Friday Speak Out!: On Becoming Seventy-Eight, Guest post by Jo Barney
Posted by MP at 9:20 AM
For much of my life I’ve avoided old ladies. Not that I didn’t like them. Mostly, they just didn’t interest me much. A few of these almost invisible, women come to mind:
My grandma Anderl, a pudding of a woman who lived with my family for several of the last years of her life, her daily glass of bourbon, doctor-prescribed, she insisted.
Mrs. Kauffman, the housemother in my college sorority with her lacquered hair and manicured nails who taught me how to iron my marriage sheets.
Ms. Pedersen, the spinster English teacher in the room next to mine, recycling meticulous forty-year-old lesson plans and asking if I’d like to borrow them.
The elementary teacher in the room down the hall, who at sixty, attained her life’s goal of becoming a school principal, just in time to retire.
The Medicare-eligible counselor, dissatisfied with daytime TV, returning to her job on the kindergarten story rug, it meant leaning on at least one five-year-old to rise up.
My unnaturally coal-black-haired, neighbor, with her push-up bra decolletage, searching the Internet daily for a newer, younger bedmate.
The shopper in the plastic rain cap leaning over the head lettuce, asking how it’s doing today.
For years, I observed these women. From a distance, smiling a little, turning away. They had little to do with me, with who I was, with what my life was all about.
And now I’m one of them.
Today I heard myself talking to the Brussels sprouts in the vegetable section. ‘Nasty little buggers. Why did I marry a man who loves you?”
Last week I ironed our cotton sheets because the wrinkles in the top hem chafed my chin. “Should have bought polyester,” I muttered into my ironing board. Mrs. K. didn’t have that choice back then.
For some reason, I sidled into Victoria’s Secret this weekend and, with boobs smashed into steel-like armature, felt as if I were an ancient stand-in for Super Woman.
A week ago, I advised the copyeditor of my almost-published book that her excessive salting of commas needed to be tamped down; also, semi-colons, not to mention colons and M-dashes . I could hear Ms. Petersen cheering.
This lazy morning, I drank a third cup of coffee and glanced at the want ads. Someone needed a tutor willing to work with reluctant learners. I almost called for an interview when I realized I truly am not able to get up off the reluctant learner rug.
Tonight, I poured myself a sip of Scotch and settled into the news on PBS, a nice way to end the day, even if my doctor did not prescribe it. Grandma knew.
Tomorrow, I will receive the proof of Graffiti Grandma. I am to give the go-ahead on its publishing, a little like getting a principalship and then realizing that you don’t have the time to create your perfect school. I’m understanding that from here on out, my goal will most likely be what it is for all old ladies: one day at a time, seize that day, breathe, be glad to be alive and kicking; always carry a plastic rain cap in a coat pocket.
* * *
Once I retired from working as a counselor in public schools, I started my second career as a writer. During these ten or so years I've finished four novels, published two, and have had a number of short stories and essays appear on line and in print. I usually write about women, and as I age, so do they. Old ladies keep popping up in my stories and in my dreams, and they all learn that they can still choose which path they will take next as they head through the thickets.
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!
Do This For Your Children's Writing Career: Join SCBWI!
Posted by Margo Dill at 2:07 AM
I admit it, I'm a joiner. I belong to three writing groups and a critique group: Missouri Writers' Guild, Saturday Writers (a local chapter of MWG), and SCBWI. I think the best way to keep your head up and words on the page, while you are pursuing your writing career, is by networking, discussing, and being around other writers. It's important to do this in person and online, and it's important no matter what genre you write.
But if you are a children's writer or illustrator, fiction or nonfiction, for ages 0 to 18, then you should seriously consider joining the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, otherwise known as SCBWI. I'm not usually so opinionated--and I'm hoping that some of my fellow WOW! readers and SCBWI members will chime in here, too--but there is not a better organization for children's and YA writers in my opinion.
First, it's only $85 for the first year's dues, and $70 after that. This is for an entire year, and so per month, you are only spending $7.08 a month on your writing career the first year, and $5.83 a month after that. Don't go to Panera Bread for lunch one day each month, and you've got the dues. Plus, if you are claiming writing expenses and revenue on your taxes (which you should be), the dues is one of your writing expenses!
For your membership, you get a plethora (thank Cathy Hall for this great word choice! ) of FREE writing resources from the inside track on agents and editors who are accepting manuscripts to magazine listings to children's book reviewers and blogs. You can build a profile on their website as well as numerous other membership benefits, which you can check out here.
I'm not going to repeat everything their site says because I'd rather share personally how I've used SCBWI in my writing life. First, I love the fact that when you join the national level, you are automatically put into the state chapter FOR FREE. This is where you will do a majority of your activities. State chapters have free workshops as well as paid conferences and retreats. Members always get a discount to the paid events. Most state chapters have a message board, website, and/or newsletter that is full of information you can use for your writing career. And best of all, real, live writers in your very own state, many published and knowledgeable, are now accessible right at your fingertips. They want to help you and talk with you because you are fellow SCBWI members.
Conference @ the Hyatt Regency
When I lived in Illinois, I found my critique group through SCBWI. I participated and led free shop talks and networked with some very well-established authors. We attended the LA conference at the beautiful Hyatt Regency hotel, where I learned all about Facebook and blogging and started both in August 2008. I'm sure that my career took off, and that I sold more books as a result of this. I know a lot more people in the business and am surrounded by great marketing ideas and creative brilliance all the time. Currently, in Missouri, I've been asked to lead a writing workshop on June 8--this is a paid speaking opportunity where I can also sell books. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
If you are looking for an organization with professional children's and YA writers, full of benefits--including ones that will help you get published and market your book--then go to SCBWI now and sign up!
Please share your experiences and opinions if you are a member, too. Questions are great, too!
Margo Dill teaches several online children's and YA classes for WOW!, including one on taking hold of your career, another on short fiction, and a novel writing workshop, too. For more information, check out the WOW! classroom.
As writers, we're all looking for extra sources of income. It's why some writers take up blogging, public speaking, teaching classes or phone consulting. But I have a feeling many writers, like myself, have an extra source of income right under their noses. This is why I suggest you do something I try to do every few months when I need to start prospecting. I go on a scavenger hunt!
Here's a look at where you can go on your own scavenger hunt, and what you just might find:
Your bookshelf – It always surprises me when I walk by my bookcase and notice a book I completely forgot about. But that pile of books has been a great help to me on days I’m trying to develop some fresh new content for my writing blog. Recently I wrote and posted a review of one of my favorite summer beach reads just for the heck of it, and found some great ideas for new blog posts and trade articles from several of the writing “how-to” books that I own.
Back issues of magazines - What writer doesn't have back issues of magazines lying around? I hope I’m not the only magazine hoarder! I like to look at old issues of national parenting magazines and come up with localized, shorter article ideas on evergreen topics for regional parenting magazines. You can also take a topic covered in a women's magazine and figure out how to work it into a completely different article, such as a lifestyle piece for a local newspaper. And every time I pick up a back issue of one of my favorite trade magazines for writers, I find new market listings or contests I was too busy to scan the first time around.
