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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

 

Interview with JC Sullivan: Winter 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

JC's Bio:

After discovering a secret “reset” button, JC Sullivan is happily reliving her 20s, confident that she’s doing a better job this time around. Having fled the cubicle, she now lives life as an adventure. Not independently wealthy, she takes odd jobs, couchsurfs, barters—to backpack the world. She’s been to over 120 countries and every continent. Her story of going from debt-ridden executive to jobfree explorer is The Wednesday Club, which hopes to find a publisher soon.

Having won awards for her creative nonfiction and poetry, this is her first published fiction piece.

For bursts of optimism, please visit her new bilingual blog: www.backpackingpoet.com. JC welcomes your suggestions and urges you to find your passion.

If you haven't done so already, check out JC's award-winning story "Artist Doublespeak: The Imaginary Interview Within," and return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulation on placing in the WOW! Winter 2012 Flash Fiction Contest. How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it?

JC: Filled with self-doubt, I read an interview with Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin who said that he kept worrying that "they" would come up to him and knowing that he was a Hollywood phony, say, "Game Over. Get out of here." I thought if a superstar like Sorkin could think he was a fake, my insecurity was understandable. I started to play with the idea of listening to and trusting one's inner voice, which I think is the crux of being an artist.

WOW: Self-doubt is such a common and destructive enemy of the writer! It’s great that you are not only able to recognize that, but use it in your writing. What do you enjoy most about writing?

JC: Deadlines. That way I know it's finished. (smile) I hate writing (re-writing is worse). However, if my stories can make people laugh or inspire them to lead the lives they are capable of, the pain is worth it to me.

WOW: That’s a noble goal: “inspire them to lead the lives they are capable of.” What are you reading right now, and why did you decide to read it?

JC: Confidential, the story of Arnon Milchan, a highly successful Hollywood producer who most people don't know is/was an arms dealer, too. The double life thing intrigues me. The way that some people can crossover from one high-level success story into a totally different category is amazing and gives me no excuse for not doing better in my one area.

WOW: If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

JC: John Patrick Shanley who has been described as a "badass romantic" and the author behind the Pulitzer-prize winning, "Doubt" which is as flawless a play as one can hope to ever find. I had the great fortune of seeing it on Broadway with Cherry Jones. Afterwards we all had to discuss who was guilty. The next morning, we'd all changed our minds. Even now, several years later, I was out with my friends at another play entirely and we reminisced and marveled at Doubt, his amazing piece of work.

Or Aaron Sorkin, the creator behind Sports Night, my favorite show ever. Everything he does is so smart and yet incredibly enjoyable and always makes you think. A visionary, to me he is the personification of "engaging material." "You can't handle the truth!" is one of the best single lines ever delivered.

WOW: So many sources of inspiration, so little time! What is the most useful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

JC: I read that we should write in 90-minute intervals. That represents the length of your brain's creative cycle so that somewhere in that period, you will find something of value. Find the process that works for you. We're all different. I really do like writing in my pajamas on my stomach in my bed. Please write - we all have been given important messages to send out into the world.

WOW: Thank you for your thoughtful answers. Happy writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Monday, July 30, 2012

 

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, author of Love Comes Later, launches her book tour

:
& giveaway contest!

Devastated at the death of his wife in a car accident, Abdulla dodges his family’s attempts to arrange another marriage. As the eldest in his Qatari family, his efforts last only a year; he acquiesces to another match but only because his fiancée is in London finishing a Master’s degree. Any delay is welcome but as her graduation date approaches, Abdulla knows a reckoning is coming. Can he go through the motions to please his family? Or should he call it off? Deciding to talk to the woman he will soon marry, he makes a secret trip to London, hoping he can convince her to dissolve their engagement. But all is not simple in London—where is Hind . . . and who is Sangita?

Love Comes Later is a thoughtful and entertaining look into cultural differences as we follow the story of Abdulla, Hind, Sangita and Ravi—four people struggling to balance personal happiness with tradition. A literary romantic rollercoaster you should definitely add to your summer reading pile.

Love Comes Later is available for Kindle at Amazon.

About the author

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was good in many ways, since that is where she met her husband, had a baby, and made the transition from writing as a hobby to making it her full-time gig. She has published three e-books this year: Mommy but Still Me, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies, and Coloured and Other Stories. Since she joined the e-book revolution, she has dreamed in plotlines.

Find the author online:

Mohanalakshmi Phongsavan, PhD
http://www.mohanalakshmi.com/

Twitter: @moha_doha

------Interview by Robyn Chausse

WOW: Hi Mohana, welcome to The Muffin and congratulations on Love comes Later. You’ve successfully addressed some intense issues in a way that includes and invites cross-cultural discussion. When did you decide to be a writer?

Mohana: I decided to call myself a writer last year when I quit a full-time job working for a publishing house in order to devote more time to my own work. I had been writing for over ten years, but when you leave full time work, you need a legitimate reason, so it seemed a good time.

WOW: You have a PhD—How did your formal education fit into this plan?

Mohana: I actually found my passion for creative writing just at the time that I was applying for PhD programs. I had also submitted applications to Master of Fine Arts programs but the PhD offer at the time was better. I did take one MFA class during my course work for the other degree and found the MFA students very unwelcoming. Their reaction burned me on writing for about six years. Lucky for me, things don’t stick forever.

WOW: What are the main messages you would like to express through your writing?

Mohana: I’m interested in the dilemmas of the individual: I want to take the reader into the world of people they might not otherwise know. Whether it’s a group of friends who have grown apart or how people fall in love, I also like to investigate how an event happens and the reactions by all those involved.

WOW: What have you learned through your cross-cultural experiences?

Mohana: Flexibility and empathy are keys if you’d like to understand why people do things differently than you might. Having an open mind is difficult if you feel threatened or like you need to be superior to someone else.

WOW: In Love Comes Later, you shine a light on tradition—our roles within society and our family. What are your thoughts on the balance between tradition and change as in the growth or evolution of a society?

Mohana: My own life has been an exploration of this balance. I didn’t pursue medicine or science as my parents might have wanted; I didn’t marry someone of my background as people might have expected. The best advice I have is to do what feels right to you as a person for your personal happiness or satisfaction. If it doesn’t harm anyone else, all the better. Those who love you will ultimately want what you want—to be a happy, fulfilled person.

WOW: You’ve self-published several titles—any words of wisdom to share?

Mohana: I came to self-publishing after years of academic titles people seemed impressed by but which no one ever read. I wanted to get to readers and avoid the runaround I saw happening to talented authors from my front row seat inside the publishing industry. I haven’t been disappointed.

You can’t skip the editorial, design, marketing or promotion—in fact, in some ways it’s harder because you are doing it all yourself—but if you are tired of meaningless agent rejections and have quality work to put out there, self-publishing is a serious option.

WOW: What are you working on now?

Mohana: I am writing a novel set in 1969 Laos, exploring a girl’s journey into motherhood against the backdrop of the secret war the US was conducting in Laos in tandem with the war in Vietnam.

