Meet Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Anna Levy
A storyteller since age six, Anna Levy
draws narrative inspiration from the lives of the people that surround her. Through travel, new adventures, observation, and eavesdropping, she uses the world’s details to write meaningful fiction. By mixing imagination with everyday happenings, she works to create empathic experiences that empower people to embrace their own lives and understand others.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Fall 2012 writing contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Anna: It seemed like a great opportunity to challenge myself, and I liked the idea of entering a contest that was completely open in terms of topic. I haven't written much flash fiction, but am enjoying it as a way of quickly telling a story that can still have emotional depth.
WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Vital Signs?
This was actually something I'd written as an exercise as part of a writing group I participated in last fall. I was given two components to work with: someone watching monitors in the ICU for seven weeks, and an ever-present cell phone. I let my imagination go, and the result was this story.
WOW: So working with writing prompts can really pay off! Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don't think any of my writing habits are particularly unusual, though I would enjoy it if some of them were. I write primarily at home, though I enjoy writing in certain coffee shops as well. I am most productive in the early mornings and late at night. I do not outline (though I've tried), and am most successful when I simply let myself write, without pause. It's good to remind myself that I can-- and will--edit later, and that the important thing in the beginning is to simply get the story out. I have been known to eavesdrop when I'm out in public, and I use people around me as spark points for my imagination, as I try to envision their habits, their concerns, their daily lives.
WOW: I like how you take people watching to the next level, imagining more details about their lives. A fun starting point for some stories. What writing projects are you working on now?
I'm currently working on a collection of short stories that all deal with grief and mourning, and I'm about to start editing a novel that I finished a couple of months ago. It's the first book I've written, and I am both excited and nervous to read it straight through for the first time.
WOW: Good luck with both the short stories and the novel editing, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Anna! Before you go, do you have any advice for beginning flash fiction writers?
I don't think that I'm really in a position to give advice. I think it's pretty much the same as it has always been: just sit down and let yourself go. I'm constantly reminding myself to simply go for it, see what comes out. It's incredibly difficult, and it's some of the most fun work in the world.
The Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN!
Find out more: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php
Labels: Anna Levy, contest interview, Fall2012 Flash Fiction Contest, flash fiction runner up
Jadie Jones, author of Moonlit, launches her blog tour!
o most, Tanzy Hightower looks like she has a great life for an eighteen-year-old. She spends her days on Wildwood Farm surrounded by horses and fellow horse lovers. Of course most people don't know about the mysterious shadowy beings lurking on the outskirts of her life. Tanzy isn't sure if they're real or if her eyes are just playing tricks on her until she realizes the horses see the mysterious beings too. And not only do they see then but they're afraid of them.
is the story of Tanzy trying to unravel all the secrets of her life. Who are the mysterious beings? Was her accident really an accident? Are her new friends really friends . . . or something more nefarious? How does an ancient warrior end up in horse country?
If you’re still compiling your Summer Reading List save room for Jadie Jones' debut YA fantasy Moonlit
The first book in the Tanzy Hightower series will leave you haunting Jadie Jones’ website
, wanting to learn when the next book in the series will be released. Follow Jadie’s Tweet Tour @WOWBlogTour
throughout June and you just might learn the release date and other fun info about Book 2!
310 pages (also available in e-format)
WiDo Publishing (April 16, 2013)
is available as a print and e-book at Amazon
and Barnes and Noble
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Moonlit
, stop by The Muffin on Wednesday, May 15 when we’ll be posting a review of Moonlit and starting our giveaway contest!
About the Author:
Jadie Jones has been dreaming about being an author since she wrote her first book in the seventh grade—in a black and white composition tablet, of course. But life happens . . . jobs, husband, baby. Jadie has that magical time known as naptime to thank for Moonlit
. Because, when all was quiet in the house (with the exception of the washer humming in the background) Jadie could hear Tanzy, who she thought she had long ago relegated to past dreams, calling to her. And one day Jadie pulled out a pen and answered. The result was Moonlit
When she isn’t writing, Jadie likes to ride horses and explore the world with her beautiful toddler.
Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Jadie Jones’ website: www.jadiejones.com
Jadie's blog: www.jadiejones.blogspot.com
-----Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: The main character of your debut YA fantasy novel, eighteen year old Tanzy Hightower is an incredibly strong character. She has secrets, a mysterious past, a willingness to jump into life. I've been wondering . . . which came first Tanzy or the idea for the novel Moonlit?
In a way, both. This might sound a little certifiable, but Tanzy’s voice has been in my head for years. When you work long hours—usually solo—on a horse farm, and you have an overactive imagination . . . let’s just say the possibilities are endless. I’m inspired by women who stand up for themselves and for what is right. The “origin” part of Moonlit
actually came to me in a dream. I’d had a bad spill off a horse (not a dream) and gave myself a pretty good concussion. That night, with lots of medicine on board, I had this dream about sexy, shirtless, Greek-god looking men marching in an underground cellar. They guarded a group of girls imprisoned there, but I had the distinct impression that the guards were afraid of what the girls could do should they escape. I also had a clear feeling that I was looking for who I used to be. I woke up and thought: man that would be an amazing story . . . now how do I get the savvy, farm-girl in my head to an underground prison in ancient Egypt?
WOW: It does seem like an unlikely combination! And since it was such an unusual story did you do a lot of planning before you began writing? Since you were thinking series, did you outline the plot for the first few books just to see where your characters would be going or did you just see where the writing would take you?
Not entirely. As I wrote Moonlit
, I kind of knew where I wanted to go in the sequel. But, until I made final edits on Moonlit
for my publisher, I had no idea what would happen in the third book. Now I have a pretty clear idea of what goals I want to accomplish with the third book, and I know as I refine the sequel, the arch of the third book will become clearer. I make loose outlines when I’m feeling overwhelmed or stuck. I am big on writing the first draft (or parts of it) with pen and paper. It helps me think better. As it stands now, I know the very last paragraph in the very last book. We will see if it survives the sequel!
WOW: You just never know what’s going to happen, do you? Do you have any advice for those hoping to create a series?
I find that a strong character is most important, and if you turn them loose, will take your stories places you could never have imagined on your own. I had a completely different ending planned for Moonlit
, but Tanzy wasn’t happy with it. When I finally let her show me how she thought things should shake out, it was amazing, organic, and it changed everything about the sequel.
I would advise holding off on fleshing out a sequel until the final content edits have been made on the first book. My editor and I cut an entire character, who I’d planned on making a big part of the sequel, but he drug down every scene he entered in Moonlit
. A tentative outline, or “roadmap,” as I like to call it, is a great guide to make sure you have all the details you need in place for the sequel in the first book without wasting time/energy on a lot of copy you may cut.
WOW: What is the most appealing thing about writing in the fantasy genre and what made you begin writing it now?
Fantasy is so fun because anything is possible. If you can create it in your brain, you can bring it to life, and that is so appealing.
