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Saturday, March 31, 2012

 

Write for Your Audience--Not Your English Teacher

Most of the books we read aren't anything like what
we wrote in high school. Credit | Elizabeth Humphrey

This past week, I’ve been getting about a dozen articles edited and ready for publication. They are written by others and I’ve noticed some similarities among the majority of submissions. They were written as if the articles (stories conveying a beginning, middle, and end) are reports written for a high school English teacher (thesis, supporting points, conclusion).

Now, don’t get me wrong, reports for English teachers are important. Necessary, particularly if you are navigating your way through high school. But judging your audience for anything you are writing and there are few publications that many of us write for that are directed at our English teachers.

But three-part essays are the writing experiences many of us are used to before we launch into writing for magazines. We may read books and books that look nothing like a high school essay does and still we continue to replicate the form.

Here are some tips for your drafts to catch yourself if you tend to keep your drafts out of high school:

1. It starts during the planning stages. Scribble out an outline. Doesn’t have to be an “official” outline. Just something that can guide you through your story and help you keep track of the information. I often find that if you sketch something out, the informal structure can give your story’s flow a more informal feel.
2. Watch your language. If you need to look up every other word you are using, take a step back. You want your general audience to understand what you are saying. If you don’t, how will they?
3. Massage your transitions. I know when I’m trying to write a research paper, my transitions use a lot more of the “therefore” and “however” language. What are your transitions doing? Are they formal or more informal? I know when I’m reading a well-written article, written for a general audience, the language is straightforward and the transitions seem easier.
4. Provide a soft landing. Some articles deserve to bring the article back to the beginning to make a point. Others just need to end. Don’t try to force an ending that isn’t there for the story.
5. Re-read! Read your story back to yourself—out loud—and read it as your audience would. Not as your English teach might.

That’s it…no false ending. Now, get out there and write!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer, teacher and editor living in North Carolina. And she had some of the best high school English teachers. Ever.


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Friday, March 30, 2012

 

Friday Speak out!: Don’t Give Up on the Story in Your Heart, Guest Post by Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Give Up on the Story in Your Heart

by Ruth J. Hartman

I had this story in my head, the one I’d always wanted to write. We all have one, just a different one for every writer. Mine was about a stray cat rescue. It started out with a prompt for an anthology about cats. I couldn’t believe it! Someone actually was asking for exactly what I wanted to write. How often does that happen? I wrote my short story and submitted it. It was accepted at the tail end of their process.

The only problem with the short time between writing, acceptance and publication, was there was no time for me to check out the other stories in the anthology before it went to print. That turned out to be a problem.

Here I was so excited. It was my first story published, after all. And, of course I couldn’t wait to get my copy so I could show it to everyone I knew.

But…

The day I got my copy, I checked out my story first, just to reassure myself I really had a story in there. I was really a published author. I smiled. My story was there. I decided to read the other stories before I passed the book along to my mom and mother-in-law.

Not good. My sweet, funny romance was tucked in the middle of a book of erotica. Yep, you heard me right. Mine was the only one without descriptions that might make some timid souls hide under their beds to read it. I read story after story, desperately hoping there were more like mine. A couple like mine. Even one sweet, romance like mine. But no. The others were pure, unabashed erotica. I have nothing against that; it just wasn’t the right place for my story.

I lent the book to my mom and mother-in-law with instructions to not read the other stories unless they were willing to get more than they bargained for. And I never bought any copies. Not one.

It made me sad, this story of my heart that was destined to while away its life in a place it shouldn’t have been. A year later, though, that publisher changed hands. We were all given the opportunity to take our rights back for our stories if we wanted to. I whipped that story back so fast, it knocked the whiskers off the cats. So now I had this cute little short story. What would I do with it now?

I expanded it into a romance novel, “Better Than Catnip.” I shopped it around. Over and over. No takers. Was my cat rescue story, the one so close to my heart, destined to sit, unread, on my computer?

Enter Astraea Press. Not only did they love my book, they only publish stories that are non-erotic. You always know what you’re going to get (or not get) with any of their books.

And you won’t be afraid to loan it to your mother.

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Ruth J. Hartman is a published author as well as a licensed dental hygienist. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband of 30 years and their two very spoiled cats.

Ruth’s sweet, humorous romances revolve around dentistry, cats, or both. More about her books and writing can be found at www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com and http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662245&mode=product&product=10046643

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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, March 29, 2012

 

How Taking a Writing Class Got Me Back in My Writing Groove

I recently signed up to take an 8-week online class with one of the magazine industry's top writers. Sure, I've been freelancing for 10 years, but lately, I haven't felt like I've made an effort to really get out there and write the stories I want to write. So I gave myself the proverbial kick in the pants and signed up.

It is the best money I've spent in quite awhile.

Why? I'm constantly reminded that journalism and even writing in general is a tough business. You have to be prepared. You have to research. You have to make connections with the right people. And even if the timing isn't right, you've hopefully made an impression on an editor so you nab an assignment later.

I have been taking a few of those lessons for granted.

I'm reminded that despite the hard work, writing is fun. Researching new topics, learning new ideas, and experimenting with words drew me to this profession in the first place. This class is challenging me to take those new ideas to the next level and take a look at my "dream" market.

I'm submitting my query this week.

I'm reminded that sometimes, even seasoned writers need to break out of their comfort zones and be open to different possibilities for publication. News stand magazines, online publications and websites, email newsletters - the publication possibilities are endless. I should never run out of possibilities for seeing my story in print.

I have a renewed mindset and I'm ready to conquer the world. Or at least Newsweek.

Have you taken an online writing class? How has it helped your career? Don't forget WOW! offers a plethora of classes


by LuAnn Schindler




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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

 

Pick Me, You, Her or Him! Personal Pronouns and Point of View in Poetry

by Melanie Faith

It’s so easy to slap a subject down and jump ahead to the snazzier adjectives and dynamic verbs. Yet, point of view can make an enormous difference in a poem’s development and also impact the way readers approach your work. Let’s look at the three points of view—1st, 2nd, and 3rd—and how each pronoun choice molds your poem.

Of all the pronouns, I is most immediate. Since an author’s personal experiences often trigger the rush to the page, it is only natural that many poems have their genesis with an I speaker and continue in that vein. The Confessional School of poets in the 1950s and 1960s, a la Sylvia Plath and her one-time teacher, Robert Lowell, freed the way for ample use of I in lyric and narrative poetry. It is worth noting, however, that even poems with a first-person narrator may not 100% reflect the experiences of the writer, but may include as much fiction as a third-person point-of-view. An example of a first-person narrator removed from the poet’s experience would be a female poet crafting a poem from the perspective of a father. As a creative artist, it is within your skillset to assume a persona.

Advantages of Ist person: it is compelling and has the power of a strong personal or character voice.
Draw-backs: can sometimes become self-indulgent, and it is difficult to create enough distance from the material to pick which images, similes, or metaphors should or should not be included.

Second person, you, may be read several ways. A you subject may address the audience directly. Or it may be used like “one,” to note universal human experience. Also, the you might be an unnamed, absent character who receives the unstated questions and actions of the poem, such as when an employee addresses her boss, “you always made me work/ overtime,” or when a friend addresses another friend who has betrayed him.