Also hoping to edit and revise my very first novel project which ironically is taking the longest to get ready!

WOW: Kudos for jumping right into the topics others would shy away from! We’re looking forward to your next novel.

Book Release Celebration! Love Comes Later will be available FREE for three days only (July 30 – August 1, 2012)


---------Blog Tour Dates

August 3 @ Thoughts in Progress
Mohana talks about how to write from a different perspective (gender, religion, race). Mason shares her review of Love Comes Later. Enter the giveaway!
http://www.masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

August 6 @ Words from the Heart
Get to know Mohana Rajakumar! Linda Neas shares her interview with the author and reviews Love Comes Later.
http://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

August 8 @ CMash Loves to Read
How do we fall in love? Mohana tackles this age-old question!
http://www.cmashlovestoread.com/

August 9 @ Gwen Hardin
Join us for Gwen’s review of Love Comes Later by Mohana Rajakumar
http://gwenhardin.com/

August 10 @ Monique McDonell
Learn more about Mohana Rajakumar in this fun author-to-author interview with Monique McDonell!
http://moniquemcdonell.weebly.com/

August 15 @ All Things Audry
Join Audry for a review of Love Comes Later by Mohana Rajakumar
http://www.allthingsaudry.blogspot.com/

August 22 @ Jennifer Greenleaf
Find out what this Maine author thinks of Love Comes Later by Mohana Rajakumar
http://www.jennifergreenleaf.com/

August 23 @ Woman on the Edge of Reality
Join Linda for her “Thursday Throng” feature! Today is an all-telling interview with Mohana Rajakumar and a review of her novel, Love Comes Later. Chance to win a copy of this compelling novel!
http://womanontheedgeofreality.com/

August 24 @ Me and Reading
Is marrying outside of your race/religion/ethnicity a good or bad idea? Why or why not? Join the discussion with Mohana Rajakumar and enjoy Inga’s review of Love Comes Later. Enter to win a copy of Mohana’s book!
http://www.ingasilbergbooks.com/

To view all 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.


Prize Giveaway Contest:
Enter to win! The winner will receive an ecopy (.pdf or mobi file) of Love Comes Later plus a print copy of the anthology Qatari Voices! Just enter the rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The giveaway contest closes Friday, August 3 at 12:01 AM EST. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter form  the same day and follow up by e-mail.

Good luck!

PS. Also be sure to check out the Kindle Fire giveaway in the post before this post!

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Win a Kindle Fire

To celebrate the release of Love Comes Later, Mohana Rajakumar is giving away a Kindle Fire! (AVR $199)

Contest runs July 30 - August 24, 2012 and is open internationally. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter or go to Mohana’s website. If you have problems using Rafflecopter, be sure you are running the latest version of your web browser and have javascript updated. Winner will be announced on Monday, August 27, 2012.

Good Luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

 

Family vs. Blog: When Do We Overshare?


LuAnn with her muses: her family. "Yes, I'm oversharing. Again."

I wrote and sold the first story about daughter #3 when she was six years old. The piece relayed a humorous story involving Holy Communion, the bread dipped in grape juice, and the subsequent laughter when she forcefully proclaimed to our Pastor, “I am not eating or drinking blood.”

The anecdote was cute and it required only a quick write-up before I sent it off to a publisher.

When daughter #2 was not selected for a part in a local children’s theater production, I scribbled a poem on a receipt I dug out of my purse, watching her reaction when her name was not announced. The piece sold to a month later and I received $50 for 14 lines capturing a single moment of her life.

Now, I have four grandchildren and the story possibilities continue to grow.

Here’s where it gets awkward.

I’m a writer. I write. And, like many writers, the spotlight shines (sometimes) too brightly on my family and their experiences. After all, writers are told to “write what we know” and what or who do I know better than my family.

But as my brood grows older, they do not necessarily like their 15 minutes of fame in one of mom’s articles or poems or columns.

What’s a writer mama or grandma to do? How do you find balance between sharing a life lesson or a hearty laugh from one you love and oversharing, risking their embarrassment? Is it an invasion of their privacy?

A few months ago, I wrote an essay about a current and newsworthy item in my home state and mentioned daughter #1, who works in business development.

“Gee, Mom,” the conversation started. “Thanks for talking about me in your newspaper column. My phone has been ringing non-stop and so have the e-mail comments.”

Great, I thought. I’m getting through to people.

But had I overstepped the imaginary line in the sand where personal eclipses into professional? Should I not share her successes, not offer examples for others to learn from?

Yeah, yeah, so I’m writing about one of my children. Again.

The argument extends beyond words on a page. Do we overshare about our children on Facebook or Twitter? It’s not like I’m posting on my Facebook page, “Oh, so proud of grandchild #2. He went on the big boy potty today!”

Sure, I post some pictures of the grandkids on my Facebook wall so far-away family and friends can watch them grow up. Should I?

Will my words or photos one day make them uncomfortable?

It’s especially tough when you’re a mommy blogger or a grandmommy blogger because these pulled snapshots of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives generate ideas and hopefully, give valuable information (or a chuckle) to others in similar situations.

Until they demand I stop penning their stories, I will continue to use my family as my creative muse. They are the best sampling of life as I know it and write it.

And the story must go on.

by LuAnn Schindler. You may find more examples of my oversharing tendencies at my website

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

 

Let it build!

by Lynne Garner

As a writer, there are many ways you can tell your story. One method that is often used in traditional stories is known as "repetition." This is where actions and words are repeated to create your story. However, there is also a variation known as the "cumulative" story structure or a "chain story." It is where the character repeats the same actions and/or words but with each repeat a little extra information is added.

This type of story not only uses repetition of words but is sometimes written using rhyme. To demonstrate this let's look at The House That Jack Built. The rhyme starts with:

The is the house that Jack built

Followed by:

This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built

Followed by:

This is the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built

As you can see more detail is added to the previous sentence, creating a story kids love.

Another equally famous cumulative story is There Was an Old Woman. The story starts with the old woman swallowing a fly. She then swallows a spider to rid herself of the fly. She then swallows a bird to rid herself of the fly. As the story progresses the animals the old woman swallows get bigger. They include a cat, dog, goat, cow and finally a house. Which brings the story to an abrupt end because "she died of course!"

I'm hoping you can see the possibilities this type of story offers a picture book writer. If so and you'd like to give it a go then why not read a few books written using this structure for inspiration. The following link provides a great list of books you may wish to start with: http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/cumulative-tales.

***

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US. She has 21 books published; this includes three picture books, with a fourth to follow shortly. Her first title ‘The Best Jumper’ was recorded for the CBeeBies children’s radio channel (part of the BBC) whilst ‘A Book For Bramble’ has been translated into five languages including Korean and Indonesian.

