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Friday, November 30, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: Should I stay or should I go?, guest post by Laxmi Hariharan

Last night I watched the Welcome to India series on the BBC. The programme followed a young couple—Rajesh and his wife Savita—who call a shack on a Bombay beach their home. They support their kids' future with some great improvisation, including running their house as a makeshift beach pub selling cane liquor. But then eviction by the council threatens their home for good.

Growing up in Bombay, I had lived blissfully unaware and yet on the fringes of such super-human-everyday-stories. Being a part of the fabric of middle-class Indian society meant my brush with those on the poverty line was limited to the daily visits of the cleaner. At that I don’t ever remember enquiring exactly where she lived, assuming it was in one of the shanty towns adjoining the apartment complex where my parents had made their home. It was only after spending many years away from the gridlock of urban Bombay that I began to appreciate the heroism in the everyday living of the 99% of the subcontinent.

Yet, fifteen years after leaving my birth city here I was, squirming on my sofa in my warm London living room, uncomfortable with the visions of dirt being turned to gold, of a place from my past, where people used technology reminiscent of the times of El Dorado to find their future. Unlike them I had a lot to be thankful, of course—opportunities, luck, education, and more. Yet, I was contemplating of leaving the very security that many of them reached for, in search of … what? My own personal rainbow?

I come from a long line including my father and aunts, who wrote many unpublished and a published poems and stories. None of them pursued writing full time. The economic need to work and bring in money, perhaps married with an insecurity to reveal what really went on behind closed doors, held them in chains. Yet, on publishing my first book, my father’s delight was tempered by a “don’t neglect your day job” warning. My peers dream of balancing work and children as a kind of having everything package. Me? Grounded as I am, in a practical upbringing which lays emphasis on economic fulfilment above all else, I stand at the cross roads of wondering how I really could have it all—of a different kind.

As I saw my country-men, struggling to provide for their children, my sub-conscience pricked me. How could I possibly contemplate giving up some of what they could only dream of in pursuing something which only I could define? But, I can’t ignore my instinct which says that I have to be the one—absolutely—to break the circle of discontentment handed to me through my blood lines.

Are you a writer too, and do you face such a quandary? Is it a real cross-roads that I stand at or just another figment of my over-wrought imagination? What’s your advice?

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 Though born in India, Laxmi Hariharan lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London. She is inspired by Indian mythology. It was in embracing her roots that she found her voice. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon. Reach her here: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laxmihariharanauthor, twitter at @laxmi, website: http://www.laxmihariharan.com/,  goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/laxmi.
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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, November 29, 2012

 

Book Review: Finding My Place by Margo L. Dill

I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but here goes. It’s not that easy to get middle-schoolers interested in history. It’s so . . . yesterday.

And then authors like Margo L. Dill come along with finely-researched and gripping historical fiction like Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and teachers can breathe a happy sigh of relief.

But you don’t have to be a teacher to sigh happily over Finding My Place. There’s plenty for everyone to like in Dill’s authentic and plucky thirteen-year-old protagonist, Anna Green, and her riveting story about the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg. In Anna’s Civil War tale, we’re grabbed from the first page and taken on a journey beyond the battlefields where Rebels and Blue Bellies fight. Anna brings readers to the emotional heart of life during the War Between the States.

Finding My Place literally starts with a bang. Grant’s army is desperate to take the advantageously-situated city of Vicksburg, and so the local citizens have retreated to caves built in the surrounding soft clay hills to escape constant shelling. We feel Anna’s anguish as she, along with her mother and siblings, rush to take cover and wait to see what their future will be. We learn that Anna fears for the safety of her older brother and father, who are fighting in General Lee’s army.

And then unbearable tragedy strikes, and Anna is forced to somehow find a way to keep her hurting family together, all the while trying to find her own place in this new and harrowing world that used to be home.

I so love this young heroine, Anna. She’s courageous, yes, but she struggles with her fears and the deprivations of siege conditions in the way that any thirteen-year-old would. She’s challenged by constant doubts, and yet she finds the determination to do what needs to be done. Anna’s voice carries the story with adolescent honesty, whether she’s describing the horrors of a Civil War hospital, the possibility of eating rats, the inhumane treatment of a neighbor’s slave, or the awakening of feelings she has for a certain handsome young man.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I love finding gems of information, the fascinating tidbits left out of the history books. And I especially like when a well-crafted, believable story brings history alive for me. Margo L. Dill has done a great job of providing both in her debut novel, Finding My Place.

Educational resources are included, making this novel an excellent addition to the classroom library as well as the home library. It’s an adventurous read with true-to-life characters and compelling Civil War history that middle-schoolers, boys or girls, will enjoy. And P.S. Even the rather mature way-beyond-middle-schoolers who love history can learn something new in Finding My Place!


*****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

If Margo L. Dill sounds familiar that's because she's contributing editor of WOW! Women On Writing, as well as a columnist, blogger, and instructor. We're so excited about her debut novel, and she graciously provided a copy for giveaway! Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg makes a great gift for middle-schoolers this holiday season. The contest closes December 6th. If you don't win, you can pick up a copy at Amazon or an autographed copy on her website. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

 

Record Your Memories with Vintage Vinyl Journals—the Perfect Gift for Writers and Music Lovers

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.” –Truman Capote

As an avid journaler, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect notebook to pen my prose. I’ve tried everything from plain old composition books to fancy leather bound journals in hopes that the physical paper pages of a book will inspire me to write. (We writers need constant motivation, don’t we?) But I find that if a journal is too pristine and stuffy then I lose the inspiration to write. My perfect journal has to have that unique balance of size, paper feel and weight, and a certain je ne sais quoi. Oh, and the cover . . . the cover must fit my personal style.

Sound like a tall order? I thought so, too, until I received what I consider the perfect gift!

Vintage Vinyl Journals are beautiful, handcrafted notebooks made from recycled materials. Indulge in a bit of nostalgia and flashback to a time when vinyl was king. I can still remember listening to my favorite records with girlfriends—the soft pop and crackle of the needle finding its groove, the light hiss, and the exquisite sound, full of richness and warmth—as we gossiped about the latest and vied for the next turn on the turntable. The front and back covers of these journals are actually made from old albums. Show your uniqueness by picking out your favorite artist or album and truly making it your own. You can search VintageVinylJournals.com by clicking the GENRES tab and pulling up the music you like. For instance, my rockin’ Fleetwood Mac Rumours journal (pictured below), featuring the fabulously witchy Stevie Nicks with popular hits such as “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way,” is under the genre of Rock/Classic Rock. There’s also a category for Female and Indie/Alternative. And if you’re really going to listen to the music on the cover of your journal while you write in it, fellow scribes will respect the Jazz and Soundtracks genres—there’s a bountiful selection of background music you will need to get the job done.


So what can you do with these journals?

I’m both an artist and a writer, so I love the freedom and rebellious nature of coloring outside the lines. The pages are blank and ready for your own words or creative aspirations. Each journal contains 220 high-quality pages measuring 7 7/8” x 7 1/2” on 70 lb. acid-free paper. They’re eco-friendly, sustainable, and you can feel great about you’re doing—after all, you just rescued a record from a landfill!

Here are some ideas for using these journals:

  • Writing prompts
  • Art journal
  • Character traits
  • Novel inspiration
  • Vision board book
  • Scrapbook
  • Travel journal
  • Gifts

That’s not all—there’s plenty more you can do. Use a bit of creativity and check out the suggestions on VintageVinylJournals.com.

