I had planned to email everyone I had on my list and get confirmations. I had planned to sort out a few writing exercises to introduce and had a bunch of ideas for clever, memorable introductions. I had even planned to pass out little goodies at the end.

Time worked against me and suddenly the day arrived and I had yet to accomplish any of my goals. Fortunately, the statewide group had sent an e-newsletter and a local reporter had picked up on it.

We met in a little-traveled, back area of a used bookstore. The staff was incredibly accommodating and the owner was thrilled to let us use the space. She's agreed to our meeting every two weeks.

Other preparations I made included reading up on setting up a writers' group. However, part of the restriction I have is, as a representative of an organization, I have to think of a more open format than an invitation-only situation. But in the interest of the 7 folks who showed up (including the author of a book on starting a writers' group). The introductions included the question: What do you want to get out of this group? This was a talkative bunch and we were rarely at a loss for words.

The majority were looking for a critique group with lukewarm interest in seminars on marketing, self-publishing, or hearing from successful writers. (There was interest...just not a lot.)

I'll detail some of the formats and inner-workings of critique groups in my next post.

My question this week is if you were interested in joining a writers' group, would you look for a critique group exclusively or would you want to join a group that might have writing exercises one week, a visiting writer the next and a few critiquing workshops intermingled?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

 

Can’t Write? Draw.


by Gila Green

All stories have a shape to them. Draw yours. I learned this in journalism school. At that time it was critical that we mastered the differences between writing for print, radio and television (there was no web writing then). We learned this through shapes. The identical story, say about a student demonstration against a tuition hike, had to be written in three different ways, depending upon which medium it was for. Each medium, we were taught, had its own shape and presumably still does.

I now use this method in my own fiction and in my fiction classes and I find it helps many writers improve their work and organize their thoughts.

Back to your story: Is it circular, a parallel line, or two parallel lines? Does the line peak anywhere? Map out your story visually with a plain pen and paper or rainbow colored markers on Bristol board; whatever inspires you the most. Why? You will see your story in an entirely new way. Using a different medium offers a lot of perspective, even on an old story.

Don’t restrict yourself to drawing; you can dance out your story if you are inclined (and I have two-stepped a story more than once in one of my creative writing workshops). The point of this exercise is to transfer your work into another art form. Paint a scene from your story. Put one whole chapter into a poem. Represent your story in another way and this could very well be the key to unlocking the secret of your work.

Now, let’s examine some possible results. If you have drawn a flat line, it’s very likely that your story reads like this: exposition, exposition, exposition. Another flat-line diagnosis: endless dialogue that tries to fit in three generations of family history in a going-nowhere back and forth between two moody characters.

Viola! You now know that you need to either cut exposition and put in dialogue or cut dialogue and throw in some exposition, atmosphere, action; something to break that long flat line!

If your writer’s block is so severe that you have not even begun your story, don’t despair. Draw a published story. But don’t just lean over and grab the closest book. Choose one that makes you see the world through different eyes; one you have read repeatedly and (best option) one that makes you burn with envy. Don’t just read it from the perspective of shape either, really draw it!

Is this story so successful because it opens on such a sharp peak? Is it the way two parallel lines—representing the heroine and her foil, perhaps—are chasing each other like Tom & Jerry that draws (pun intended) you in? Find a satisfying answer before you move back to your own tale.

Remember, art is interconnected. If the traditional “go for a walk to clear your head” advice isn’t working, stroll all the way to the art section for a pack of crayons or a paint brush.

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Originally from Ottawa, Gila Green's stories have appeared in tens of literary magazines in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Israel, and Hong Kong. Her short story collection, White Zion, is a finalist for the Doris Bakwin Award (Carolina Wren Press, 2008). Her stories have been short listed for WordSmitten's TenTen Fiction Contest (2008); The Walrus Literary Award (2006/7); the Eric Hoffer Best New Writing Award (2008) and the Ha'aretz Short Fiction Award (Tel Aviv, 2006). Gila has an MA in Creative Writing from Bar Ilan University (Israel) and a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada).

Gila is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop SHORT FICTION WRITING starts Monday, May 2nd. This class is limited to 10 students, so make sure you reserve your spot today. Click here to sign up now!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

 

Interview with Jeanne Bereiter - Runner-Up in the Fall 2010 Flash Fiction contest


Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Jeanne Bereiter planned on becoming a writer, but life - as it often does - had other plans. After graduating from college, Jeanne decided to become a doctor instead. She earned her B.A. at Evergreen State College in Washington State, and her medical degree at McGill University in Montreal. She has worked as a family physician in the Canadian arctic and rural Alberta, and as a community psychiatrist in Anchorage, Alaska. Currently, Jeanne is an academic child and adolescent psychiatrist in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Through the years, Jeanne has enjoyed her profession and work in the medical field, and now, she is reintroducing herself to the writing life. She's published several reflective narratives in medical journals and is working on her first novel, about a group of psychiatric patients.


Have you ever made a promise to your child and then not followed through? Jeanne's story, Mother-Daughter Clothes, uses that exact premise. If you haven't read it yet, grab a drink or snack and surf over to the contest page.


WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Jeanne, and congratulations on receiving runner-up honors in our 2010 Fall Flash Fiction contest. As I read Mother-Daughter Clothes, the theme of broken promises resonated. As a mother, I'm guilty. And I'm sure there were times my mother didn't meet all of her promises either. But the use of clothing as the connecting - or symbolic - item really sets your story apart. How did you come up with the premise?


Jeanne: This story was based on events from my own life. The key clothing events actually happened, and it occurred to me many years ago that they'd make a good story. Sewing has been important to women throughout history, and until relatively recently, women made all their own and their children's clothes. Sewing is a way mothers nurture their families and keep them sewn together. In this story, the mother had great intentions to nurture her daughter, but life events kept her from doing so. I liked the pathos of the daughter sewing clothes for her doll out of material that had been meant for her.


WOW: It's quite powerful. Symbolism drives a storyline. I see the idea of sewing, or not sewing, as a symbol for the unraveling of the family. Was this your intent when you began writing?


Jeanne: As I touched upon above, I saw the idea of sewing as a symbol for how women keep their families together. When the mother makes herself a sundress to go on a vacation with her new boyfriend, this is her attempt to create a new family with him, symbolically and literally abandoning her daughter who has grown too large. When the daughter grows up and makes her own daughter a playsuit, despite having a newborn to care for, she is superstitiously stitching her own family together. The family not sewn for unravels; the daughter sewing for her new family at the end of the story gives hope for the future.


WOW: Again, you create such a visual symbol with the material and clothing items. It captures my senses and lets the story play out in my mind. Kudos! Jeanne, you have a medical background. I'm curious, what elements from your professional life did you bring to the resolution of this piece?


Jeanne: The concept of breaking the cycle probably came from my work as a psychiatrist. We all repeat family patterns - good ones as well as destructive ones. It often takes a conscious decision to break the cycle - to not yell at your kids even if your parents yelled at you, and so on.


WOW: Originally, you intended to become a writer, but you chose to enter the medical profession. Now, the writing cycle has come full circle and you've started putting pen to paper once again. Why is it important to have an outlet for creativity and expression?


Jeanne: Human beings are creative animals. We all need these outlets. There is a further connection between doctoring and writing, and between psychiatry and writing. Doctors hear people's stories. We help our patients tell their own stories in a more coherent, rich, and nuanced way, to follow an event through from beginning to end. What happened next, and what after that? Does that sound like writing?


WOW: Most definitely! (smiles) Are there any current projects you'd like to share with our readers?


Jeanne: I am finishing the first draft of a novel about people with mental illness who meet in a therapy group. Apart from that, I write book reviews, journal, and work on the occasional short story.


WOW: Sounds like you lead the life of a prosperous writer! Good luck with your future projects, and again, congratulations on receiving runner-up honors with Mother -Daughter Clothes.


Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's writing at her website.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

 

Mapping Your Way to an Essay


Several summers during my childhood, I took art lessons. My mom's wishful thinking since I never showed any natural talent. My dogs looked like frogs. My frogs looked like logs. And my logs looked like...well, OK, my logs did look like logs. But who could mess up a log? So I put away my pencils and paints in favor or pens, typewriters, and eventually computer keyboards. But this weekend I found myself back in art class when I attended the Write It Right writers' conference.

During a "Turning Memories Into Memoirs" workshop with Shirley Brosius she encouraged us to pick a neighborhood from our childhood and draw a map in ten minutes. My houses were squares with the family name printed on them, the streets wiggly lines(I couldn't draw a straight line if my life depended on it), the creek, the playground, the candy store. Shirley was right! As I drew the map memories were popping into my head that I scribbled around the edges of my map.

Although I'm not a memoir writer I do write personal essays. In the past a photograph, experience, even a smell or sound would inspire me to write a personal essay. But I've found another tool to encourage the writer within me. This weekend I've doodled maps of my college campus, the floor plan of the house I grew up in, my children's schools, even the mall where I worked my first job. I'm amazed by the list of ideas I now have for personal essays. The ideas don't even come from studying the maps. They seem to leap into my head as I'm actually doing the drawing.

I suggest you draw a few of your life maps today. And thank Shirley for the ideas that they encourage!

Jodi Webb is a WOW! Blog Tour organizer and writes the Words by Webb blog. She has written hundreds of magazines articles and is teaching a WOW Class "Finding Experts and Interviewing Them" this May.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

 

A World of Writing Inspiration

Writers are always on the lookout for inspirational ideas to turn into new writing projects. Once while exploring HOW, the online version of the graphic design magazine, I came across an article by Sam Harrison, author of several books on creativity and editor of ZingZone.com. In 10 Ways to Get Inspired by the World Around You, he suggests close examination of our surroundings can reveal more ideas than we can handle.

Most writers already practice number five, ‘Observe and Take Note’. How else would we acquire and develop those ideas we come across? Two of the world’s more notable notetakers are mentioned, Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison, whose books were filled with diagrams, sketches and of course, notes. I agree with the author’s suggestion to “capture ideas while they last---(to) take verbal and visual notes.”