***

Join one of Lynne's latest WOW! Women on Writing classes:

or 

Both start on Saturday, August 4th. Classes are limited to 15 students.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: I Am A Writer...Hear Me Roar!, guest post by Robyn Corum

I Am A Writer...Hear Me Roar!
by Robyn Corum

Writing is a difficult journey. Choosing to be a writer means making the decision to walk a very rocky path. (Though sometimes, it's true, you don't actually make the decision--it kind of makes you.) Writing means lots of lonely days and sleepless nights. It means spending hours upon hours searching on-line for publishers and magazines and e-zines that might want your work. It means mounds of rejection letters for each glistening note of acceptance. It means friends who give you awkward smiles and timid nods when you attempt to explain what you experience. It means a life of constant self-doubt and recrimination and editing.

There is a saying that gardeners believe in tomorrow, but I think writers have to be some of the most hopeful, optimistic people I know. They are willing, regularly, to put the deepest thoughts of their hearts into black and white for the public to read. It takes courage to do that day in and day out.

It takes courage to tear out your soul and paste it on a blog for millions--or Aunt Ethel--to read. There are easier ways to make a living. Or actually, to go into debt.

Writers buy books by other writers on writing better. They take classes. They attend conferences. They listen to webinars. They join writing groups. Whatever it takes to hone and improve their craft--count them in. Each day is about making progress. There is an ideal and that's what they strive for.

Almost all writers can picture their name in a byline...and it looks good! Almost as good as it looks on the cover of a book jacket. The one with their photo on the back. (The good photo, the one where they've lost that irritating 30 pounds and have the $100 haircut.) They can picture themselves at a book signing, and on Oprah. "Don't worry, audience--we have one of these awesome books for each of you under your seats!"

Yes, it's true that most writers are limited to moderate fame, if any, during their lifetime. Perhaps a few people in their hometown will know that they 'piddle around' with writing. Or perhaps they'll have a few pieces published, which is a grand sort of success. Or at the very least, perhaps their own family will honor them, which is rare indeed.

But most of us write for ourselves. And that's okay. We have to let the demons loose. Anything else is icing. And, we all know...too much icing is bad for you...right? 


---


Robyn Corum is a rather nice person.  She lives in a small town in North Alabama and thinks big thoughts.  They scream at her until she writes them down.  Robyn has three children, one son-in-law and a perfect husband.  Look for her book, Pieces of Her Mind, coming out in October, 2012, with other authors.  In the meantime, you can visit her at: robynsrules.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, July 26, 2012

 

Want to Break Into Medical Writing? Interview with Medical Writer Nancy Monson

by Rosrin Wuithiran

Award-winning medical writer Nancy Monson has been writing professionally for the past 20 years. Writing for both consumers and medical professionals, she has covered medical topics for websites, videos, blogs, and more. Her articles range in topics in health, nutrition, psychology, and medicine and have appeared in Woman’s Day, Glamour, and Fitness, among many titles. She has also written health books such as Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes and The Smart Guide to Boosting Your Energy. Nancy also offers a medical freelance writing how-to book, Just What the Doctor Ordered: An Insider’s Guide to Medical Writing at www.medicalwritingbook.com.

She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of Health Care Journalists. You can find her writing porfolio at www.nancymonson.com. WOW! is excited to speak with Nancy about the world of medical writing.

WOW: Welcome, Nancy! What steered you into the field of medical writing?

Nancy: I actually fell into the field about 25 years ago. I originally wanted to be an actress, but I always had a facility for writing.

WOW: So how did you get started in medical writing?

Nancy: I got a job as a freelance typist for a New York City medical communications company, working evenings, so I had days free to go to acting auditions. Over the course of several years, a couple of editors at the company realized I had potential and gave me opportunities to go to medical meetings and report on presentations, and taught me to edit medical materials.

WOW: That's great they encouraged you to get into the field. Do you have a medical degree?

Nancy: No. I have a Bachelor of Science degree magna cum laude in communications from Boston University’s College of Communications.

WOW: Did not having a degree cause a problem? Did editors inquire whether you had the sufficient background to write on medical subjects?

Nancy: No, not really, because I started when the medical communications industry was still fairly young and that wasn’t an issue. They were looking more for editors and writers and were willing to teach people the medicine. I’ve since been in the business for so long and I have so much experience that it’s not an issue. I also have a lot of contacts who know I’m very competent and dependable. However, it appears that advanced degrees are being requested more and more of medical writers.

WOW: How difficult is it to find references and experts to support findings and statistics for your articles?

Nancy: It’s not difficult thanks to the Internet—it used to be a lot harder when I physically had to go to a medical library and do research. The National Library of Medicine website Pubmed provides access to abstracts of thousands of new and old articles each year, so that’s the first place to go to do research.

WOW: That's a fantastic resource! So where do you find experts for your articles?

Nancy: Through literature searches and recommendations from other experts and organizations.

WOW: How do you find medical journals to write for? Or is it a mixture of medical publications and general interest magazines?

Nancy: Actually, I don’t write for medical journals. Rather, I write continuing medical education (CME) custom publications for healthcare professionals, patient education brochures, and web tools, and these projects are typically offered to me by clients I’ve known for a long time and who I keep in touch with to let them know I’m available. I also write consumer magazine articles and blog posts on health and nutrition topics; I get these assignments by pitching story ideas to editors at magazines that interest me, such as More, Shape, Vivmag.com, and Weight Watchers Magazine. Finally, I write books, as well as assist doctors, psychologists, and other authors with writing their books and book proposals.

WOW: It's great to know medical writing can be so diverse. How did you find topics of interest or how were you able to punch up topics to suit the needs of publications?

Nancy: I don’t need to find topics of interest for the medical writing—I am assigned those projects by medical communications companies and organizations. For the magazine articles I write for consumers, I peruse medical journal articles and medical meeting news releases, and read the newspaper for reports on new studies that could serve as the “newspeg” for a magazine article.

WOW: Were there any surprises you encountered (such as non-health oriented periodicals being interested in health and medical topics)?

Nancy: I was lucky enough to move from medical writing to consumer magazine writing in the early 1990s. Health and nutrition writing was a new niche back then, and my medical writing experience and contacts with medical experts helped me to succeed in that area. Today, health and nutrition are staples of most consumer magazines, given the interest most people have in the topics.

WOW: What propelled you to write your books?

Nancy: My first book, The Smart Guide to Boosting Your Energy, was offered to me. It was part of a series and seemed like a nice way to try my hand at book writing. My second book, Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Pastimes, is a labor of love and was a concept that I developed and pitched to many publishers (through a book agent). I’m very interested in crafts, hobbies, and creativity, and I uncovered research that these pursuits can have mental, physical, and spiritual benefits. I look at the book as a self-help guide to tapping these benefits for yourself. My third book is an e-book with a co-author, Linda Peckel. It arose out of the question from my fellow consumer writers “How do you become a medical writer?” It’s called Just What the Doctor Ordered: An Insider’s Guide to Medical Writing.

WOW: How did you make the choice of selling books on your own rather than trying for a big publisher?

