Meet Flash Fiction Runner Up, Stephanie Train!
lives in Fort Collins, CO with her husband, John, and her daughter, Emma. She is currently a Ph.D. student at Colorado State University, studying transmedia narrative in the Journalism and Technical Communications program. Currently, she is an assistant project researcher on the CYCLES team, a project focused on video games and how they contribute to learning transfer/retention.
Stephanie writes science-fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction, though dabbles from time to time in other genres.
She has also spent time facilitating workshops for Colorado inmates and hopes to continue her literacy volunteerism by teaching creative writing to a veteran’s group.
Her works can be found in The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Copper Nickel, Transgress Magazine, Changing Minds – Changing Lives
, and Construction
Visit her website at www.stephantrain.com
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win! What inspired you to enter the contest?
I can be something of a chicken at times with my writing. The WOW contest is only my third. I must have rued over my submission for months. Should I? Shouldn't I? Am I good enough? I read some of the past winning stories and got cold feet for a few weeks. I couldn’t do that. I'm in over my head. I ended up going for it because the story spoke to me and I felt like this venue (WOW) was so beautifully done. I had to try to become a part of that.
WOW: Thanks for the kind words about WOW! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Pine Box?
It started with a small moment for me. After my grandfather passed away, I had the oddest memories manifest in the wake of it all. The grandfather clock for instance, that I write about in the story, I remember lying on the couch in his house as a girl, looking up to that clock and wondering why people cared so much about time, why we kept winding the clocks. He wound that clock every day because he was always worried about the tempo slowing. He had a thing about being on time. Now, I see a clock and I think about him. I wanted to approach this particular story with that notion of small moments. Like the clock, these moments draw us in and become a touchstone of sorts, memories that surprise us, especially when we lose someone.
WOW: How did you craft your winning flash fiction story? Did you have to edit much to get to the final version?
I'm a sloppy drafter. I get the story on paper quickly. Turn off that internal editor and just GO. I teach writing to inmates and this is something I have to work on with them. Unleash that inner writer and let him/her "play." With my jail writers, they often come to the creative writing class with a fear of "messing up," or a "fear of the red pen." When we put words to paper, it's not permanent until we say it's permanent. Editing isn't a chore; it's power. There is something magical in looking a messy rough draft and turning it into something that you can be proud of. If I were to guess, I'd say that I spend 20% of my time drafting and 80% revising and editing. But I'm a word-nerd. It's not "work," it's taking a lump of clay and molding it and refining it.
WOW: I like the "word-nerd" decription and think there are a few of us here! In your bio, you mention that you’re involved in research focusing on video games and how they contribute to learning transfer/retention. What have you been learning from this project?
I'm learning that video games are amazing platforms for learning. The more we DO, the more we learn. It's really that simple. Our results have shown that this is especially true for retaining knowledge. You may read something in a book, attend a lecture, but the educational video game has proven to help in long-term retention. We can apply this to writing as well. I can't tell you the number of classes I've attended where we would sit and talk about writing. There is no doing. This made no sense to me. When you take a painting class, you expect to paint. You buy your brushes, you wear your frock, you choose your easel. When I started teaching creative writing, I wanted my students to write. In the jail writing class, for example, we spend most of our time writing. I want my writers to have a safe space where they aren't afraid to "fail brilliantly," because I'll be there to hold their hand and help them work through it.
WOW: The way you explain it really makes sense. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Stephanie! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?
I'm thrilled to answer these questions! I feel important now. The best advice I can give writers is to write across genres. I'm not just talking about genre fiction such as literary fiction, romance, science-fiction/fantasy. I'm talking about fiction, poetry, play-writing, screenplays. Write anything and everything. The best gift I gave myself as a writer was to delve into as many writing methods as I could. Play-writing helped me immensely with dialogue. There is no exposition in play-writing. Your dialogue has to pull its own weight.
I learned more about plot and structure in a 2-hour film-writing class than I did in my three years in an M.F.A. program. And poetry. While I'm a terrible poet, forcing myself to engage in the form gave me massive appreciation for language efficiency and sensory details. Furthermore, don't just write in these forms, read them. Whenever my prose turns stale, I open up a book of poetry (Billy Collins and Jake York recently). Or read a play. Sam Shepherd's "True West," inspired me to consider the quiet moments between dialogue, those empty spaces that say more than words themselves.