Advantages of 2nd person: great for drawing readers into the poem’s action. A comfortable form for most writers, especially for comparing or contrasting two characters’ behaviors.
Draw-backs: with certain themes—political topics, religion—may alienate readers by having too accusatory a tone.

“The advantage of the third person is that it gives both the poet and the reader some personal space from the action of the poem....This can create breathing room to write things you might not otherwise feel comfortable expressing,” Sage Cohen notes in Writing The Life Poetic. It is difficult, if not impossible, to write objectively about a painful or joyful personal experience. Third person narration encourages honesty as well as trimming unnecessary phrases and lines. The obvious drawback, however, is that the third person may appear too dispassionate or dull.

Try this exercise: swap one pronoun for another in a draft. How does that affect the poem’s tone or theme and your approach to it? Switching pronouns may inspire new ideas and make it easier to edit parts of the poem which are not as compelling.

***

Melanie Faith is a poet, essayist, and photographer who holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, NC. Her writing most recently was published in Mason's Road (Winter 2012 issue) and Origami Poems Project. Her photos were published in Foliate Oak (May 2011), Epiphany Magazine (October 2011), Up The Staircase (Fall 2011), and Ray's Road Review (December 2011). Her poetry was a semi-finalist for the 2011 James Applewhite Poetry Prize, and an essay about editing poetry appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Writers’ Journal. In 2011, her poetry and essays was featured in Referential Magazine (July and June 2011), Tapestry (Delta State U., Spring 2011), and Front Range Review (U. of Montana, Spring 2011). She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work won the 2009 Anne E. Sucher Poetry Prize for the Iguana Review.


Join Melanie's latest WOW! Women on Writing class:
a five week course starting on Friday, April 13, 2012
This class is limited to 10 students and early registration is recommended!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

 

Interview with Tearra Rhodes, Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up


Tearra Rhodes began her interest in creative writing in elementary school, but did not consider it more than a minor hobby until she got her first taste of affirmation after winning a local one act playwriting contest her sophomore year of high school. Having graduated from Canisius College with a minor in English (major Communication Studies), she is working towards making creative writing more than just a hobby. She lives in Buffalo, NY, where she has boxes and boxes of unfinished short stories and plays. Her next project will be pulling out one of those boxes and dusting off a potential masterpiece.

If you have not yet read Tearra’s story, I Began Baking a Cake, please enjoy it now— it’s murder with a sweet little twist!

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest! What prompted you to enter?

Tearra: I entered a flash fiction contest with another website and I had ‘flash fiction fever’ and was on the lookout for another contest for which to write a story.

WOW: LOL. As they say…feed a fever! What was the inspiration behind I Began Baking a Cake?

Tearra: I watch a lot of police procedurals and murder mysteries and the killer is usually someone the detectives or amateur sleuths already interviewed/talked to. My question was why didn’t the killer ever just flee? Regardless, if it was self defense, an accident or premeditated, why didn’t they just run? I started with the line, “You shouldn’t have come, Boyd. I know why you did, but you shouldn’t have.” I really loved my unnamed character saying this to her adversary, knowing that he was there to hurt her and knowing what she was going to do to protect herself.

WOW: I enjoyed the opening as well because of all the questions it raised in my mind. But a great opening sentence is only part of the recipe for a satisfying story and flash fiction in particular can be tricky to work with, what was your process?

Tearra: I wrote a complete short story exploring the above mentioned idea and then I pared it down to the bare bones. The familiar term ‘less is more’ came heavily into effect. There was more mystery.

WOW: You say you have “boxes of unfinished stories and plays.” I think all writers have a stash like this—I know I do! What is it, do you think, that has kept you from finishing them?

Tearra: I have so many story and play ideas. When I write one down, I get a completely different idea for something else; hard to focus on just one. Plus, I’m a huge procrastinator.

WOW: I can relate on both accounts! There are different skills required for writing plays as opposed to short stories—tell us a little about working with both forms.

Tearra: When I start writing a play, I write out all the dialogue, just character’s talking to each other. When I’m finished I add action sequences accordingly. When writing a short story I do the exact opposite. I write out the action first and add dialogue later. I like to play around with the point of view in which the story is told and the tense. I’ve found that first person present tense adds more flavor and urgency to a piece.

WOW: Great points! So, what is your next project?

Tearra: I want to complete a novel in the near future, so I’ve dusted off a story idea that’s been hidden away for a while about a woman who reconnects with the group of guys she hung out with in high school. The leader of the group is getting married and she gets roped into being the Best Man. I am also working on a Christian based short story, because Christian fiction is important to me.

WOW: Sounds like you’re on a roll! Do you have any words of advice regarding flash fiction writing or contest entering…or our boxes of neglected literary children?

Tearra: Really, just don’t procrastinate, especially if you’re entering a contest. Mistakes can be made if you’re hitting the ‘Submit’ button two minutes before the contest closes. Trust me, I’ve done that, and it’s a horrible feeling when you look back at your story and see obvious errors. As for “our boxes of neglected literary children,” take them out sometime and let them breath a bit of fresh air and get some sun. They may inspire a new work or just make you laugh.

WOW: Anything else you would like to share?

Tearra: It’s never too late to start and finish a project you start. The fun part when you’re finished is seeing how people react to it.

WOW: Important words, thank you. Do you have a blog site where readers can connect with you?

Tearra: tearrarhodes.blogspot.com (I just started it, so be patient with me and enjoy)

WOW: Thank you, Tearra. If you need a break from your novel writing come back and enter another of our quarterly contests—we’d love to see you here!

by Robyn Chausse

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

 

Amazon's Author Central: Keeping Track of Your Books

A dozen years ago, authors had little or no feedback on the sales of their books and no way to find out anything. Today, that has changed because of Amazon's Author Central. It gives you access to sales data, and ways to correct and supplement all sorts of data about your book. If you have a book out, you should be on Author Central.

First, go to http://authorcentral.amazon.com and create an account by entering your email and creating a password. For your first book, your publisher may have to verify that you are indeed an author, but after that, you're in. You'll want to bookmark the log-in screen because you'll probably wind up checking this about once a week.

What can you DO at AuthorCentral?




1. Add Books. First, go to Books and Add your books to this account. You can add as many books as you have for sale on Amazon, whether they are traditionally or self-published, whether they are print or Kindle. It may take a day or two to confirm the books, so check back; when they are added, go on to the next step.

When the Books are added, you'll see the cover image, title, current Amazon sales ranking and how many reviews are posted for the book.

2. Edit a Book's Information. Click on the title of any book to go to that book's page. Here, you have access to all the sales data for your book that is displayed on Amazon. Here you can do these things:
  • Upload a cover image.
  • Add or correct editorial reviews
  • Add or correct a product description
  • Add an author's statement
  • Add or correct inside flap information
  • Add or correct back cover information
  • Add or correct About the Author
  • Suggest product information updates
  • Add Book Extras for Kindle or Kindle Apps, or Shelfari (Amazon's social media for booklovers)

That is amazing. Before AuthorCentral, if you had a problem with something--blurry image, name misspelled, wrong information--if was a major ordeal to get it corrected. Here, everything is at your fingertips. You can also link different formats for the book. For example, my book WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS is available as a paperback and Kindle. Through Author Central, the formats were linked within 24 hours: if someone reviews the Kindle version, it now automatically shows up on the paperback version.