Nancy: My first book was published by John Wiley and Sons. Craft to Heal was purchased by a craft publisher that folded, so I ended up self-publishing the book. That’s been a great experience, as I have complete control over the copy and cover. I also have control over the marketing, which is good and bad, as that’s a massive effort (but I’m told it’s a massive effort even if your book is published by a mainstream publisher). I revised the book with some new research and text this past summer. The third book, my co-author and I wanted to get out quickly, so we wrote the copy based on our many years of experience in the field of medical writing, and contracted with a web designer to create the e-book and our website.

WOW: With 300-plus articles and works under your belt, do you feel you have reached a limit of topics? Or did you decide to delve into other writing realms?

Nancy: Oh no, not at all! There are always new health and nutrition studies coming out, and updates to stories to be made, as well as seasonal health and nutrition stories (called “evergreen” stories—for instance, stories about breast cancer in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month). I have, however, moved into writing about other topics that I enjoy, such as psychology and relationships, as well as crafts, hobbies, and creativity.

WOW: That's wonderful you've been able to branch out, and you sound passionate about your book projects--and crafting! (smiles) So what was the best advice you received for medical writing?

Nancy: Pay attention to details and take your time: you have to be accurate. You can’t get medication dosages wrong or fake your understanding of a study design. On the other hand, be dependable, too. Make your deadlines.

WOW: Great advice . . . especially about the medication dosages! All of those details are so important to get right before submitting. What is your typical routine in producing an article?

Nancy: It varies depending on the project. If I’m writing a CME publication, it starts with my doing some preliminary research on the topic and creating an outline. I then participate in a conference call with the medical experts who have been selected for the project, and we review the outline and they give me guidance on what to cover, relevant studies to cite, and other things. These publications must be evidence-based (meaning they are culled from solid research and heavily referenced), as well as clinically useful and balanced rather than promotional in nature. Next, I go off and write the publication, which can take a month or more. When the first draft is ready, it is sent out to the client and the medical experts for review. It comes back to me for revisions, usually at least once, and sometimes twice. It can be a challenge at this stage of the game to reconcile sometimes disparate comments and changes from advisors so everyone is happy with the content. Next, it goes to editing and layout, before ultimately being published and distributed.

WOW: It sounds like a very detailed process. What do you feel is the biggest contribution to your success in a writing career?

Nancy: I feel I am very dependable and always make my deadlines. My copy is also very clean, because I pay attention to details and check my work before I submit it.

WOW: How did you get into continuing education writing? (Where medical professionals take courses to further their studies and to renew their licenses)

Nancy: I knew that I didn’t want to do promotional or marketing writing about drugs. I wanted to educate health professionals and patients, so CME (continuing medical education) was the natural way for me to go.

WOW: How do you find topics for continuing education writing?

Nancy: I am assigned these projects, so I don’t need to come up with the topics myself. I do specialize in certain subject areas, however: women’s health, nutrition, dermatology, neurology, and psychiatry/psychology.

WOW: How about for the consumer magazines you write for . . . Have you had disappointments/regrets in certain topics you queried?

Nancy: I may get excited about a topic, put a lot of effort into writing a query letter, and have it quickly shot down by an editor. That’s disappointing because it’s not always easy to come up with saleable article ideas and a lot goes into crafting a good pitch (magazines are demanding more and more of freelance writers in this regard, even asking them to get quotes from experts).

WOW: How did you deal with the query rejection?

Nancy: I refashioned the query and sent it to another magazine. Some queries never get picked up, and that’s just part of the experience of being a freelance writer.

WOW: What tip can you offer to someone interested in medical writing?

Nancy: Immerse yourself in the medical literature so you get a feel for the style and lingo—that means reading the New England Journal of Medicine or JAMA. Those journals are available at many public libraries. WebMD is also a good source of consumer health information; they have a medical site called Medscape for health professional information. And consider taking courses through the American Medical Writers Association.

WOW: Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your writing life with WOW!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

 

She Writes Press: A New Publishing Opportunity (Interview with Brooke Warner)

The new publishing opportunities available to writers in today's market are phenomenal. The gatekeepers, aka agents and editors, no longer have the final say on whether or not a project will find readers. Writers are being published traditionally, and this is great. But they are also finding ways to publish their books with subsidy companies and by self-publishing!

We are excited to welcome Brooke Warner with She Writes Press. Some of you may recognize her name if you have been a member of the She Writes community or taken advantage of her coaching services. Brooke also worked as executive editor at Seal Press for seven-and-a-half years where she shepherded over five hundred books through the publication process.

She Writes Press is a new company she has started with Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites.com. Brooke took some time to answer questions about the services and opportunities She Writes Press, a hybrid press, will give to authors. So, take it away, Brooke! 

WOW: Welcome, Brooke! There's a lot of buzz going on about your new independent publishing company, She Writes Press. All the interviews and comments I've read about it have writers excited and enthusiastic about the opportunities you are going to provide women writers! So, tell me, how is She Writes Press different than some of the other subsidy publishing companies like Outskirts Press, Inc?

Brooke: There are many self-publishing options in the world today, and they vary quite a bit. We consider ourselves to be a hybrid press. MJ Rose of Author Buzz recently told me she considers presses like ours to be co-op publishers. We are offering something unique in the marketplace because we are vetting our books. In order to publish on She Writes Press, your manuscript has to be up to industry standard, and we have editors and agents vetting our projects. Some writers will qualify to publish with SWP right out of the gate. For those authors who need either developmental editing or copyediting, we present a way to move forward with us for the end goal of publishing with SWP. The other primary thing that sets us apart from other self-publishing companies is our community of writers at SheWrites.com. She Writes Press serves the She Writes community, though you don't have to be a She Writer to publish with us. She Writes Press is mirroring a traditional publishing model. We are offering custom covers and interior design, not templates. We're also giving our authors a team, support, and an opportunity to be part of something bigger. Self-publishing can be a lonely endeavor, and we believe authors will be more successful as a result of having community, resources, and support.

WOW: That is DEFINITELY true--authors need community, resources, and support! It's great to hear that She Writes Press is thinking outside the box and offering writers new opportunities. What type of projects are you looking for to be some of your first books?

Brooke We are accepting submissions across all genres, and we're not trying to specify what can and can't be considered. Our only stipulation is that the authors be female. Other than that, we are doing almost any genre. The only thing we're not doing at the moment are children's books and other high-production art books. Our sweet spot is going to be commercial fiction and memoir just because this is what we see most in our community; but I think we'll also do a lot of literary fiction and prescriptive books as well.

WOW: Sounds like we (WOW! and SWP) have a lot in common--supporting women writers! (smiles) So just to clarify, what type of manuscripts are you accepting? Fiction and nonfiction?

Brooke Yes, fiction and nonfiction. We've received nineteen submissions since our launch one month ago. This has included mostly fiction, four memoirs, two anthologies, and two prescriptive books. We haven't seen any genre fiction at this point, but we're open to it.