And honestly, I think writing Moonlit
may have saved my life—or at least my sanity. Following the birth of my daughter, I slowly fell down the rabbit hole of postpartum anxiety, which I didn’t even know was something that could happen. I wouldn’t let people come over to the house or hold my daughter. I stopped leaving the house all together. My mother and husband confronted me when my daughter was about seven months old. Once I was willing to acknowledge there was a problem, I had some work to do. I didn’t want to take medication for it (not that I don’t believe in it—it’s just didn’t feel like the right choice for me) so I had to learn how to talk myself off the ledge.
Writing was a huge part of my recovery process, and gave me back a sense of control that I’d completely lost. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, so re-learning how to use that power for creation instead of paranoia made a world of difference. I’ve always had a passion for writing, but lacked the confidence and tenacity it often takes to get an idea from brain to paper to publisher. Once this story took root in my head, it would not let me ignore it.
WOW: What an incredible aspect to your writing life! In Moonlit, you combine our reality with another world and characters who can move back and forth between the two worlds. What was it like to develop a new world and "rules" that allowed characters to exist in both worlds? Confusing? Fun?
The rules are the brick and mortar of the new world—like the rules of a board game. You can’t play without them. And the same idea applies: the simpler the rules are to follow, the easier it is to use and communicate them. I think the rules also have to be pretty rock solid, especially in a world that has always existed—as have its inhabitants.
These Unseen creatures have been around since the beginning of the world, so if my human characters find a flaw or loophole in the rules that the immortals never discovered, that seems a bit contrived. Building the rules for the Unseen world was one of my favorite parts. I relate it to excavating a dinosaur skeleton—just keep digging and brushing away the debris until the bones come to the surface. The rules are explored further in the sequel, and as they become more detailed, I have to be careful not to make them confusing.
WOW: This is your first book, tell us a little about the marketing you're doing . . . are you active in social media?
I am trying to be as active as possible! The online author/reviewer/reader community is a passionate, helpful, enthusiastic group to be a part of. It’s all about give and take—you have to be willing and eager to help other authors, etc., or you can’t expect them to jump when you need a favor. I think writers who aren’t willing to be a part of this process may miss out on some great opportunities—not just for promotion but also for education. I have learned so much by participating in events for other authors. I even had a brief chat with one of my very favorite authors, which was immediately followed by a happy dance in my office.
WOW: And we always like to hear about small presses. Tell us how you found Wido Publishing and what you like about them.
I found Wido on querytracker.net
. I’d decided to query small publishers directly because I prefer one-on-one relationships and the idea of waiting for information to pass through a second party was more than my impatient self could take.
I have to say, I feel like I won the publisher lottery. My experience has been positive, educational, and thorough. I was immediately paired with a content editor, who helped me explore some holes in my plot and tighten my pacing. She also helped me discover some things about my story and my writing that I hadn’t noticed before. After that, Moonlit
went on to several copy editors and then two rounds of galley proofs. Everyone I worked with was professional and enthusiastic. They were patient and receptive when I had constructive things to say as well, which speaks volumes in my book. I also admire that they don’t believe in a formula. They just want good, well-told stories. And don’t we all?
WOW: And a good, well-told story is what readers will find in Moonlit. Finally, as always, we want to hear what you're up to now!
Right now I am riding the wave of Moonlit
’s release—scheduling signings and events, networking, interviewing, and promoting. I’m also revising the sequel to prepare it for submission to WiDo.
On another note, I’ve taken on a project horse. Riding helps me sort out plot tangles, etc. And I spend a lot of time exploring with my now two year old. I am having the time of my life.
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, April 29 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an inspiring interview with author Jadie Jones!
Tuesday, April 30 @ Thoughts in Progress
Jadie Jones, author of Moonlit
—a YA book that features the state of Georgia—writes about that beautiful place today.
Wednesday, May 1 @ Bookworm Lisa
Enter to win Moonlit
, the debut YA fantasy by Jadie Jones. Horse, handsome strangers and mysterious secrets . . . what more could you want?
Thursday, May 2 @ Fantasy Book Addict
Stop by for an interview with author Jadie Jones and a chance to win her debut fantasy novel, Moonlit
Saturday, May 4 @ CMash Loves to Read
Don't miss a chance to dive into a world of horses, magic, and mystery with the new YA Fantasy Moonlit
by Jadie Jones. Win your copy today!
Wednesday, May 8 @ Musings from the Slushpile
Learn which Fantasy Authors are Jadie Jones' favorites and enter to win her debut YA Fantasy: Moonlit
Thursday, May 9 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Don't miss a chance to learn more about debut author Jadie Jones and enter to win her YA fantasy Moonlit
Wednesday, May 15 @ The Muffin
Don't miss today's review and giveaway
by Jadie Jones.
Thursday, May 16 @ Because Reading Is Better Than Real Life
Learn more about Jadie Jones, the author behind the Tanzy Hightower series in today's guest post.
Thursday, May 23 @ Words by Webb
Learn how Jadie Jones, author of Moonlit
, balances family and writing.
Monday, May 27 @ Steph the Bookworm
Tell us if you think YA is just for teens and learn what YA author Jadie Jones has to say. You can also enjoy a review of Jadie's YA fantasy Moonlit
Tuesday, May 28 @ Reviewing in Chaos
Don't miss a chance to learn more about debut author Jadie Jones and enter to win her YA fantasy Moonlit
We have more dates to come!
To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar
. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Giveaway Contest:
Stop back by The Muffin on Wednesday, May 15
and enter to win a copy of Moonlit
Labels: blog tour, book series, fantasy, Independent publishers, Jadie Jones, Moonlit, New Adult, small press, YA
Tips for Formatting Your Manuscript
When I was in graduate school, I fell in love with designing the written word. I took a class on document design and created a compilation of my writing to print and send out to agents and publishers. (Whether or not I thought I would be discovered with that compilation is for another post.) Electronic books were on the horizon, but I was working with print.
|Interested in print or e-books? Photo credit: flickr | kodomut |
Fast forward ten years and the professor from that
class has contracted me to design a book. Yes, a print book. It's a strange place to be in because, well, I am also dabbling in designing e-books. WOW has a great addition to how to format for Kindle or Nook
. But keep in mind that there are overlapping design concepts in both print and e-books that you can apply as you write:
- Consistency: When you plan your book, add details about how you want your chapter headings. Maybe you want chapters and numbers. Maybe you want the chapter title with a single numeral above. Decide what it is and stick with it. Throughout the entire manuscript.
- Font: I've had to break my kids' of their desire to write reports in Comic Sans. I'm not that much of a meany that I always insist on Times New Roman. But there are happy mediums in the font world. Select one and stick with it throughout the manuscript. If you can't decide between two, use one for your chapter headings and one for your text. Just make sure it's legible.