So now you probably want to jam over to the site and check out all they have to offer (I’ll be joining you!), but let me tell you about my homegirl, Katie Pietrak—the amazing owner of Vintage Vinyl Journals and her special offer for WOW readers.

As a music enthusiast and craft hobbyist, Katie was organizing her own record collection one afternoon—a collection of thousands of albums she started amassing when she was fifteen—when something clicked. Why not take these beautiful albums and make them into notebooks?

Since launching in 2011, Vintage Vinyl Journals are sold on their website; in over two dozen retail stores; and at local art, craft, and music festivals. They are a member of the Green Business network and have been certified Silver with Green America. The offices based in Pennsylvania have also been certified green.

They have tons of wonderful reviews and have been featured in many newspapers, TV shows, websites, and blogs—including a recent feature on Ty Pennington’s website.

Katie is an awesome success story, and she has a special coupon for you!

WOW! Women on Writing readers: use coupon code WOW!5 for $5.00 off each journal. Coupon code expires 12/4/12. Learn more about Vintage Vinyl Journals, and find an inventory of over 500 journals online: www.vintagevinyljournals.com

I know I’ll be mixing music and writing this holiday season! :)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

 

Show and Tell in a Nutshell (Book Review and Giveaway)

What do writers like to get in their holiday stockings? How about helpful writing books, such as Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing? How many of us have had our manuscripts critiqued and have also heard during that critique, "You are telling too much. You need to show"? There are countless blog posts about showing vs telling, and I often cover this when I teach children's writing courses for WOW! So, how does Jessica Bell's book help writers learn to show and not tell in just a little over one hundred pages?

Jessica's entire idea is to create a handbook for writers that shows how to show and not tell, and she succeeds by presenting sixteen scenes to read and learn from. In her introduction, she suggests that you read each scene four times and focus on different parts of it each time. After reading it through once, then the second time, writers should  "identify the telling words/phrases." By the last time a scene is read, a writer will be brainstorming their own ways to "fix" the scene. (In the print version of the book, Jessica provides blank pages to take notes and try your own wording of the scenes.)

So, what does a scene entail? First, readers will encounter a list of attributes that a writer is trying to portray in a scene. For example, in the first scene, the list is: "amazing view, awe, feel hot, relief, feel tired." The next page has a paragraph, full of telling.

Sandy stood at the foot of the Egyptian Pyramids. Though she was hot, tired and sore, she was awestruck by the amazing view and felt a sense of relief. Finally, she’d made it.

Obviously, there's a lot of telling in that above example. Can you pick that out? The next page in the book, which I won't share with you here, provides Jessica's version of the same paragraph, but with showing details, instead of telling. Then there's a page for notes.

What I like about this book is that the author tells you what she wants to portray in each paragraph with a list, provides a simple telling example, and then she gives a good example of showing instead of telling. She is also encouraging you to do the same--in your own style. How could you rewrite the above paragraph to show Sandy was hot without telling the reader she's hot? Would you do it the same way as Jessica? Can you figure out more than one way to do it?

Each of the sixteen scenes is set up like this. There's no long explanations on why the author chose to do what she did. This is a short, concise book, but it gets the point across. In the end, the author provides three writing exercises and her e-mail address, where she invites readers to contact her if they have questions or need more writing prompts.

Jessica Bell is also the author of String Bridge (a women's fiction novel), Fabric (a poetry collection), and Twisted Velvet Chains ( a poetry collection). She is an Australian-native, living in Athens, Greece, and she hosts the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with showing vs telling in their writing, then purchase (for under $5.00 a copy) Show and Tell in a Nutshell by Jessica Bell!

We also have a copy to giveaway.


~*~ BOOK GIVEAWAY ~*~

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win a copy of  Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing!

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Good luck!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

 

Dancing at the Shame Prom blog tour and giveaway!


We all have shameful secrets we’ve guarded—whether they be big secrets like crimes or smaller secrets like “stealing” a teenage friend’s boyfriend—that are important only to us. No matter how the world would view them . . . to us they are important, so shameful that we keep them hidden for a lifetime. As long as we keep the secret no one gets, right? Except the secret keeper. Shame can hold you back from what you love, diminish your sense of self-worth, and prevent you from fully being who you are.

So what happens when you share the shameful secrets you’ve hidden for so long? In Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small (September 18, 2012, Seal Press), editors Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter encourage readers to confront the powerful emotion of shame head-on. They gather together 27 gifted and talented writers who reveal, explore, and embrace the root of their shame, in the process demonstrating the strength that comes from defeating their demons.

In a brilliant display of bravery, these writers share their darkest fears, offer up their most vulnerable moments, and reveal jaw-dropping secrets. From spilling long forbidden secrets to revealing their innermost faults, these authors openly share poignant and life-changing moments of humiliation, embarrassment, and despair, along with the wisdom they learned from letting go of the shame that’s been weighing them down. Freeing, provocative, and audacious, Dancing at the Shame Prom is about divulging the secrets that have made you feel small so that you can stand up straight, let the shame go, and finally—decisively—move on with your life.

Are you ready to release your secret and change your life—for the better?

Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Seal Press (September 11, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1580054161
ISBN-13: 978-1580054164
Twitter hastag: #TheShameProm

Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small is available in print and e-format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your local bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest: To win a copy of Dancing at the Shame Prom please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, November 30 at 12:01 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Contributors:

Learn more about the 27 contributors to Dancing at the Shame Prom from their interviews and guest posts during the Blog Tour! This is a fun tour that will introduce you, not to just one or two writers, but to at least EIGHT different writers.

About the Co-Editors:

Hollye Dexter:

Hollye Dexter recently completed a second memoir, What Doesn’t Kill You. Her essays have been published in anthologies (Chicken Soup For the Soul, Answered Prayers, and Character Consciousness) and in many online publications. She writes regularly for iPinion Syndicate and AOL Patch News. A singer/songwriter with four albums out, she also founded the award-winning nonprofit Art and Soul, running workshops for teenagers in the foster care system. In 2007 she received the Agape Spirit award from Dr. Michael Beckwith (from The Secret) for her work with at-risk youth. Together, with Amy Ferris she teaches writing workshops, helping others to find their authentic voices. She is on staff for the San Miguel Writer’s Conference and a visiting author at UCLA extension. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children, where she hikes, plays music and blogs about living an authentic life at www.hollyedexter.blogspot.com

Amy Ferris:

Amy Ferris is an author, editor, screenwriter and playwright. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney: Confessions From a Midlife Crisis (Seal Press) is off-broadway bound, CAP21 Theater Company, March 2012. She has contributed to numerous anthologies, and has written everything from Young Adult novels to movies and films. She co-wrote Funny Valentines (Julie Dash, Director), and Mr. Wonderful (Anthony Minghella, Director). Funny Valentines was nominated for a Best Screenplay award, and numerous BET awards. She co-created and co-edited the first ever "all women's issue" of Living Buddhism magazine. She serves on the Executive Board of Directors at The Pages & Places Literary Festival, Peters Valley Arts, Education and Craft Center, and is on the Advisory Board of The Women's Media Center. She is on faculty at The San Miguel de Allende Writers Conference. She is a visiting teacher at the UCLA Writers Workshop (extension). She contributes regularly to iPinion Syndicate. Her number one goal, desire, dream: Is that all women awaken to their greatness. You can find her blogging in the middle of the night at www.marryinggeorgeclooney.com. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Ken.