WOW: Nineteen submissions in your first month! That just goes to show you how there's a need out there for what you are offering. How does an author submit a manuscript to She Writes Press, and what's the submission process like once you receive it?

Brooke Authors submit on our site at www.shewritespress.com/submit. It costs $25, and authors receive an assessment for that price. Our readers read the submission materials and give the manuscript a recommendation for either Track 1 (ready to be published); Track 2 (needs copyediting); or Track 3 (needs developmental work). When authors get their assessments back from us, they can decide to move forward regardless of what track they're on. We have developmental editors and copyeditors ready to take the manuscript to the next level and prepare the authors for publication. Only Track 1 authors, however, qualify to go straight to publication without any outside editorial support. Once a Track 2 or 3 author has been edited, however, our editors will give us the approval that they're ready to be published. So in fact, all submissions are on track to be published if that's what the author ultimately decides and works toward.

WOW: What type of services are you offering to authors once they get a manuscript selected? Are there certain services they must purchase?

Brooke It's just one single package, the She Publishes package, that's priced at $3900. The list of services is quite comprehensive. It includes custom interior design for up to 120,000 words; custom cover design; print-on-demand setup with Lightning Source (LSI); e-book file preparation and upload to Amazon, B & N, and iBookstore; a marketing plan that's detailed on our site; distribution to the trade; proofreading of the final laid-out manuscript; copyright filing and obtaining your Library of Congress control number; warehousing of short-run printed books; fulfillment of all orders on short-run printed books; telephone and e-mail support from a She Writes Press project manager. What's not included is the cost of the print run should an author opt for that service. POD and e-books do not cost anything beyond the cost of the package.

WOW: Thanks, Brooke, for telling us all about the She Publishes package. Once a book is published, where will readers be able to buy it? Will there be hard copies and e-copies? How will you help with marketing?

Brooke Readers will be able to buy anywhere—at Amazon, B& N, and other online retailers as a print book or e-book. If a reader walks into a bookstore, it's more than likely that the bookstore will not be carrying the book, but they can order it. We have a distributor, and books will be easy to get. That doesn't mean we can ensure a buy-in from Barnes & Noble, however. Authors who host events or do speaking engagements can have local bookstores order their books just like they would for a traditional publisher. We will encourage authors who have a following to do a print run because the money they earn back on those books eclipses what they can make on POD and e-books. We offer fulfillment services for any customer who orders directly from an author's website at no extra cost to the author.

We will help with marketing to the extent that we will be marketing our whole list. We are currently in the process of expanding our DIY options for authors. We will be providing a lot of education. When I say that we will promote our list, by that I mean we will promote multiple books through a variety of online marketing and advertising opportunities, but we will not be focusing those campaigns and strategies on any single author. However, all authors will benefit as a result of our general drive to get visibility for She Writes Press and our books. We'll be interviewing authors on She Writes, a community of women twenty thousand strong. We will also sell books on a She Writes Press bookstore on our site, and we will be sending out a bi-annual catalog to retailers, book buyers, reviewers, and other industry people.

WOW: All of those ideas sound wonderful, and She Writes Press authors can probably help each other with marketing ideas, too, since it sounds like you will be a close-knit community. Please explain to us a bit about the She Writes Passion Project.

Kamy
Brooke The She Writes Passion Project is a carry-over from something that Kamy did every year on She Writes, which is to select an author every year whose book really needed to be published. This is Kamy's baby; and while we'll gather collectively as a staff to choose a book each year, Kamy is reviewing all the submissions, looking for that book that touches her heart and carries with it a certain spirit. The whole concept of a passion project comes from an in-house term that editors use for books they absolutely can't NOT take on. And we imagine that these kinds of books will come our way, but the criteria is a "we'll know it when we see it" type of thing. The primary motivation here is to continue to give back to the She Writes community, which has always been a core value of Kamy's. She's all about community and supporting writers, so it's been incredibly inspiring to work with her and to get to see her in action.

WOW: What an absolutely wonderful idea! Kamy sounds like a great person to work with. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our writers today?

Brooke I just want to thank you for the opportunity. I feel that there's real synergy between your readers and She Writes (and by extension She Writes Press). We are currently in a pilot program, in a soft launch space with the press, because we are interested in gauging people's response, ideas, and experiences. As the months go on, we're anticipating adding more offerings and more creative marketing solutions. We're excited to be offering a new publishing solution to women writers out there who want to publish, but who don't want to publish in a bubble.

WOW: Thank you, Brooke, for your time and for sharing with us all about She Writes Press. For anyone interested in checking out more about She Writes Press, please go to www.shewritespress.com.
Muffin readers, do you have any questions for Brooke? Now is your chance to pick the brain of a seasoned professional about publishing, submitting your manuscript, marketing, the new She Writes Press, and more. Did she say something in this interview you didn't understand? Did she give an answer that you'd like to ask more about? Please ask away in the comments! Brooke will check back a couple times today for questions.

interview by Margo L. Dill 

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

 

Interview with Renee Troxler, Winter 2012 Flash Fiction Runner Up

When I read Renee Troxler's flash fiction piece, Sisters, I was reminded of a basic premise in dramatic tragedy: revenge takes many forms, can control you and your actions. And, I couldn't read quickly enough to reach the final line of this piece. Chilling!


Interview conducted by LuAnn Schindler


If you haven't had the opportunity to read Sisters, check out Renee's story on the contest page, then come back and discover more about this talented writer.


Renee Troxler lives in Austin, Texas. She is currently pursuing her secondary teacher certification in English. She enjoys writing short fiction, stage, and screenplays. She recently placed in two international writing competitions, as well as made it to the Best of FronteraFest original play festival with a collaborative piece that she also acted in. She is currently writing a web series she’d like to produce in Austin within the year.

WOW: Renee, welcome to The Muffin! Congrats on receiving honorable mention for your story. When I read a piece, one of the first questions I consider is 'What's the story behind the story?'. How did you develop this idea for "Sisters"?

Renee: I read an article about a Mormon compound that had been raided, and the children had all been taken away and put into protective custody. I started thinking about what it would be like for a young person to be raised in a sort of vacuum with no idea of the outside world or present day values.

WOW: When the HBO series "Big Love" was running, I found it interesting, mainly due to the writing: multiple conflicting plot lines and depth of characters. Now, "Sister Wives" is popular. Why do you think readers and viewers find this type of programming intriguing and intricate?


Renee: I think these shows give us a different viewpoint on a subject that many people have already made up their mind about. I like storylines and characters that make you think about your own prejudices.

WOW: Excellent insight. Preconceived notions can be always be debunked. Your author bio mentions participation in a play festival. What draws you to playwriting? And, what was the subject of your award-winning play?


Renee: I like the immediacy of plays. Once one is written, it pretty much immediately needs to be performed, or at least read aloud. Plays can't just be read like a book. They are living things! The play I took part in was a collaboration piece between me, two magicians, and two musicians. It was funny, musical, and magical.