- Page breaks: In Microsoft Word, CTRL + ENTER gives you a page break. With a Mac, insert a page break. Remember to insert one at the end of your chapters. Hitting a return until you hit the next page makes for inconsistent formatting.
- Page numbers: You may notice on e-readers that page numbering is different than with a print book. But when you're writing a draft or working on a print project, use page numbers for your own reference. It's especially useful if you print out your manuscript.
- First paragraphs: At the beginning of each chapter, the first paragraph isn't indented like the following paragraphs. In Word, you can create a special style for that paragraph that does not include an indent and apply it at each chapter.
Those are just a few suggestions at styling your manuscript for future design--whether print or electronic. What questions do you have about formatting a manuscript for print or e-readers? (I'll try to get an answer by the next time I post!)
Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits in Wilmington, North Carolina. She's making plans for a full summer of writing.
Labels: ebook formatting, Elizabeth King Humphrey, ereaders, kindle, manuscripts, nook
How to Research
To bring your writing alive incorporate detail using as many senses as possible.
You hear this advice all the time, but to write about each sense you have to research it. Although writers can, and do, write about how foods taste and wind sounds, as much as possible use your own five senses when doing the research.
Whether you need to know how Claude Monet’s Rock Arch West of Étretat or a quetzal look, you’re not going to just read someone else’s description, not when a quick Google or Pinterest search can give you dozens, if not hundreds, of images. You should also do a Youtube search. It is one thing to see the brilliant green of a quetzal’s feathers in a still photo, another to see the flash of green and red as it takes wing. Visit the places and sights that you can, but use a series of online searches when you cannot.
Whether the notes you need to hear are Joplin’s Magnetic Rag or the lilting call of a wolf, try a Youtube search. Wildlife sites often have recordings of animal calls such as those at the Audubon Online Bird Guide
. Another handy source is the Library of Congress
which includes musical performances and also speeches.
Scent and Taste
We don’t yet have smell-ovision, but sometimes you can research a smell by visiting just the right place—a Mediterranean garden at your local botanical garden or the ocean through a day at the beach.
Fortunately, smell is linked to taste and you can collect details for both senses by cooking and dining on foods from the place or time in which your writing is set. I can read about red bean paste in ice cream but I’m not going to know what taste lingers on my tongue or how it feels in my month unless I try it.
Touch and Movement
How does raw silk feel? Is a tiger’s fur soft like a house cat’s or course and wooly like a lion’s? You can read what someone else has written, but their description might vary greatly from your own.
Sometimes we simply do not have access to the things that we would need to touch but we can experience a full range of motions. Kinesthetic details, those related to movement, are vital if you are describing something physical. How can you write about chopping down a tree if you’ve never held an axe? I didn’t get the details right until I tried it for myself. Whether you are writing about snowshoeing or kneading bread, duplicate the experience before you drag the pen across the paper or send your fingertips skittering across the keyboard.
You won’t work every sense into each piece of writing, but the more you include, the more vibrant your work will be and it will grab the attention of not only editors but word-hungry readers.
Sue Bradford Edwards is teaching the WOW! course Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults
. The next section of this course start on May 6, 2013.
Labels: how to research, research, senses, sensory details
Friday Speak Out!: Thoughts on Never Making It, Guest Post by Alissa Johnson
I recently opened my email to find a request from the president of a well-established publishing website to set up an interview for a new column on women and writing—specifically, about “women that have made it in the field.” I was sitting at my desk at the local weekly where I have been an associate editor for the past two plus years, and I thought there’d been a mistake.
My website must be really good, I thought. They think I’ve made it.
I agreed to the next step of the process, wondering when they would figure out they’d picked the wrong gal. After all, I haven’t published a book, and I just resigned from my job to launch my own business as a writing coach and consultant. There is so much transition in my life that “making it” feelsvery much like a question underscored by uncertainty (and a little stubbornness, too).
When I biked home that afternoon, the sun was shining and warm, and the tires of my bike kicked up late winter slush. I kicked around ideas, trying to figure out when I would feel like I’d made it.
When I considered my track record from the outside, I could see accomplishments: I’m a newspaper editor (for a couple more weeks, anyway), my writing has won awards, and I’ve been published in the Wall Street Journal. I teach online classes, and they’ve been successful that I’ve launched a whole new website to house them.
And yet I spend more time thinking about the things I haven’t done than thinking about accomplishments: the memoir I haven’t published, the novel I haven’t written, and the still-in-progress essay I want to finish about camping out for a whole summer.
Would I like to get to the point where I can receive a request for an interview without looking over my shoulder for the real writer they meant to contact? Sure. But I realized something as I rode home: I can’t tell you when I’ll have “made it” because that implies a final destination. My goals are always changing.
Three years ago, I wanted to find a job as a writer. Now, I want to launch my business and help other writers achieve their goals. In a year or two, I hope to publish my memoir and finish that novel. I don’t want to work toward a final destination in writing because I don’t want to reach an end.
I think the secret to making it is to not think about making it. To return to the computer or put the pen to the page again and again, just to see what happens next. To let one idea or one piece of writing lead to the next until—from the outside—it looks like success. When really, we’re just driven by a sense exploration and a love for written stories.
Alissa Johnson writes and teaches from 9,000 feet above sea level in Crested Butte, CO. When she’s not writing or coaching, you can find her outside at any time of year, skiing, biking, or climbing. www.writingstrides.com.
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!
Labels: Alissa Johnson, Friday Speak Out, goals, love of writing, writer inspiration
The Author Website – Keep it Simple and to the Point
As an instructor of online classes that teach how to create and build an author and writer online presence, the most popular lesson, and the one that sparks the most questions, is how to create an effective author website.
While some marketers still lean toward the effectiveness of long copy, especially for sales pages, some heavy hitters like Mike Volpe of Hubspot.com say, simple works best. And, as time passes, this "simple" strategy is gaining more and more ground.
Why is this so?
The answer is time.
Have you landed on pages, especially sales pages that go on, and on, and on? I have and it actually kind of annoys me. If it’s a product I’m interested in I’ll scroll down, skimming, looking for highlights and the price in particular.
Have you scrolled down these pages and not been able to find the price? As crazy as it sounds, there are landing pages out there that you have to click on the BUY button to find out how much the product you’re interested in costs. This takes additional time.
You and everyone else are strapped for time today. We live in a faster and faster and faster world, a world that never sleeps, and this causes us to work more and more and at a faster and faster pace. According to the latest statistics, you have around FIVE seconds to grab a visitor, to convince or motivate him to pause long enough to move past the title and read your first and, hopefully, your second paragraph.
Time matters. Give the reader what she wants up front. And, what does she want?
The visitor to your site wants to know who you are and what you have to offer. Again, give the reader what she wants.
Keep your site simple, easy to read, and with a clear and simple call-to-action. And, if you have a product or service for sale, make the cost visible. Don’t make your landing page a Hide and Seek game. The visitor won’t appreciate it.