3. Profile. Authors now have a Profile Page on Amazon which lists all your available books. It's easy now to create a "pretty link" on this page, so your Profile Page will be something like this: http://amazon.com/author/YourName. See http://amazon.com/author/DarcyPattison.

You can add any type of bio, bibliography, promo material you want through this page on AuthorCentral. Photos and videos can be uploaded here. You can link your Twitter Account and import feed from your blog. And finally, you can announce Events here, such as book signings or public appearances. In short, you can enhance your Profile in multiple ways.

4. Sales Information. Neilsen BookScan is a service which tracks sales across the U.S. and represents about 75% of all books sold. This data has always been available to publisher, so they can track weekly sales and know exactly what areas of the country are buying your book.


The map will look something like this (I've removed the actual number of sales in this map.)
Now, if you go to San Francisco for a public appearance, the next week, you'll know if that appearance produced any kind of bump in sales.

Data is updated weekly and shows the number of sales for each title. (Actual numbers removed.) Did you do an online promotion last week? You can see how effective it was and how it carried over to other titles.

5. Customer Reviews. Finally, you can see customer reviews for all your books. No longer do you have to obsessively go to each book's page on Amazon to see activity. It is all collected here for you, and updated weekly.

Amazon's AuthorCentral is a great service. The best benefits are the ability to correct any errors or update info as needed. And for the first time, authors can track sales weekly and track where in the U.S. the sales are made. If you have books out, you should sign up today!
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Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

 

Lessons On How To Tease...Your Readers

Last weekend, I learned something about myself. I'm a tease. A big tease. And, I guess, a pretty good one too.

Okay! Put the stripper music away, that's not what I meant. I'm talking about enticing readers about your book projects even before its published. This is a huge part of marketing and promotion because you're building a readership early on by increasing an interest in the story.

You don't have to do that much, really. For example, when I signed the contract for my adult thriller/suspense novella Out Of Sync (coming out next week), I told my followers on Twitter and Facebook. As the book went through its editing process, I shared how things were going, answered questions about the storyline, shared edited snippets, shared the synopsis and even talked about the cover when I first saw it: "Oh my goodness! It is amazing!" Then, of course, I shared the final cover when it was finished. I didn't realize it as I was going along but I was delving into the promotion tool of teasing, and it was working to increase future readers/buyers of my book! Doing little things like that all the way up to the day the book is published increases your followers, peaks readers' interest and, most importantly, leads to better sales.

Cheryl Tardif shares a wealth of tips on how to tease your readers on her marketing blog. As an author, publisher and expert book marketer, she knows a thing or two about selling books. I highly suggest checking out her post on teasing and take some notes.

Well, that's it for me for today. I'm off to work on the edits for my young adult suspense/paranormal, Dark Water, coming out in late summer. Be prepared to be teased.

Keep writing!

Chynna

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Friday, March 23, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: A Writer’s Balancing Act, Guest Post by Nadia Brown

A Writer’s Balancing Act

by Nadia Brown

We all know authors must wear many hats. We are booksellers, designers, webmasters, speakers, marketers… and when you are an author who owns her own business, multi-tasking becomes tricky and gets that much more difficult to accomplish. Which is why of late it’s been unsettling that I've missed quite a few of my deadlines – discouraging me to the point that I seriously contemplated no longer pursuing a writing career and instead concentrate exclusively on my company.

Not only am I an author of two poetry books, I also run and operate a day-to-day business that has grown considerable over the past few years; and it’s been rather difficult for me to walk this balancing act of poet, writer, author and entrepreneur. There is a great deal of responsibility that comes with being an author, and when you add to that, actually running a small business with little staff to shoulder the work load makes it that much harder.

I reached a point I'd had enough! I was ready to call it quits out of sheer frustration at how things were going. One right after the other, writing deadlines came and went while I was preoccupied by clients, newsletters, ads, and all things business-related. It came to the point where I thought I could not possibly go on like this anymore. I was on the verge of nearly quitting when I heard the most incredible words that really stuck with me and changed my way of thinking. A pastor on television said that sometimes to accomplish your goals you have to go through a bit of discomfort. Right then and there I agreed with what was said, and those thoughts stayed with me and provided hope and encouragement.

I realize I wanted to make it work, I wanted to continue to write; and I didn't want to give it up! I recognize how important it was to work smarter and not just harder, that I should better prioritize my work. I had to focus and be more discipline in order to accomplish what I wanted at the moment. I've been steadily focusing on one thing at a time and not a million stuff at once. I'm now writing more and most importantly I've gotten my groove back!

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Nadia Janice Brown resides in Miami, Florida where she works as a book promoter for www.author-promotion.com. She is the author of Becoming: The Life & Musings of a Girl Poet and the award-winning book Unscrambled Eggs. Nadia can be reached through her website at www.nadiajbrown.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, March 22, 2012

 

Thinking Outside the Box Marketing

by lunarpersuasion (flickr.com)
Earlier this month, Jodi wrote a great post titled, "Promotion Is More Than Just Bookmarks." If you missed it and the wonderful comments after it, you can view it here. I've noticed authors doing a couple of what I like to call "thinking outside the box" marketing ideas lately, and so I thought I would share these with you. I don't know, maybe we should make March WOW! Women On Writing Share Your Marketing Ideas Month. With two books coming out sometime this year, I am always on the look out for what works. So, here's what I've noticed:
  • Our very own WOW! blogger and columnist, Darcy Pattison, gave away a free e-copy of her new picture book, Wisdom: The Midway Albatross, for 48 hours in honor of the anniversary of the Japanese tsunami. Wisdom, one tough bird, survived that tsunami, and so Darcy tied a marketing promotion with the anniversary. Why give away e-copies of your book? Well, it's smart for picture book writers like Darcy because parents, teachers, and librarians can view the book on their e-readers and then purchase the hard copy for their kids, classes, students, etc. I blogged about Wisdom after reading it because I liked it so much. Sometimes, you have to give stuff away. . .And I found out about this free book because Darcy used the Events feature on Facebook to invite me (and all her contacts) to this book giveaway event. Another lesson learned here--use social networking!
  • Currently, WOW! has a blog tour for  The Smiley Book of Colors by Ruth Kaiser. Besides doing a blog tour, Ruth is also collecting photos of smiles readers find in nature. She gives money to Operation Smile for each photo, and one photographer (from WOW!) will win a book. (For more details, go here.) How does this help her market her book? She has people EXCITED about finding smiles. She is helping children, which everyone wants to do. She has people going to her website. She has kids and adults talking about her book. "Hey, I see a smile in your tree. Can I take a photo to upload to this author's website?" And imagine the conversation that will follow after that question. So, learn from Ruth. Do you have some way that fans can interact with you or your book on a website or blog or even Facebook page?
  • Shhh--don't tell anyone, but this next great idea is from a male author! (smiles) Mike Pemberton wrote a novel about basketball and mental illness titled, Transcendental Basketball Blues . So, what did he do that was a great marketing idea? He sent his book to different coaches around where he lives. The women's basketball coach from a nearby university liked his book so much that he is going to recommend that all his players read it AND he will use it as a textbook in his coaching basketball class! Time to put on your thinking cap: Who could you send your book to that can get behind it 100 percent? A few free copies sent out strategically while thinking outside the box may create tons of sales later. 
Okay, there are three ideas. Do you have any to share?