Your computer - Chances are, there are some drafts of personal essays or blog post ideas you never fleshed out filed away on your hard drive somewhere. You can also scan old articles on your computer and see if any of them are available for reprint. Spend one day a week researching reprint markets for your archived articles and you can easily add a few hundred dollars to your monthly income.
So what are you waiting for? I challenge you to go on your own scavenger hunt today and unearth some of these hidden treasures! I'd love to hear about what you find.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.
Interview With Katy Regnery: Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Runner-Up
Posted by Chynna at 10:03 AM
Ready to meet another one of our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction winners? Today Katy Regnery joins us to talk about her story The Nanny, and all things writing. Click on the title to check out Katy's wonderful work, then come back to enjoy our chat.
New author KATY REGNERY, winner of the 2013 NECRWA First Kiss contest and 3rd place finalist in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations contest, has always loved telling a good story, and credits her mother with making funny, heartwarming tales come alive throughout her childhood. A lifelong devotee of all romance writing from Edwardian to present-day, it was just a matter of time before Katy tried her hand at writing a love story of her own.
Katy's debut novel, A Christmas Romance, will be published by Boroughs Publishing Group and available on Amazon in October 2013.
Katy lives in the relative-wilds of northern Fairfield County, Connecticut where her writing room looks out at the woods, and her husband, two young children and two dogs create just enough cheerful chaos to remind her that the very best love stories of all can often be the messy or unexpected ones.
WOW: Katy, huge congratulations for making the runners-up list in our Fall Flash Fiction contest! We’d love to hear a little bit about you.
KATY: Thanks so much! It was very exciting to place, especially since Flash Fiction is—in my opinion—one of the toughest genres to write. I write romance novels, which give you a little higher word count to work with!
WOW: Ha ha! I totally agree. Your fantastic submission, The Nanny, offered readers a bit of mystery with a fun twist at the end (I never saw that coming!). Tell us where this story came from.
KATY: My writing teacher (his name is Chris Belden, for anyone in Connecticut looking for a 1st class editor or teacher!) gave us the assignment of writing a short piece wherein the reader figures out a secret unknown to the narrator or main character. He based the exercise on the short piece by Jean Rhys entitled “I Used to Live Here Once” in which the narrator is a woman returning to her childhood home. Little by little, with incredible subtlety, the reader comes to understand that she is dead and is actually visiting her old stomping grounds in the form of a ghost. I started thinking about secrets . . . big secrets that could be potentially devastating . . . and mistaken parentage came to mind. I have to say, it was a lot of fun to write—to reveal the secret to the reader while keeping the narrator in the proverbial dark.
WOW: What a cool assignment! I may try testing out that idea. As you touched on earlier, writing flash fiction can be more difficult than writing novels for some writers, perhaps due to having to create an entire story with a more restricted word maximum. Any more thoughts on this?
KATY: I think Flash is possibly the most challenging genre of writing. Every word has to be exquisitely placed; you can’t waste words, and you can’t extrapolate on a single idea with pages of explanation. Each word must be perfectly chosen for maximum efficiency and punch.
WOW: Exactly. But you've obviously tackled the challenge like a pro. Is writing a ‘job’ for you or more of a hobby? Tell us about your writing routine when you settle down to get those stories out.
KATY: Writing started out as a hobby for me, but when I signed my first contract with Boroughs Publishing Group this past March, it became my job! Well, my job in addition to being a full-time homemaker and at-home mother to two children. My first book, A Christmas Romance, will be available on Amazon this Fall.
As for a routine? I start every morning with two eggs, an apple and a cup of coffee. I spend 45-minutes on e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, then straighten up my house and drive my kids to school. Then I have to knuckle down because I have about three hours while my daughter is at school to write, and it can’t be wasted. I try to churn out 1000 words a day. Hey! That’s like a new flash story every day!
WOW: Thank you for giving us a bit of insight into your writing world. And, by the way, as a fellow writing mom I so 'get' having to cram as much writing as possible into a small time frame. You are doing a great job. Before we let you go, do you have any writing pearls of wisdom for our readers? We’d love to hear them.
KATY: Don’t give up.
Keep submitting your work to contests and publishers.
Be grateful for constructive criticism and use it.
Be grateful for mentors and listen to them.
Edit, edit, edit.
Kill your darlings when necessary.
Join a critique group.
Edit some more.
Remember that the road to publishing is paved with rejection letters.
Cry a little bit.
Develop a thicker skin.
Edit a little more.
Submit a little more.
Polish your work to a high shine.
Seek out other writers.
Edit. Polish. Submit.
And above all…
WOW: Fantastic list of pearls, Katy. We've had a lot of fun today. Thanks for dropping by and congratulations again!
Author Lisa de Nikolits Launches her novel A Glittering Chaos
Posted by Jodi Webb at 1:30 AM
& giveaway contest!
A terrific, smart, funny and incredibly wise story about marriage, secrets and lies and unusual sexual proclivities.
A German woman in her early-forties insists on accompanying her husband to Las Vegas, where he has a business conference. Unknown to her the conference is a pretext; he's there to find a psychic who will help him contact his sister who vanished at fourteen.
A key theme is how one person's psychiatric problems can move like a destructive whirlwind through other people's lives and within the confines of a curious and shifting family dynamic.
Melusine (protagonist) is a passionate and creative woman with a high tolerance for the eccentric expressions of human frailty. From suppressed wife and librarian to nude model; to writer of an erotic Sapphic novella; and finally to pastry chef and adoptive mother of a baby boy, she has a good sense of self-discovery-she embraces her erotic desires with self-love after she realises, with surprise, that she even has an erotic self.
A Glittering Chaos is a novel about empowerment and new beginnings at every stage of life, with a diverse cast of unconventional characters of all ages and sexual orientations who find themselves in intriguingly unusual situations.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of A Glittering Chaos, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, May 31 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.
Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women's Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award. Her second novel, West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine's four Editor's Picks. Lisa has also written poetry, short stories, magazine articles and children’s books. She also spent many years as the art director for fashion magazines around the world.
Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
WOW: Lisa, you're a WOW veteran. This is your third WOW blog tour so we'd love to pick your brain about novel writing. You're touring with A Glittering Chaos this time. How do you feel your three books are alike? How are they different? Do you feel all your books will appeal to the same audience?
Lisa: In the most obvious sense, the three books couldn’t differ more; The Hungry Mirror has an unnamed protagonist battling with body image and eating disorders within the world of fashion and beauty magazine; West of Wawa sees Benny, neurotic self-medicator and new immigrant to Canada take an extensive back-packing trip across the great North, shedding emotional baggage and pain along the way and learning that life’s not so bad, even with all the hard knocks; and inA Glittering Chaos we have Melusine whose marriage of twenty years is under threat by the increasing impact of her husband’s dark secret.
Thematically, the books could not be more different but if you were to take the three novels and black out the covers and give them to a focus group of readers along with six other blacked out books, and ask them to identify any three written by the same author, I’m confident they’d recognize mine. This is because in spite of story or theme changes, my writing style is somewhat unique (something I both deplore and like) and it’s easily recognizable and while the plots and set-ups change dramatically, each book features a female protagonist who is faced with a life-changing challenge; she gets knocked down but she gets back up again and she triumphs and by that I mean that she learns to find joy and inner peace by living life her way, without lies, without deception.