For more information about our Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest, visit:
Labels: Contestant interview, flash fiction runner up, Stephanie Train, Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest
New Year’s Resolutions: Write Your Dream in 2014
Just over a week ago, Margo Dill wrote a Muffin post
about taking your writing career seriously. She recommended that we set SMART goals, or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Follow Margo’s guidelines and you will find yourself setting goals that are concrete (finish a draft of my novel vs work on my novel). Your goals will also be within your ability to achieve (finish a draft of my novel vs find a publisher for my novel or win an award with my novel).
I’d like to add to Margo’s list by challenging you to do one more thing. Set a goal that is scary. Write your dream manuscript. For some of us it is one special manuscript. For others, it is a series or several unrelated stories that creep into our minds again and again.
The reasons that you aren’t working on your dream piece usually fits into one of these three areas.
- Fear. Sometimes you avoid your dream project out of fear, especially if writing this manuscript means baring your soul. While this manuscript is near to your heart and you believe people need to hear what you have to say, you also fear the criticism this project will bring. This was the case with a picture book on prayer that I noodled over for years. Instead of working on it, I turned to safer topics.
- Criticism. You might be avoiding your dream project because you overcame fear of the unknown long enough to write and get the work into the hands of trusted reviewers. Unfortunately, harsh words from someone you trust can bring you to a stop. When I drafted my picture book, I was surprised by the support I received until . . . let’s just say that one person can derail you completely.
- Market. The third reason that we abandon our dream projects is because of market trends. We go to a conference only to hear that fiction/nonfiction/memoir is no longer selling. If that is what you are working on, you aren’t going to find a home for your work unless it is amazing. And your work, says the critiquer, is adequate, not amazing. One woman in my critique group has abandoned her fiction after such a comment and now only writes nonfiction. While her nonfiction is fascinating, she has walked away from a story she just had to write.
No matter why you put aside your dream story, I’d like to challenge you. In 2014, recommit yourself to this project. Editors tell us that they want writing with passion. Passion doesn’t come from playing it safe. Passion doesn’t come from the sure sale. It comes from the story that we believe in and that won’t let us alone.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a picture book to rework according to my own unique vision.
Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey
Labels: challenging yourself, goals, resolutions, setting goals, writing goals
Writing Lessons of 2013
Though I’m already making plans for next year, I’m compelled to take a look back first.
See, I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made this
year. So I checked my blog
for a feature I call “What Not To Do” where I share my mistakes and what I learned from said mistakes. And I thought maybe you could benefit from my year-end inventory, too. So join me as I walk down Memory Lane, reliving those magical writing moments where I messed up in 2013.
What I Learned About Book-Signings
I finally scheduled a book-signing for a couple of anthologies wherein I had stories. And I thought I’d made thorough plans. But I did not count on the wind (it was an outside festival), and I did not consider the heat (chocolate melts), but mostly, I didn’t really think about the importance of selling
I suppose I thought the book would sell itself. But here’s what I learned: people want to talk to writers about the book—and they want to talk about their own experiences, too. And if you take the time to connect—to listen and interact with the people who drop by—the book sort of does
For my next book-signing, I’ll check the weather and I’ll bring melt-proof candy. But mostly, I’ll be ready to engage with shoppers. Because shoppers are the ones who’ll buy—and read—the book!
What I Learned About Proofreading
I don’t often ask for help with proofreading. But after sending a query out to an agent, I realized I’d made an error. And not just a simple comma error. Nope, this was an epic error involving the actual text and…honestly, I still want to bang my head on the desk, thinking about it. How, I asked myself. How
did this happen?
It happened because when we write, we often mentally correct an error. We know what we mean to say and our brain helps us out by showing us what we expect
to see rather than what’s on the printed page.
So I learned (rather painfully) that I shouldn’t rush the proofreading step. Sometimes, it’s enough to leave the work for an hour or two. An error is likely to jump out when we return. For larger works (like an entire manuscript), there are several options for proofreading. There are premium or free services that will analyze text (search “grammar check”). But we can also ask our fellow writers for proofreading help, perhaps our critique group, or a trusted writer friend. And then we must actually do
it. (Your head will thank you.)
What I Learned About Reading Writing Books
In April, I learned that, despite my best intentions, I had read only one of the writing books piled in a stack by my bed. It was an excellent book, filled with great writing advice, and so I decided that I would actually read my writing books instead of letting them sit, hoping that the advice would somehow transfer to my brain through osmosis.
But here’s what I discovered in December
of 2013: I still have not read my writing books
. So I’m sure you can guess what the first What Not To Do of 2014 will be.