Find Dancing at the Shame Prom Online: http://www.theshameprom.com

------Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Can you each tell us a bit about your writing careers, how you joined forces for Dancing at the Shame Prom and how you got it published?

Hollye: I began my writing career as a songwriter (twenty years) and had just finished writing my first memoir when I met Amy through SheWrites. We became great friends and began having long weekly phone chats about life, love, fear and other things—one of the recurring topics was how shame had kept each of us small in our lives. We began blogging about our own shame stories in order to free ourselves from shame's grip, which started an avalanche of responses from others wanting to share their own stories. We decided this needed to be a book.

Amy: I began writing years and years ago. I wrote a (very) short story which got the attention of Tom Fontana who was show running a TV series, Tattingers. He hired me on the spot to write an episode. From there I went on to write films (Mr. Wonderful, and Funny Valentines) and TV series (Tattingers, and Jack's Place), and then I wrote a young adult novel, A Greater Goode (Houghton Mifflin, 2001) and my memoir, Marrying George Clooney. Hollye and I met a few years back (THANK GOD!!!!!) and we just connected on every level. Our passion was in creating opportunities for women to speak their truth, stand up. Be heard. Voila, The Shame Prom came about. I had been working with Seal Press for the past few years and both Hollye and I felt it a natural fit for a book like this. We put together a stunning proposal and they swept it up instantly. We were lucky, and fortunate to have had that experience.

WOW: Many times we take a second glance at a book because the title "grabs" us. And the title of this anthology definitely does that! How did you come up with such a unique title?

Hollye: We knew that having a provocative title would encourage readers to pick it up out of curiosity. Amy came up with the funny term of "Shame Prom" and I added Dancing so it would sound celebratory—because this book is not sad—it celebrates the richness of our lives and overcoming adversity.

Amy: Oh, Hollye was (is) such a genius. I came up with The Shame Prom while sitting in a parking lot at Walmart, and after we had put together the proposal and collected some of the essays, it was Hollye who said the title sounded a bit too sad, and instantly, like right in the minute, said: "How about Dancing at The Shame Prom? Doesn't that sound celebratory?" I mean, really, how can you say no to that.

WOW: Most of our WOW readers are also writers. Any insider tips for us on how to can be part of great project like Dancing at the Shame Prom in the future?

Hollye: The most important thing I think you can do is to be part of a writing community. I participated in writing groups and workshops for years. I also joined online writing communities (SheWrites, BlogHer, Red Room, etc). Most of my opportunities have come through people I've met within my writing community. You can't just sit home in your pajamas. You have to go to literary events, sign up for workshops, get out there and be an active participant in your community and opportunities will come.

Amy: Write. Just keep writing. Submit. Keep submitting. Rejection is part of acceptance. It's as natural as having curly hair. What I would offer up: don't be hard on yourself. Be proud that you've put pen to paper (keyboard to computer). Be proud of your words, your truth, your story. Send out to everyone and anyone. While there seems to be rules (?) nothing is written in stone. Make-up new rules. Be bold. But mostly, mostly be yourself. It's no different then having a relationship—if you're yourself, you're bound to meet up with those who fall in love with you. Write/right your life. And NEVER, EVER GIVE UP.

WOW: And now the question we've all been asking since A Cup of Comfort anthology series closed up shop—is the anthology market disappearing? If not, what makes the anthology so appealing to readers?

Hollye: The Chicken Soup franchise is still alive and well! I've had two essays picked up by them in the past year, and in fact, I love writing for them. They are the nicest group of people, and they sell so many books, my writing gets out to many more people than I could reach on my own. Amy and I have a lot of friends who both edit and write for anthologies, so no, I don't think it's dead. I say if you don't find an anthology to write for, write your own!

Amy: Anthologies are like mini-series. I think folks love the opportunity to read slices of humanity, pieces of life. You get to read (what can feel like) a whole life story in 15 pages.

WOW: Did you learn anything while editing this anthology?

Hollye: I learned how to really collaborate, for one thing, and Amy and I do that really well. I learned that every single person has a story that would blow your mind, and that every shame story is universal on some level. I also think that in sharing our truth, exposing the ways we are cracked and flawed, we open ourselves to connecting with others in much deeper and truer ways.

Amy: What I realized while working on the anthology is how much I adore working with Hollye. Ours is a very fluid, give and take relationship. Hollye is brilliant at editing, I'm great at gathering the troops. Hollye is great at anything/everything organizational, I'm great at networking and bringing folks together.

On a personal level, re: Shame, I learned that shame isn't something particularly identifiable. It has layers and layers attached to it, with many cousins: guilt, fear, and sadness. You think you conquer one aspect and then poof, another layer manifests. I also was thrilled to realize that shame is powerless once you say it's name, call it out.

WOW: What's up next?

Hollye: Amy's play, Marrying George Clooney, is going into production, and I am shopping a second memoir, but aside from that, Amy and I have workshops booked through the end of 2013, including: "Women Write Their Lives" at the San Miguel Writer's Conference.

"Rediscover Your Creative Spirit" in Costa Rica: www.RanchoPacifico.com

For more info on upcoming workshops, see www.theshameprom.com

Amy: I'm velcro-ing myself to Hollye for the next decade or so, so whatever Hollye is doing, I'm gonna be right beside her.




(Hollye Dexter talks about shame)


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

Monday, November 26 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Wednesday, November 28 @ All Things Audry
Nina Burleigh, contributor to the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom, is posting about being a woman in the Middle East. Don't miss it!
http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 5 @ Kritter’s Ramblings
Check out a review of the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom and a guest post by Marcia Yerman, a contributor to the anthology.
http://www.krittersramblings.com/

Thursday, December 6 @ Kritter’s Ramblings
Need to know more about Dancing at the Shame Prom? Check out today's review.
http://www.krittersramblings.com/

Friday, December 7 @ Eye on Books
Join us today for a conversation about shame, editing, anthologies and more with an audio interview of the editors of Dancing at the Shame Prom.
http://www.eyeonbooks.com

Tuesday, December 11 @ CMash Loves to Read
Learn more about Starting Life Over from Kate Van Raden, a contributor to Dancing at the Shame Prom. Don't forget to enter to win a copy of the anthology today.
http://cmashlovestoread.com/

Thursday, December 13 @ Thoughts in Progress
Learn how an anthology comes into being from Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris, co-editors of the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom.
http://www.masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 17 @ Empty Nest
Stop by for a review of the thought provoking anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom.
http://www.emptynest1.com

Wednesday, December 19 @ Lisa Buske
Don't miss a guest post by Kristine Van Raden, contributor to the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom.
http://www.lisambuske.com/blog.html

Wednesday, January 2 @ Lisa Buske
Is your New Year’s Resolution to let go of the shame you’ve been lugging around? Read this review of Dancing at the Shame Prom.
http://www.lisambuske.com/blog.html

Monday, January 7 @ Read It All Book Reviews
Meet Robyn Hatcher, a contributor to the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom, and LAST CHANCE to enter and win a copy of this amazing book.
http://readitallbookreviews.wordpress.com

Tuesday, January 8 @ CMash Loves to Read
Need some inspiration for a great 2013? Read a review of Dancing at the Shame Prom, an anthology of inspirational stories of overcoming life's challenges.
http://cmashlovestoread.com/

Thursday, January 10 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Today Samantha Dunn, a contributor to the anthology Dancing at the Shame Prom, is guest blogging at Read These Books and Use Them! Today's topic? Surviving Poverty.
http://margodill.com/blog/

We have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour

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 us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com. Some of our upcoming books include fantasy romance, children’s middle grade, memoir, cookbooks, and writer how-to.