So yes, even although the themes are very different, I believe that people would be able to say (quite quickly) that yes, this is a Lisa de Nikolits' book.
In terms of appealing to the same audience, the answer to that is a surprising yes! And I say surprising because I myself have been surprised; a number of readers started with West of Wawa, then read The Hungry Mirror and have already responded with enthusiasm to A Glittering Chaos—and that’s men and women alike! I wouldn’t have thought the books would have that sort of general appeal and that they do, speaks to the above mention of the commonality within my books; a message of hope with a journey of growth and triumph and redemption in the end.
WOW: If you could go back and tell yourself something you now know about novel writing before you even began your first novel The Hungry Mirror, what would the lesson be?
Lisa: Find someone you trust to give you feedback very early on in the process. I worked solo for many years and I kept making the same mistakes without even knowing that I was making them. My writing only grew and changed when I received feedback the hard way, by rejection. The biggest gift was rejection letters that came with some explanation; this way I gleaned pointers that I could identify as weak spots in my writing.
WOW: Yes, we all need to realize that rejection is a necessary evil. Of course, in the moment rejection doesn't feel very helpful, does it? Do you have any tips for seeing yourself through rejection?
Lisa: I really do try to be zen about this in the sense that there is good and there is bad in life and I tell myself fine, it doesn't feel nice, in fact it feels horrible BUT (and I do talk to myself in CAPS at times like these), good has happened before and therefore, logically speaking, good MUST happen again! I combine a stern self-talk with logic and Buddhism and then I have a bubble bath and eat chocolate! And if none of that helps, I remember the bad dates I went on before I met my husband and I thank the heavens that I never ended up with any of those fellows and I apply the same principle to the rejection; that it must have happened for some reason I may never understand but I have to trust the unseen and know that it’s for the best. And when we think that we will never be able to acknowledge well, that was for the best, then the only thing left to do is make the best of it, which usually means carrying on, one foot in front of the other. Never give up, never surrender—and that’s never more important than when it comes to your dreams.
WOW: Does novel writing get easier? Do you feel more confident about your talent?
Lisa: I think it does get easier. It’s like anything—you improve with practice. That is, as long as it’s focused practice, with intent to improve. There’s that trending saying right now, about 10,000 hours; that all you need is 10,000 hours and you’ll be a superstar in your field of choice—but let’s say you want to win the high jump and you practice by jogging kilometers each day, telling yourself that it will all go towards your high jump, that you’re building stamina . . . well, you can easily see that that wouldn’t do any good at all.
In much the same way, when I was younger, I wrote reams and reams but I never got any feedback; I simply finished one thing and then barreled on to the next and in a sense, I kept writing the same thing in different way; the same unpolished, unpublishable things. I have learned the hard way that quality definitely wins over quantity!
With regard to talent, I think that anybody with a grain of talent and a truckload of unstoppable determination will succeed, as opposed to an individual with mountains of talent and little discipline or resolve. I truly believe that talent is less important than resolve and hard work. If you have resolve, and focus on doing the right work, then your talent will multiply of its own accord.
One of the worst things that happened to me, writing-wise, was that teachers told me I had talent! Due to that, I didn’t think I had to do anything more than put words on a page—I had talent, I was good to go!
Lots of people are talented in lots of things and they think that should be enough to guarantee success but my money’s on the person with limited talent and mega resolve—that person will win the race!
WOW: The main characters in your three novels are different. So different! But many people say that writers put a bit of themselves in their characters. Do you subscribe to that theory? Despite their differences are each of your characters you in disguise?
Lisa: This question makes me smile! No, my characters aren’t me in disguise! It’s funny that readers are always so keen to try to draw parallels between author and character and they get excited when they can point to their conclusions and say "you see, you are so-and-so . . . !"
I’m not quite sure why there’s such a keen interest in the connection between author and character—perhaps it’s because people want to know where characters come from?
I most do certainly use my experiences—and the experiences of others—to create my characters and I use the ‘walk many a mile in other people’s shoes’ by way of imagination, and I think that’s how I get to my characters. I might use myself as a starting point but then say, well, what would so-and-so do and then, on the basis of their utterly different reaction to what mine would be, draw a character from that. I would say that a lot of my characters do the exact opposite to what I would do, so I might start off with my reaction and then double back.
I can see where people can draw parallels between me and some of my characters; in The Hungry Mirror, the protagonist works in the world of fashion magazines and Benny (West of Wawa) is a graphic designer but this was more a case of ‘write what you know’—it was easy to makes those worlds believable. Also, the world of fashion and beauty was integral to the plot of The Hungry Mirror. So I definitely use circumstance—another example is that I did Benny’s cross-Canada trip and when I wrote the first draft of West of Wawa, the story was largely based on me and I received the feedback that the character was ‘vacuous and banal and her that her story was not engaging’. So I ditched myself, made up Benny and ended up with a much better book!
And now, in A Glittering Chaos, I am amazed by Melusine (protagonist). There is nothing about me that can even relate to her. Except her perhaps her love of poetry, so there you go, I guess there is something! I admire Melusine—perhaps I wrote about someone I wished I could be . . .
I think it's more a matter of me living vicariously through these characters—they all work through some issue that I am intrigued by—I might not have the courage to do the things they do and also, I can experience any kind of situation through them that I wouldn’t, in real life.
WOW: At what point did you say to yourself, "I'm not just going to be a person who wrote a novel. I'm going to be a novelist and write book after book." When did you realize THAT was who you were?
Lisa: When I was about twelve! What I didn’t realize was how hard it would be and how long it would take. If I had known, I might have given up. Actually that’s not true, I wouldn’t have given up, I would have tried harder to make it happen sooner by working on it more sensibly, with help and direction from a trusted source.
WOW: You've stayed with the same publisher, Inanna, for three books now. What about this small publisher appeals to you?
Lisa: We make a great team and we work so well together. I love what Inanna stands for and who they are, I have such great respect for all the authors they represent and the work they publish. My editor-in-chief, Luciana Ricciutelli is amazing; she’s one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and she’s a woman who really makes a difference in this world. She brings out the best in me as writer and she has faith in my writing even if I don’t get it right the first time. For example, I sent her a novel then titled The Corner of the Desert and she came back to me with two pages of feedback; that the novel had great potential but that it still needed work and she highlighted all the areas. I went back to the book and worked on it for a year, also changing the name to The Witchdoctor’s Bones (as the other title was considered too weak) and now the novel is due to be released next year. Luciana’s feedback and insights are invaluable to me as a writer, I would feel lost without her, I know I can trust her to guide me to become a better writer.
And it’s thanks to Luciana and Inanna that I’ve won the awards I have, and received the reviews I have, so I have nothing but gratitude for this small powerhouse publisher and I envisage we will be together for a very long time!
WOW: Any sneak peeks for us about what you and Inanna are cooking up next?
Lisa:Between The Cracks She Fell is my next work and it's about a girl in her early 30s who loses her job (in a corporate environment) and then she loses her house, because her boyfriend has a nervous breakdown and can't help her make the payments and she can't sell the property. Her boyfriend moves back home to live with his folks and she (Melody Fair - although as I write that, I realize I might have to change it because A Glittering Chaos has Melusine!) ends up without a job or a place to stay and she decides to move into an abandoned old school that she found while on a walk. The school is out in the countryside and summer has just begun and so she figures she will have some time to regroup and get things together by Fall. But then she falls in with an odd bunch of characters and gets caught up in their antics, which involve robbery and possibly murder.