Okay, now that that you have the reasons for keeping your site simple and your call-to-action simple, here is one reason marketers may use the Hide and Seek strategy.
There is a marketing philosophy that uses a succession of Yeses to trigger the mind of the potential client or customer, or motivate him, to say YES to the offer. According to pro marketer Clay Collins, this is considered "micro commitments" or the YES ladder. Each time the visitor responds to the request, the conversion possibility increases.
While this might be a useful strategy for high-end products, for lower-end products, like your books or products under $50, this strategy could backfire, especially with time factored in the equation. It’s not a good thing to make visitors jump through hoops to get the information they need.
So, bottom-line, keep your author website simple and to the point.
For guidance on setting up your author web site and so much more, join Karen Cioffi's class for writers. CREATING AND BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR-WRITER ONLINE PRESENCE: Website Creation to Beyond Book/Product Sales starts Monday, May 6, 2013. For details and enrollment, visit our classroom page.
Labels: author website, Karen Cioffi, marketing tips, WOW Classes, WOW instructor
Dear Manuscript: It's Not You, It's Me
It’s been almost three years since you first began pursuing me. You followed me everywhere I went and spoke to me through the music I listened to. You introduced me to a dynamic group of characters and begged me to tell their stories. You made me want to revisit the town where I grew up and view it through different eyes.
We spent a crazy, whirlwind month together with me in front of the computer while you dictated. Sometimes, we argued. Sometimes, you made me cry. You kept me up late because I just wanted to hear how the story ended. And even after I heard it, our relationship continued through days of editing, proofreading, and a few beta readers. I was so excited about what we had created together, that I submitted queries to a few agents, only to hear, “sorry, I’m going to have to pass on this one.”
And then I’m not quite sure what happened. I got too caught up in what genre our story would fit into, and then I got frustrated. I pulled away from you. I thought we needed to spend some time apart so I could focus on my paying projects, which you couldn't understand. And then another, very different and shorter tale monopolized all my attention and I tried to avoid you altogether.
But I know that wasn’t fair, and you didn’t let me forget you were in my life first. You reminded me we have unfinished business. You suggested to me that we rework the chapters yet again, and convinced me that by revising the book into a young adult story we might have a fighting chance. I agreed with you, but I still haven’t let myself completely commit to you once again.
The problem was never you, it was me. I lost confidence. I let the nagging little doubts about plot, character development and resolution bring me down. I moved on and tried to forget about you. I’m so sorry for that.
I recently worked on those first chapters once again, and something clicked. I think we’re on the right track now. Thank you for not giving up on me. I look forward to spending many more hours with you again, really soon.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.
Labels: novel revision, Renee Roberson, the creative process
Interview With Virginia McRae: Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Runner-Up
Today we have another one of our fantastic Fall 2012 Flash Fiction winners joining us for a chat. Virginia McRae wrote an insightful piece called How Do You Greet A Ghost? If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, check it out by clicking on the title, then come back here to meet Virginia.
Virginia McRae lives with a beloved old cat in an old house in a small town in the far northwestern part of New Jersey, near the Delaware Water Gap. She has a law degree but moved to publishing. Recently retired as an independent copy editor specializing in cookbooks, she now has time to devote to completing the draft of a mystery novel set in ninth-century China. Inspired by the ever-popular Judge Dee mysteries of Robert Van Gulik, her own mystery reflects her lifelong passion for Chinese history and culture. She is also completing short stories, some with Chinese settings.
She has twice won first prize in the District of Columbia Bar Association’s short story competition, and also won first prize in the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival Short Story Contest, as well as winning third prize in the same contest. She was a winner in one of the Fish Publishing international short story contests. Her poetry has been published in literary journals.
A lover of old books, especially of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and of classical British mysteries, she is currently luxuriating in the eighteenth-century journals of James Boswell and the complete two-volume collection of Sherlock Holmes.
Congratulations on making the list of runners-up for our Fall Flash Fiction
contest! Can you start with telling us a bit about yourself?
Virginia: For some years I was an independent copyeditor for
commercial fiction and nonfiction. I'm
no longer working as a copyeditor and so I’m now free to return to reading the
old books I love--such as The Complete
Sherlock Holmes-- and to write my own stories, which are a little
think we need more stories like that today. You mentioned being a copywriter.
Have you always been a writer? Tell us that moment when you knew it was
something you wanted to pursue.
didn’t take up writing until I was middle-aged and won first prize in a writing
contest for members of the DC Bar Association.
Winning the prize made me want to keep going. I've written on and off since then.
That is wonderful. And I’m not surprised that your work has placed in contests
before. How inspirational. Your story, How Do You Greet a Ghost? was a
beautiful mix of humorous and touching. Please tell us the background of this
story and how it unfolded.
The story is based on something that actually happened to me in the local
A&P. It unfolded just as it's
written. The ending is my secret!
ha! Well, it had me tearing up by the end wanting to hear how it all turns out.
Any upcoming writing projects in the works or that we should watch out for?
I’m working on several short stories at the moment as well as a historical
mystery novel, which at the rate I'm going will probably take me years to
finish. Like any historical novel, it
takes a lot of research--more research than writing, or so it sometimes seems.
does take a lot of research for historical novels, doesn't it? You’ll have to
come back and share it with us once you get it published. Now before we let you
go today, can you please give us your top three writing tips to writing solid
I'm no expert on flash fiction, but for me the three most important things are
to cut, and cut, then cut some more--let go of things, no matter how precious
WOW: Excellent advice, Virginia. Thank
you for joining us and congratulations again!
Interview by Chynna Laird
Labels: Contestant interview, fall 2012 flash fiction contest, flash fiction runner up, Virginia McRae
Too Good To Be True? Veterinary Science, Sylvia Plath, and Teen Angst
By Allena Tapia
ou were probably missing from my high school. I graduated in a class of just 49 people, and finding a twin soul was rough. A degree in English and career in freelance writing has solved a lot of that, allowing me to (finally) meet many of you and recognize a fellow reader/writer/poet when I see one. But, you were not there for me when I needed you in high school, fellow writer!
You probably excelled in English, Theater and Comm classes, right? You wrote dark poetry that elicited giggles from your classmates but relieved your angst. You stayed up all night reading Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton until dawn, paying the price the next day in class. You got more excited about the new bookstore at the mall then you did about the new Claire's or Deb. Right? Is that you?
Well, it was certainly me.
Another problem I had in high school was that good examples of the writing career were not apparent to me. Now, I don’t mean to say that all the Plath and Atwood I could read weren’t excellent examples. But I identified that kind of career with a lightning strike. In addition, my work and writing was shorter, different, opinionated, argumentative, reflective. I had no idea that people got paid to write such things. I had no clue that whole careers could be built around that.
My problem was this: I had no idea this career existed.