I have a worn notebook containing expansive family trees of characters I created back in high school. Over time, I’ve returned to its pages to flesh out characters for some of the stories and scripts I’ve written.

Check out number two, ‘Explore the Masters for Material’. Artist Willem de Kooning was inspired by Rubens and combined classical and modern into a new art form. Does Dali do something for you? Gazing into his life may inspire you to create a graphic novel. Harrison also encourages writers to list masters they admire, then explore their lives, methods and ideas to see what they might walk away with.

Watching Pixar/Disney’s Ratatouille, the Oscar-winning animated film about a rat (!) aspiring to become a chef in Paris, inspired me to not only create a gourmet meal, write a post for ‘The Muffin’, but also fine-tune the cooking talents of a couple of characters I’ve been working on.

Sometimes, as number ten states, you ‘ Stay Where You Are’, Inventor Charles Pajeau did just that observing his children building structures with pencils and thread spools they found. And the outcome? Tinkertoys!

Read the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, right here.

The world provides such rich inspiration for the writer. Get out there and get them!

By Jill Earl

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

 

Last Call! Seeking Queries for "Girls Just Want to Have Fun...Writing!" Issue

If you received our e-mail newsletter, remember, our deadline for queries is Monday, April 18th. We'll be reviewing and responding to all queries that day and the following day. So, if you have an idea, send it on over! There's only a couple of days left.

What are we looking for? We're seeking articles that epitomize our theme, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun...Writing!" The theme is open to your interpretation. What do you love about your writing life that you can teach others? What brings you joy and satisfaction? We want to bring the fun back in writing!

Ideas include:
- The Girl's Guide to... (think of the idea and what you'd like to place there, but please don't use the title literally... we're receiving a lot of those, which we're going to have to rename)
- Interviews with editors of women-focused magazines (for new markets column)
- Interviews with literary agents on the topic of trends in women's fiction and otherwise
- Writing through summer distractions (for a slam piece, which combines three articles on similar topic from different authors in one web page)
- How tos on writing topics: what have you had success with that you can help others with?

Note: we already have quite a few queries for interviews with chick lit authors, and there's some great ones! But maybe an interview with a humor writer...Tina Fey, anyone?

This issue is slated to publish around the end of May/June 1.

Please review our submission guidelines on our Contact Page (scroll down to "Submissions") for guidelines and how to submit or query. Pay is $50 - $150 per article, on publication.

We look forward to your ideas!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Sneetch School, Guest Post by Melissa Olson

Sneetch School

by Melissa Olson

For years now, I’ve been told that there are two kinds of fiction writing: “popular” or “commercial” fiction, and “literary” fiction. (Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that both terms are insulting to the other kind of writing.) Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with either kind of book--I probably enjoy commercial fiction the most, but I definitely read both. Somewhere along the way, though a line was drawn in the sand, and now everybody seems to have these…attitudes.

I’m not necessarily talking about the readers, though there are plenty of literary snobs and commercial junkies who fight about this stuff. No, I’m referring more to the writers themselves. Very few authors have worked in both literary and commercial fiction, and each side seems to snort at the other. It’s like (to reference a great commercial writer) the Dr. Seuss story with the Sneetches. Some have stars on their bellies, and some don’t, but both sides look down upon the other, which can only be described as pointless. Commercial writers have a lot of insecurity that their work isn’t as good as literary writers, and literary writers are embarrassed that their so-called "superior" books don’t sell nearly as much. Writers don’t like having their egos challenged.

This quiet feud has been around for decades, but it’s only recently that I’ve really been forced to get involved. Even though I haven’t sold a book yet, I’ve always thought of myself as a commercial writer, because that’s the kind of stuff I produce. My first book was a PI whodunit, and my second was a vampires and werewolves fantasy. Somewhere along the line, though, I started to wonder if I was capable of more “literary” writing. I don’t have a problem with being a commercial writer--I’ll never win the Pulitzer, but I might keep food on the table--but I just really wanted to know, for me. Which, combined with my desire to be able to teach in a pinch, is how I ended up in grad school working on a master's in Creative Writing. And after two uncomfortable semesters, I think I’ve finally figured out why I don’t seem to fit in there: nobody crosses the line. There are great commercial writers and great literary writers, but you can’t have a star on your belly and no star on your belly at the same time.

I guess if I’d really thought about it, I would have realized that by even going to grad school I was heading straight into literary-only territory, but my focus was just on learning to write better--I really thought about just how snobbish it would be. My professors and all my classmates have been really cool, interesting people, but nobody wants to write genre fiction: it’s lit or bust. For these people, writing isn’t about having fun or having a career, it’s telling important messages in detailed and well-developed ways. It’s more about great art than great stories, and that’s taking some getting used to.

Sometimes I feel like I’m sneaking around behind enemy lines, and at any moment someone is going to read this blog or critique some of my writing, and I’ll get tossed out of here on my rear. And I have to admit, by about week two I was wondering if I should just drop out and focus on my book. I thought I couldn’t write literary fiction because I’ve never been taught, but maybe it’s just because I can’t write literary fiction.