WOW: Ooh, I always love a good murder!
Lisa: Thank you for having me as a guest on The Muffin, and you’re right, I am a WOW veteran because you do such a great job! I look forward to this blog tour for A Glittering Chaos and I hope we’ll be together for The Witchdoctor’s Bones next year!
Every Memorial Day weekend, my aunts return to their roots (translate: my grandparents'-now-my-parents'-home) and spend the good part of a day placing flowers at graves of our family members who have passed.
Every year, I discover more stories - histories, really - from my mom and her sisters. Most are about our family and others who lived in this rural Nebraska community. Today, I found out my great grandfather's brother was a county judge, quite harsh, too, according to these family historians.
I look forward to this annual history field trip.
For years, as we've walked to our family plot, we've passed a towering pine tree and a worn, faded grave stone, the resting place of a Civil War soldier.
No flowers adorn his grave.
Not this year. Not ever, if my memory is still sharp.
This year, I lingered and took note: Jacob Stege, OO.A., 9 N.Y. Cav.
Who was Jacob and how did he end up in Northeast Nebraska? Did he have family in the region? When did he pass away?
I sense a story. In fact, I'm making this one of my summer projects. With my genealogy expert (a.k.a. my mother) helping, I'm hoping we can discover Jacob's past, and maybe even a link to the present.
It's always said you can find a story anywhere. While I didn't expect to find a story in the cemetery, the intrigue and mystery caught my attention.
And this year, a bouquet of pink daisies and tiger lilies honor Jacob.
• There are deadlines approaching for writing projects and I have no ideas
• I feel like I have no time for writing
• Life has gotten so chaotic that my journal has even been neglected lately
• I need to come up with a solution so I have time to write
• My heart longs to write but my head is so full I can hardly concentrate on a grocery list or a short text message
I was saying all of these at the same time. Anne Shirley, one of my favorite characters from the 1908 bestselling novel Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author Lucy Maud said it best: “Can't you even imagine you're in the depths of despair?” After describing my frustrations to a few writer friends, I was quickly told how common this is. Talking it through helped me take a deep breath and focus on a solution.
I wish I could list all of the ideas and suggestion given to me, but as I tell my story you will get the gist of what might work for you. I purchased and download a new book to my Kindle (if you’re wondering, it was The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult) and then scheduled a pedicure. Before heading to my appointment, I printed out my project list and stuck it on the fridge. Then I did the unthinkable, I deleted the project list from my smart phone and turned off my phone. I ran a comb through my hair, put on flip-flops and the new lip gloss I had been saving for a special occasion, grabbed a classical CD, and ran for the door.
I left the house knowing my husband could handle anything with the children. I looked in the rearview mirror while backing from the garage. The girl staring back at me was up to no good; the sparkle in her eyes had been missing for a long time. Today she wasn’t looking haggard, exhausted, or on the brink of a meltdown. In fact, she looked pretty carefree with Bach streaming from the truck speakers.
I arrived a few minutes early for my pedicure to ensure a little extra foot- soak time. Lying back in the chair, I closed my eyes, and concentrated on the methodical massaging motions. I inhaled through my nose and exhaled through my mouth simply enjoying the moment. During the pedicure, I didn’t talk much and read my new book. In the end, my toes looked amazing and I left the salon feeling like that sassy, sexy woman who had looked at me in the rearview mirror an hour before. I didn’t only look different on the outside, but I felt renewed on the inside!
When I arrived home, the children were outside playing and I had the house to myself. I slipped off my flip flops, grabbed my favorite pen and notebook, curled up in the papazan chair that I’ve had since college and I wrote. I started with a journal entry and couldn’t stop. I wrote until my hand tingled and my wrist was sore and then I wrote some more! When I took a break, I looked at the flowers painted on my toes and smiled. The simple act of clearing my mind had allowed me to fill my pages. Something else happened beneath the service too. That time for myself reminded me I was important. I wasn’t just a person doing a job; I was a person who had reignited her own passion. Thank you to my amazing friends for the support, suggestions, and ideas … and for these adorable little piggy toes and full notebook pages!
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs,two rabbits, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal is expecting another child at the end of September.
Friday Speak Out!: Mind Your P's, Guest post by Sioux Roslawski
Posted by MP at 4:00 AM
To be a successful writer, you must be persistent. You must persevere. However, you never want to cross the line and become a pest.
Being persistent and perseverant means writing. Writing steadily and regularly and unrelentingly. And writing even when you hit a snag.
I’m working on a handful of anthology stories—some are light and bawdy and others are dark. A longish project that might end up in the BBQ pit someday. A story on—you guessed it—breasts (speaking of things that are long), which is my “go to” topic when I’m stuck. (Hey, as they descend downward, closer to the ground every year, I might as well wring some levity out of the situation.) The pieces are all saved. I simply go to my file marked “submissions,” choose one, and usually I work on a couple of different things in the course of an evening.
My longish “thing” is full of snags. Navigating is slow going as I work on it. There ain’t nothin’ fun about it right now but I’m hopeful that sometime in the near future, it’ll be the source of great joy. Almost six months ago I wrote a romance short story. This was my first attempt at writing one. My story titillated but tread lightly in the territory of romance, and I shared it with my critique group. The WWWPs swooned (but maybe that was due to the sugar surge from the cheesecake we gobbled) and I sent it off, only to get a resounding no.
However, after reading the stories that were chosen, I figured out the desired tone. Later, I wrote a completely new story for the publisher, and this time, she liked it.
But sometimes in the writing world, “no” means no. Recently I sent off a story, responding to a call for submissions. My critique group did their normal “slash and burn,” I revised it and emailed it, elated. In my opinion it perfectly fit the description of what they were looking for. When I got a reply the very next day, I was excited…until I opened it up and read the message.
A very succinct, polite “thanks but no thanks.” Since the deadline was still a few weeks away, I emailed back, thanking them for such a quick response and inquiring if they were looking for a particular type of piece. (My story was on the serious side—perhaps they were looking for lighter fare?) I figured I had oodles of time to send off something else. However, I was careful to add that if they were buried under with submissions, to not bother responding…I would certainly understand.
After getting a second reply that was as concise as the earlier response, I got the hint. To send another story for that same anthology would brand me a pest.
With my friends I’m often a pain in the rear. As a writer, I’m persistent and perseverant. But never do I want to be a pest…
* * *
Sioux Roslawski has been published in three (so far) Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several Not Your Mother's Book collections. A third grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she is also one of the five founding members of the famed WWWP writing critique group. Her musings can be found at http://siouxspage.blogspot.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!
In this book on crafting a novel, Wiesner continues to carefully lead you through different layers of the process of writing—and finishing—a novel. Peeling back the layers, Wiesner helps you to set the stage for building a strong and cohesive story. As she does in First Draft in 30 Days, she provides real-life examples from drafts and published novels.