Book Giveaway Contest
Contest open internationally: Enter to win a print copy of Dancing at the Shame Prom (US and Canada), and an e-copy (Internationally)! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, November 30.

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Good luck!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

 

Stop the Slump: Marketing Tips for Freelancers

Okay, okay, I'll admit it.

The marketing aspect of freelancing drives me bonkers.

There, I said it. Happy? Well, I'm not. Trust me, I know it's a necessary evil, it's how I make bank, and it needs to become a daily habit, especially if I want to keep developing relationships with editors.

But, it's marketing. Ugh. And let's face it, I would rather be writing.

If you're a freelancer and you don't always make time to market, you may want to rethink that strategy. Try these tips to conquer marketing and keep assignments rolling in.


  1. Write it down. If I don't schedule marketing time, it's not going to happen. Trust me, penciling in a 15-minute period on my daily planner reminds me that I need to connect with editors. Try to establish a daily schedule and make marketing a priority at the same time every day. Eventually, it will become routine!
  2. Surf with a purpose. How many times have you gone to a website to check out writer's guidelines, and an hour later, you still haven't reached the original destination on the info superhighway? When I'm developing a pitch, I allot a set amount of time to check out contact information and writer's guidelines online. Checking Facebook or Twitter can wait til another time - neither social media market pays my bills. 
  3. Find a friend. Writing can be a lonely profession. That's why I found a writing buddy, and when we have ideas, we share them and help each other fine tune our critiques. Maybe it's just the dialogue with another writer, maybe it's both of us pushing each other, but my writing partner always has fresh ideas for marketing a piece when I'm at a standstill.
  4. Push the "SEND" button. You can dissect each word in your query, but unless you send it, you'll never have a chance to market yourself and your ideas to a potential editor. Write the pitch, proofread it, and hit send. 
Taking advantage of basic marketing skills and ideas will decrease downtime while increasing the bottom line.

Okay, okay, I"ll admit it.

The cashing-the-paycheck aspect of freelancing makes me happy. . . and ready to write.

by LuAnn Schindler

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

 

Improv for Plotting

Improv, acting without a script, is sorta like writing without an outline. For you pantsters (those who write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants), this feels normal. For us outliners, it feels scary. But when I think about pantster writing as a type of Improv, I feel better.

The basic rule for actors participating in an Improv session is to say, “Yes.”

Whatever the previous actor sets up, the next actor must embrace as truth, as the logical next step, as the inevitable direction of the story. And they must take everything a step farther along the story line.

That attitude has been helpful when I create plots, too. I make an assumption about the situation, characters, action and decide what to do next. Immediately, I accept that assumption as Truth (with a capital T), and move from that assumption to the next action.

For example, maybe I am writing a thriller and decide that Detective Angelina must go from New York to Cairo to follow a clue. YES!

Immediately, I plunge her into the midst of a Cairo suburb, perhaps sailing on the Red Sea, or walking through a crowded bazaar. Then, I decide where to go next. In the bazaar, she meets a silversmith, who offers to make a special bracelet that she must pick up at his shop in the north part of the city. YES!

And so it goes.


But what is the plot seems to become too convoluted. In his book, Writing for Story, Jon Franklin addresses what he calls a spaghetti plot. His term refers to a plot that has become more and more confused until it is as tangled as a plate of spaghetti. He suggests that to untangle the spaghetti plot, you simply back up to a place where everything is in order.

When Detective Angelina was in New York, was the plot tightly focused and on track. Then, simply backtrack and have Detective Angelina stay in New York City. In other words, when plotting, you should say, “Yes,” and proceed on that assumption. But occasionally, the Yes was a wrong direction and you must go back to a previous position of strength. Once there, though, you must again proceed on a Yes basis, because you must wholeheartedly buy into the story—if you don’t, the reader won’t either.

That’s what Yes does for a story: it gives believability and authenticity. If you ever waffle with a Maybe, I won’t follow you. However, as a writer, you must recognize that the strategy works for drafts of a novel; but in revising, you may need to throw out or modify scenes—go back to a place where a Yes meant a wrong turn.

The beauty of all this is that writing is a process and you can always circle back to fix whatever needs work. Meanwhile, forge ahead! Say, “Yes.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: My DIY Writing Retreat, guest post by Renee Roberson

When my husband suggested he take both our kids on a recent campout, my first thought was, what in the world would I do with a whole weekend alone?

It didn’t take me long to figure it out. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a six-hour writer’s workshop on a nearby farm, complete with coffee, homemade muffins and lunch fresh from the garden. It was very inspirational and had the atmosphere of a relaxing retreat. This time, I decided to see how much I could accomplish on my own.

I made a conscious choice to minimize normal everyday distractions that plague me when I typically work from home. I stocked up on a few healthy frozen meals for the weekend. I didn’t work on cleaning the house, and I didn’t even run the dishwasher until an hour before my family came back home.

I decided to spend the time working on non-paying projects I never can seem to fit into my day. My family left around 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. By 7 p.m. I had submitted article queries to two national women’s magazines. Within the next hour, I had cranked out an 800-word rough draft of a children’s story that had been bouncing around in my head for a few days.

Saturday, I piled a stack of back issues of The Writer and Writer’s Digest next to my morning coffee. With a stack of Post-it notes, I paged through each issue looking for new markets where I could send my work. As I did that, I took notes for the magazine article ideas that kept materializing. In true “retreat” fashion, I took some time on Saturday afternoon to use a spa gift certificate I had, where I enjoyed a 75-minute massage.

After returning home, I filled two pages with more ideas for short stories and articles. I had originally written out an agenda for what I hoped to accomplish during my retreat. By Saturday, I realized you have to be open to wherever the creative process takes you. I had hoped to revise a few chapters of my novel and work on my middle-grade fiction book outline, but for some reason, most of my work stayed centered on non-fiction writing. Because non-fiction writing is where I currently earn most of my income, I was okay with that.

On Sunday, I watched a 60-minute special on the prolific writer Stephen King, which seemed like the perfect ending to my retreat. Hearing about how he grew up in poverty but pushed his way through college and achieving his dream of becoming a published writer further inspired me.

When my family returned, my husband could not believe that amount of progress I had made. I highly recommend trying out your own DIY retreat. It doesn’t even have to occur over an entire weekend – even just a day can be enough to rejuvenate and refresh the writing spirit.

***

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and mother of two who specializes in writing about parenting, pop culture, health and fitness and travel. She also serves as the editor of Little Ones, a bi-monthly parenting magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. Visit her website at www.FinishedPages.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, November 22, 2012

 

A Writer's Thanksgiving

‘Twas the morning of Thanksgiving, and under the door,
Wafted the aroma of the turkey I’d bought from the store.
The table was half-set, and I heard the parade,
While I typed like a fiend towards NaNo word counts I’d made.

When out of the kitchen I heard such a clatter,
I sprung from my desk to see what was the matter.

The dog was wolfing down pie, a toaster was beeping—
And all of a sudden, a kid’s book idea came creeping.
I’d file it away, and as I pulled out the burnt toast,
I thought Happy Thanksgiving! Now I've got a blog post.