Instead, I managed to convince myself that Veterinary Medicine was my future. I eschewed math and science, hid in libraries, and hated research—yet I spent 6 years of my education and life pursuing that path.
Do you know why I wasted those years? In retrospect, it wasn’t just the simple lack of knowledge. It was also this: I thought writing as a career was simply too good to be true. I didn’t believe that doing something that I loved with a passion could really pay the bills and constitute a career.
I decided that if it was too good to be true, then it simple wasn’t.
Can you imagine if I had never dropped that attitude? If I had never given the freelance writing career a chance? I’m afraid to think about it.
Today, I’m here to tell you something that might indeed seem too good to be true. There is a lucrative, fulfilling career to be had here. You can be paid for your writing, completed from your home, and done on your own schedule. I do it every day. And not only that, but there is an even more exciting subcategory to it:
There is a real market for book reviews out there.
So, not only can you be paid for writing, but you can also be paid for reading, and then writing about what you just read.
Now, if you’re my twin soul, which I suspect, then the very idea of that was probably pretty exciting. Interested? I’m teaching a virtual class on it starting April 29. Let’s connect, and I’ll show you how it’s done. We may not have connected in high school, but we can certainly give it a go now!
Allena Tapia's class, How to Become a Paid Book Reviewer
, starts Monday, April 29. Enrollment is limited to ten students and early registration is recommended.
Allena Tapia is a full time freelance writer and editor with over 7 years of publishing experience. In addition to writing, editing and translation, she teaches part time through a local community college community education program. Her students there have described her teaching style as engaging, informal, approachable and friendly.
Allena’s book reviews have been published by paid outlets such as Bitch
magazine, Sacramento Book Review
, and Kirkus Indie
. She has written for Huffington Post
, Latino Leaders, Hispanic Business
, Green Building and Design
, and MediaBistro
. She’s held contracts with The New York Times
, Gale Cengage and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Labels: Allena Tapia, book review, freelance writing, how to become a paid book reviewer
Encouraging and Creating Young Creative Writers
By Crystal Otto
Before I get too far in today’s post, I should tell you a bit about who I am. I’m a wife, a mother, a writer, a musician, and a dairy farmer. I don’t know how all these go together, but I have a sneaking suspicion that each of them play into my role as a teacher when it comes to teaching young people about creative writing. I work on special projects with my daughter’s class. She is in Kindergarten, and some of her creative writing has already been featured on my blog, submitted as part of a college project for her teacher, and shared with many via social media. My daughter turned six at the beginning of March; so when I speak to you about creating a young creative writer, I want you to know that a child is never too young to be creative.
The first stories that a child hears are simple spoken tales shared by their parents. Hearing develops in the womb at sixteen weeks. A sixteen-week-old child in the womb cannot understand your words, but the excitement and tone of your voice tell a very musical story (some scientists even argue that fetuses as young as seven months dream). After birth, it’s a similar situation. We read to our children, sing to our children, and converse in front of our children, and their brains process that information at whatever level they are at. That said, a child that can draw pictures—even simple stick people—can begin to tell a story.
When a child creates a piece of art or is animatedly explaining something to you, ask questions. Don’t assume that the scribble on the page is just a scribble or that the dinosaur is a tyrannosaurus. If you engage the youngest of children and ask questions about things, you’ll find that those pictures develop into written words and those short stories develop into longer stories and poems. What color was the slide? How big was the dinosaur? You were the tooth fairy—how did you get into the little girl’s house and what did you do with the tooth? Etc.
My children know that I write and ask me questions about what I’m writing (or what I’m reading), and we talk about my work as well as theirs. They beam with pride when they see my picture in the paper or I show them my name on the computer screen or in a book. To encourage their creative “work” as well, I have the luxury of going one step further than most parents. Most parents hang pictures or stories on the fridge or share them with friends and family. I am able to post some of the stories, pictures, and drawings on my blog, website, or social media. When the children see themselves and/or their creation “up in lights” as we say, they feel good and want to write more. This is something very easy to do as a parent, but a gift that will last a lifetime for the children. It’s never too early to share your passion for writing with your own children by volunteering at a library or school. Help encourage our future writers!
Labels: children imagination, children writing, creative children, creative writing children, parenting young children, teaching children to write, young writers
Learning to Adapt
Hello, Muffin friends! If I've learned one lesson from living the writer's life, it's this: adapt.
Of course, the second lesson I've learned is simple, too. When something goes wrong, everything
goes wrong. :)
Let's take today, for instance. I had planned on posting a book review for your Saturday viewing pleasure. But we've had trouble with our satellite internet system (you find you have that problem when you live in the boonies in the middle of nowhere) and instead of pages loading at a lightning-fast clip, it's like we're connecting via dial up. Yikes!
I forgot I had the Blogger app on my tablet until this morning, when I sprung up in bed around 6 AM, but I haven't figured out how to link or add photos. In other words, the book review will wait until next time.
I've learned to adapt when I'm on a story assignment, too. For example, I was assigned to cover a story that's of local, state and national interest. My job: cover it from the local angle since the major news outlets would cover the state and national impact. I sat through three hours of testimony from 60 individuals to hear four local speakers. Between note taking and tweeting highlights from speakers, my laptop battery drained quickly! Welcome to the world of smart phone reporting.
See, we writers adapt to less-than-favorable conditions at times. We modify schedules to meet deadlines. We adjust pieces of work to suit editors or agents or both.
Because we are
writers and we strive to get words on paper and tell a strong story and unleash the creative muse waiting to pounce on the page.
It's an innate trait.
How have you learned to adapt to bumps in the writing road?
by LuAnn Schindler
Labels: advice for writers, learning to adapt, LuAnn Schindler
Friday Speak Out!: Unleashing My Tongue Through the Reader’s Vision and Not My Own, Guest Post by Alexandra Caselle
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive
Audra Lorde, “A Litany for Survival”
As a woman, I love to unleash my tongue through the vehicle of writing. What better place to relax, relate, and release the mental playground of characters, ideas, thoughts, and emotions and examine each one closely? When I sit at my laptop, I don the smock of the word artist. I keystroke textual graffiti across a canvas of white space. It spirals into an intricate architecture of syntactical patterns.
I have an overall vision for each piece that I craft from my mind to page. There is an underlying message or image that I want to impress upon my reader. Sometimes the reader interprets a different meaning, and I feel a little discouraged.
As a woman, I have been here before. I talk to my loved ones, and they are just not getting what I am saying. I want them to understand my point-of-view. I experience a situation with my family, and each person comes away from it with a perspective, and it does not always match mine.
I’m always right in my head, or maybe I probably need to accept the inevitable. My daily manipulation of my imagination may have me a little delusional. Women and writers can be control freaks, or maybe it’s just me.
Another thing women and writers share in common is the fear of not being understood. It can sometimes lead to silence. But silence is the antithesis of writing. It is why I spend hours tending to so many ideas that I now have accumulated like stray cats inside my mind.