Wiesner puts together a blueprint to follow that starts with setting forth and laying a strong foundation. She encourages brainstorming and then researching. Along the way, Wiesner gives writers the tools to understand how to write their stories. Her appendices include a glossary that helps to explain some of the elements of fiction writing. Wiesner also gives writers the easy-to-follow checklists and exercises to keep on track.
After laying the solid foundation, Wiesner spends two parts putting up the walls of your story. She helps to guide writers through evaluating their own stories, which is essential if you are going to make the story work. Then, thinking in layers, Wiesner suggests how to improve on the foundation and walls of your story.
In the third part, Wiesner helps guide writers in the revision process—giving ideas on how to involve critique groups or partners—through to the final polishing.
Want to sell the novel? Then Wiesner helps you put your proposal together. (I'm not there quite yet!)
Wiesner's style is approachable and friendly. Her advice seems to be vested in you developing the best novel you can. Her examples are contemporary and work to help demonstrate the concepts she's exploring. Her precision focus and guidance should easily help you get from your first draft to a completed novel. Her preparations helped me to look at my work more objectively. She's the writers' coach you wished lived next door to you.
Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author who has penned over 98 books in the past 15 years, which have been nominated and/or won 125 awards. She currently has 38 more under contract, spanning a variety of genres. For more information about Karen and her work, visit her websites at www.KarenWiesner.com, www.FirstDraftin30Days.com, www.falconsbend.com, and www.JewelsoftheQuill.com. You can also sign up for Karen's free e-mail newsletter, Karen's Quill, and become eligible for her monthly book giveaways, by sending a blank e-mail to KarensQuillemail@example.com.
It’s that time of year when graduates are marching forth, ready to show off their hard-earned knowledge and take on the world. Whether they’re leaving kindergarten or college, it’s the same. Excitement bounces on the breeze, just like all those colorful “Congratulations, Graduate!” balloons.
Don’t you wish writers could graduate? That we had a special day when we marched forth, all excited to take on the writing world?
You know what? We have something better. Because writers can graduate any and every day. All a writer has to do is find the right class and sign up.
Take WOW!Women on Writing. If you’re a faithful WOW! follower, you know there’s a plethora (See how I used a big writing word? Don’t you feel smarter already?) of writing classes offered here. Of course, I’m a little biased when it comes to our writing classes because I know how wonderful and responsive the instructors are.
But maybe you’re looking for a class that we don’t offer. Maybe your budget or time is stretched thin right now. There are many writing classes available—and honestly, it’s as simple as typing “writing classes” into your favorite search engine. From authors who supplement their income by offering weekend retreats to publishing giants who serve up a smorgasbord of webinars and boutique services, you can find a course that will fit both your pocketbook and time constraints.
But writer beware. Taking online classes requires homework before you pay your tuition.
Do a little research on your instructor. You want a teacher who’s published and qualified in the writing field she/he is teaching. (Seems like a no-brainer, I know. But I recently noticed a critique service where an author was assigned to give feedback in a field she wasn’t published in. It may not matter if your instructor is published in fantasy YA and you write science fiction YA. But if you’re signed up for a picture book class and the teacher is published in adult fiction, you might want to keep looking.)
Check about refund policies before you send in that check. Life happens, and if your life happens to take a crazy turn before a class starts, you want to be able to get your money back.
Finally, zip around the web to see if anyone’s talking about the class. That’s the great thing about writers. They write about everything—and dish on the details.
If your budget can’t manage tuition right now, search “free writing classes.” Instruction on the cheap—and in everything from advertising copy to westerns—is just a click away. You may not reap quite the same benefits as you would from a paying class, but you could still complete that free class and feel like you’re ready to take on the writing world.
So ditch the excuses and sign up today. And get your own “Congratulations, Graduate” balloon!
Interview with Renee Roberson, Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up
Posted by Robyn Chausse at 3:00 AM
Today we’re chatting with Renee Roberson, one of our Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest winners! Please enjoy reading Renee’s entry, In the Depths, and return here to meet this busy writer.
Renee Roberson resides in North Carolina with her husband and two children. In 2003, she left the advertising and public relations industry to begin working as a freelance writer after the birth of her first child. In 2009, she received first place honors in the magazine feature article category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. Her articles have appeared online and in various local and regional publications across the country, as well as The Writer.
In between the production deadlines of Little Ones, the bi-monthly parenting magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. where she serves as editor, she works on the fiction she one day hopes to publish. She is currently revising a middle-grade novel about a 10 year-old girl’s adventures in time travel to a sleep-away camp in the 1980s and a YA novel. While she is the first to admit her crippling addiction to the Investigation Discovery Channel, she also realizes (happily) that it inspires many of the plotlines in her fiction, so she won’t be giving it up anytime soon. Visit her blog at www.reneespages.blogspot.com.
WOW: Hello Renee, congratulations! Tell us about your experience writing In the Depths.
Renee: Actually, there’s an interesting story behind In the Depths. It was originally called The Case of Christopher, and I first entered it in the Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest. The inspiration came from seeing the news reports about a young man who lived in a nearby city who disappeared after walking out of a bar late one night. He left his coat and wallet behind in the middle of winter, which makes the case all the more disturbing, and he has never been found. That story made it through the first round of judging but didn’t proceed to the finals. I decided to revise it for the Fall Flash Fiction Contest and was thrilled when I found out it had placed. In the updated version of the story, I worked to reveal more detail about the nature of the crime that caused Christopher to disappear, and the Matthew Shepard story came to mind. The big difference in the two versions of the story is that in the first version, there’s really no hope for resolution in Christopher’s disappearance. In the second one, the story builds to the resolution, giving the reader a sense of closure.
WOW: Thank you for sharing that. It’s so easy to give up on a piece once it has been rejected; I hope your story encourages other contestants to revise their work and get send it back in!
As a strong non-fiction writer, what do you feel are the most common difficulties to writing fiction and how have you learned to work with them?
Renee: I’ve never been one to do a whole lot of revising. My background in journalism taught me to gather all my facts and crank out a story quickly (albeit accurately) for deadline. As a fiction writer, I tend to have the same attitude. I finish a manuscript and think to myself, “That should be good enough. Let’s get this thing submitted!” I’m always ready to move on to my next big idea, and I have a really hard time being patient. In reality, the revision and critique process is so important when writing fiction. I’m trying to branch out more, participate in peer reviews and work with professional editors to give each piece of fiction the attention and revision it deserves.
WOW: There’s that “R” word again—the Achilles’ heel of many writers (mine as well).
How did your experience in advertising and public relations prepare you for your writing business?
Renee: In public relations, you have to constantly look for new opportunities to showcase your clients and get them noticed. The same goes with your writing. Most of the time, well-paying clients won’t be knocking on your door with an overabundance of assignments. I believe having a website that showcases your clips as well as a blog is an important part of working as a professional writer. You also have to always be on the lookout for new markets, spend time applying for contract jobs and constantly query new publications.
WOW: All of which takes time. As a writing mom, what time saving tips can you share with our readers?
Renee: Okay, my secret’s out. Housekeeping falls by the wayside when I’m working on a big project. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve finally learned that keeping the house spotless is not as important as spending quality time with my family and writing to help pay the bills. When my kids were younger, I took advantage of naptimes and preschool hours to get interviews done, and then I would write after they went to bed. Now that they are both in elementary school, it is so much easier to focus on writing during the hours of 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. I try to keep up with the dishes and laundry each day, and my husband is a big help. But after I meet a big deadline, I go on a cleaning spree, which the kids always hate!