The smart thing would probably be to cut my losses and walk away from grad school, but historically I'm not known for doing the smart thing, which is how I ended up trying to be a full-time student and mommy to a toddler at the same time. I'm going to go for it, but I'm going to try to remember that life is too busy and too full to worry that I might be holding onto a star, trying to figure out if/how/when to put it on my belly. The whole division thing is silly. Seriously, it's a Dr. Seuss book. Things don't get much sillier.

* * *

Melissa Olson grew up in Chippewa Falls, WI (home of Leinenkugels) before attending the University of Southern California , where she earned degrees in English Literature and Cinema-Television. She worked as a features and reviews writer, columnist, and film editor for the Daily Trojan newspaper. After graduation, she spent a brief time in the Hollywood studio system before moving to Madison, WI. Melissa is currently pursuing her MA in creative writing and working on publishing her two completed novels. She is an occasional film columnist for the Chippewa Falls Herald Telegram, and also writes blogs on entertainment, motherhood, and writing at her website, http://www.melissafolson.com/ . Academic interests include film studies, fantasy/magical realism, feminist literature, and screenwriting.

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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, April 14, 2011

 

The Aches and Pains of Being a Writer


I see rejection in my skin, worry in my cancers, bitterness and hate in my aching joints. I failed to take care of my mind, and so my body now goes to hospital. ~Astrid Alauda

Sore throats, migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, upset stomachs when approaching a deadline… are these just the price we have to pay for our profession? Not necessarily; what if I told you that these are not, in essence, symptoms of the body, but symptoms of the soul.

Carolyn Myss loves to tell us that our biography is our biology. I finally realized the meaning of this when, with the help of a wonderful therapist named Lori, I found that my lower back pain was actually repressed self-judgment and fear. Can I take care of myself? I can’t support myself! If I succeed where my family has failed they will turn away from me…. All of this was causing a whirlwind effect and my physical body was trying to stay balanced. Lori provided me a place of safety and support and helped me unravel the messages my body was giving me.

Each of us is meant to be able to connect with our bodies and receive the messages it is sending us about where we are out of balance, but we don’t…it’s as if we have forgotten how to listen. Actually, we are to busy covering up the signals with aspirin, caffeine, and anti-depressants. Listening is something we can re-learn though, and we don’t have to wait until we are in pain to get the message!

I asked Lori if there was an exercise she could share with us to help us learn how to listen to the messages our body is sending. Below is an abbreviated version of an exercise she gives to her clients. I should add though, that it is extremely beneficial to go through this exercise with a qualified practitioner a couple of times before going solo. The support and guidance she can offer you will take you deeper into the experience than you might allow yourself to go on your own, especially when physical or emotional pain is present.

The Contract/Relax (or Wake up and Stretch) Routine

Courtesy of Lori Zeltwanger, PT

Get into a comfortable position, either lying down or sitting.

Take a deep breath. Pay attention to what parts of your body are expanding and receiving your breath.

Then take another deep breath. This time, without any judgment at all, pay attention to what parts of your body are not able to expand.

Now scan through your body and find any areas of tightness, tension, aches or pains that are present in this moment of time.

Tune in to these areas of tightness, tension, aches and pains. Gradually begin to tighten and tense these areas. Tighten and tense these areas as much as you feel you comfortably can.

Hold the tightness and tension in your body. While you continue to allow your breath to flow in and out, tighten and tense these same areas even a little bit more.

Then slowly begin to release the tightness and tension allowing your tissues to soften and let go. Continue to tune in to these areas and repeat the process allowing your tissues to let go even more than they ever have before.

Repeat this process several times, each time activating deeper areas. Your body will tell you how it needs to move, allow yourself to go there. Slowly follow the body’s natural movements as it accesses deeper layers.Your body will naturally come to a pause in the movement.

Pause, until you feel your body naturally move you into a new area of tightness and tension.

Now gradually tighten and tense this area of your body. Continue to allow your breath to flow in and out.

You may find yourself needing to release some noise; a groan, a yell, whatever feels natural. Allow this to happen; noise is a vibration that helps to shift your stuck tissues.

Allow your body to move with the tightness in any way in which it desires. Pause. Feel the sensations that are present in this moment of time.

Allow your body to unravel all of the tightness and tension that is present, moving in any direction that your body guides you, until your tissue feels ready to let go.

Wait until you feel your tissues begin to melt, soften and let go. You may want to let out a big sigh as you release all of this tightness and tension.

When working this exercise you may notice memories, thoughts or emotions surfacing. This is the stuff behind the pain. Don’t judge it, just notice it. Is this a truth or just baggage? What fears have you just uncovered? Are you ready to let go of these? Reconnecting with our bodies in this way will retrain us, over time, to listen more deeply to ourselves.