For some of us, if not most of us, writing has to come in between. Between the day job that pays a regular income, and the too-short weekends to catch up on everything else. Or between fussy babies finally napping—and kindergartners just home from school. And on days like Thanksgiving, between a turkey roasting in the oven, and the guests arriving way too early.

It’s quite a challenge to fit writing time in while the craziness of life swirls all around you. But you know what? I’m grateful for the experiences and the people who swirl in that lively soup. That’s where I get inspiration, ideas, and the impetus to “write it out.”

There was the Thanksgiving I served a raw turkey to my mother-in-law and parents—and learned how to write about asking for help. On another Thanksgiving, I had a baby howling with an earache and a toddler complaining of a bellyache and a husband sitting alone at a beautifully set table with a bowl of black olives and a turkey. It was all so absurd, I laughed out loud—and wrote about the foibles of trying to have the perfect family holiday.

Yep, I’m thankful for Thanksgiving. It’s served up a fair share of writing along with the cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. But honestly, every day is brimming with writing possibilities, and I’m thankful for that cornucopia that tumbles around me.

Oh! And I’m thankful for you, the readers who take the time to stop by and say hello. I so appreciate you squeezing me in, between washing the dishes and hubby asking for leftovers. But now you really should be off. Writing—and pumpkin pie—wait for no (wo)man!


~Cathy C. Hall

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 

Understanding and Clarity

Photo | Nickton via Flickr
During a recent lunch with a friend, she mentioned how she had to fire a client. As a writing professional, she offers her clients one revision in the price of her services. When she gave him his draft, he added information that hadn't been in the original brief she had received and he asked her to revise the additional information within the document.

From my friend's perspective, the client hadn't adequately explained the subject. While the back and forth was slightly more complicated than that, she boiled it down to: If you can't explain a process so others can understand it, then you probably don't really know the process.

This really translates to writing about a subject that may not be your strong suit.

Lately my writing and editing clients have required me to conduct a lot more research than I ordinarily have to do. (Think astrophysics to my breezy features of interesting local business leaders.) Some of the assignments turned out to be more difficult than others. In at least one case, the writing was made more difficult because I 't read about the subject but couldn't then explain what I'd read to my husband, for example.

The writing was difficult because I didn't really know the material. If you can't explain it, then how much do you really understand about what you are talking about?

In later assignments, I fell back on a way to research and write that I've found works well for me. I
  • read the research, 
  • take notes and 
  • then let it settle in my mind. 
Once I've stepped away from the research, I can see it more clearly and, yes, even understand the process or information much better. During that "quiet time" of 24 to 48 hours, an idea might come to me about the subject and I'll jot it down. But I won't return to the research until I sit down to start writing again.

The clarity of the writing comes from your understanding of the subject. Now, to get ready to understand some turkey!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina. One of the things she is most thankful for this Thanksgiving is all the wonderful readers of WOW! Thank you for your readership and comments. Have a super holiday.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 

Straying From the Script: Surprises Await!

Are you a planner. . .  (by DanielyMoyle Flickr)
I am usually a planner--definitely in my everyday life. If I didn't plan, I wouldn't get half of the things done that I do in a day or a week. When I write, I'm a half-planner/half-pantser--I usually have notes and an outline, but I don't always follow them 100 percent because as I'm in the middle of  a project (novel, article, blog post), my brain thinks of better things to say than my notes do. When it comes to speaking engagements, I'm a planner-I actually prefer to use Power Point presentations, so I can really stick to my "plan" and remember to say everything I wanted to say.

But recently, I was invited to speak in Hannibal, MO at the Missouri Association for Family & Community Education Conference about being a children's author. The very nice lady who hired me said that she wanted me to talk about what it was like to write for children. I assumed (as we know this is something you SHOULD NOT DO) this was because the people in the audience were interested in writing for children. So, I prepared my Power Point presentation, filled it with tips for people who are starting out writing for children, packed up my just released book: a middle-grade novel Finding My Place, and drove for almost two hours to the talk.

When I started my speech, I asked the audience how many people wanted to write for children--NO ONE (out of about 50 or so people) raised their hand! When I asked how many people liked to write or wrote on a regular basis, one person raised her hand.

or a pantser? (by Andie712b Flickr)
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that I was not going to be able to deliver my planned Power Point presentation and that I was going to have to change things up a bit for my 35-minute talk, or these ladies were going to be bored to tears. So, I started talking about my life, my book, researching less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, why I write, what to do if you are at all interested, and how everyone has a story. It turned out fine. I only put one person to sleep, and there were even questions when I was finished.

Best of all--I sold over 20 books and had several nice comments, including one woman who didn't want her $1.00 change back and said, "I want you to keep that--not your publisher." (Part of my talk was about how little royalties we make on a book. . .) I had to stray from my script for this presentation, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it all turned out.

The same thing has happened to me before--while working on a contemporary middle-grade mystery novel, while leading a writing workshop for children, while creating notes for online classes. Sometimes, you have to go with the flow, with what your audience wants, with where your characters are taking you.

I will never stop planning--it's not in my nature, and I like to have a plan. I feel better. But I will look for those opportunities to stray from the script and hope that pleasant surprises always await.  How about you?

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, a middle-grade, historical fiction novel set during the U. S. Civil War. For more information or to purchase a copy, please visit: http://margodill.com/blog/finding-my-place/.




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Monday, November 19, 2012

 

When Can I Ignore an Editor's Comments?

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve heard the advice that not all editorial comments are created equal. Some editors simply miss the mark, because they don’t have the same vision for the piece that you do. Disregard them and move on.

My advice? Listen. Wait. See what happens.

Recently, I had a middle grade fantasy critiqued by Emma D. Dryden at a writer’s conference. I had taken my protagonist from 8-years-old to 12. At least that’s what I tried to do. I had my doubts about whether or not it worked, and I wondered if the story was complicated enough for this age group.

Enter Dryden. First she pointed out that my character wasn’t 12. He was 11. It may sound picky but if you have an 11 year old you’ll understand. This is a time period full of huge developmental changes. One year makes a difference.

Then she pointed out that my story felt too young because my antagonist was my protagonist’s younger sister. “Why not make her his twin?”

Whoa! What? The story I wrote was about an oldest child having to learn to deal with a youngest child. Twins? Twins would change the whole dynamic. This wasn’t the story I’d written.

But it would make the story more complicated. Wasn’t that something I’d been worried about?
This wouldn’t be the same story at all. I thanked Dryden and vacated my seat for her next appointment.

My next session was a characterization workshop. Instead of creating a profile of my protagonist and then writing a scene, I reworked my antagonist. She changed from his younger sister to his older twin. She’s mad because he’s not as mature as she is and that’s why she’s making his life miserable.

Then I sat through a panel discussion on YA literature. At least I’m fairly certain that’s where I was physically. I was thinking about the ways that my younger antagonist had tormented my protagonist. An eleven-year-old simply wouldn’t be mean in the same ways as a six-year-old.

Crud.

At least one setting will have to change. I figured that out during a session on media.

And the ending, my ending will have to be completely rewritten. That came to me at dinner.

No, the editor didn’t have the same vision for the book that I did, but her suggestion solves the problems that I had already spotted. It solves the ones that she pointed out as well.

And this new story? It is deliciously dark and won’t leave me alone. Anything with this much energy needs to be written.

Even if an editor doesn’t share your vision, listen hard and listen long. You just might be surprised to hear your characters celebrating a bigger and better story.