I have to let them out before they overcrowd my space.
A recent comment on a poem that I wrote has helped me to make my peace with the disconnection of my vision from the reader’s. Demetria Foster Gray tossed around different interpretations of the poem’s last line. She finally came to the conclusion that, “each reader, multiple interpretations and all of them relevant because the writer gave us pause, made us think, made us feel.”
Her comment reminds me of Louise Rosenblatt and her theory of transactional reading, the belief in the reader using her own background knowledge and life experiences as an interpretive lens of her reading. My writing is a tapestry of text, waiting for a reader to transform it into her own masterpiece of meaning.
Instead of a sense of disconnect, my writing serves as a conduit of creation authored to impact change in my readers. Leaving an impact on this world through my writing is one of the many reasons why I write.
Alexandra Caselle is an aspiring, native Floridian writer and poet and a former secondary and postsecondary English teacher. She maintains two blogs:
Womanlution: Inside the Mind of Alexandra Caselle (http://womanlution.wordpress.com), a blog of young adult literature reviews, original YA and literary/reading concept stories, teaching memoirs, and a little something of everything and
Rhet Effects (http://rheteffects.wordpress.com) , a blog about writing and writing conventions through the art of the story. She aims to change the literary and educational world, one story at a time. She is currently working on a novel and a book of poetry. She also is known to hang out on Twitter, Facebook, & SheWrites.
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!
Labels: Alexandra Caselle, Friday Speak Out, writer inspiration
Networking Means Following Up
I attended two important events this past weekend, the National Science Teacher’s Association and a writing retreat. One goal was to network, to meet people who might be interested in my career, meet people who might have common goals for connecting kids with books, and to get a wider sense of the publishing industry. In other words, I wasn’t out just for what I could get from others, but I was interested in connecting with people who share a wider concern that kids need a wide range of books, especially those featuring science and nature.
At the NSTA, I met editors, writers, educators and scientists. At the writing retreat, I met writers, agents and editors. Great. It was fun to get out of my writing cave and meet-and-greet. I found common ground with various folks on various issues. Some people rose to the top of my consciousness and I truly hope we meet again.
And while I was at it, some projects were mentioned: future retreats, proposals for future books, and possible participation in an academic book where I might contribute a chapter. Along the way, I made an emotional investment in the success of others’ projects.
Weekend ends. I come home.
I collected business cards from various people and have things to follow up on. In some ways, this is the most important part of the networking, what you DO with the connections when you get home.
- I uploaded photos to a Facebook album.
- I did a blog post, "6 Reasons to Attend a National Convention".
- I sent photos to several people--I love taking photos and offering to email them later. It's a great way to connect.
- I emailed a couple dozen people, just an encouraging note.
- I read an author’s book and sent fan mail—and posted an Amazon review.
- I used information and feedback to make a couple small, but important changes in my own projects, changing a title and slanting a pitch a different way.
- With another writer, we proposed a session for next year’s NSTA conference.
- With another writer, we are working on proposals for other retreats.
- I submitted a manuscript.
- I am starting to work on another project that I pitched and the editor wants to see; this meant coordinating with the illustrator/photographer, so we’ve already met and discussed various issues.
At the Sea World booth, they kept bringing in live animals. One publisher's rep asked me to end her this penguin photo to give to her daughter. One great way to connect with folks is to offer to send them a photo later--and then make sure you follow-up and really send it
Follow-up. It’s important.
It starts with the conversations that you have. But you also need to take business cards and collect business cards. Write notes on the back, if needed, to remember what actions you are supposed to take. Remember that it’s not just about you and your needs—it’s about the community. So take note of what someone else needs or wants and see if you can meet that need in some way. And don’t hesitate to nudge those you met for something that you need—it’s a two-way street.
What you can’t do is come home and collapse and do nothing.
You must follow-up.
I ended almost all my follow-up emails with this comment: "Send me your good news!"
Because it's not just about me--it's about the community.
Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes
and blogs about education at CommonCoreStandards.com
Follow Darcy on Pinterest
First Readers Help You Know More Than You Thought You Knew About What You Wanted to Say
Finding out the impact of your drafts on readers can help you be brilliant on the page when you revise. Here's how to get the most help from early readers:
Have them answer these questions after reading what you've written:
What words and phrases remain memorable after you’ve heard my essay?
What feelings do you experience from hearing or reading my essay that you think are intended?
What feelings do you have that interfere with the ones the essay is going for? Where in the draft does that happen?
Where are you curious to know more?
All responders, those who know the situation and those who don’t, will usually want to see more than you’ve given them. The ones who were there and know the situation you are writing about may have memories that will be useful to you; they may also wish for you to include things they remember only because they were left out of your account. Responders who don’t know the situation may be so interested in you or what you have on the page so far, that they think they want to know much more than the essay ultimately will require. There is magic in having these responses, though. In adding in information that will satisfy some of their curiosities, you usually redirect the readers’ attention and in final versions, they no longer think they need to know more.
If you listen to responses to these four questions, you will have a great head start every time you start a revision. You will find it easier to shape your essay for finding and communicating insight.
When you rewrite, if what you wanted to say was misinterpreted or not picked up, you’ll find a way to be sure the experience is in there. Sometimes, readers are smarter than you are—they see what the writing says and what it says is amazing and you can run with it.
For instance, a student of mine thought she was writing a piece putting herself down for being a clutterer and promising herself (and the world) she would do better. When I read the piece, cluttering sounded delicious as she described it—maybe not PC but wonderfully rich. My response was that I enjoyed the clutter and the connections she could make by looking at the things around her. Originally, the author had a statement in her work about doing as the anti-clutter movement says should be done. After my response as well as the whole groups’, she came across an article in the NY Times
that said, “Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. She could use a quote from the article s an epigraph for the essay her own words steered her toward.
To bring an essay to successful completion: write and show your writing to trusted readers and if you listen with an open ear, their responses will help you find your deepest truths.
Sheila Bender's class, Creating Poems and Personal Essays from Journal and Journal Style Writings, starts Friday, May 3, 2013. Enrollment is limited to 10 students and early registration is recommended. For details, visit our classroom page.
Labels: beta readers, critiques, essay tips, essay writing, first draft, rewriting, rough draft, Sheila Bender, WOW instructor
Interview with Jacqueline Allan: Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Runner-up
Today we’re chatting with Jacqueline Allan, one of our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest winners. If you haven’t read her entry, Breakfast in Bed
, please take a moment to enjoy it now and come back to meet this wonderful writer!
Jacqueline Allan lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two young children.
She has enjoyed a long and varied career in Arts Administration and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Classical Literature from Monash University, Australia.
It was only after her youngest child started school however, that Jacqueline decided it was time to pursue further studies in order to fulfill her own long-held creative ambitions.