By Robyn Chausse

A big “thank you” to Lori at Advanced Release Therapy or sharing this exercise with us today!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

 

When Your Nonfiction Book Idea is Stuck in the Mud

When Your Nonfiction Book Idea is Stuck in the Mud

by Andrea Campbell

I’ve been teaching online for over twelve years now and there is one problem that people who want to write a book all commit—at least in the beginning. They get what they think is a great idea for a book and then get stuck. For some reason, they can’t get going. The title won’t come. They can’t find a way to start the Overview or Introduction, and they get frustrated thinking they’ve got writer’s block or maybe they figure they haven’t spent enough time staring at a blank piece of paper. This is usually the state at which they come to me. I hear, “I’ve got a great idea but can’t seem to pull it together.” Or, “I started this book proposal six months ago and just seem to keep procrastinating. What am I doing wrong?”

What’s It About?

I’ll ask them what their book is about and listen as they try to explain their book to me. Most can’t seem to articulate what the book topic is in one sentence, often they can’t even do it in one paragraph. Typically, it turns out, they can’t even explain it with a full page of writing!

First Level Thinking

Nine times out a ten it’s what I call first-level thinking. This is a term I use to explain when someone has an idea that is usually very generic. It could be a common idea or something that has come to the attention of people-consciousness with a “groundswell” of information, (meaning, it’s been in the universe so long that many people have picked up on it). Since thinking and true brainstorming are so difficult (we get tired after five concentrated minutes of it), these writers can’t get past the initial idea. They get stalled thinking that their first idea is their best idea. Now, in reality, in order for their idea to be even mildly successful, they need an idea so strong that it provides true visceral feelings or emotions. This idea then has to provide the structure for every important element in the book proposal—from title to chapter sample. Their idea must do some heavy-lifting. And it must Wow! us at the same time.

Parse the Book

So after the basic market research and several library-type exercises I require, I suggest to students that they parse their book. Now parsing was originally what you did in high school English when you broke apart a sentence into its basic parts: noun, verb, adjective and so forth. “Parsing a book” is a twist on the original concept and my own invention, because I use it to express the need to do it for book ideas. The best way to explain how to do it is by using an example to demonstrate how, through parsing, it can help you to recognize the most perfect direction and focus for the book.

Take Your Idea

Let’s use “walking” as an example. Perhaps you just discovered walking for fitness and are really jazzed about how you feel. Unfortunately, no matter how enthused you are about walking it is a dull subject. There are walking magazines and the public has known about the virtues of walking for fitness for a very long time. But, you still don’t want to leave walking, what can you do? Well, let’s look at walking in different ways. Do you have other experiences with walking?

How about: a method? Sprint walking, Full body walking. Walking backwards.

How about: a group? Marathon walkers, charity walkers, dog walkers.

How about: history? Famous walkers. Walking records.

How about: location? Walking botanical gardens. Walking Iraq.

Now we’re getting somewhere. With “walking botanical gardens” you can provide a guide to the best, most inspirational gardens in the United States, complete with maps, and some tips on how to prepare. (And the gardens themselves usually have gift stores, so you’ve also identified a market for sales!)

And walking Iraq. That’s interesting too. If you’ve done a tour there you can talk about the citizens you’ve met, the dangers you’ve encountered, and the changes your walking there has made in you. And you can format your stories with interviews and maps. (Plus, the military who have been there too, would most likely help make up a readership.)

So, we’ve taken an unlikely, unpublishable topic, walking, and found out through book parsing, two possible ways in which to focus our topic and get a book proposal subject that just may work. Truth is, if you believe in your subject, you need to develop ways to work with it, but at least you have a start: a viable idea.

***

Andrea Campbell is the author of twelve traditionally published nonfiction books on a variety of topics including forensic science, criminal law, primatology and entertaining using interactive games, among others. Andrea is currently working on the 3rd edition of Legal Ease: A Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence and Procedure, which has been fashioned into a college law textbook, and she will featured in an upcoming anthology, Now Write! Mystery, Thrillers and Crime, the next in the writing series published by Penguin/Tarcher.

Andrea is a member of several professional organizations and stays current with book business. Her classes always offer students much more than they thought they’d get. One of her students recently got a “very good deal,” and, according to Publisher’s Lunch, a $100,000-plus book contract.

Andrea is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop THE GATEKEEPERS: ALL ABOUT AGENTS AND EDITORS—Getting them, Working with them, and Growing as a Career Author starts Monday, April 25th. This class is limited to 10 students, so make sure you reserve your spot today. Click here to sign up now!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

 

Interview with Dawn Curtis - Runner-Up in the Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Contest

Dawn’s Bio:

An on-again, off-again writer for most of her life, Dawn started to focus more on her writing seven years ago, about the same time she got serious about yoga. Curious about the amazing effect yoga was having on her creative process, Dawn discovered other yogi-writers through study with Jeffrey Davis, author of Journey From the Center to the Page. Already a yoga teacher, she completed Yoga as Muse facilitator training with Davis in 2010.

Dawn credits Yoga as Muse with helping her establish a regular writing practice, and with overcoming fears of sitting down to write and finding she has nothing to say. Instead, she’s discovered that the body is a storehouse of emotions and memories that, through gentle movement and breathing, can yield rich, creative imagery.