Oh, well. Now that I’ve looked back (and learned) from my mistakes, it’s time to look forward, to figure out my What To Do list for the coming year.
Ahhhh. That’s much better. (And may your 2014 be much better, too!)
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: book signings, Cathy C. Hall, learning from mistakes, proofreading, setting goals, writing advice, writing books, Writing What Not To Do's
Ten (More) Things I’ve Learned Four Months After Publishing My First Novel
In my last post
I wrote about promoting your debut novel from my experience with King of the Class
. Today I want to list some don'ts.
1. Don’t forget to make a post-novel plan.
What do you want to do now that your novel’s been out for a while? Write a new novel? Go on a book tour? Go back to your day job? Try a new genre? This is especially important if you are anything like me i.e., flounders without specific goals.
2. Don’t respond to criticism.
It’s an absurd expectation to think you will write a book that appeals to everyone. Thank them for reading your work and move on. Some comments might be indecipherable. One reader told me that I was admired and talented and then went on to write that the best thing for me would be to write a novel that had no Jews, no Israel and nothing to do with any religion whatsoever. That would be a book to read, if I’d only write it! Umm. Thanks. I think.
3. Don’t check Amazon’s author central more than once a week.
Your writer life won’t change by the minute. Is it worth becoming obsessed with that graph?
4. Don’t use an amateur author photo or one that makes you cringe.
Almost every publication and site that prints even the smallest mention of King of the Class requests a photo. After that your photo pops up on the internet everywhere.
5. Don’t confuse yourself with your work (see #2).
You want people ultimately to like and care about you, not your writing. If someone lets you know they didn’t enjoy your novel, that’s not a criticism of you. Ditto for the opposite. When you receive a rave review from a critic or friend, let a smile go to your face (a big one!), but keep your feet on the ground.
6. Don’t turn down publicity in the smallest publication or blog.
You never know who reads what and whether or not a larger publication might repost information about your work or ask for an interview. Readership is valuable. Period.
7. Don’t forget to follow-up.
If you or your publisher mailed out courtesy copies, keep a list that includes dates and follow up 6-8 weeks later. This is not rude, it’s smart. Out of 100 courtesy copies around 15% of my follow-up emails read: Sorry, Gila your copy never arrived. You can resend or offer an electronic version if your mail budget is depleted. This is someone who has agreed to a copy. Don’t waste a potential review by not following-up. It’s also preferable to making assumptions about certain editors and possibly bad mouthing them.
8. Don’t send courtesy copies to editors who don’t review your genre.
Unless you have an unlimited budget for courtesy copies, make sure your copies are going to reviewers of your genre. There are people who will say yes to a courtesy copy of a novel without mentioning what they review. Even if you ask them to pass it on to someone who does review your genre, that person never agreed to a courtesy copy.
9. Don’t assume anyone cares as much about your work as you do
. I’ve read this before, but it’s worth repeating. Not your publisher, spouse, sibling, child, best friend, editor or publisher cares as much about your work as you do. Translation: the hard promotional work is yours.
10. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.
There’s no need to overdo this, but I wrote a few writers I’ve never met if I thought they published a similar genre or with a similar-sized press and asked for advice. Most are happy to help and expanding your writers’ community is a good thing.
Join one of Gila Green's upcoming WOW! classes:
~Learn how how to craft story ideas into flash fiction in her
Flash Fiction Workshop
. You'll focus on carving your work down to its essence, while still conveying meaning through the successful interplay between character, conflict and theme.
~Learn how to layer your writing with literary devices in her Literary Devices Workshop.
Through short readings and in-class assignments, you'll learn how to create suspense, tension, change the pace, deepen and control your writing through the use of devices from repetition to personification. This class is suitable for anyone working on a novel, short story, memoir, essay or life story.
The New Year is almost here! Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!" in 2014? 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: book promotion, book promotion tips, Friday Speak Out, Gila Green, novel, publishing your first novel, WOW Classes, WOW instructor
Backup, backup, backup!
|I was tempted to resort to using only paper|
and pen after losing three years of blogging.
Instead, I'll start from scratch and backup,
backup, backup! Photo | EKHumphrey
As I look back on my year in writing, I have one regret.
Consider this post is a small public service announcement for you to learn from
In September, I put my plans in action to upgrade to my
blog. I’ve had a blog since at least 2008, but had rarely changed it up. (The
last time was in 2011, which, yes, I know is ancient in terms of a blog!) I
like to do these things myself. I learned how to make some tweaks to a
WordPress theme and had been troubleshooting my site for years with very few
problems. But because things were running so well, I was complacent.