WOW:LOL, I can almost hear the groans, “Mom finished her project and you know what that means.”
Renee, in addition to your freelance writing you offer phone consultations for writers; we’d love to know more!
Renee: I think phone consulting is a valuable service to offer because not everyone has the time to attend an all-day writing workshop or take a writing class at a local college. I love that writers can take online writing workshops and classes now and/or choose to participate in phone mentoring. Depending on what the writer needs, we can chat for 30 minutes or an hour and tackle specific questions, whether it relates to a magazine article query or a non-fiction book proposal.
WOW: I can think of a few incidents when a short conversation would have saved a lot of time…and stress!
Thank you for visiting with us today and sharing some helpful tips. Again, congratulations.
Interview with Linda Pressman, winner of the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Posted by WOW! at 1:30 AM
By Elizabeth Maria Naranjo
Today we’re joined by Linda Pressman, author of Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie. After writing her memoir, a hilarious and heartbreaking account of being raised one of seven sisters by Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, Linda secured an agent but was unable to sell her story. Undeterred, she used CreateSpace to self-publish, worked on her platform, and sold over 4,000 copies before entering and winning the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Linda Pressman is a freelance writer, speaker, blogger, editor and the author of Looking Up. She has worked as both the short story and blog editor for Poetica Magazine, and her freelance work has appeared in literary journals, in Brain, Child Magazine, in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and has been anthologized twice. She blogs at Bar Mitzvahzilla, one of the top 30 blogs on JBlog, and on Open Salon. The parent of two teenagers, she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona and may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WOW: Tell us about the moment you learned Looking Up: A Memoir of Sisters, Survivors and Skokie placed first in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. Details, please!
Linda: I haven’t had great success winning contests so after I submitted the book to Writer’s Digest and a lot of time went by, I had stopped thinking about it. Then, on a Thursday at the beginning of November, I was heading out of my house when I noticed an email from Writer’s Digest titled, “Grand Prize Winner – Life Stories,” which was actually the category in which I entered Looking Up. I get a lot of emails from them so I was glad to have opened this one! It announced that I was the grand-prize winner of the 20th Annual WD Self-Published Book Awards.
WOW: How exciting, and well deserved! Looking Up is both a comic coming-of-age story and a tragic rendering of your parents’ experiences in the Holocaust. Part of the book’s power is your unsentimental descriptions of some pretty horrifying scenes. How did you manage to curb your own emotions so that the story could speak for itself?
Linda: I learned from my first writing professor, Lois Roma-Deeley, PhD, that less is more with powerful, or even excruciating, scenes. The reader’s mind must be allowed to do some of the work; the writer doesn’t have to do it all. In other words, write lightly when the emotions are heavy.
The voice I intended to convey through those sections was mine as a child when I was hearing my parents’ stories and not quite listening because they were so horrible that they weren’t quite listenable, so to speak. Raised in the U.S. in the optimistic 1960s, I was always waiting for a happy ending that didn’t come. Hopefully the reader can feel that type of holding of one’s breath that I always felt.
WOW: That definitely comes across. Your prize package included a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City in April. What did you take away from the conference you’d like to share with WOW! readers?
Linda: Regarding women writers, specifically, I found freelance writer and author Susan Shapiro particularly inspirational. She teaches at the New School in New York and assigns something she calls the “humiliation essay” to her students. Her statistics of turning her students into published writers are pretty astounding. To date, she indicated that approximately 52% of her students are published prior to finishing her class, with many receiving book contracts based on their initial pieces and where they appear.
She gave some good advice, some of which is (1) we all need editors; (2) start at the top when submitting your work; (3) tell your secrets as they will strike a common chord with readers; and (4) keep gratitude front and center; in other words, thank those who have helped you.
WOW: “Tell your secrets.” I like that. Okay, so tell us yours: what’s your advice to WOW! readers who are considering self-publishing?
Linda: Work on your writing, first and foremost. Nowadays with the technology and opportunities available to writers, it is very easy to become published but not as easy to publish well. Don’t get more excited about publishing than you are about writing.
Establish yourself as part of the conversation ahead of time. If you’re writing a book about yoga, become part of Goodreads discussion groups, LinkedIn groups, blogs, Facebook groups, etc., all devoted to yoga practitioners. This will give you relationships and people who are interested in what you have to say, as opposed to showing up post-publication with a book to sell and appearing to have the ulterior motive of marketing. You will end up the richer for it.
I joined many groups devoted to memoir writers, children of Survivors, people who had grown up in Chicago, and those who had attended the schools I had, and most of my involvement was out of genuine interest and created new or renewed friendships with people I had known. A group of people automatically interested in your topic or in you as a thoughtful, interesting commentator is a wonderful place to start when looking for
When you’re done, give the next person a helping hand up. There’s always room in the world for more writing.
WOW: I think we can all agree with that! What are you working on now?
Linda: I’m working on the sequel to Looking Up, which takes place after our family moves to Arizona. My dad becomes part Holocaust Survivor/part Arizona Cowboy, then dies suddenly, leaving our mother not only destitute (possibly the only Jewish family in Scottsdale on food stamps) but the queen of Phoenix Jewish Singles, circa 1975. Between her and some of the seven daughters it’s a little bit “Jewish Girls Gone Wild,” so to speak.
WOW: Sounds like your signature style of heartbreak and humor. I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing with us, Linda, and congratulations.
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is a writer in Tempe, Arizona. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, SLAB Literary Magazine, Hospital Drive, The Portland Review, Babble, Phoenix New Times, and the Arizona Republic. For links to Elizabeth’s work, check out her website at http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com/.
"When we read, we start at the beginning and continue until we reach the end; when we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out." Vickie Karp, poet
I teach writing and I am guilty of this one thing: making the writing process seem logical, easy, methodical. It's not.
Writing is a messy way to write a story. We struggle with the writing on so many levels, from story to grammar, from spelling to characterization. While it's messy, writing can be taught and some of the tangle can be straightened out. There are 29 typical plot patterns that help in the early stages to lay out the possibilities for a story. There are at least 23 ways to fight a sagging middle. But still, you must write. And it's messy.
At a recent writing retreat, I had a series of ten five-minute exercises for the participants to do. In a fast-paced hour, I asked the writers to set aside their pre-conceived notions of their story and just play. Explore. Revel in messiness. There's no magic in these exercises, the magic is in DOING them, in exploring the story freely, in letting the messiness lead you to a new level of story.
So, I offer here some suggestions. Take an hour and force yourself to try a variety of ways of writing your story, of thinking about your story. Don't let the internal censor out of its cage during this time. Just write.
1st v. 3rd. Which ever POV your current draft takes, write the opening scene in the opposite POV. Or, try 2nd person POV, present tense, I don't care. Just try a different POV and/or tense.
Attitude. Your character should go into the opening scene (or choose another important scene) with a certain attitude: arrogance, annoyed, indifferent, angry, lazy, etc. Give that attitude a name. Then, at the top of a clean sheet of paper, write the opposite attitude. Now, write the scene again, but this time, your character has that opposite attitude.