WOW: Sounds fun...and challenging! You're also involved in a web series. This makes me curious. What's the creative process?


Renee: I'm still in the writing stage of the series. Once I'm finished with the first season, me and my team of weekend filmmakers will start the filming and editing process. I got interesting in doing a web series after I watched "The Guild", a series created by and staring Felicia Day. I like how low-budget they can be, and the fact that each episode is usually 10 minutes or less makes the whole process seem less intimidating.

WOW: Agreed! I'm going to check out "The Guild" now. I know you live in Austin, which is known for as an artistic and culturally-rich city. How does that type of atmosphere foster your creative process?


Renee: Austin is wonderful. It's full of artists, writers, performers, etc. It seems like everyone has something creative going on. It's really easy to find like-minded people who want to join in on a project of yours, or collaborate on something new and fresh. It's very refreshing.

WOW: This kind of creative vibe would be so beneficial! We're just a bit past the mid-point of 2012. What are your writing goals for the remainder of the year?


Renee: I want to finish the script for my potential web series, and I also have a screenplay idea on the back burner that I plan to start before the year is out.

WOW: You're a busy, busy writer. Do you have a website to direct readers to?


Renee: Not yet, but soon, I hope!

WOW: You'll tackle that creative goal, too. Thanks again, Renee, for taking time from your hectic schedule. And, congrats on your writing awards. 

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Monday, July 23, 2012

 

Creativity over Time: Reinvent Yourself or Keep on Going?

Today, I have no answers for you, no wisdom, just questions.

I’ve been thinking about the mature phase of creativity and how creative people change or don’t change over their careers.

For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tried to kill off Sherlock and then had to bring him back because Doyle wasn't as successful at other stories. At one point, Garrison Keillor tried to leave Prairie Home Companion behind, but eventually he returned to his successful creation.


On the other hand, Sean Connery has reinvented himself several times from 007 to other action-oriented characters; Harrison Ford reinvented himself from Han Solo and then reinvented Indiana Jones into a thriving, eclectic career.

Why can some people reinvent themselves and some get stuck in a rut? What is the difference? Luck? Or, why should some people NOT reinvent themselves? Garrison Keillor's contributions, Doyle's contributions--what more could you ask from a person, they have changed our lives? Should we ask that they change our lives in multiple ways?

What can creative people learn here? Get in a groove and work it? Get out of the groove and reinvent your career?

After a few successes in writing or any creative field, the questions loom. What next? What is the next step you should take? And I hear both sentiments: take a risk or keep following the track that has led to success.

I have no answers, just questions. Which path do you find more appealing and why? Do you want to keep doing what you’ve been doing? Or do you want to reinvent yourself several times over your career?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

 

The Emotion Thesaurus – Review and Giveaway

As I rewrote chapter 1 of my novel, all seemed well. My character’s voice comes through strong and I’d built up the tension. But as I worked through following chapters, I found trouble.

Every time he got in a tight situation, my main character chewed on his lip. Every. Time. When he was frustrated, he’d heave a great sigh. By the climax, he’d be lighted-headed and lipless unless I did something about it.

Fortunately, writing partners Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have created the The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression for times just like this. The listing of 75 emotions ranges from adoration and anxiety to somberness and terror.

Before reviewing it, I decided to test the thesaurus. I’d rewrite one chapter to make sure my emotional details were varied but accurate at the same time.

The first emotion that I looked up was Excitement. Each entry includes a definition of the emotion (the state of being energized or stimulated and provoked to act). That sounded right but my character was standing like a lump waiting for someone to catch up. The listing included almost a full page of physical responses. Soon I had my character fidgeting as he waited—a response that fit his personality and was more accurate than what I had previously written.

Because this part of the story was moving at a fast pace, I didn’t include internal sensations or emotional responses, but those are part of the listing as well. If my character was trying to look bored instead of excited, I might have focused on an internal response or the choices for suppressed emotion.

Then I saw the Writer’s Tip and laughed. “If you’re stuck on how to show an emotion, form a strong image of the scene in your mind. Let the scene unfold, and watch the character to see how they move and behave.”

If I’d done that, I wouldn’t have needed a cue to remind me that my character, a nine-year-old who vibrates with energy, wouldn’t stand still while he was waiting.

That’s exactly what makes this book a perfect reference. Scan through the various responses and you will find something that makes you think “Of course, that is exactly how my character would act.”

Can’t find the emotion you need to describe? Try again. At one point I tried to look up Enthusiasm which isn’t listed. Why not call it Excitement which is just as accurate? It isn’t my names for the emotions that need to be varied, but my character’s reactions.

Get a copy of this reference in time to rewrite your next fiction project. Your character may be able to release her clenched jaw and simply thrust the paperwork at someone in frustration instead. She’ll be reacting in a greater variety of ways and you’ll have some hints for how to make her emotions more obvious.

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

***

GIVEAWAY: THE EMOTION THESAURUS: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER EXPRESSION

We also have a giveaway from the authors, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi! And after that fabulous review, I'm sure you'll want to win a copy for your writer's reference library. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression (ARV $14.99), or a e-copy—reader's choice! The contest is open to US and Canada. If you have problems using Rafflecopter, be sure you are running the latest version of your web browser and have javascript updated.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be picked. By entering you agree to the rules of the contest. Good luck!

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

 

Liking Authors

I’ve seen a flurry of comments lately, asking me to “Like” my writer friends’ Amazon Author pages.

Now, I am always happy to support my writer friends. I’ll attend book signings, hop around on blog tours, write book reviews and click on stars. I understand that marketing goes hand-in-hand with writing, and I’ll do whatever I can manage to help an author achieve success with his or her book.

So I clicked all my friends’ “Like” buttons on the Amazon Author pages. But then I began to wonder what clicking that button would accomplish.

I mean, I totally get that clicking a “Like” button on a book is helpful. Reviews drive sales, and that pushes Amazon rankings, right? But will “liking” an author work the same way? I’m not so sure.

I spent a morning reading everything I could about the Amazon Author pages and how they work. I know where to sign up, what information to provide for it, how crucial a pretty picture is. But I have no idea how that “Like” button affects an author.

Next, I zipped around a couple marketing websites and blogs, checking for information. And here’s what I found: Click on “like” buttons. Any “Like” buttons.

The marketing gurus think it’s a good idea, even if the few I came across didn’t mention the Amazon Author page specifically. And the authors feel like it’s important, even if they’re not sure why.

I read something about algorithms that Amazon uses to increase visibility of an author and the author’s books. Honestly, I try not to get too involved with algorithms. That has a definite math sound to it and if I wanted to crunch numbers, I’d be an accountant instead of a writer.

But I know that writers can’t ignore numbers, especially when those numbers are attached to dollar signs and contracts and book sales numbers. Maybe clicking on that “Like” button on the Amazon Author’s page will ultimately push numbers in a positive way.