The long, dark winters in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada where Dawn lives with her daughter are perfect for delving into the creative realm. She is currently at work on her first novel and her play, Fish Out of Water, will be produced in 2011. Dawn is also very excited to offer Yoga as Muse workshops for yogis, writers, and anyone interested in exploring how yoga's skillful means can enhance a creative life.

Find out more about what Dawn’s up to on Facebook, Twitter (@dawngcurtis), her website at http://www.dawncurtis.com/, and on Jeffrey Davis’ Yoga as Muse page at http://www.trackingwonder.com/.

If you haven't done so already, check out Dawn's award-winning story "Low-Hanging Fruit" and return here for a chat with the author!

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Contest! What is your inspiration for your story?

Dawn: I adapted Low-Hanging Fruit from a passage in a novel I'm working on that is inspired in part by my grandmother's life, growing up in an Italian immigrant family in northern Ontario during WWI. Though the situation the character finds herself in is, as far as I know, purely fiction!

WOW: Sounds like the novel will be a great story! What do you like best about writing?

Dawn: I really enjoy the process of writing, when I'm in the "flow" and the writing seems to just be coming without any conscious effort on my part. I'm endlessly fascinated by where the subconscious mind takes us when we stand aside, quiet our "inner heckler" and just get lost in the drafting process. On the other end, I also love the work involved in refining and honing my rough material into a finished piece - kind of like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together.

WOW: In your bio, you’ve credited Yoga as Muse for helping you establish a regular writing practice. How has it helped, and what is your writing schedule like?

Dawn: In Yoga as Muse, there are four basic preparations for a successful writing practise:
1) Writing with intention
2) Showing up and shaping time
3) Stoking the writers fire and
4) Riding the wave of concentration.
Showing up and shaping time is about treating your writing like a practise, and honouring writing time as an important daily ritual. I make writing "dates" with myself, and try to write every day, usually in the mornings. I find that sitting down regularly, even if it's just for 15 - 30 minutes, helps me overcome the feeling of writer's block, or the excuse that I can't sit down to write if I don't have at least a two-hour chunk of time. And the other three preparations help make sure that I make the best use of that time, even if it's short - getting down to the business of writing in a focused, concentrated way.

WOW: I enjoy hearing how other writers schedule their time. It can be such a difficult thing to do and I feel more motivated after hearing how someone else balances their writing life. If you could have dinner with one writer, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Dawn: Oh, that's a difficult question - there are so many amazing writers whose works I admire! If I think about who inspired me as a young person to put pen to page, I would have to say Mary Stewart, whose books I have recently started to reread. I love her ability to craft interesting characters and place them in exciting stories in exotic locals - and I admire the sheer volume of work she produced - clearly a writer who loves to write!

WOW: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Dawn: I think it would have to be Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, in which she gives writers permission to write "shitty first drafts". And Jeffrey Davis echoes this in Journey from the Center to the Page, encouraging writers to "get lost in the drafting", cautioning writers against drafting like "overscheduled tourists". It was very freeing when I realized that I had permission to write something completely unpolished, and could go back and fix it later on, or even throw it away. It's more important for me to write with concentrate on letting passion and connectedness drive the words, something that can't happen if I'm focused on getting it right the first time.

WOW: That’s great advice! Thank you, Dawn, for your answers. Keep up the great writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt http://www.annegreenawalt.com/ and http://anne-greenawalt.blogspot.com/: home of The Daughter Project

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Monday, April 11, 2011

 

Book Review: Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life by Mari L. McCarthy

review by Marcia Peterson

As an avid journaler who’s recently been slacking off, a reminder about the wonderful benefits of journaling was a welcome assignment. Journal/Writing Therapist Mari L. McCarthy is passionate about helping people use journaling to create a better life, and she inspires many though her site Create Right Now. Her latest publication, Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life, focuses on journaling for the purposes of self-discovery.

In this 32 page e-book, McCarthy goes over the fundamentals of journaling, as well as some specific journaling techniques. You’ll learn how to get started, why handwriting is best, and how to make journaling a priority. If you sometimes feel that spending time journaling is selfish, you’ll even find out how not journaling is inconsiderate to those around you.

Who Are You? contains a compelling discussion about why journaling matters, which is an important part of the book. Emphasis is placed on the benefits of keeping a journal, including connecting to inner wisdom, improving your attitude and achieving significant breakthroughs or epiphanies. Specific reasons to journal are also suggested, for those who might need ideas. “You might simply wish to make a record of your life, or some aspect of it,” McCarthy writes. “Or maybe you’re working toward a goal and you want to journal as a way to get motivated or organized. You might use your journal as a friend when other friends aren’t around.”

A section on the seven principles of journaling provides some useful ideas for journalers. McCarthy maintains that there are several ways to journal and you may want to try various methods. For example, you could draw instead of write, or write at a different time of day than usual. Another principle states that the times when you least feel like journaling are the times when you need it the most. I’ve found this to be true, since allowing myself thirty minutes on the page always ends up being cheap and effective therapy during stressful times.