She has one more year to complete of a Professional Writing and Editing Diploma. Exploring a wide range of writing disciplines including Journalism, Creative Non-Fiction and Memoir, she always returns to Fiction, and the short story in particular, as her preferred genre of creative expression. She lists O Henry, W. Somerset Maugham and Katherine Mansfield as the heroes of the short story form.
Jacqueline was recently commended as a runner up in the 2012 Words with JAM (UK) Short Story Competition for her piece A Cautionary Tale of Love and Tissue Paper.
She is delighted and honored to be a finalist in this competition.
WOW: Good morning Jacqueline, congratulations on placing in the Fall 2101 Flash Fiction Contest! I enjoyed the little twist at the end of Breakfast in Bed; how did that come about?
Jacqueline: Well, thankfully it’s not based on personal experience. For the purpose of the story however, I liked the comic notion of this girl, riddled with guilt who actually gets pipped at the post with a revelation much greater than her own.
WOW: It is a fun story and did a wonderful job exploring her conflicting emotions!
Going back to school and pursuing a writing career can be a time-juggling nightmare for anyone—especially for those of us with children. What advice can you share with our busy mom-writers?
Jacqueline: It is very difficult, I can’t pretend that it isn’t, and I’m a sole parent and working as well. The best advice for any writer with children has to be this: Don’t neglect your children for the sake of your writing but … don’t neglect your writing either! It’s the eternal conundrum isn’t it? All about striking a balance and being organized to the nth degree.
WOW: Many writers decide to just jump in to writing with a meager amount of class time whereas you decided to go back to school. What are the benefits of continued education?
Jacqueline: I can only speak from personal experience but the benefit for me has been the discipline that a structured course can offer. I have also been very fortunate in the guidance offered by teachers and educators who have been incredibly encouraging in my writing pursuits and who have helped me discover what I’m good at. You can never stop learning and let’s face it: further studies in writing prepare you for the real world of Professional Writing, which is all about smooth delivery, discipline and deadlines.
WOW: You mentioned a love of fiction; what are the challenges to writing a flash piece?
Jacqueline: Obviously, economy of language and economy of action. In Flash Fiction a whole story needs to be told within a limited word count so what is not revealed needs to be implied I suppose. That’s the trick.
WOW: With a B.A. in classical literature and your current studies it sounds like you’re gearing up for something—what are your plans?
Jacqueline: I wish I knew but in the short term--finishing the Diploma. Securing work where my writing skills are of use and permit me some creativity as well, that would be terrific. But I love writing short fiction and I’ll simply continue entering competitions so all my thanks to WOW for this opportunity and recognition.
WOW: We hope to see you in our future Flash Fiction Contests!
Interview by Robyn Chausse
Labels: Contestant interview, fall 2012 flash fiction contest, flash fiction runner up, Jacqueline Allan
Tin God by Stacy Green (Review and Giveaway)
begins with Jayme’s secret, but there are others with even darker secrets needing to be brought to light. It wasn’t going to be easy for Jayme and Nick to prove their case, especially since their prime target was the beloved minister who seemed to have more secrets than any one of the sheep of his congregation. Was he truly the man the community loved, or was he the devil Nick and Jayme believed him to be? Would they go too far to solve the mystery?
It’s hard to fit Tin God
into a single reading category. Stacy Green does a fabulous job with this story and it could be labeled: murder mystery, suspense, romance, and family drama. Discovering the dead body of her employer is just the beginning for young Jayme Ballard. As her tale unfolds she is forced to face her past, which allows Jayme to finally move forward. She learns who can and cannot be trusted and finds out that her judgment may not have always been what it should be.
Nick Samuels made his fair share of mistakes as a husband and promised he would find his wife’s killer no matter what the cost. It’s been four years since his wife, Lana, was murdered and Nick doesn’t believe the murder in Roselea, Mississippi to a woman who looks just like his wife could be a simple coincidence. Armed with years of angst, a steady diet of coffee, and very little sleep, Nick heads for the neighboring town, the crime scene, and his wife’s family. He finds Jayme Ballard, Lana’s best friend, and also the one who found the recent dead body. It’s time for Jayme to tell Nick about her secret; he needs some answers if he’s going to solve these murders.
Green’s descriptions are as vivid as the gorgeous cover of Tin God
as she brings to life the historic mansions, the deep characters, and the colorful landscape. Even the description of the trailer court is so well described that a picture will immediately form as you read Green’s eloquent words: “Ravenna Court was about as beautiful as a rattlesnake bite…Instead of cultivating colorful flowers, residents battled kudzu and stubborn cogon grass…”
As I finished reading Tin God
, I was hoping Stacy Green was writing another story. She brought out the characters so well I wanted more. This story kept me guessing and second guessing about motive, friendship, and who was involved in the murders. Fabulous book I would, without a doubt, recommend to others!
was raised in southeastern Iowa and grew up watching crime shows with her parents, so her love of suspense and psychological thrillers is no surprise. She's fascinated by the workings of the criminal mind and explores true crime on her popular Thriller Thursday posts at her blog, Turning the Page
After earning a degree in journalism, Stacy worked in advertising before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. She rediscovered her love of writing and wrote several articles for a city magazine before penning her first novel. She shelved the long drama and began working on a suspense book set in Las Vegas, featuring a heroine on the edge of disaster, a tormented villain, and the city's infamous storm drains that house hundreds of homeless. That book is Into The Dark
—Stacy's first novel—a suspense with a dash of romance. She also published Welcome To Las Vegas
, a short story. Tin God
is her second novel.
For those who enjoyed Tin God
as much as I did, you’ll want to add to your reading list: book two in the Delta Crossroads Series, Skeleton’s Key
(Fall 2013). This second book features Cage who had lusted over the unavailable Jayme. Cage is trying to move on, but discovers something in the cellar of an abandoned plantation that sends him on a collision course of secrets, lies, and love.
~ Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win an autographed copy, personalized to the winner, of Tin God
by Stacy Green! Winner will also receive a charm, button, and bookmark!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Labels: dark secrets, murder mystery, mystery, romance, Stacy Green, suspense, Tin God
Five Year Writing Plans
|by Wonderlane Flickr.com|
I'm currently editing articles for our next e-zine, Issue #56, with the theme of psychology for writers. As a writer, you know how much of the daily writing process is mental preparation. You have to mentally prepare yourself all the time to work on your writing, and there are probably hundreds of reasons why you could have writers' block. This is why one of my favorite classes to teach online is Writing for Children: How to Get Started and Take Hold of Your Career.
And one of my favorite exercises in the class is creating a five-year plan or vision for each student's writing career.
Why do I think this is important? We already make six-month and one-year goals in the class. The goals are S.M.A.R.T., which is also crucial. S. M. A. R. T. means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. For example, I talk to my students about having a goal, such as, "I will finish my 30,000-word middle-grade novel in six-months by writing 5000 words a month," as opposed to: "I will write three picture books and send them off in six months." We make plans for how we will achieve each goal and make sure it will actually work in the lives of each individual student. This is important for our mental health! And if you have never done this, I encourage you to, AND share these goals with the people you live with, so they can help you achieve them.