Maybe it won’t. Do it, anyway. Everyone, including your favorite author, appreciates a “Like” now and then.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Friday, July 20, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: Learning a Foreign Language, guest post by Anna Martinez

Learning a Foreign Language
by Anna Martinez

I cannot remember a time when I did not have a pencil and paper in my hand. It seems writing has always been a part of my daily life. And when I was not writing about something, I was reading. Writing and reading have always been a priority in my life. Reading takes me into different places, some near and some far. As I read I become acquainted with characters whom I may never meet in real life, but I have met them through novels and short stories. Some characters I read about remind me of myself or other people I know.

When I was a little girl I remember telling my mother I wanted to learn how to read and write in Spanish. Every day a neighborhood boy would come to our house and sell my mother a Spanish newspaper for five cents. I would sit next to my mother and watch her read.
 
One day we went to the grocery store to buy groceries. At that time groceries were bagged in brown paper bags. My mother cut out a piece of the brown paper bag after we put all of our groceries away. Next, she drew lines on it with a ruler. Then, she took out an old Spanish newspaper she had already read. She cut out an article with the scissors. Finally, she told me to sit at the kitchen table and write the article at least two times. She kept this up until I learned how to read and write in Spanish.

Several years passed and I soon became a Mother. My mother would babysit my daughter. My daughter told me her grandmother was teaching her how to speak Spanish. I told her that was good. I went on to tell her how her grandmother had taught me also when I was a little girl too.

After a while I began to wonder how my mother was teaching my daughter the Spanish language since we didn’t get any more brown paper bags at the grocery store. Nowadays our groceries were bagged in plastic or recyclable bags.

I got the answer one day. I went to my mother’s house to pick up my daughter. My mother had been babysitting for me. As I walked into my mother’s house I walked in as they were both watching television. The channel was set to a Spanish soap opera. I stood there for a few minutes watching. My daughter turned to look at me and said, “I’m glad you’re here Mom. You’re just in time for my Spanish lesson.”

My mother was teaching Spanish to my daughter via a form of technology – the good old television. I was happy to see this. Needless to say, my daughter learned Spanish.

The saying that our mothers are our first teachers is true for me!

* * *

My name is Anna Martinez. I teach reading and writing at an elementary school. I live in South Texas with my miniature poodle, Gandy. I love to read and write in my spare time. To date I have written three children’s books and four romance novels. You may reach me at oceanrubyred@yahoo.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, July 19, 2012

 

Connecting with Your Reader

by Lynne Garner


Often point-of-view (POV) is discussed when talking about writing fiction. However, writing nonfiction using first person POV can help you write a piece/blog that can help you connect to your reader, to become "one of them."

If you've not heard the term before, first person point-of-view is how you narrate your "story." You talk directly to the reader and use words such as "I" or "mine." Although most magazines prefer you to use second person point-of-view (you, yours, etc.), first person is ideal for writing your blog. It allows you to directly tell your reader what you did, how you overcame problems, and give helpful hints and tips you have discovered. For example, in the second person you would write:

"To make your necklace you will need to gather together the following materials..."

In the first person this becomes:

"To make my necklace I gathered together the following materials..."

Hopefully you can see how different the two sentences feel. How someone reading your blog will feel you are talking to them. They will feel they have some connection with you. In this way, they will hopefully feel they can trust the information you are giving because you are writing from your own experiences.

So, if you've never written using first person point-of-view, why not give it a go. You might just find a narration style that suits you, and you never know it might gain your blog additional followers.

***

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US, having over 300 features printed. She has 21 books published; these include 10 craft-related how-to books, working with both publishers and packagers. Lynne designed, produced copy, and photographed many of the craft projects featured on The Craft Ark.



Join Lynne in the WOW! Women On Writing Classroom and get crafty with her latest class, How to Write a Craft Book! The next session starts August 4th.

***

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

 

Joanne Lewis Tries Something New! Make Your Own Luck: A Remy Summer Woods Mystery


When I read Wicked Good, the novel Joanne Lewis wrote with her sister Amy Lewis Faircloth, I was instantly hooked. Not only did I love the book but all my friends thought my son and I were the models for the book’s cover. Something fun like that made me want to follow Joanne’s budding writing career and when she came out with a mystery, Make Your Own Luck, I couldn’t wait to read it. Joanne took the time to send me an e-copy of her book and answer a few questions about her latest book. Thanks, Joanne!

Make Your Own Luck: A Remy Summer Woods Mystery

Paperback: 364 pages (also available in e-formats)
Publisher: Telemachus Press (June 1, 2012)
Genre: Mystery
ISBN-10: 1937698718
ISBN-13: 978-1937698713

You can find Make Your Own Luck on Joanne’s website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstores.

Find the author online:

Website: www.joannelewiswrites.com

Twitter: @joannetlewis

Review:
Remy Summer Woods is a lawyer because her father is a lawyer—a very successful and famous lawyer. Just as Remy’s plotting her escape from the halls of justice she runs across the only case that could convince her to stay: Bonita Pickney, a 13-year-old girl who confesses to murdering her father and insists that they put her in jail as soon as possible. Remy is fascinated by this unlikely murderer and it doesn’t hurt that her father absolutely forbids her to become involved in the case. Soon Remy finds herself kicked out of her father’s firm and rocketing around Florida trying to unravel the circumstances that led to the murder with an unlikely group of helpers that include her drug addicted brother, an aging hippie/dinner owner, a mobster, and a cop.

Remy isn’t the only one “rocketing.” That’s the perfect word to describe this book. The characters are driven to discover the truth and, as a reader, I was driven to finish this book. Happily, it was never predictable. I was constantly saying, “I didn’t see that coming!” I also enjoyed the fact that there were no clear cut good guys and bad guys. You were constantly guessing about people’s motives which made pinpointing the murderer all the more challenging.

Although I enjoyed the mystery, the characters were also well written. I’d like to see more of Remy’s struggle to decide what type of life she wants, how she’ll deal with her father and I welcome more appearances by her crazy family and friends. I look forward to the next Remy Summer Woods book.

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

WOW: Wicked Good, that you co-authored with your sister Amy Lewis Faircloth, was a slower paced story that focused more on the characters while Make Your Own Luck (MYOL) seems more fast-paced, ripped from the headlines. Which do you prefer to focus on: characters or plot?

Joanne: I prefer focusing on character-driven plots. MYOL is a murder mystery, which is deliberately fast paced to fit with the genre so, you’re right, it’s plot driven. But I hoped to add depth to the characters in order to make it different from a typical murder mystery.

WOW: Like you, the main character of MYOL—Remy Summer Woods—is a Florida lawyer. Do you feel Remy is a reflection of you or is it a coincidence? What came first...did you develop the character Remy or come up with the plot line for the crime she investigates? How much of the book is based in real life?

Joanne: Remy is a compilation of my best friend, Debi, and myself. We are both lawyers and both love to do things that are creative. While I am a writer, Debi is an artist. She actually designed the cover to the novel. So, Remy is a reflection of both of us.