The final three chapters contain journaling prompts to spark writing and elicit self-discovery. The prompts are geared toward personal growth, such as journaling a letter to your former self, journaling with your inner critic and inner coach, and exploring your dreams through journaling. Step by step instructions and tips are included for each type of prompt.

In conclusion, Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life does a great job articulating the rewards of starting a journaling practice. It offers inspiration and exercises to try, and puts you in the mood to get writing as soon a possible. Journaling is a gift you give to yourself, so use whatever tools motivate you to give it a try.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

 

Comment Sense: Using Comments to Build Your Blog Readership

One thing blog owners seem to wonder is: Where are my readers? 

They ask themselves these questions: Is anyone actually reading this blog? If so, what do they think? If not, how do I drive readers to my blog? 

One way to answer all of these questions is with comments. 

If you want to make a blog owner happy, leave her a comment. There's nothing like reading a comment on your blog from a new or old friend--it just shows someone out there somewhere is actually reading and has an opinion on what you have to say. Why do you think there are so many contests where the way to enter is to leave a comment and the winner is chosen from the readers who left their two cents on the post? So besides having a comment contest to get readers to your blog, how can you use comments to work for you?

1. Leave comments on other blogs in your same area. For example, if you have a blog on gardening, then find other blogs on gardening, leave a thoughtful comment along with your blog address, and wait. Chances are, that blog owner will visit your blog and perhaps even start a dialogue with you. Maybe you can start a conversation in the comments section of this gardener's blog. The more people who see you and your wisdom on this gardener's blog, the more they might also want to visit you on  your blog. 
2. Answer and respond to comments. If someone leaves you a comment, you must respond and/or answer him or her, especially if there were any questions asked. It is your job as blog owner to make sure these questions are answered and addressed. If you become known as an expert in your field as well as very helpful, then you will grow readership. People will come to you for the material on your blog. If they have a question, you can answer it. 

3. Visit other people's blogs who leave comments on yours. Most bloggers leave their URL in some way when they comment. A few times a week, you should visit the blogs of these bloggers and leave comments on their posts. It is the best way to get your name in front of other people and your blog to attract new readers.  It also shares you care about your readers and want to support them.

If you have a blog, then you know how important comments are to bloggers. So, spread the love around, and make some comments today. 

Margo Dill has a blog at http://margodill.com/blog/ about reading books and using them! If you are interested in learning more tips and tricks for your blog or you want to start one, check out Margo's online class she is teaching in the WOW! classroom, starting August 30 and running for 5 weeks. For more information, check out the course listing here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

 

Adventures in Creating a Writers' Group, part 1

Last fall, I volunteered to represent member writers in my three-county region for a statewide organization. Having spent several years staring at and typing into my computer, I've been wanting to re-energize myself by re-connecting. (I love how interconnected we can all be virtually, but I also know that I appreciate seeing and meeting folks. Don't you?)
Whenever I can, I like to attend Tweetups or support local writers at their readings. While I can't always afford the time or money to attend writing conferences, I knew that I had something to offer if I could reach out to my local writing community.
I was getting excited about the prospect of meeting more folks and getting reconnected with area writers.
Then I hit a bump in the smooth road to creating the writers group. One of the difficulties I didn't think I would face in my area was finding a meeting space for our group. I don't know why I thought it would be easy.
Due to budget constraints, libraries in our area now charge to borrow a room. Some local businesses didn't have the space; church spaces were fully booked or required a fee.
Finally, I sent a direct tweet to a small, independent bookstore that had been shuttered for a little while because of structural problems in its old location. But in a world of Internet bookstores, the store not only managed to re-open in a new space, but the outpouring of community support provided dozens of book-carrying community members who helped to cart books to the new location.
I'm not sure why I tweeted the bookstore, but I still grin thinking about the owner's enthusiastic response. There were many exclamation points. Then she responded that she thought the area could use more writers' groups.
Indeed. I think we've found a home for our group.
So, we're off on the adventure of a new community of writers...meeting in person. We're not quite sure of the structure yet.
Now that we've tackled the meeting place question, any ideas that have worked for you in creating a writers' group? Anything to look out for? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writer? Me?, Guest Post by Melissa Aiello

Writer? Me?

by Melissa Aiello

“Hello, my name is Melissa and I’m a recovering doubter.”

How I wish for a 12 step program to treat the disease of doubt. Wouldn’t it be grand to have a support group for wayward souls who fight tooth and nail to avoid using “writer” when describing themselves, simply because they lack confidence? They being me.

“I can’t believe you don’t think you’re a writer” said a friend recently, with raised eyebrows and pitying look that screams, “Seriously, how could you STILL doubt yourself. You are driving your friends crazy!”

Easy, because I don’t see myself reflected in what I read: blog pages filled with witty, SMART prose and novelist’s who string words into characters that walk, talk, breathe AND follow a plot! It’s magic to me and I feel incapable of that sort of conjuring. The real clincher is I don’t even know if I WANT to do it. I haven’t nursed a passion to write since I was a child. I have not dreamt of being a novelist, journalist or poet. Doesn’t that revelation have “YOU ARE NOT A WRITER” written all over it?