But the five-year plan/vision is something different. It makes you imagine your life as you REALLY
want it in five years, but only focusing on the things you can actually control .So for example, a lot of writers want to write: "In five years, my novel will be published and on the New York Times Bestseller List."
This is a fine dream and one that should never be squashed. However, it doesn't belong on a five-year career vision because you can't control getting on the New York Times
list.. A better five-year plan would be: "In five years, I will have a published novel. I will either publish it traditionally or self-publish. I will be busy marketing by having a blog on the topic, visiting other blogs, working on speaking engagements, and writing freelance articles on the topic. I plan to support myself with my writing in five years OR have a part-time job that allows me to write in the morning when I am at my best."
I ask students to be optimistic when turning in their five-year plans, but to try to include only things that they can actually control. This is hard--again, I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings or ask people not to dream. But I do think it's important when thinking of your writing as a career that you are realistic with a bit of hope and optimism thrown in.
In my opinion, part of writer's block or even writer's apathy comes because you have set too high of expectations for yourself or even goals that you cannot control. (As much as we try, we can't control those agents or editors or even readers whom we want to buy our book!) Also, if you don't envision your life as a writer, in my opinion, it's easy to let other things take over--other hobbies, family commitments, part-time jobs, volunteer positions, and so on. If you keep the ultimate five-year vision in mind, then you will have an easier time saying no to some of these extraneous things.
If you've never done a long-range vision for your career, I encourage you to. Share part or all of it with us in the comments! We'd love to hear. :)
If you are interested in Margo's class: Writing for Children: How to Get Started and Take Hold of Your Career
, which includes a critique on a picture book manuscript or 10-pages of a novel, then you can find more information here
. Margo is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg
and edits most of the e-zine articles for WOW!
Labels: career, freelance career, goals, Margo L. Dill, SMART goals, writing plan
From the Other Side of the Desk
I consider myself a writer. I also edit copy for a living. But in the past few months, I've also taken on the role as the editor of a nonfiction magazine. I'm on the other side of the desk now and it's a strange feeling.
: It's a publication within the organization where I work and, unfortunately, it doesn't allow for pitches or assignments for freelance writers.)
This editor position is a different role than the writer positions I've had before. I'm still evolving as an editor. But I've learned some important lessons that I've tried to pass along to my writers, which I thought I'd pass along to readers of The Muffin:
- Tell a story. Although facts and figures are important, a story will captivate the reader more than a recitation of the facts. Stuck on the numbers? Think of ways you would explain the story to your mother or good friend and they ask: Why do these facts or numbers matter? That can help you crystallize the heart of the story.
- Research. And research some more. If you haven't found a story yet, keep looking. In my role as a writer, I've often worked to tease out a story and that sometimes involves having to dig deeper into your research. More research can uncover a thread that can lead the reader through your piece.
- What interests you? Good chance that if you write, you probably read a lot. Take a look at some of the articles that you have enjoyed reading and figure out what attracts you to the writing. Did the story start with a quotation? Is it a first-person tale? Try to apply some of those elements to your own writing.
- Ask a peer to read your work. When you are writing an article, ask for feedback from your peers or, if you know them, readers of the magazine. Oftentimes if someone is familiar with a magazine, she can help identify how to make your article stronger.
- Proofread! So, you've found your story and you've layered it with the best you have to offer. You are ready to turn it in. Or are you? Step away from it and give yourself some distance. When you return to the piece, read through it and look for rough patches and typos. Make sure you turn in your best work.
In my new role, I'm also making it a point to keep an open dialogue between my writers and me. If they have questions, I encourage them to ask. And I'll even try to help them with their drafts.
I'm still learning how to be a magazine editor. What lessons have you learned from an editor you've worked with? What's the best advice you've ever received from an editor?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, North Carolina. The azalea blossoms are this weekend's distraction. What's your weekend distraction?
Labels: changes, editor, Elizabeth King Humphrey
Friday Speak Out!: In The Company Of Women, Guest Post by Julie Luek
Several years ago, I worked at a college. I liked my job, but I was missing the element of female friendship in my life. I’d read articles, with envy, in magazines like Oprah about the power of women companionship and wondered how I could find the time and opportunity to find female companionship within my predictable pattern of living.
My loneliness birthed an idea: I put together a random list of women I knew, across the various fields and hierarchies of the college, and invited them to meet for a glass of wine. Women, who would ordinarily not have crossed paths, began to meet, talk, laugh, share. Two years later, even though I no longer work there, the tradition carries on and fortunately, I’m still on that email list.
Our get-togethers didn’t quite end up like an Oprah article, but I forged new friendships and enjoyed the conversation and laughter that can only be found in the company of other women.
As I moved into a new phase in life, choosing to pursue writing full-time, I found myself having the same inner craving to find a group of like-minded women to share in the journey. Of course the argument can be well-made that the gender is inconsequential, but I have found, as with my work friends, the camaraderie and understanding of women to be soothing and resounding in my heart.
I have a couple online women writer friends who are my go-to people when I’m feeling stressed, stuck or wanting to celebrate. When I’m in a whining mode, before launching into problem-solving, my women friends will take the time to respond to the heart first, empathizing with my emotions.
A friend of mine and I recently made a “chat appointment” on Facebook to catch up with each other’s writing progress. She knows I’m in the midst of changing my genre focus. Instead of asking what I’m working on or about my goals, she immediately first affirmed my decision by reflecting on the talent she sees in my writing. Like sipping a good wine, I felt my insecurities relax.
Women writers are willing to tackle, not just the mechanics or goals, but to also talk about the more existential reasons for writing beyond a career choice. We are able to acknowledge and explore our journey as an evolving expression of who we are.
I want to be careful to avoid stereotype. I realize these qualities aren’t exclusive to being a woman. I also realize not all women possess nor want to dwell in the emotional and spiritual reasons for writing. But I believe there is a common language in the company of women who share our passion.
I believe strongly in the benefits of the community of women writers. So pull up a chair, and grab a beverage of your choice. Let’s rise above the sense of competition and toast our successes and empathize with each other on this journey. As women, we can be the support our hearts crave.
Julie Luek lives in the mountains of Colorado and enjoys hiking, kayaking and cross-country skiing. She is a freelance writer published in regional and national magazines. She is also a bi-monthly contributor to She Writes and a monthly contributor the
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog, The Chiseled Rock. Julie maintains two blogs, A Thought Grows and In Fine Company. She loves making new writer friends and supporting and encouraging others on this exciting journey. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter and welcomes a friendly hello anytime.
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!
Labels: Friday Speak Out, friends, friendship, Julie Luek, women, writing support