The first idea I had for the novel was to write a murder mystery featuring a young attorney. I then developed the character of Remy, stealing parts of her from my life and from Debi’s life. From there, the plot developed. It takes me about 3 years to write a book from the first draft until the final re-write (about 20 drafts later) that it’s hard for me to remember what came first but I know I outlined Remy’s characteristics before I started writing the novel.

Very little of the book is based on real life. The only things that I would say are based on real life is the setting and the fact that Remy wants to pursue her love of art rather than be an attorney. I think many attorneys want to be doing something else!

WOW: I think many of us feel that way about our “day job”! So will we be seeing more of Remy’s struggle to balance art and the law?

Joanne: Yes, Make Your Own Luck is the first book in a series. The series will follow Remy’s life wherever it takes her. In book two, called Live Your Own Life (LYOL), which is in the very early stages, she is still struggling with her desires to go to art school and feels trapped in the practice of law since she needs to make a living. I am hoping for a 2014 release but that might be overly ambitious.

WOW: But will there be anything else to look forward to before 2014?

Joanne: The next book I will publish is called The Lantern, a Renaissance mystery. The genre is historical fiction and it will come out in November 2012. It tells the story of a modern day woman who seeks to discover the identity of a girl who competed to build the lantern on top of Brunelleschi’s dome in 15th Century Florence, Italy.

In 2013, I hope to release The Forbidden Room, a stand alone murder mystery, and Michelangelo & the Morgue, a historical novel.

I love working between the two genres: murder mystery and historical fiction. I will probably alternate between the two. As I am obsessed with the Italian Renaissance, I would love to write a non-fiction book involving something about that period.

WOW: You make us all sound like laze-a-beds with all these projects! MYOL is a big change from Wicked Good because it’s a solo act. Can you compare the experience of co-authoring to solo authoring a book?

Joanne: What a great question. There definitely is a lot of camaraderie co-authoring a novel, especially with your sister! I’ve written many books alone and ultimately writing is a solitary profession. I enjoy the solitude when I write with my dog on my desk and my kittens on my lap. However, while it is freeing to have the final say, I do miss bouncing ideas off of Amy. All in all, writing solo and with Amy are both great experiences.

The biggest benefit of co-authoring a novel is when there is criticism, it’s great to be able to talk it over with Amy or laugh it off, whichever is appropriate.

Amy still plays a part in my writing. She is a great critiquer and she knows grammar a lot better than I do.

WOW: As a lawyer, your life must be jam-packed. Could you tell us how you added writing to your life? When did you begin writing? Where do your ideas come from?

Joanne: I am very fortunate to be self-employed. I work as a family mediator and as a guardian ad litem where I represent children in court. I make my own schedule but I rarely turn down a paying job! When I am not working as a lawyer, I am writing. Some weeks that means I get to be a writer a lot. Other weeks, not very much. When I can write, I do. When I can’t, I think about when I will write again but try not to pressure myself too much.

I began writing when I was 8 years old. I wrote a book on the weather and it was put in my elementary school library. I was hooked!

My ideas come from many different places. LYOL, as it stands now, deals with the issue of race relations, which Remy gets caught in the middle of. I took this idea from the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident in Sanford, Florida. In LYOL, Remy has taken a job as a prosecutor since she thinks it will give her more time to paint. Unfortunately for her, she is assigned to investigate a very heated situation so—as in MYOL—she feels frustrated that she doesn’t have enough time to paint. That part comes from my real life—I often feel frustrated that I don’t have enough time to write.

WOW: So familiar to all of us…tell us a bit about your writing schedule. Do you write daily? Write outlines? Stick to one project or work on several projects at once? Have a group of beta readers?

Joanne: I do not have a writing schedule. I do not write everyday, although I try to. I do not write outlines. Everything I write I store in my head. Sometimes I take notes, but that’s not typical. I do have a group of beta readers that include my mother, my sister, my father, my stepmother and some friends. I also have an editor. I only give him the manuscript when I think it’s finished. Of course, when I get it back from him I usually still have a long way to go!

WOW: If you could tell us one important lesson you learned from Wicked Good to MYOL, what was it?

Joanne: I learned about the publishing industry, more specifically about marketing and how much time it takes to market my novels and how hard it is to get noticed as a writer. I learned that if writing isn’t a labor of love, don’t do it! Sorry, that’s two lessons.

WOW: We’ll call it a two-for-one deal. We’re always happy to get as much advice as we can.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

 

Winter 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up: Anna Venishnick Shomsky

Congratulations to Anna Venishnick Shomsky for being a runner-up in the Winter 2012 Flash Fiction contest for her winning story, "The Seminar." If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, go here.

Anna is a freelance writer currently living in Seattle, Washington. She holds an MATESOL (Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and has taught ESL in China, Germany, Boston, and Pittsburgh. While living in Pittsburgh, Anna wrote informational and promotional materials for a local art institution called Pittsburgh Filmmakers, as well as articles about art for the children’s section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is currently staying at home with her infant daughter.

WOW: Congratulations, Anna, on being a runner up! What gave you the idea for "The Seminar"?

Anna: The story is compiled from events that happened while I was working at a public school. During my new teacher training, I was forced to sit through a seminar in which the rhyming method of behavior management was touted. I knew that it was inappropriate for me because I have a downbeat personality. It would also be inappropriate for the students I would be teaching, who were older than ten, jaded, and exposed to far better metered verse on the radio. Not long after the training, I had a small group of students who did what the students in the story do: flailed and yelled to get attention, flirted sadly, and worked with a minimum of effort. It was amusing to me that the advice I was given for how to deal with challenging students was so removed from the reality I inhabited.

WOW: Do you write a lot of flash fiction? Why or why not?

Anna: I don't write much flash fiction because I am too wordy.

WOW: What do you find challenging about writing flash fiction?

Anna: I find telling a story in under a thousand words to be challenging. I am accustomed to rambling on, adding clarifying information that is not entirely necessary, using descriptive sentences that contain an abundance of adjective clauses, and generally using too many words to state an idea that could be said well with fewer.

WOW: You are currently staying home with your daughter. How do you balance your writing time with being a mommy?

Anna: I take time to write while my daughter is napping. I try to write for half an hour three times a week.

WOW: Do your ESL teaching experiences often make it into your writing? Why or why not?

Anna: The teaching experiences that make it into my writing are usually the conflict between administration and teachers, the disparity between expectations and reality, and the residual emotional negativity from my time teaching middle school. I don't write much about my experiences with students, mainly because those have become mundane to me, and I have learned how to deal with the majority of classroom situations I find myself in. I write about things that are emotionally salient and ideas that nag at me. After a day of teaching, the actual time spent in the classroom and the interactions with students aren't what persist in my memory.

WOW: What writing are you currently working on?

Anna: I am writing an upbeat science fiction story about young women in a semi-dystopic future where humans have colonized the solar system and turned it into parking garages, fuel stations, and strip malls.

WOW: Sounds cool! Thank you for your time, and we wish you the best of luck with your future projects!



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