Setting. Change the setting. If it's a bedroom in 1971, make it a farmhouse kitchen in 1330. Or write a scene that takes place beside this beaver pond, while the characters are slapping at the mosquitoes and hoping for a glimpse of the beaver family. Make a drastic change of setting and write.
Write a letter. To whom would your character want to write a letter? It can be an angry tirade, a confession, or a description of a vacation trip. It can be written by hand (yes, write it in cursive), written as an email, or just as a friendly letter. Write a letter from your main character's POV. Write an answer to the letter.
Put something in the character's hand. Give the character something to do with his/her hands. Maybe a mother walks into the bedroom of her grown son and sees his old baseball glove. She picks it up, oils it, then sits and cuddles it as she rocks. Or, give her an iron skillet. Perhaps, a sewing needle. Put something in your character's hand and get them doing something, working to infuse emotion into the story.
Describe. Of course, you have descriptions somewhere in your story. But have you written the descriptions from the main character's POV? Write a new description of an important setting or object, and work to let your character do the telling. What would s/he notice? Be specific.
Compare. Write an extended comparison--from your main character's POV--between something important to the story and something that appears random to the story. Maybe compare the character's grief at a funeral to climbing a mountain. How do they compare? I don't know. But your character might know. What this does is bring characterization into the moment of grief in a new and fresh way. Write the comparison and let it take you to an unexpected place.
Think of a couple more "mini-assignments" and write those as well. Be messy. Be creative!
The Opening Scene: A Review of the Plot Whisperer and the Plot Whisperer Workbook
Posted by Sue Bradford Edwards at 1:00 AM
My first fantasy novel has become an ongoing project that has sucked me in and spat me out countless times. My plot as a whole is solid, but the beginning has been a challenge. When I say that, I’m being polite.
I took my first beginning to my critique group. Nope. It was too confusing, because I had started the story too late. I started the story earlier and tried again.
I took the new first chapter to my critique group. Still not enough backstory so I started still earlier.
When that didn’t work, my confidence deflated. I remembered a plotting diagram in the Plot Whisper and The Plot Whisperer Workbook. They were in my “to review” stack. What better way to test them than this first chapter fiasco? I mentally issued the author a challenge. Drag me out of this writing slump, Martha Alderson. I dare you.
The plot diagram, Alderson’s Plot Planner, includes the character’s emotional development. Although I was convinced that the problem was plot not emotion, I sat down to do the activities. After all, a dare is a dare.
I created character emotional profiles for my protagonist, my antagonist and side kick. Apparently, Mr. Sidekick is not the goody-two-shoes people see; this new knowledge deepened the story.
I typed a list of scenes. Not difficult, but they were more numerous than I had expected.
I found a 6-foot-long piece of paper as recommended by Alderson for a full-sized plot planner. I wasn’t convinced I needed this much, but I typed my scenes including plot, subplot, emotional arc, dramatic action and theme. As I cut and taped to the chart, I realized it would take 6 feet of paper. Then I got another shocker. Original scene #1 was now scene #6, at the first turning point.
I had originally started the story way too late, a fact I would have seen on this type of plot diagram. Alderson has you look at turning points. At the first one, your character commits to a course of action different from his opening goal.
At the turning point, my character decides on revenge. If I had been using the Plotter from the start, I would have plunked down a revenge chapter and realized that the story needs to build to this point, not start here.
I highly recommend these books. The Plot Whisperer explains the concepts you will use, showing how each is essential. The workbook takes you through exercises that get the job done.
There are sections on exploring theme; creating story arcs for your antagonist and secondary characters; how and where to work in details; testing cause and effect; and working in backstory.
I’m looking forward to playing with theme but I’ll also study the sections on backstory and all the rest. Why? Alderson has already surprised me multiple times by supplying tools I need before I understand that I need them.
Friday Speak Out!: The Loudest Tree in the Forest, Guest Post by Jamie Anne Richardson
Posted by MP at 1:00 AM
I’ve finally answered the age-old question; yes, if a tree falls in the woods with no one around, it definitely still makes a sound. How do I know? Right now, I am that tree.
Last month I finished the final draft of my first women’s fiction novel. As a mother of three young kids, it took me years to get to this point. My goal was to have it finished by the time my youngest started Kindergarten. Now I hope to have representation before that celebration-worthy day this September.
As Whine and Wine awaits recognition in several agent and publisher inboxes, I feel very much like the tree in the forest. A part of me has been cut down and now longs to be harvested. In the right hands the tree may become the pages of a bestseller or it may become the framework for an entire library. In the wrong hands, it may appear on that little roll in the powder room.
My assumption through the writing process was that I’d feel like my words were wasted if they weren’t published. I thought I’d feel like a failure, rotting on the forest floor, waiting for someone to take notice. Instead, my feeling is just the opposite… I feel accomplished. I set out to achieve a goal, and I did it.
I breathed life into three amazing female characters that I believe are easily relatable. I took my knowledge from a unique background and brought interesting twists and controversy into traditional chick lit characters. Even as I reread my novel I thought to myself, “dang… this is really good!” Coming from a perfectionist editor, that is saying a lot.
I’m trying to take the advice of sending off the queries and then moving on to the next work. I can’t sit by my computer waiting for some agent or publisher to see how amazing I am. Instead I have to know that my writing is great and wait for the super hero who can recognize that for him or herself. And until then, I’ll plant another tree and watch it grow into another novel. If my future is what I believe it will be, I’ll have grown an entire forest of books before I die.
I’d love to take my kids to Barnes and Nobel and show them my book on the shelf, but even if that doesn’t happen with this first book, it’s okay. I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m getting better at my craft every day.
Just as trees take a long time to grow, the publishing industry takes a very long time to break into. But I’m getting there. My branches are pushing their way through every opening they can find, my roots are feeding on the manure of rejection, and I am searching for the sunlight. And I’m just stubborn enough that I won’t give up.
* * * Jamie Anne Richardson is a wife, mother, and author who lives outside Dallas. She is currently seeking representation for her first chick lit novel while writing her second. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter (https://twitter.com/JAnneRichardson), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jamieannerichardson), and on her website (http://jamieannerichardson.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!
Are You an Over-writer or an Under-writer? Revision Tips
Posted by Margo Dill at 12:30 AM
You want people to say this about your draft!
I read a lot of novel drafts--I am a freelance editor, an online novel writing instructor, and a critique group member as well as being a novelist myself. I've noticed lately that writers fall into two categories when they are writing their drafts: over-writers or under-writers (not that kind of underwriter, just stick with me. . . ).
Over-writers: If you're an over-writer, you like to explain to readers that your character feels sad, then you like to show your character feeling sad, and then just in case your reader hasn't picked up on it yet, you like to have the character actually say, "I'm so sad!"
It's not that you don't trust your readers; it's that you have a lot of ideas about your novel and your characters, and you want to make sure that your readers have those same ideas. Nothing is left up for interpretation! Besides the above example, over-writing can occur when we describe something not that important to the plot for three paragraphs because we love writing description, or when a character goes through a horrifying experience, which the reader reads about, and then the character re-tells the entire story for the reader to read again. Many, many of us are guilty of over-writing. If beta readers or critique group members are telling you that your pace is slow, you're probably a victim of over-writing.