Yet, words form armies in my head that pummel away at my brain until I put them on paper. If I can’t write an idea down right away, it runs the risk of being lost forever--mainly because recent thyroid surgery has left my brain frustratingly fuzzy. And those lost ideas make me sad, because I wanted them to live.

My ultimate underlying issue is fear. Having family and friends tell me what a good writer I am is not enough, in my world view, to pursue it. It is not enough to stick my toes outside my comfort zone and test the waters – there might be sharks in there, ya know! My huge admiration for real writers prevents me from trying to be like them--I don’t feel worthy.

And now here I am, laying myself out for public display. Encouraged by past Speak Out posts I am hoping my ‘dream’ and ‘passion’ will finally reveal themselves to me. Will it be academic writing or travel? Should I explore journalism or try to resurrect my dormant blog? The ‘what’ and ‘how’ are still unclear. What I do know is that writing flash fiction stories helps me heal and keeps me moving forward.

Perhaps I do have that support group I mentioned earlier and maybe I should listen to them more--those friends of mine. Whether I am able to discover the courage to call myself a writer, or not, I will start by saying the word out loud to the other me that I see in the mirror each morning. It’s a start.

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Melissa Aiello is a full time Queen of her Casa, 40-something college student and community volunteer living in San Jose, CA. In between juggling husband, kids and forcing her fuzzy brain to recover from a thyroidectomy she is hoping to discover whether “writer” is a hat she is worthy of wearing. Visit her blog at http://alienbody.blogspot.com/.
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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, April 07, 2011

 

Script Frenzy vs. Life

Yeah, that was me after I got home from work yesterday. Except my robe was navy (I don't do pink). And I wear glasses. And it was night. You get the picture. Anyway, it's seven days into the first full week of Script Frenzy and I'm--behind. Life, as it tends to do, has intruded into my carefully-laid plans to write like a maniac this month.

It was perfect. Character sketches, logline and plot were completed. Script writing software waited to be activated. Friends were alerted of my limited availability. A supply of dark chocolate, assorted teas, and wine were on hand. April 1st arrived and I, along with countless 'Screnzy'ers', got to work. The momentum continued through the weekend, with short breaks to go food shopping and to church. Then, Monday arrived and back to work I went.

Sounds familiar? Probably, if you're a writer. You learn to make time to write whenever you can and wherever you may be. That's the only way to grow into your craft, finish your projects and ultimately, earn money. At the day job that means knocking something out during my lunch break. Yesterday, I worked on dialogue and conflict between protagonist and antagonist. A couple of days ago while zoning out on the commute home, a few ideas started crawling around in my brain and when I got home, I had the end of my script. You never know when ideas appear, so I keep a notebook handy.

I'm looking forward to this weekend full of writing. Having taken a couple of scriptwriting workshops in the past few months and studying the scripts of various movies and T.V. shows has been helpful. When Monday rolls around, the day job and rest of life taking up where it left off, the Frenzy will patiently wait for a convenient time for us to meet and create. So will I. In the Frenzy vs. life conflict, sometimes the Frenzy wins, sometimes life does. Now, if you will excuse me, my script--and some chocolate calls.

By Jill Earl

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

 

Give Your Writing a Revision Sweep


For the past week, I've been proofing and correcting articles written by my high school Intro to Journalism students. In most instances, like many professional writers, my students still struggle with the revision process.


"Nothing is perfect the first time," I chime. Are you listening?


Students shake their heads knowingly, but the next draft doesn't improve. What's a teacher - and a writer - to do?


I hand out a "sweep list", highlighters, and an article to each student and have them follow this six-step program. You may find it tightens your storytelling, too.


  1. Follow the stylebook. The class uses its own stylebook for formatting, headlinges, grammar and usage, etc. When a writer submits a piece, the publication or publisher expects you to follow certain rules. For example, when I write for the newspaper, I'm expected to follow the AP Stylebook. When I submit poetry or fiction, many expect the piece to follow the Chicago Manual of Style. Best advice: familiarize yourself with the publication to which you are submitting and get up close and personal with the style guide.

  2. Use your grammar text. My preferred text is The Little, Brown Handbook. It's thorough and addresses questions dealing with every aspect of writing.

  3. Highlight to be verbs. Too many times, to be verbs indicate passive voice. And even if they don't push a sentence into passive mode, drop the helper verb and push it into a tighter, straightforward, stronger sentence.

  4. Avoid pronouns. Pronouns tend to cloud a sentence by making an unclear reference. Make sure each incidence of pronoun use makes sense!

  5. Keep dialogue tags simple. Beginning writers like to pepper a quote with flowery dialogue tags. In journalism, the KISS method works best. A simple "said" carries a sentence/quote.

  6. Evict adverbs. Writers rely on the -ly words, but in a number of instances, the adverb does not add new information to the piece. Adverb overload slows the timing and rhythm. Use sparingly and for impact.

Revising and strengthening a story doesn't need to be a difficult process. A sweep list may make your nonfiction article or flash fiction piece squeaky clean! Or, at least impress an editor.


by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at http://luannschindler.com.

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