In my upgrade plans, I was going to finally start the email list I had mapped out. I was finally going to follow an editorial
plan I have been working on since the spring. But when I went into upgrade my
site to a new theme, I did something wrong and wiped out my content.
Every. Post. Is. Gone.
Yes, I had a backup running. But as a DIYer, I had it
backing up the technical elements of my blog, not my content. To me, it was the
technical elements of the blog that I feared losing as it was (at the time) the
part of my blog I feared losing most. Well, until I actually lost the content
the same week that I decided I didn’t need the guts of my blog anymore.
I’ve spent several months cursing myself and rebuilding the
site. Needless to say, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson: No matter what
platform you are using, you should be backing up your content as well as your
Moving forward I will make sure I do both and here’s what I’ve
been looking adding into my blogging process:
- Create each post in Word before adding it to my
blog. (I do this for The Muffin posts, but never thought to use the same system
for my personal blog.) In this way, I’d also have all my posts in Word, which is an added bonus.
- Use an Internet
service to automatically save my content.
- Export my blog by hand each time I update the
blog (which sounds painful, but I’m sure less painful than losing everything).
- Continue to automate
the backup of the guts, especially with my newly created theme and design I’m
- Every couple weeks (to a month) schedule
maintenance on my blog—and my writing—to make sure that I have all the systems
in place so I don’t lose a word.
Did you have any
painful writing lesson you learned from 2013? If so, what did you learn that you can share with others moving into 2014?
Humphrey writes and edits in coastal North Carolina. She wishes you a very
Happy New Year filled with your writing dreams—all
Labels: backup files, Data Back-Ups, data backup, Elizabeth King Humphrey
Giving The Gift of Reading
Last week, while working at the newspaper, I was called to the local food pantry to cover a story. As volunteers stocked shelves with the latest donations, an 8-year-old boy and his slightly older sister delivered neatly wrapped packages. These gifts were to be distributed to pantry visitors who have children.
The siblings held a fundraiser and challenged national toy companies to meet their fundraising total. Voila! Success that benefited a lot of children from the area, providing a happy holiday for those in need.
The event got me thinking about the holiday season and the practice of handing out presents. Several family members and friends prefer a charitable donation be made in their names to a favorite charity in lieu of a gift, so I started wondering how a writer could combine a charitable donation and writing to promote literacy. A couple thoughts came to mind.
The library my mom works at has a yearly "friends of the library" campaign that runs through the holidays. The local paper prints a running list of those who contribute to the cause and the monies collected assist with book and material purchases. It's a win-win for the library and the person donating. More $ = more books = more people checking out the library. Plus, it's a charitable tax deduction for the person donating.
Or, why not give books to a charitable organization that encourages reading? Reading is Fundamental, as well as the World Literacy Foundation, came to my mind right away. Both provide reading materials and assist teaching people how to read. As luck would have it, today, Media Bistro printed a list of charities that promote reading / literacy
As writers, not only should we be promoting our written product, we should also be promoting a love of reading and a need for literacy. Making a charitable gift donation is one way to encourage readers young and old to read and read and read and read . . .
Happy holidays from LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.
Labels: charities promoting literacy, charity, libraries, LuAnn Schindler, reading
Gemma Rapp, Second Place, Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest
Let's welcome, Gemma Rapp, to the Muffin to discuss her 2nd place short story, "The Blanket," and learn a bit about her and her writing life. If you haven't read "The Blanket" yet, you can do so here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/58-FE1-Summer13Contest.html
Here's a bit about Gemma!
Gemma is a 20-something-year-old writer (yeah, she’s going to own
that) from Washington. She has been writing since she could spell. When
she was eight years old, she would rip off Gertrude Chandler Warner’s
Boxcar Children series and fill notebooks with stories about Henry,
Jessie, Violet, and Benny. In her fifth-grade “Someday” book, the final
page is dedicated to her dream of “one day I’ll write a book and get
it published.” Someday.
Lately, Gemma has taken a break from her snippets of
novels and is focusing on shorter stories. She has realized that flash
fiction can be finished now, is much cheaper to have line-edited and,
surprisingly, provides more of a challenge for someone so long-winded
Her previous publications include “Down Memory Lane” in the M Review
for Marylhurst University and a piece in an anthology called Papers
, in 2012.