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

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Friday, November 16, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: A Guide to Making Your Passion a Secret Weapon in Your Writing


It takes a lot of energy and concentration to be a skilled writer. Not only does one need to know grammatical rules, they also need to know how to captivate their audience. One way to captivate an audience is to have authority on a given subject. Another way to captivate the readers is to be passionate about the subject; when truly passionate about a subject, the words will flow smoothly and freely. So without further ado, here is a guide for anyone who wants to use their passion for any subject as their secret weapon in writing.

Not Just Work

A lot of people make an enormous mistake when writing--they write in about a subject that is their career. When someone has a 40 hour work week, the last thing they want to do is write more about the subject. When writing about work, writers tend to bore easily, and the writing does not captivate the audience. Unless extremely passionate about one's work, nobody should write about the same subject as their career.

Multiple Subjects

When seeking a topic to write about, try out a few ideas. Anyone who loves playing tennis or kayaking may enjoy these activities, but they may find it difficult to write about these passions. Choose four or five subjects to write about, then see what flows naturally. The key here is to not force anything--take the time to enjoy writing about the subject.

Other Works

By reading other writers publications, one can gain an insight on how to write about their own passion. It will be easy to determine which writers have passion, and which ones are chasing money and fame. Make sure to pay particular attention to the passionate writers, try to emulate them, it will show up in the written work. Remember, a talented writer needs to be an attentive and thorough reader.

No Job

When writing, even if for a living, write as though it is for fun, not for earnings. Any reader can understand whether a writer is passionate or writing with other motivations. When starting out the day writing, start out as though the writing is purely for fun. Making money should be the secondary benefit of writing, it should be about being passionate and happy. Remember to not treat writing as though it were a job, by treating it as a job, writers will be miserable.

Engage

Remember to engage the readers. In doing so, the writer gains an understanding of their readers. Anyone who understands their followers can gain a competitive edge, by simply improving on their writing and content. For instance, anyone with a blog should set up a comment system - this will allow readers to discuss your content. At the very least, set up a contact page, so readers can email you directly! Anyone who writes should do so because they truly enjoy writing. Anyone who writes about subjects they have no interest in will bore of writing quickly. If a writer writes about a subject they have a passion in, writing will flow smoothly, and they will enjoy their work.

***

Eve Tract writes about blogging, writing & more at http://backgroundcheck.org.

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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, November 15, 2012

 

Confessions of a (Paid) Book Reviewer

I read for pleasure, and sometimes, I read for profit. As a book reviewer for various publications, I can peruse a list of available titles and select the books that interest me. My pay = the books I select. It's a great gig for a bibliophile.

And with a few publications, I have the opportunity to earn money by reviewing a sponsored book.

What is a sponsored book? In most cases, an author (or perhaps a small publishing company) pays the review publication a set sum - or purchases a package (various options available) - to have a qualified reviewer critique the book. Before the review ever reaches publication, the author (or person who purchased the review) has a chance to read the critique and decide whether or not the review ends up in print.

Herein lies the dilemma: does the reviewer have the responsibility of offering a balanced, truthful review? Or should the reviewer sugarcoat the analysis, giving the author what he or she "wants" to hear? After all, the author has paid for the review.

I found myself in this predicament a few years ago when an editor sent out a list of available sponsored reviews. A particular title intrigued me, so I offered to give my opinion.

Big mistake. Huge.

First, the book was self-published. Now, I'm not bashing self-published works. A lot of quality reading material available is self-published and quite a few self-published works have a home on my bookshelves.

But this was different. First, the book was of poor quality: light-bond paper meant ink soaked through, making it difficult to read, 10-point Lucida Handwriting made it difficult to focus on the text, and hundreds of grammatical errors per page screamed "amateur" or at the very least, "No proofreader available."

What did I do?

I wrote an honest assessment of the book. I pointed out the negatives, but I also gave praise where it was due. The final section of the book would have made an interesting stand-alone piece. I told the truth, for a simple, common-sense reason: If I am shelling out $45+ for a book, I expect the quality of the final product to meet a high standard.

A few weeks later, my editor sent the voice message this book's author left on the review site's telephone. The author thought I was too critical. The author thought I should rewrite the piece. The author thought another reviewer should read and review it. The author thought since his/her first book received a great recommendation from the review publication, it needed to carry over to this review.

I said 'no.'

As a book lover, I value books and the stories told. As a book lover, I could not justify telling readers the piece was perfect when it clearly lacked in detail.As a book lover, I could not warrant a positive, glowing review when multiple issues existed.

It took some convincing, but my editor finally understood my point of view and the importance of not being swayed by an author who believed a sponsored review guaranteed a red-hot review.

Yes, authors rely book reviews because they DO help sell books. But authors also need to take a realistic look at the story and the construction of the book before it reaches the hands of a reviewer.

Have you used a "sponsored" book review service? What has been your experience?

by LuAnn Schindler






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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

 

Getting Down the First Line

One of the toughest writing obstacles I once faced was getting down the first line.

It didn’t matter if it was a 300-word blog post or the beginning of what I hoped to be a 30,000-word novel, I struggled with the opening, with how to get the words started. And then one day, in a fit of frustration, I gave up. And in the process, beat my first line demons. And I’m going to share what I did (and continue to do), because I so often hear writers complain about staring at the blank page, not knowing how or where to begin.

Are you ready to get your mind blown? Stand back, now. Here goes: Just start writing.

I know it sounds simple, and you’re sitting there, reading that little tip and wanting to smack me. But it really is that simple. Write. Write anything you can think of related to what you want to say—and worry about the beginning when you’re done.

That’s not to say that I don’t have the occasional Eureka! moment when my brain comes up with a massively brilliant beginning. But usually, my first line is just something I throw out there, something to get the words flowing because I hate wasting time. So, I pick a starting point and go from there. When I’ve finished, I’ll go back and edit.

And here’s my first-line, mind-blowing bit, Part II. More often than not, I only have to tweak the first line or the beginning so that it bookends with my ending. Honestly. It’s rare that I dump the entire opening paragraph (although I do occasionally start a story at the wrong beginning, but that’s a post for another day).

I’m not a writing psychologist, but I have a theory. Once I’ve taken the pressure off, given myself permission to write an imperfect first line, my brain relaxes, and I end up writing a pretty decent beginning sentence.

It works for me. It can work for you. So no more excuses. If you’ve got a wonderful idea for a novel, a short story, an article, a blog post, even a picture book, just start writing. A terrific first line will come—sooner or later.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

 

Patti Cavaliere: Runner Up Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Last but certainly not least, we would like to present to you, Patti Cavaliere, our final winner in the Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest for her story, "Dirty Laundry." If you haven't had a chance to read Patti's award-winning story yet, you need to click here!

Years before Patti began to write short stories, an astrologer told her she could publish a book. When she had her first success with a teen story, she never imagined how long that prediction would take. After many small steps, last summer she attended Joyce Maynard’s workshop on Star Island. Joyce greatly influenced her writing style and in March 2012, "Anonymous," appeared in Writer’s Digest Magazine. In May, "The Echo and The Lake" was accepted by the Tall Grass Writer’s Guild for an anthology. By day, she works at Yale University as a research study coordinator. She has always had a deep love for animals and compassion for people, but her new passion is the young thoroughbred she inherited when her dear friend lost his battle with cancer. An essay she wrote about the three horses he left behind won first place last summer and inspired her to begin a second novel called THE YEAR OF THE HORSE. She hopes the astrologer’s prediction will come true soon.