Post by Margo L. Dill; Check out Margo's Advanced Social Networking Class beginning on April 13 and see how she can help you use social networking to market yourself and your work! Sign up here.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

 

AMAZING Discoveries


Last week, I attended an AMAZING writers’ workshop and made a brilliant discovery: I will not explode if I miss my favorite television shows.

I’d always thought that watching my programs was integral to whatever force makes Cathy C. Hall operate smoothly on a daily basis. Apparently, I was wrong.

But that was only one discovery. Here are a few more I made while at the workshop…

I checked my email once in the morning and once in the evening—and the world did not come to an end. Really! I was sure that checking my email 17 times a day was necessary to sustain life as we know it on this planet, but I guess not.

I dropped in on Facebook once a day, late in the evening, for approximately 15 minutes—and I still know what’s going on in my cyber world! I suppose I’d overestimated the importance of keeping up with weird (albeit hilarious) videos passed along by my virtual buddies. Who knew?

And I’m sure you’ll be aghast at this discovery, but I did not play a single online game—and look at me! I’m alive and well! Better than well, actually. My writing is thriving.

You see, that workshop was like overnight camp for writers. No worries about meal-planning, or house-cleaning or hubby/kids/pet care. Just writing. Still, I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. But when I considered how I’d saved up my pennies to afford that experience, there was no way I’d spend my time on anything but writing.

So, yes, I learned about plotting and characters and voice and goals and stakes. But mostly, I learned what I need—and what I don’t need—to get my writing done.

And that was truly AMAZING. Because there was one more brilliant discovery I made at the workshop: my novel needs a complete revision. So here I am, back in my real world, looking for writing time in between piles of dirty clothes and bags of groceries.

Fortunately, I know exactly where to find it!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

 

Interview with Flash Fiction Top Ten Contest Winner, Debbi Straight

Meet Debbi Straight: Although my real passion (obsession) has long been with writing, my professional life led me in a far different direction. I worked in the field of mental health for twenty years. I’ve held positions as the Psychiatric Social Service Director at the Indiana Boys School prior to its closing and as a director at an agency that serves the developmentally disabled. But still, a therapist’s duties entail exploring the inner workings of the mind and then making sense of and recording the most intimate thoughts of others in a meaningful way. I hold a Master’s Degree in Psychology and completed work toward my doctorate. Other joys in my life include my husband, two daughters, two grandsons and competing with my Appaloosa show horses. My two Great Pyrenees dogs are my soulful guardians. Ongoing writing projects include several short pieces (one, of course, for your next contest) and a creative non-fiction, book-length piece set in post-Civil War Indiana.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Top 10 in our Fall contest! You also received an honorable mention for another story entry, so good job on that too. What inspired you to enter the contest?

Debbi: Through the years, I’ve interspersed writing with the other demanding elements of my life: kids, horses, work and I guess I should mention a couple of husbands. My long-term goal is to find representation for a creative nonfiction book in the works that’s the literary love of my life. To gain street cred, I looked toward entering literary contests. There are few that have the on-line respect and feel of WOW.

WOW: Thanks for the kind words about WOW. We're glad to help with your street cred! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, The R Wurd?

Debbi: Through the years, I’ve worked with a variety of individuals and personalities. I’ve dealt mostly with anti-socials, I guess you could say the criminal-minded. When I took a job at an agency that serves people with developmental disabilities, I wasn’t sure at all if my skill set was right at first. I was immediately amazed by what I observed. Individuals with developmental issues are supposed to have all-encompassing deficits, but they seldom have problems when it comes to attaching to their peers and forming meaningful relationships with their family, friends and the staff. The particular agency I worked for, Putnam County Comprehensive Services, based in Greencastle, Indiana, has the benefit of having chosen a group of incredible staff members who are completely devoted to improving the quality of life for their clients. Anyone who joins that staff and doesn’t exhibit a caring attitude is gone in a hurry.

WOW: Your professional experience really helped create a compelling story. What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Debbi: Entering contests that entail writing short pieces has been extremely helpful. By the way, the responses and e-mails I’ve gotten from WOW have been more supportive than I can describe. I was a therapist for many years and every day I’d conceptualize what I’d heard from my clients and use their direct quotes as I later wrote their evaluations, their life stories. It’s kind of like developing fictional characterizations as succinctly as possible. Flash fiction writing has given me the chance to practice using imaginary scenarios in the same manner and learning the process of deleting any unnecessary wordiness.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Debbi: Each day, I try to spend a bit of time writing, even if it’s only a half hour or so. I’ve also been trying to read as much as possible and I’ve been attempting to dissect and identify what’s made a particular story awe-inspiring as I go through it, particularly those published on WOW. Having the luxury at this point to do that has been great. Because I am ‘nosy’ by nature, I enjoyed counseling and was allowed to delve into the lives’ of my clients. I generally start with the ‘what if’s,’ use a little piece of something I recall from what a client who was sitting across from me has said as we were exploring their lives and go from there. I also find inspiration from small dialogues that I’ve had with my grandsons as they’re learning about life in general. Kids often make statements that can generate huge questions.

WOW: Your methods seem really doable and inspiring. Thanks for sharing them.

In your bio you mention that you compete with your Appaloosa show horses. What do you enjoy most about that?

Debbi: Horses hold magic. Bad days evaporate when a velvety muzzle touches your cheek. Many years ago, as I was loading up to go to a major event to compete, a friend told me “Don’t give an inch.” I was taking an unseasoned horse and my ex-husband had told me I didn’t have a chance. Notice he is my ex. Anyway, that then young horse won big at that show. He died about three years ago. I found him when I got home from work one day, struggling in the dirt. As long as I kept telling him to get up, he kept trying to stand. My daughter came into the arena and told me to stop and let him go. The minute I gave him that permission, he went down and put his head in my lap and that was it. Good horses are like that. He’s buried beside our pasture. I’ve got two mares now, sisters. They’re prima donnas. Horse showing has taught me how to lose, because through the years since, I haven’t always won and it’s the same with writing. I might get a lot of rejections, but I can learn from each one.

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

Debbi: The same friend who told me to never give an inch said that I didn’t have any kind of chance at all if I didn’t even show up. Most of the meaningfulness in writing is simply in the process and there’s a whole lot of fun in that. Writing contests give you some insight as to whether you’re off the mark or right on.

*****

Our Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For details, visit our contest page.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

 

Ruth Kaiser, author of The Smiley Book of Colors, launches her book tour

& book giveaway contest!

If you've ever whiled away a sunny afternoon creating animals out of puffy clouds, wondered at the latest potato a farmer swears is the spitting image of George Washington, or enjoy the hidden picture puzzles made famous by Highlights you'll get a kick out of The Smiley Book of Colors. In it Ruth Kaiser illustrates a children's book about happiness with her own special obsession: Smileys.

What are Smileys? Quite simply they're smiley faces: eyes, nose, mouth, just the usual. But the fun part is finding Smileys in unusual places...in the milk in your coffee, the headlights of a firetruck, the leaf of a tree. They're everywhere! After reading The Smiley Book of Colors you'll find you can't stop searching for the next Smiley.