For the future, Gemma plans on writing more short
stories while at the same time working on her very raw drafts of two
different novels. If you feel like saying “Hi,” feel free to seek her out on Facebook and send a message.
WOW: Congratulations, Gemma, on your 2nd place win in the Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest with your story, "The Blanket." It is one of those stories that you are thinking about LONG after you read the last word. What gave you the idea for such a haunting story?
Thank you. I was thinking about how they would say this in the movies; based on a true story?
I grew up in dysfunction and abuse, and I think I coped and over compensated by loving inanimate objects, especially stuffed animals and my blankie. They offered love and comfort that I so desperately needed, and the idea of them being hurt or damaged or losing them was unbearable.
I think it’s also important to mention that with childhood abuse in the home there isn’t much choice but to love your parents regardless of their actions. I think that’s the “shocking” or thought-provoking part of the story-the last sentence. I think it’s difficult to recognize that a small child would be faced with such conflict so deeply in her soul. Although the idea of loving the thing that is destroying you is a very grown-up concept, hundreds of thousands of kids are treading in that every single day.
In addition to being based on my history, it is many kids', past and present, true story. I think a lot of people are in denial about the statistics of child abuse in America. “The Blanket” focused mainly on psychological maltreatment, but there are so many different types of abuse--most commonly neglect-- but also physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that are all very prevalent and equal as damaging.
has a host of information and ways to help, if anyone is interested.
WOW: Thank you for the link and for drawing attention to this topic with your beautiful story. You show a lot of detail about the main character's relationship with her father and with her blanket in under 750 words. How long did it take you to perfect these details with such a small word count?
I don’t have an orthodox or traditional system of writing. I don’t think much about structure or aspects of development. Most of my writing is done in my head; it’s like I’m reading the story as I go. My work is to then transcribe it as quickly as possible, so I don’t forget a sentence that I really, really loved. So, I am one of those people who will scribble a sentence on a napkin and then sort of jigsaw puzzle the pieces together later. Generally, the way I tell if something is “good” or worth continued work is by reading it and deciding if it’s something I would like as a reader rather than it’s author. Once I have a completed story, I will do my own edit, circling things I am questioning, like word choice. When I have a story I like, I will send it in for a line edit and then call it done. If I’m lucky, I can have a story done in a week. If I’m not “in the mood,” then sometimes the story trickles out at a painfully slow pace, and it can take months.
For this particular piece, I didn’t change too much from when it read itself in my head. Initially, it was a bit less than 900 words, so I cut a few sentences. I submitted to an earlier contest and got a critique back that it was great, but it needed more back ground on the dad. I felt like I had bit off more story than I could fit into the 750-word count so I put it in a drawer for about a month. I had deep connection to this story, and I knew it had a lot of potential; so when I dusted it off, I took a pen and crossed out every word that wasn’t absolutely necessary. I think I ended up with 40-odd words to spare. With a few carefully placed sentences about past incidences, I think it opened a window into the type of man that her dad was and how much tension and fear was swimming about in that relationship.
Apparently it did the trick, and I was thrilled to receive my “top ten” e-mail. Once I saw I had been awarded second place, I think my heart slowed down a little bit and I couldn’t stop smiling.
WOW: This goes to show what revision can do! Thank you also for sharing your process with us. That will help many writers! Your bio says that you are currently enjoying working on short stories. Why is that?
Whether by nurture or nature, I tend to be slightly perfectionistic but also easily discouraged-which isn’t the best combination when under taking very large and time-consuming tasks. I have two partial novels I have been working on since 2010. They feel messy to me and at times overwhelming, so I tend to take breaks.
During one of those breaks, I began writing short stories, usually between one to three thousand words. It felt so wonderful to have something DONE. I loved the feeling of completion; it felt relieving and less worrisome. I think the thing I struggle with most, as a writer, is the ending; and when given a certain amount of words to work with, it makes the objective very clear and for me, more obtainable.
WOW: What themes do you like to explore in your writing? Do you notice a pattern developing?
Absolutely. I tend to use a lot of feeling in my writing and definitely focus more on description rather than dialogue.
As far as a theme goes, I tend to lean toward writing about difficult things that aren’t talked about. Or if they are talked about, it is done so in whispers or behind closed doors.
My goal as a writer is to offer a glimpse into a life that the reader may not have known about or understood before. If I could somehow provide some type of insight into dark areas and at the same time if I could do it in a beautiful way, then I would consider myself accomplished.