WOW: Congratulations, Patti, on being a runner up in the spring contest. Where did you get the inspiration for "Dirty Laundry"?

Patti: Believe it or not, the inciting incident came as I was stopped at a red light before the construction of a new university. A guy in a hard hat was perched on a steel beam, and he was hanging over the side of the third floor. My mind immediately flashed back to a man I dated twenty-five years ago. He had a wild side that I’d been attracted to after my “quiet” seven-year marriage ended. The first sentence and the rest of the story evolved naturally from this one visual image.

About this same time, I wrote a longer piece called “The Last Good Bad Guy,” about the day this man stopped by to say good-bye. Twenty years had past since we lived together, and he was moving to Florida. As you can imagine, the man and the story hold a special place in my heart.

WOW: Thank you for showing us how your life is worked into your fiction! What themes did you want to explore in this flash fiction piece?


Patti: What I really wanted to say in this piece is that it is perfectly normal for a woman to remain married and still fantasize about other men. I watched an elderly couple interviewed on Jay Leno about a year ago. The wife said that the reason they stayed married for so many years is that they never fell out of love for each other at the same time! How wise and insightful. When I was young and married, I thought that once my mind drifted from believing my husband was my soul mate, my marriage was doomed. I acted on those feelings— I divorced and began years of searching for my missing piece. Although I have no regret for moving on from my marriage, I realize the missing piece is an illusion, and often, so is love.

WOW: Thus, you were able to capture what I'm sure many women (and men!) feel at sometime in their lives in such a few amount of words. Was writing this story as a flash fiction piece easy for you?

Patti: It was easy. The journey of looking for love that I mentioned above provides many experiences for me to tap into. I know if I’m truly honest, others will relate, as did a married friend who encouraged me to write the story. Often when a flash of inspiration comes to me, the emotions become so real and personal that I can complete a 1500-word story in a couple of hours. (Then I’ll spend twenty hours tweaking it for word count and clarity). I start to relive experiences, but I also make scenes up as I go—sometimes it’s almost hard for me to separate what really happened! This story was originally 1700 words. I’d submitted it to Family Circle’s annual contest. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t appropriate. I then cut it severely to submit it to another publication; but again, it wasn’t a good fit. I needed an open-minded venue such as WOW to bring this story out of the closet. Thank you so much for seeing its value.

WOW: You have hit on a great point--sometimes, you need to find the RIGHT fit--it's not always about the actual writing. We read about the astrologer's prediction in your bio. So, where are you in the process of getting a novel published?

Patti: Since my second novel is only in the beginning stages, I’m still hoping to find an agent for my first novel. I wrote it four years ago and thought it was finished. After it was rejected by two agents who requested it from a conference pitch, I began to see the light. I revised the structure completely and layered more conflict; I also changed it from third to first person. Mentors have shared their belief that your first novel is a learning experience. I am still in the process of submitting LOOKING FOR LEO to five agents who requested it as a result of pitch appointments last spring. I believe the story is unique, and I am willing to do what it takes to see it published, although I am reluctant to try the self-publishing route after talking with writers who have done this. I love to write and hate marketing. Writers whose work I admire tell me they’ve submitted to a hundred agents while I’ve only submitted to less than ten. I am past the immobilizing devastation of rejection, but since the new policy regarding submissions seems to be No Response instead of a polite rejection, I am guilty of not being more proactive in sending my work out to the next agent.

As far as the astrologer’s prediction, I believe it will happen. In some ways, it has, as I have had short stories published in at least four national publications over the past nine years. It’s been a slow process, but my writing has evolved and it’s become ingrained in my lifestyle. I am constantly looking at the world or living my life as though it could become my next story. I’d read years ago that a writer who does not give up will eventually be published.

WOW: I completely agree with you--persistence in submitting and learning the craft are what get you published! What are your novels about--similar to your winning flash fiction piece or something completely different?

Patti: All my stories are different, but I do tend to have a reoccurring theme of a single woman searching for love, peace of mind—herself. I like to take the reader on a journey of self-discovery and end up having the main character find more than she imagined. I can’t seem to write pure romance. Even when I do manage a romantic ending, it seems too neat and temporary. I do believe in giving the reader a satisfying ending; however, I prefer to set the stage and leave the rest open to interpretation for the reader to fill in as they please.

WOW: What is your writing process like?

Patti: Since I work full time and I’m not a morning person, I usually write in the evening. I have only basic cable television, so distraction is minimal; and creating stories in the company of my cats is one of my most enjoyable pastimes. On weekend, if I don’t have commitments, I’ll write for twelve hours straight—I start to live scenes and can’t stop. The biggest obstacle for me is letting chores or fear (that I don’t know where my novel is headed) keep me from the computer. Best advice for someone like me who used to continually edit was to allow myself to go with the creative momentum and edit later. NaNoWriMo helped break me of that deadly habit. I actually love the editing process, and it’s so true what Stephen King recommends about putting your book in a drawer for a few weeks. Once I sit down and start, I’m committed until hunger or sleep forces me to walk away. Even on days when I just can’t find the time to write, I carry a notebook with me in my car—driving seems to free my mind to brainstorm or lyrics of a song on the radio can become a trigger. 

WOW: Thanks, Patti, for giving us some insight into your writing world. Best of luck to you with your future projects!


Patti: I can’t thank the editors of WOW enough for giving struggling writers a chance to be showcased. For some of us, this may end up being our only chance to say we’ve been “published.” I remember the validation I felt the first time it happened to me and how it changed me from thinking of writing as my hobby to my passion.

WOW: You're welcome!


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Monday, November 12, 2012

 

Overcoming Dialogue Challenges

I was a bit shocked the first time Deuce cursed. Deuce isn’t my father, husband, or son. Deuce is the main character in my WIP. After the word seemed to type itself I stopped and hovered over the backspace, considering if I should erase it. A long time ago my language may have been a bit more colorful, but after two decades of raising children and substitute teaching my vocabulary has mellowed until it is definitely G rated. In fact, my rare use of a curse word has been known to silence the entire house, including the dogs. So the cursing felt a bit awkward to me.

I have a terrible ear for music but dialogue sticks with me. Dialogue that may look great written out is often a whole other thing when read aloud while keeping in mind the person saying the words. Deuce, an eighteen-year-old, has a PG, occasionally R-rated vocabulary. For him, cursing came naturally. Without the occasional curse word Deuce sounded like… at worst, an adult and at best, a really geeky teenager. The problem was that I had to put the words in Deuce’s mouth.

Like anything else I’m unfamiliar with, I decided to do a little research on modern cursing. OK, some people would call it eavesdropping but poe-ta-toe – pah-tah-toe. Being a quiet, unassuming person I’m great at eavesdro- um, research. So I became a quiet presence at school events, in malls, everywhere there were teenagers to take mental notes.

I quickly learned that for teenagers most curses aren’t interjections used to indicate intensity, instead they are a type of punctuation, casually used here and there in everyday, unemotional conversations. Then there are the abbreviation type along the lines of LOL (laughing out loud) that developed with the help of texting and eventually moved from texting communication to spoken communication. These were problematic because teens would say the letters and I had no idea what words they stood for…and my teenager wasn’t eager to educate me. Eventually, she did “translate” a few for me. Not aloud and to my face (that would be too embarrassing) but with slips of paper containing translations left on my desk. I think she was worried I would start asking her friends to translate for me. Then there were the words that meant one thing to me but to teenagers…a whole other thing! They were the toughest ones because I wasn’t even sure if they were curse words. Enter my daughter as reluctant translator again. Did you know that curse words popular in England are jumping across the pond? Who knew? Not me!