Hardcover: 32 pages
Age Level: Ages 3 and up
Publisher: Random House, Golden Books
ISBN-10: 0375869832
ISBN-13: 978-0375869839
Twitter Hashtag: SmileyBook

The Smiley Book of Colors, a children's book that adults will love also, is available for purchase in print form at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local neighborhood book store.

Check out the Smiley Song Video below! It will make you smile! :)



Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of The Smiley Book of Colors, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, March 22 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #SmileyBook, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day--Friday, March 23. Good luck!

About the Author:

Ruth is proud to be a self-proclaimed, happy-go-lucky, cockeyed optimist! She is mom to three of the greatest kids ever who, even though they are all out in the world pretending to be grown-ups, will always be her babies. Ruth owns a chain of preschools called TOT DROP where for 18 years she has been known and loved as "Teacher Ruth." To quote one of her mommies, "Everyone should have a 'Teacher Ruth' in their life!"

Although completely allergic to cats, she is also completely enamored with them. So Philbert, Noodle, Rooster and Mr. Simon have the run of the house and Ruth sits on a plastic chair and washed her hands a hundred times a day.

Ruth studied art at the University of California at Berkeley, but really believes that everyone is an artist. With excitement she proclaims, "How cool is it that the Internet has given us all an avenue to share our art!"

Find the Author Online:

Website: http://www.spontaneoussmiley.com

Blog: http://blog.spontaneoussmiley.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ruth.kaiser

Twitter: @SpontaneSmiley

--------Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: We have heard of many blogs that eventually became books: Julie and Julia, The PostSecret Project, and Bitter Is the New Black to name a few. Tell us why and when you created your Spontaneous Smiley website and what made you decide it would make a great book.

Ruth: From the very first time I attempted to point out a Smiley Face in an object, there were people who struggled to see what I saw. With advent of the digital camera I was suddenly able to snap the photo and crop it so that finding the Smiley was easy. I started posting my Smileys on Facebook and was delighted when others followed suit. Very quickly it became apparent that hunting for Smileys, is habit forming! That led to lots of press and the creation of the website. Smileys uploads came in from all over the world. Writing a book just seemed like the next step in a quest to share the Spontaneous Smiley Project.

WOW: The Smiley Book could have easily been a coffee table book or gift book targeting adults. What made you decide to write a children's picture book instead?

Ruth: Actually, a few years back I did first attempt a coffee table/gift book working with a big agency in NYC. Although we got a lot of interest, gift books were a hard sell in early 2009. When that didn’t work out, I had a real aha moment. Of course! I should write a kids’ book instead!

I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years, writing for kids came so easily! In that moment, I knew just what I wanted to say. The text of A Smiley Book of Colors, A Child’s Book of Optimism was completely written about 5 minutes later! The poem is all about helping children to choose happiness.

WOW: Your debut book is The Smiley Book of Colors. Are you considering other Smiley Books for children...The Smiley Book of Seasons, The Smiley Book of Weather, etc. or a Smiley Book for adults?

Ruth: You bet! I have a draft all finished and ready to show my editor of a Smiley Book of Numbers, A Child’s Book of Gratitude. In this second book, the poem talks about counting reasons to smile and uses the photos to teach counting. I’ve got several other ideas percolating! I know one thing for sure, I’ll never run out of Smileys; they’re everywhere!

People ask for what age group my book is best suited. I honestly think the book’s message is ageless. So I guess I’m saying it already is a book for adults.

WOW: As a preschool teacher for 18 years I suppose we can consider you a children's book expert. Care to share your expertise and tell us, from your observations with your students, what makes a popular children's book?

Ruth: Repetition is always popular. So is rhyming! Lots of vivid illustrations are a must. But, I have found that kids aren’t as interested in picture books where the people or animals look too far from reality or too cartoony. I know that’s a hard one for authors who often don’t get a lot of say as to the illustration used for their book.

WOW: Children's literature is a tough market to break into. How long did it take you to find an agent/publisher?

Ruth: I got the agent for the coffee table book by Googling my little heart out and sending queries all filled with photos to any and all I could find who posted their e-dress. I had read lots of how-tos about what the standard query should look like and decided to ignore it all. I wasn’t being cocky, it’s just that the standard format seemed so disingenuous, so not like me. Getting an agent took a couple of long days sending the query everywhere I could and a couple weeks of waiting for a nibble.

When there were no takers for the coffee table book and my agent said, “No thank you,” to the children’s book, I turned to another source. I am very active in social media so why not ask my Facebook followers if they had any advice for a novice wanting to break into the world of children’s literature. Right away a bunch of people chimed in. One was an introduction to a friend whom he claimed “knew everything about kids’ books.” I followed up. We had a lively back and forth messaging session at the end of which I asked her what she did. She was an editor! I sent her my manuscript the next day. After a couple of months I got the happiest email, an offer!

WOW: Many books have book trailers, videos to promote their books online. You have several Smiley songs and music videos which are such a fabulous idea for a children's book. How did you come up with the idea for songs and who wrote and performed the songs? Any other unusual promotional events or products planned for the future?

Ruth: I grew up surrounded my talented musician friends. The song “Smile. Be Happy” was a joint effort by songwriter Tommy Dunbar and me. We’ve been friends since we were kids and his band the Rubinoos was a big part of my life as a young adult. Asking them if they wanted to be a part of the Smiley Project was a no-brainer (for either side!). The other songs and videos are a reflection of my love to create stuff! I’m always working on at least a few projects.

I will be doing lots of book events at bookstores, but what I’m the most excited about is how many museums are interested!

WOW: What's next? More children's books? Another genre? More photos?

Ruth: Yes!! Yes!! And yes!! I’m eager and enthusiastic to do more of everything!

WOW: Any last words?

Ruth: Remember, every Smiley photo uploaded earns a $1 donation from The Spontaneous Smiley Community for OPERATION SMILE.

I hope everyone begins to see Smileys in their life and reasons to live with a Smiley outlook. It’s the greatest gift you could give your children!

Smile. Be happy!

WOW: Thanks, Ruth! I can't wait to hunt for smileys for a great cause! I'm sure our readers will want to participate too! Readers, here's more info:

Treasure Hunt Time!

Now it's time to start searching for Smileys in your neighborhood! When you find one snap a pic and upload it to Spontaneous Smiley on the "Share Your Smiley" page using "WOW" in your Smiley title.

Just one Smiley makes you a Smiley Captain! Not only will you brighten people's day with your Smiley AND help raise money for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that helps children with facial deformity receive the surgery they need, but you'll be entered in a contest just for Ruth's WOW friends to win a copy of The Smiley Book of Colors. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, April 17! Now grab your camera and start searching for Smileys!