WOW: You definitely accomplished that with your winning story! I think you were an early fan fiction writer with the Boxcar series. Now there are websites dedicated to fan fiction! (smiles) How do you think your early interest in writing and literature has prepared you for your career as a writer?
My elementary school did something called the "young author's conference." During the school year, we would write and illustrate stories. We would pick our favorite, and the teacher would type it; and we would be responsible for an illustration on each page. It was then laminated, and it would be comb bound. It even had an "about the author" page with our school pictures pasted on and a blank page for notes.
On conference day, we'd be split into groups of ten or so, and we'd read our books out loud and get comments and questions. I hated that part, but I love the sticker the cover of your book would be adorned with if you participated. To me, it could have been a golden national book award. At the end of the day, the hallway would be lined with long tables, and the books would be on display for anyone to read; and people would write you notes on the comments page.
It is truly one of my fondest memories. Holding a book that I had written ignited a passion in me.
I think those early experiences taught me a lot. It wasn't easy. A book didn't just materialize (to get all the drafts done and illustrations usually took weeks). More often than not. it was more than one person's effort; and that even if you had a book you loved and that was your very best--one that you poured your soul and creativity and all your Kid Pix skills into, even if eight other kids all had something nice to say--some stinky fifth grader might declare he just flat out does not like it. And I think that, the subjectivity of any given person, to poo-poo a story you've scratched your heart into is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in regard to later choosing to do something artistic as an adult.
I think with all art, you're taking a risk. You put a bit of yourself our there, and you are very literally asking other people to judge it. It’s scary, and you have to get comfortable with rejection. But you also have to get comfortable with your own self-confidence and being able to say that even if someone doesn’t like your work, then it doesn’t mean that it’s not good or worthwhile--it just means you need to find another group.
WOW: So many words of wisdom and inspiration! Thank you. What's next for you?
What’s next for me? What a fabulous question, and one I would LOVE to know the answer to! I am teasing, but I do think I take the “one day at a time” motto to heart. I, of course, plan on writing. I just submitted to Writer’s Digest,
and I am currently rolling a story around in my head about a girl named Moxie. I have two novels I am working on, and I, without a doubt, would like to get at least one done and edited in the coming year and maybe start to look into the publishing process.
It seems like such a lofty goal, but I think that’s where “one day at a time” comes into cliched play.
WOW: Thank you, Gemma, best of luck to you in the New Year!
Labels: 2nd place winner, flash fiction, Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest, writing process
Interview with Violet Duke, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Happy Holidays, Muffin readers! Sweet Holiday treat today: an interview with Violet Duke, New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author.
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author
Violet Duke is a former professor of English Education who is ecstatic to now be on the other side of the page writing wickedly fun contemporary romance novels. When she’s not arguing with her story characters or feeding her book-a-day reading addiction, she enjoys tackling reno projects with her power tools while trying pretty much anything without reading the directions first and cooking ‘special edition’ dishes that laugh in the face of recipes. Violet lives in Hawai’I with her two cute kids and similarly adorable husband. (Find out more at http://www.violetduke.com )
WOW: New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author? That’s SO Exciting!! So spill it – who was your biggest cheerleader or influence through the years and what is their response to your success?
It was beyond exciting! I was over the moon when it happened this summer. One of my author friends actually told me I made the list and she and I shed a few emotional tears in that phone call. Definitely a cherished memory for the scrapbooks.
Besides the many author friends I’ve made via Twitter and Facebook, I’d say my biggest cheerleader is my husband. He believed in my becoming an author from the very beginning, had faith in my books before there was even anything physical to have faith in. His response has been awed appreciation for my fans and colleagues, along with doting I-knew-you-could-do-its for me.
WOW: (laughing) Are you sure you aren’t just buttering up your hubby because it’s so close to Christmas? Seriously: How do you come up with such great titles and storylines?
I’m super excited to read Love, Chocolate, and Beer – where did that idea come from in particular?
My titles generally come quickly after the series has formulated into a conjoined collection of stories in my head. The entire thing is a very spontaneously organic process. Usually some little kernel of inspiration will come (usually while I’m driving for some reason) and I’ll scramble to get my notes down onto a scrap paper, napkin, gum wrapper, anything. From there, it marinates. The characters line up and start introducing themselves to me (and my muse). Since I write very character-based stories (as opposed to event-based), I usually get to know the characters as friends *before* I learn all their interesting little secrets. As I get to know the characters more, their storylines start thickening, developing, and eventually becoming inherently event-based as well, in a spiderweb that has (by this point) grown to encompass three to five stories. That’s when I start outlining, storyboarding, and coming up with my titles.