Of course my challenge of late has been teenage cursing in 2012. But because dialogue is different depending on the year, place, even profession of the people involved there is a constant challenge to make it authentic. So I recommend a three-pronged approach:

1. Talk to people from the group you’re portraying. Of course this doesn’t always work if you’re portraying immigrants to America from Eastern Europe in the 1820s. But for any groups that are available, track them down, meet them, and have a conversation.

2. Eavesdrop. Sounds sneaky but often it’s the only way to get a true picture. Many people have several ways of talking. For instance, teenagers speak one way with their group (other teenagers) and another way with outsiders (that would be adults!). You can also find movies, books, newsreels, etc. of your group – but be wary, authors/screenwriters may not have gotten it right.

3. Run it past an expert. That is, in my case let the teenagers in your life read it and ask them to pay attention to the dialogue. Does it ring true? In your case perhaps a historian, a resident from the region where your WIP takes place, or a member of your character’s profession could give you a final say.

Good luck with your dialogue and I’d love to hear about the dialogue challenges you’ve faced and how you got your characters talking right!

Jodi Webb is a WOW Blog Tour organizer and working on a YA novel (and hopefully a children's picture book if her NYC publisher ever gets her electricity back!). You can check out her book reviews and writing tales at Words by Webb.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

 

Trading a Paper Pile for Web Tools

A stack of research and editing ahead. I'm trying to use more Web-
based tools. What do you use? Photo | Elizabeth Humphrey
When I get busy, my desk tends to be on the receiving end of my chaos...and piles of notebooks and dozens of notecards of research notes. This morning I cleared off the desk (see pile to the left) and vowed to try to stay un-buried from a mass of papers and index cards. Of course, this is the same week I've received a hard copy of a memoir I'm editing and two research-writing projects, so I'm not sure how well my vow will stick.

I confess that I print too much. I realized it was getting out of hand when I thought about printing a 35 pages for a quick turn-around project. This is one of a ga-zillion projects I'm working on. Printing helps to keep the information in front of me, right? Well, if I didn't have my nose buried in my computer I could see the research. So I need to make more of an effort to bring the research to my nose. I'm trying to improve (smarten up?!) my use of the computer and the Web.


I've used Web browser tools sporadically. But I now have three timely reasons to get to know what these browsers have to offer. Some will help me with research and writing projects. One I hope will help me with Thanksgiving plans (which I think we can all relate to!).

1. Talking turkey. What more can I say...we're hosting. But we plan to ask for help and since our 20-something nephew and nieces will be bringing dishes, I plan on putting together our meal plans and recipes then sharing the digital notebook with the other chefs. A tool that has a buzz is Springpad, which has a Thanksgiving-themed contest going on. I'm hoping that using it for Thanksgiving will help me learn more about Springboard's sharing capabilities (for those collaborative projects).

2. Finding (and using) more. I have a few Add-ons with Mozilla's Firefox that I've used, such as Evernote, which can synch to the different computers and mobile devices I use. But it had been a long time since I checked out what Evernote has to offer. Evernote has added its own Trunk Apps that add even more functionality to Evernote, so I plan to re-engage with Evernote and add apps from Evernote's The Trunk. This is great for tracking research and keeping up with various projects.

3. Virtual index cards...and sticky notes. I've been using Google's Chrome and for years, but only as basic Web browsers. This week I stumbled across Chrome's Marketplace. I could spend hours looking at the different applications available. But one that caught my eye to help me stay focused is Scribble, which can send notifications to me and is touted as "stickies on steroids." I just need something to jot ideas on that won't get swept away as the kids whoosh by my desk. (Or eaten by the dog!)

Have you used any of these tools for your writing or life? Any recommendations for online tools that have helped keep you on track and out of the chaos pile?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a North Carolina-based writer and editor. On this 11.11 she would like to thank all the veterans for their service to our country.

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

 

The Blogger App: blogging on the go

Before you say it, I will. This blog post is late. I'm away from home and the office this weekend, and I spent part of the day trying out the Blogger Android app for my tablet.

I finally figured out how to access this account, after spending several hours this morning trying to log in with the right email account. (Then I needed a break for Husker football.)

Sigh. Now, I think I'm fairly tech savvy, but this tablet and app stuff can be confusing! Maybe overwhelming would be the better word.

This much I do know: now that I have figured out how to maneuver my way around in this app, I like it. The app features a simple interface, which should make blogging on the go an easy task.

Instead of lugging my laptop everywhere I go, I can slip the tablet into my purse and blog whenever I want or need to. It will make reporting while on the road a snap.

It seems like a welcome tool for a blogger/writer!

Do you use an app to blog on a tablet? What has been your experience?

by LuAnn Schindler


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Friday, November 09, 2012

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Joy of Free-Falling, guest post by Sioux Roslawski

Take a leap and trust the story. That’s a valuable lesson I’ve stumbled upon during my writing bumblings…

Recently I took on two projects that required me to write outside of my box. My sturdy little cardboard box’s contents are boringly predictable: I write memoir pieces, creative non-fiction, menopausal rants—whatever you’d like to call them. Snarky humor? Yes. Fiction? Not in my box. Romance? Definitely not…
Then when a call out for stories about Bigfoot came along, I decided to try. Before I even began, I knew I’d need an unconventional perspective. No “we-saw-Bigfoot-and-it-was-horrifying” kind of story for me. Wondering what Sasquatch feels and what his life must be like got me started. But that’s all I had, a start.
However, as I immersed myself in what I imagined was his routine, as I put myself in this creature’s shoes (or in this case, his hairy feet), the story propelled forward—on its own power. Bigfoot probably lives a solitary life, since if there were tribes of them, there’d now be a reality television show about them. What is it like to live life all by yourself? What sounds does he hear at night, and what things does he see during the day? And what kind of existence is it when you know if people caught sight of you, they would instantly scream and run away?
My wonderings took me to places I hadn’t even initially conceived. The story was born…and now it had legs and was toddling around. With some nudging and encouraging from my writing critique group and me, it matured…
Buoyed by the joy of all the surprises that appear in an evolving story, when a call out for submissions for a “Fifty Shades of Santa” anthology appeared, I jumped at it. They wanted humor. I could do humor. They wanted a holiday story. I could do Christmas. They wanted romance. Well, I thought I could do that…
It turns out I can’t write romance. That story was rejected, but it was such a hoot to write, the joy of writing it took the sting out of the “no.” I wrote from the perspective of a woman having an affair with Santa. Spinning that yarn took me to all sorts of unexpected places. What does Santa wear during the off-season? How would Mrs. Claus react if someone tried to take her man away from her? And who really wears the pants in that family?
It’s not okay to leap into a family-sized bag of cookies and trust you’ll gain some self-control somewhere in the middle. It’s not advisable to leap into a pair of zebra-striped stretch pants just because some pencil-of-a-model wore them, thinking it’ll be a good look for you. However, it is wise to step off your normal writing path and try a new trail. And even if there aren’t any signs pointing to the final destination, the trip might prove enlightening.

Write it. Write the beginning, and the rest will come…

 ***
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher and a freelance writer in St. Louis. In her spare time she blogs http://siouxspage.blogspot.com/), rescues Golden Retrievers and dreams of someday retiring to southern France.
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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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