--------More for Operation Smile

Ruth is passionate about Operation Smile, so she came up with this great idea for student groups of all sizes and ages! Similar to a Walk-a-Thon, the Smile-a-Thon is a fun and easy way to host a fundraiser. If you want to become more involved with the charity, check out the video below and find more information here: http://spontaneoussmiley.com/smileathon.htm



--------Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, March 20 @ Pragmatic Mom
Need an extra smile today? Stop by Pragmatic Mom for a review of Ruth Kaiser's children's book The Smiley Book of Colors.
http://PragmaticMom.com

Thursday, March 22 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Stop by to learn how to teach your child optimism from Ruth Kaiser. And a great way to start would be reading her new picture book The Smiley Book of Colors. Enter to win it today!
http://www.margodill.com/blog/

Saturday, March 24 @ Devourer of Books
Saturday is Kids' Day at Devourer of Books and today she's reviewing The Smiley Book of Colors by Ruth Kaiser. A book for kids of ALL ages!
http://www.devourerofbooks.com

Monday, March 26 @ Cathy C. Hall
Ruth Kaiser gives you tips on how to be a rock star in everything you do! Readers can also win a copy of her debut children's picture book--that will bring a smile to the faces of adults too--The Smiley Book of Colors.
http://www.cathychall.wordpress.com

Wednesday, March 28 @ Books, Books the Magical Fruit
Enter the giveaway for your chance at winning the fun children's book The Smiley Book of Colors and don't miss the surprise guest post by author Ruth Kaiser.
http://www.booksbooksthemagicalfruit.blogspot.com

Thursday, March 29 @ Words by Webb
Jodi's been bit by the Smiley bug. Check out her Smileys and learn more about the book that inspired her: The Smiley Book of Colors.
http://jodiwebb.com

Monday, April 2 @ Classic Children's Books
Don't miss your chance to win The Smiley Book of Colors so all your days can be Smiley Searches!
http://familyliteracy2.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 11 @ CMash Loves to Read
Don't be an April Fool! Stop by to enter to win The Smiley Book of Colors and enjoy a guest post that will perk up your entire day!
http://cmashlovestoread.blogspot.com

Friday, April 13 at Cindy's Love of Books
Find out what made Ruth Kaiser want to write a children's book about the smileys hiding in plain sight throughout our world!
http://cindysloveofbooks​.blogspot.com/

To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar here.

Get Involved!

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

Book Giveaway Contest:


Enter to win a print copy of The Smiley Book of Colors by Ruth Kaiser! Here's how you enter:

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Just leave Ruth a comment or ask a question to be entered in the random drawing.

2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #SmileyBook then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes Thursday, March 22 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, March 23, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.

Good luck!

(Also be sure to enter the photo smiley contest for another chance to win Ruth's book. :) Details in the section above under "Treasure Hunt Time!" You'll enjoy capturing smileys. We are addicted!)

---

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

 

Pinterest: The Good, the Bad, and the Undecided

Not long ago, a writing buddy told me about using Pinterest in her writing. She is doing the research for a steampunk novel and was sick of finding the perfect brass-clad do-dad only to lose it again in the vastness of cyberspace. Enter Pinterest.

On Pinterest, you create one or more boards. Each board holds a variety of images. Find an image that you like online and save it to your board along with the URL and you have it “pinned.” The image itself forms a visual link back to the original site.

As a highly visual writer, this clicked with me. Some time ago, I was researching a new character. This character had to have a specific look and I needed to have it down pat before I could write about him. Why? Because he lies about who he is and, suspecting this, my main character is judging him literally based on face value. I never found a model with just the right look, but I found a number that were close. Unfortunately, even with my links, re-finding many of these images proved impossible.

With Pinterest, problem solved. Or so I thought.

The first problem came when I tried to sign up. This isn’t like Facebook or Google Calendar where you simply register. With Pinterest, you have to request and then wait for an invitation. I was ready to research my next project NOW.

While I was waiting for this invite, I did some blog reading and found some warnings about using Pinterest. Apparently there are some copyright concerns. If I pin an image and the person didn’t have a Pin among their share icons, I have taken away their control of the image. It they are a photographer or artist, this can be a really big deal.

But Pinterest has a definite upside–its ability to drive traffic. According to this article, Pinterest drives more traffic than even Twitter. If I can find a way to use it to drive traffic to my site and/or blog, this would be amazing.

But that’s not how I want to use Pinterest. Not right now, anyway.

For now, instead of creating Pinterest Boards for visual inspiration as I research a new project, I’m going to start creating collages in Adobe Illustrator. As visual research, this will work just as well for me and that is my primary concern. For socialization, I’ve always got Facebook.

--SueBE

Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

Job Board Postings: How to Read Between the Lines

by LuAnn Schindler

Earlier this month, I wrote about differentiating between a legitimate job board posting and a scam.  The post shares red flags to look out for, as well as common-sense tips to prevent you from getting sucked in by scam artists.

I turned to freelancer Thursday Bram, a well-respected veteran writer. Her blog, The Business of Creativity, shares tips for fellow freelancers. She also supplies creative business help at Hyper Modern Consulting. Thursday was gracious to share her expertise, as well as examples.

If you're on Twitter, you can follow Thursday.

Let's take a look at job posting #1:

Editor for Manuscript Needed


Date: 2012-02-09, 11:30AM EST
Reply to:  [Errors when replying to ads?]


I am looking for someone with a background in Journalism and/or writing to review a manuscript for publishing.

Compensation will be determined based on experience.

If you have the experience please contact Herbert E. Brown at (xxx) xxx-xxxx.

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: compensation to be determined

Thursday's interpretation of this posting: The fact that there's a name and a phone number on this listing is reassuring. A quick Google search shows that there are quite a few 'Herbert E. Browns', even if you add in the location. But it's also worth running the phone number through Google. No associations with scams or problems show up with the phone number, so I would go ahead and contact Herbert and ask for more information.

Let's take a look at job posting #2:

Seeking a TMZ type of writer ASAP (DMV)


Date: 2012-02-09, 7:37PM EST
Reply to:  [Errors when replying to ads?]


We are a online magazine - similiar to Maxim Magazine seeking a writer who can delivery our news stories in an explosive way.
NO gossip news - We are all about REAL stories/news.

IF you're ready to do something different - email us with your resume and information.
Pay based on experience.

Thank you.

  • Location: DMV
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: based on experience
Thursday's interpretation of this posting: There's very little information here. But there's no typos, unrealistic promises or anything like that. Because there's no contact information, I would email a bare bones resume and offer to send relevant clips if I can get their web address so that I can match it. I'll also ask for further information about the company—I have a certain feeling that this may be a brand new publication, which I prefer not to work with.

Let's look at job posting #3:

Editor for a financial newsletter and web articles


Date: 2012-02-10, 3:59PM EST
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]


We write about investments, accounting and economic topics of interest for individual and professional investors.

We seek far more than an expert in grammar and punctuation. We seek a person who can inject "life" into our writing; our subjects (and our writing) tend to be horribly dry and lifeless. We see the life in our work -- we write on the details, and we are genuinely excited about our work and our message. Communicating the importance of our work, to our reader, is our challenge. We need a writer that can make dry subjects more interesting to the reader. Can you edit/write to captivate the reader?

Do your skills include interviewing people and writing about their work & message?
Do you have the personality to be on camera?

Initially, we will generate all ideas for reports and the website articles; we'll pay a set modest fee for each article that you work on, that we use. That is non-negotiable. We have had "editors" rewrite articles to their satisfaction, yet, in our view they wasted our time and made no improvement in the communication. You must be willing to accept a relationship whereby, we will pay you only if we use your work. We will absolutely not use any work that we do not pay for. There are two pluses for your consideration; 1) To the degree that we like your work we will pay you, possibly very handsomely, and 2) If we like your work, we may add you to our roster of contributing professionals on our website -- this will provide you with visibility and publicity. This position may evolve into a monthly retainer position. We seek a long-term professional relationship, a person who will take increasing responsibility for all our written client communications.