Under-writers: If you're an under-writer, then you're afraid that your reader is too smart, and so you are constantly worried you are giving too many hints about your plot or main character. Therefore, your first draft is really hard to follow because you leave holes. You don't give enough clues or details or information for anyone to follow the story, so at least you accomplished what you set out to do--you didn't give too much information and make your plot predictable. But no one can understand it. Your readers are smart, of course, but remember the reason why the clue or detail seems so obvious to you: You are making up the story; you know what's going to happen; and you know what your characters are capable of. This is where beta readers and critique group members can help you again--if they're telling you that they're confused--listen to them. You may be under-writing. If you find yourself explaining your plot to someone who's read your first chapter, then look for the holes and plug them up!
So, writing is hard. We all know that. But which writer are you when you're working on a draft? An under-writer or an over-writer? If you know yourself and your "issues," then it will be easier to revise your story and make your readers happy!
Many novels start out slowly, setting the scene, drawing you into a new world. Moonlit does that too . . . for all of fifteen pages (I checked). Tanzy Hightower works at a horse farm and the first pages hint at a mysterious, tragic story that relates to her father and a difficult relationship with her mother. You’re just beginning to wonder about this untold story when BAM! the Unseen Ones, shadowy monsters visible only to Tanzy and her beloved horses make an appearance. The Unseen Ones eventually lead to an accident and, as Tanzy is recovering from her injuries, she is forced to confront not only the shadowy monsters but her mysterious past. Eventually she uncovers unexpected links between the secrets of her past and new friends who offer her what seems like the perfect life.
Moonlit is a roller coaster ride not only full of action but also full of unanswered questions. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? In Moonlit it’s tough to tell who is who, an aspect that makes the book even more intriguing. Nothing, and no one is what they seem.
Author Jadie Jones manages to keep you off balance, always introducing new questions, new worlds, new secrets. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Tanzy Hightower, an eighteen-year-old protagonist creates a world some in the publishing industry are referring to as New Adult. On the cusp of adulthood, she encompasses the best of both worlds: she is old enough to understand the world and deal with adult situations but young enough to still have a naivety that creates a fresh character. And, just as Tanzy straddles two worlds, the audience for the Tanzy Hightower series straddles two worlds, both teen and adult readers will enjoy it. Even Moonlit’s secondary characters are richly drawn and leave a deep impression long after they have left the scene and in some cases, died. You’ll find yourself mulling over their decisions . . . Why did they do that? What would I do in their place? What are they hiding?
My only complaint is that Jadie Jones doesn’t write quickly enough! The book ended but left many things unresolved. The minute I read the last word I wanted to e-mail Jadie and tell her “I need the next book—now!” The ending was a bit frustrating but it will make you eager for more.
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, the first book in the Tanzy Hightower series.
When she isn’t writing, Jadie likes to ride horses and explore the world with her beautiful toddler.
~ Review by Jodi Webb
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Meet Kimberly Bella, Runner Up in the Fall 2012 WOW! Flash Fiction Contest
Posted by LuAnn Schindler at 4:15 AM
Hello, Muffin fans. You're in for a sweet treat today! When I read, I appreciate stories that have an unexpected twist and catch me off guard. That's what happened when I read Kimberly Bella's story, Things. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, 'Could this possibly happen?', but my senses said, 'NO WAY!' I was wrong. (Smiles) Check out Kimberly's story and then return here to get to know her and learn more about her writing.
Kimberly's love of writing started when she was a child. Inspired by a love of reading and determined to exercise her imagination, she scribbled in ever-present notebooks, anxious to capture real life experiences and observations that would create and enhance her stories. Poetry poured form her in high school as a remedy to teenage angst and as a result of a first boyfriend who shall remain nameless.
Kimberly loves music and movies of all genres and aspires to add screenplays to her collection in the future. Kimberly holds a MBA from Suffolk University and is currently working on her first novel.
Kimberly loves to laugh - loud and often - with her husband and nine year old twins and usually at the expense of her farting, drooling bulldog, Sipowicz.
WOW: Hello, Kimberly. Welcome to The Muffin. Congratulations on earning runner up honors in WOW's Flash Fiction contest. Things is a great story! I absolutely love the twist in the last line - although I secretly suspected it. Why do you think the last line is so important, especially in flash fiction?
Kimberly: The last line is important because it not only turns one's assumption on its
head but leaves the reader with a lasting impression of how things are not
always as they seem. It also does not follow the usual pattern of a person
fleeing another person's anger i.e. thought patterns seem to think it is adult
to adult relationships when one feels they've had enough and need to leave, to
WOW: It definitely caught me off guard! Honestly, it was the perfect ending. (Smiles) I think a lot of parents who read the piece may relate to the storyline. Sometimes, you want to escape - even for a moment - but you know you're needed. Your bio mentions that you have nine-year-old twins. Would it have been as easy to write this story if you weren't a mom?
Kimberly: It would not have been easy to write this story if I was not a mom. The story
originated from a tantrum my son had one day. He's at a stage where he wants his
way and that's that. My husband was on active duty at the time so I was
essentially a single mom trying to balance fun with discipline and being
outnumbered in the process. The story flowed very easily and was a great outlet
to my frustration.
WOW: Been there! I help watch two of our grandkids, and some days, it's a delicate balance between fun and discipline; however, the grandchildren and children have provided a lot of ideas for stories. (They probably wish I would QUIT writing about their antics!) Children and writing are a lot alike; both require nurturing, creativity, and direction. Do you consider your stories as "your children"?
Kimberly: I don't see my stories as children to me. However, each story holds a memory and
is special. They hold specific observations and situations that I've experienced
as both an insider and an outsider to an event.
WOW: Those situations and observations form powerful stories. In your bio, you mention that you started writing at an early age. How do you think your writing has evolved since you first scribbled in a notebook or penned a poem while in high school? Has the process become easier?
Kimberly: When I was younger, the writing and poetry I did literally poured out of me. My
emotions were at an all time high because of my age and maturity level. What I
felt ended up on a page. I find writing a slower process now because I am more
jaded. I see the ending but struggle with how to get there at times.
WOW: I think most writers face that struggle at some point. As a writer, I am always interested to see what other writers like to read. What do you read for recreation?
Kimberly: I love to read biographies. I am fascinated by what other people have lived
through and survived in most cases. The interpersonal relationships hold such a
spectrum of emotion that I can feel what it is like to walk in another person's
WOW: That's a good description of biography! I may borrow it and share with my writing students. Kimberly, I'm wondering if you would share a tidbit about the novel you are working on. Pique our interest!
Kimberly: The novel revolves around a 9 year old girl's view of her world and the
experiences she encounters as she lives amidst an eccentric group of characters.
Her mom, a tough broad with a deeply damaged soul; a criminal older brother; a
sister on the road to ruin; a sister who lights up the world. A lot of her
experiences and observations stem from the bar where her mom works which opens
the door to a whole bunch of people she may have otherwise not encountered in
her young life.
WOW: Sounds interesting! I look forward to reading it. Again, congratulations, Kimberly, and thank you for sharing your thoughts with readers of The Muffin.