Please submit a letter of your interest in the position and a letter of your qualifications.

We may request that you edit 1 or 2 of our articles. These will be articles that we have already published and we will NOT use your work in any way except to evaluate how well your skills match our needs.

  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: Per Article We Publish

Thursday's interpretation of this job posting: This is actually a pretty good listing. It's clear that the people involved have some experience with freelancers. They're laying out very clearly what they want and while it's specific, it's also reasonable. I'm not thrilled that they're effectively asking someone to work without a guarantee that every piece of work would be used, but I'd be willing to do some deeper digging and have some conversations to make sure that there wouldn't be any problems. I would ask for information about the company upfront in my first contact but I would have no problem submitting a full copy of my resume to this ad.



HELP RIGHT MY BOOK (NEW YORK)


Date: 2012-02-10, 12:35AM EST
Reply to:  [Errors when replying to ads?]


WILL LIKE SOME ONE TO HELP ME WRITE MY OWN LIFE BOOK.

  • Location: NEW YORK
  • it's ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: NEGOTIABLE




PostingID: 2844008004


Thursday's interpretation of this posting:  Run away! There is nothing here and the odds of someone with a truly interesting autobiography to be written posting a request for writers on Craigslist is incredibly low. So move on to the next ad as quickly as possible.

And for the final posting to consider:

Business News Writers

The Global Minute, an emerging international news source, is seeking contributing writers. We cover world news, U.S news, business, politics, technology, health and education, sports, and entertainment.
Email resume and writing sample to editors @ theglobalminute.com

  • Location: NY
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
  • Compensation: no pay
PostingID: 2827372451

Thursday's interpretation of this posting: On the surface, this looks like a great option. The site name and even a link are right there—but there's no mention of pay in the listing itself and at the bottom it notes that there's no pay. Just because it could be a good gig if pay is available, I went and checked out the website. But no—the submission guidelines there lay out that writers only get exposure.

Writers need to read job postings thoroughly and conduct research about any job posting that appears too good to be true. A little analysis of a post can save you time, and ultimately, money. 

Many reliable, dedicated writing sites offer job boards. WOW!'s job board works in this way: Jobs featured at the very top have paid to be on the job board. These ads are screened.

The remainder of the job board works as an aggregator, meaning it filters job listings from around the web based on certain criteria: jobs that are for freelance writers, bloggers, editors, etc. WOW! doesn't personally screen jobs appearing in this area. They are part of a larger network - Simply Hired - which does screen jobs.

Using proven common-sense tips and checking reliable job boards will keep writers from falling prey to unscrupulous individuals.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

 

"This I Believe" Essay by Jodi Webb Featured on Public Radio


WOW! Women on Writing’s very own Jodi Webb recently read her essay, “If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?” on public radio. We chatted with her briefly about her experience submitting and recording her piece.

Check out her essay and recording here, then get the inside scoop from Jodi about creating an essay that gets broadcast on the airwaves.

WOW: Jodi, congratulations for having your essay featured on public radio! What inspired you to submit a “This I Believe” essay?

Jodi: I had always been aware of the This I Believe segment because I'm a big fan of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow was the one who first started the program. You can submit essays for consideration online and over the years I've submitted an essay or two. After all, the title says it all "This I Believe". It's a natural writing prompt and brings so many ideas to mind. What do we believe in? I could think of a different answer every day of my life.

But I was always nervous about the recording aspect of This I Believe. So when I heard that they were looking for submissions for a This I Believe book I was very enthusiastic. No recording! So I pulled out all the stops and submitted an essay about my mom and volunteering.

WOW: What was the submission process like, and how long did it take to hear that your essay was accepted?

Jodi: It was one of those "dropping a pebble in a wishing well" submissions. I submitted it and, aside from the automated "We've received your submission" email, nothing--for months! I actually forgot about it when I got an email from John Gregory telling me it had been selected for the book. I was so excited. Of course then more waiting until the book was finally published and ended up in my mailbox. About a year from submission to actual book.

Of course then I learned that they intended to have everyone included in the book record their essays. What?! I was very nervous and actually tried to stall them for a while but John was persistent.

WOW: How did the recording take place? Did you practice your reading of the piece?

Jodi: Normally NPR schedules time for you to visit a local radio station that broadcasts NPR programs and record it in their studio. But the nearest NPR station was an hour from my house. I had to cancel once for snow but finally made it the station in Harrisburg, PA. It was a HUGE building. There was a great guy there named Joe who was my man on the spot. Then I had John from NPR on the phone giving me direction. So I had earphones on, a mike in front of me, Joe sitting across from me working the technical aspects (playing sections back for me, etc.) and both of them talking to me through the earphones in this tiny little room. It was so weird.

First, John asked me all these questions about my writing and my family. I suppose to get me accustomed to the microphone. Then I read the entire thing three times (the first time at super speed!), but I also read just sections and a few sentences what seemed like a million times. They can take a bit from here and a bit from there and splice it all together. Which was a relief because at least I didn't have to read the entire thing perfectly in one shot! John would say things like, "Your tone is rising at the end of this paragraph, so let's try it again without that" or "Could you de-emphasize this word next time?" I kept saying "OK" but inside I was screaming "I do not even know what we're talking about! Tone? De-emphasize? I thought I just had to read it!" I think altogether it took about an hour.

I did practice beforehand (they tell you to practice reading it aloud). And I kept crying...not exactly crying but my eyes would fill with tears and I'd get all choked up. I was horrified! What if I did that during the recording and it was just all me sniffling? So that was another thing to make me crazy! So I started reading it funny...with voices and everything and that seemed to get me over the tears. I did manage not to cry when we came down to the actual recording!

WOW: Thanks for sharing your experience, Jodi! Any advice for someone thinking about submitting an essay to This I Believe, Inc.?

Jodi: I think even if you don't submit to This I Believe you should think about and write an essay that is what you believe. My advice is to listen to some of the other essays. It gives you some perspective about how many different things people believe in and will probably help you find your "belief". We all have beliefs but chances are we've never written them out in essay form. And never say die! Keep submitting, I did and I ended up in their book.

***

Jodi Webb wrote her first article for a regional market, Pennsylvania Magazine, in 1993. Fifteen years later her first regional book, Pennsylvania Trivia, was released. In between she’s written essays for many markets including Christian Science Monitor, Birds and Blooms, Central Penn Parent and NPR. Jodi also organizes WOW Blog Tours. For tips on writing visit Jodi’s blog WordsbyWebb.

****

There’s still a few days to sign up for Jodi’s essay writing class!
is a six week course starting on Tuesday, March 20, 2012.
Enrollment is limited to 10 students so reserve your spot now!

****

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

 

Book Review: Freelance Fee Setting: A Quick Guide by Laurie Lewis


If you are a freelance writer or editor, you've probably been asked the question face-to-face, "How much do you charge?" And you've probably had that panicked feeling--the heat rising up to your face, your stomach churning, and maybe even dry mouth--before answering, "Well, that depends." But you don't know exactly what it depends on. What should you say or ask next?

The person will often look at you like: if you can't even tell me how much you charge, I'm not trusting you with my precious words or assignment. Then you hurriedly quote a price you may regret later.

You've also more than likely opened an e-mail from for a rush job from an editor who can't get a hold of another writer who was supposed to be writing an article for her OR an editing client who had a deadline yesterday. Again they probably wrote a high-pressure e-mail: "I need to know NOW--how much do you charge?"

These very scenarios seem to be happening to me more and more often. This is good news, as it means I am getting work; but more than once, I've found myself wondering, Am I charging a fair price for the client AND for my time and expertise?

Thankfully, Laurie Lewis, author of What to Charge: Pricing Strategies for Freelancers and Consultants, has written, Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW. This is a short e-book, from cover to cover only seventeen pages, that allows freelancers to work through a series of questions quickly to set a price for a job. She does not tell you how much to charge, but she leads you through how to make a decision on what to charge quickly and efficiently.

Her chapter titles are: "Gathering Information," where she explains you need to take three things into consideration: job details, typical fees, and your gut feelings; "Choosing a Pricing Method," which goes in-depth into the different ways you can charge a client such as hourly or per word; "Determining a Fee and Negotiating Plan," where she describes how to negotiate and determine your bottom line. Her last chapter explains what readers will find in her original and longer pricing book if they want to pursue this topic further.

What I love about Laurie's easy-to-read and quick guide is that she thinks of things to consider about pricing a job that I never even thought about before reading. Here are a couple examples: When considering your client, what type of client is this--a non-profit organization struggling to stay afloat for a cause near and dear to your heart or a large corporation with deep pockets? Some may say this doesn't make a difference--you price the same. But realistically, you don't. You may tend to give a lower price to the non-profit because you enjoy the work, and you know they need a break.

This leads me to the second example of a point I never really thought to consider before reading Laurie's guide--you really need to take into consideration the psychological aspects of a job. She points out, "If you think you’ll hate the job, you might want to price it on the high side. If you really, REALLY want it, you might want to name a price on the low side of acceptable to be sure you get the job. But don’t price it so low that you’ll be sorry, especially if you’ll be working on it for a long time."

Her chapter on the different ways to price is comprehensive, even for a short guide. What she does in this chapter that is so outstanding is describe the pricing method AND then explain the advantages and disadvantages for each method. After reading this chapter, you will see that there is no "one way fits all." You may need to price by the hour for one job; but for another one, a per diem rate may be better.

I recommend Freelance Fee Setting: Quick Guide for When a Client Demands a Price NOW for any freelance writer or editor. If you are interested in reading an interview we conducted with the author, please check it out here.

Review by Margo L. Dill;

Margo is teaching WOW! online classes, and there are still spots open in "Beginning Social Networking for Writers" (starting tomorrow 3/16) and her two NEW advanced classes, "Advanced Writing a Middle-Grade Novel" (starting 4/14) and "Advanced Social Networking for Writers" (starting 4/13). To find out more, go to the classroom here .

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

 

Publishing’s Third Option—Sponsored E-books: An Interview with Kizzi Nkwocha, CEO of Mithra Publishing


There is a new alternative in the ever evolving world of publishing—advertising sponsorships. The concept of sponsored publication is not entirely new; it is somewhat common in the non-fiction world of educational and reference materials. What is new is sponsored fiction.

Not to be confused with a commissioned novel, where product endorsement becomes part of the plot, sponsorship is more like the advertisements we see in magazines. There have been some murmurings about the concept of sponsored publishing since 2009. Now Mithra Publishing has stepped forward to lead the way into this exciting, new prospect.

WOW: Hello Kizzi, welcome to WOW! What caused you to adopt this business model?

Kizzi: This business model was born out of frustration. The frustration a lot of writers feel after spending months, sometimes years, banging on a publisher's door, pleading for an opportunity to have their work taken on and made available to the public. On the other hand, publishers are also suffering. In a number of cases they want to take a risk on a new author. But in an uncertain economy and with margins getting tighter every month, they feel the return on investment simply won’t be high enough to justify the gamble. The safer option is to publish authors with proven track records or writers with celebrity names. Most new writers are left with no other alternative but to self-publish, which can be a very costly venture. We want to create another option, a model where the cost of publishing is shared between the publisher and a number of advertisers. The author is left to do what he or she does best: concentrate on writing a great book. With this model we can afford to take risks on new talent and we have committed ourselves to introducing at least one new author every month.

WOW: How do you see this fitting in to today’s fiction market?

Kizzi: It’s a third option and fits nicely in-between the existing fiction models of publisher-financed books and self-financed books.

WOW: I can see where sponsorship could greatly reduce the upfront costs for an author looking at self-publication, but how do you go about finding the right sponsors for the project?

Kizzi: We focus on the main theme of the book and related issues that arise from those themes. A great example is Teresa Hamilton’s book, Choices. The central theme of the book is about a forty-something wife and mother who faces a dilemma that threatens to tear apart her life. We looked at the target readership (women in their thirties, forties and fifties) and asked ourselves: “what are their interests?” The finished book now carries ads from a women’s networking business, a jewelry company, a luxury cruise wedding business, etc…

WOW: That makes sense; you’re matching up the target audience. Give us an example of a basic advertising package—price, run time, graphics, etc…

Kizzi: It cost £1,200 ($1,881) for a full page ad. A half page advertisement costs £700 ($1,097) and a quarter page costs £500 ($ 184) *. Ads can be either text-only or text with an image. Because the majority of e-readers are online, we also hyperlink the ads so, once a reader clicks on it, they’re taken directly to the advertiser's website.

Unlike magazine or newspaper ads, e-books are often kept for years and re-read which means the ads have a very long shelf life. Many e-book devices allow users to lend their books to friends which will increase the exposure to an advertiser’s brand.

WOW: So, these are interactive ads in that the reader can “click” directly to the sponsor’s site. Terrific perk for the sponsor as it allows them to create an immediate relationship with that customer. Where are the ads placed in the e-books?

Kizzi: We stress to advertisers that the ads are kept separate from the story and cannot influence the editorial content whatsoever. There are no discreet product placements. The ads appear on a separate page from the text and often at a relevant section of the story. For example, if at the end of the story the main character decides to get married, we’ll run ads from wedding companies.

WOW: It’s nice to hear that the ads don’t interrupt the flow of the story. How does sponsorship effect copyrights?

Kizzi: The sponsorship has no effect on copyrights. The book remains the copyright of the author. Advertising sponsored publishing is pretty much an unexplored frontier. But, by adopting this model, we think it will inject new life into the publishing industry. We are demystifying the publishing process and opening doors to new writers. And that can only be a good thing.


WOW: That is a good thing! Thank you, Kizzi, for sharing with us today.

Mithra Publishing is an international publishing company based in the U.K. You can read more at Mithra Publishing’s website or check out one of their new releases, Choices by Teresa Hamilton.

Lauren seems to have it all, until her idyllic world is turned upside down… What would you do? Filled with believable characters, family feuds, love, sex and betrayal, Choices is now available at Amazon.

(* Note: Ad rates converted to current U.S. Dollar exchange rate for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a direct price quote from Mithra Publishing)

By Robyn Chausse

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