Love, Chocolate, and Beer
is actually a story that I wrote about two years ago, while I was pregnant with my second child, a year before the characters in the Nice Girl/Nice Guy books unapologetically cut in line. The story actually started with my wanting to write about Valentine’s Day and a coordinating holiday in Japan called White Day (March 14th). You’ll learn more about that holiday in the book when it releases in January but basically, it has to do with chocolate and love…in the most un-red-heart-box way I could come up with. *chuckles* I like to be different. So I guess in the grand question of who came first, the chocolatier or the brew master, the answer would be the chocolatier. And since I’ve *always* wanted to write a story about a brewmaster (I do love my beer), it was the perfect combination. When I introduced the two characters to each other, sparks flew. And the story was born.
WOW: I had no idea you liked beer; you are so intriguing. I have however heard you lived in a cabin in the woods for an entire year – with no hot water and only an outhouse, did you find you were more creative with your writing?
Tell us one of your favorite things about the year in the cabin and/or which books were written during that time?
LOL! That was actually nearly a decade ago--in the third year of my PhD degree (toward the end of the six-year hiatus I took from writing fiction to complete my graduate studies in English). I was just starting to work on my dissertation when I came across an ad for a cabin in the woods. I drove over to the area—about a half hour from Tempe—and just fell in love with the “town” on the spot. It was totally hidden. Population in the dozens. Surprising with all its greenery and creeks that actually complimented the desert landscape quite gorgeously. No street lights or sounds, it was heavenly. Yes, I do think I was more productive—I got a lot of my articles and dissertation writing done. But more than that, I was able to get in touch with my surroundings again, in a way I used to be in Hawai‘i but lost a little of when I moved to the different cities I lived in on the mainland. And that rekindled love affair with the unique, rustic varieties of nature quickly manifested in a deep appreciation for the rough beauty of Arizona, which is most certainly represented in my novels (the first three series are all in Arizona).
My favorite thing about living there was probably just being able to hang out with my dog, exploring the creeks, hiking along the lush desert greenery with all its earthy colors (a dazzling paradox I’m still in love with to this day).
WOW: That lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone; I admire you for even giving it a try.
You drew up the plans for your own house? What would you change now that you’ve lived in the house? What wouldn’t you change?
I’d put a door on my office! LOL. I wanted it to be slightly open-concept so instead of a door, there’s just a floor to ceiling open walk-through. It looks great but more often than not, when I’m smack-dab in the middle of an emotional scene, Murphy’s Law dictates that one or more of my kids will sneak in with a (albeit adorable), “Hi mommy!” LOL. I wouldn’t change anything else. I handpicked every single element—from the cabinets to the fixtures to the paint—and installed a lot of it (flooring, tiling, etc.). My favorite part would have to be my office desk, shelves, and built-ins. My husband and I made every aspect of my office ourselves (I adore my power tools). *beams*
WOW: What else can you tell readers about what the future has in store for Violet Duke? What about Nina Nakayama?
My upcoming series is the Cactus Creek series which is based on that fantastic, quirky little town in Arizona my muse and I created years ago (which is a thousand percent inspired by the area my cabin was in). There are three novels and two novellas in that one. The first novel is about chocolate and beer, the second about antique weapons and martial arts, and the third is all about football. An eclectic mix of storylines that are (as my friends and beta readers tell me) all very “Violet Duke” books. And because all the characters from my Nice Girl / Nice Guy books met and befriended the Cactus Creek crew, there will be cameos of all those characters as well. Basically, it’s a controlled chaos-type party. LOL. After that, I have a few different series coming up. They’re all very hush-hush right now but they’re so different from what I’ve written up until now (edgier with even *more* unique topics) so I’m really eager to get started on them.
Nina Nakayama (my alter ego) is still hard at work being a mom to a six-year old and one-year old…and a thirty-ahem year old Mr. Violet Duke (sometimes, he’s their ringleader!). My colleagues and former students back at the university where I once worked as a professor have asked if I’m ever going to come back. I do love and miss teaching terribly so a few guest lectures may get written into my future as well. *grin* Beyond that, I’m just loving and living my day-to-day life. It’s honestly beyond my wildest, most imaginative dreams. I don’t want to miss a second of it.
Thanks so much for the interview and having me over! I had fun!
WOW: I should be thanking you and I certainly agree, this was a lot of fun! Thank you so much!
Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Crystal 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, three young children (Carmen 6, Andre 5, Breccan 12 weeks), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging at:http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Finding the Right Girl
(A Nice GUY to Love Spin-Off Novel)
Brian & Tessa’s Story
From the New York Times bestselling author who brought you the Nice Girl trilogy, comes a Nice GUY to Love spin-off…
Brian Sullivan has been in love twice in his lifetime. He lost his first love to early-onset Huntington’s, and he lost the other more recently…to his brother. And somehow, his heart has managed to heal itself after both. Amazingly, without therapy. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t gotten more wary along the way, however. In fact, he’s been thinking lately that maybe his brother’s now retired nothing-but-flings rule isn’t such a bad idea. Unfortunately, being the nice guy poster boy and all, Brian isn’t exactly versed in the fine art of flings. So he looks to the outrageously ‘unique,’ provokingly button-pushing Tessa Daniels for a crash course.
There’s absolutely no way he’s falling in love with this one…right?
Tessa has no idea what she was thinking telling Brian that she was some sort of fling expert. She’s never been flung before and she sure as heck doesn’t know where or how to begin flinging a guy like Brian. It was a temporary lapse in sanity, really—no doubt because of the can’t-help-but-fall-for-him brain fuzz that hits her whenever he’s around. Not only does the man have her being more herself than she’s ever been in her life, but he’s the only person she knows who seems to have as many demons and skeletons in the closet as she does. What’s more, he’s got her thinking of the one thing she stopped letting herself even hope for years ago.
A happily ever after.
Labels: author interview, bestselling author, duke interview, interview, violet duke, violet duke interview
Opening Words That Wow!
Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page and wondering, “How in the world do I start?” This can pertain to newspaper or magazine articles, query letters, essays, blog posts, plays, non-fiction books or novels.
Writing the opening sentence (or sentences) can be very intimidating. If you’re querying a magazine editor who receives twenty or more queries a day, they could very easily delete your e-mail if they aren’t hooked in the opening. The same goes for agents you are contacting for possible representation. There, you have to first hook the agent in the query letter, and then, if they are interested in your project, you have to further hook them in the opening page of your book. No pressure, right?
Like many aspects of writing, opening words and pages can be very subjective. I signed up for an intensive workshop with a literary agent at a Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference this past fall and picked up a lot of great tips. During one exercise, the agent passed out a sheet that contained pieces of query letters she had received from various authors with “the hook” of each book that had been pitched. Our assignment was to circle each “hook” that we believed resulted in representation. For the most part, we were able to pick out the successful queries. There were a few that we were unsure about.
What was most obvious about the exercise was that there was no “right” way to present the hook of each book. Each author had tackled it in a different way (some started right out with a tagline of the book, others began with statistics, etc.) but we all agreed certain queries just stood out more than others. For me, I can tell during the writing and revision process what type of lead works and what doesn’t. But if I’m unsure, I hand off the piece to trusted friends or colleagues for feedback. Here are a few examples of different openings I’ve used over the years:
Magazine article lede:
He has golden hair and warm brown eyes. He loves to play in the backyard of his family home in Davidson but also appreciates a good nap, too. His best friend is a 10-year-old little girl named Eleanor Bolton, and he’d do anything for her.
--From "A Constant Companion: Davidson’s Eleanor Bolton fulfills her dream of owning a service dog," Lake Norman CURRENTS
, October 2013.
Women’s fiction short story opening:
I always thought the ultimate betrayal between a man and woman would involve infidelity. I could not have been more wrong.
On the day I came home from work during my lunch hour (and when our daughter was safely tucked away at her preschool) I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d find. But I assumed it would have something to do with a scene straight out of a movie from the Lifetime channel. You know the kind I’m talking about — murmured voices behind the closed bedroom door, an unfinished bottle of wine and two glasses on the coffee table, a crumpled blouse on the floor that didn’t belong to me. Instead, it was what I found on the open laptop computer on the table that brought me to my knees.
Essay for a trade publication:
I’ve been asked the question, “how do I get my first clip?” throughout my freelance career countless times. These days, writers can go the content aggregate route and get clips published pretty quickly on those sites, but they are paid in pennies and many editors won’t consider those real clips. But when I tell other writers how I got my first clip after taking a few years off from writing to have my daughter, they look at me a little skeptically.
I offered to write something for free. And I did it more than once.
How do you figure out the best way to start out your writing projects? Share some of your favorite openings with us!
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages. Visit her website at www.FinishedPages.com.
Labels: hooking your readers, magazine ledes, opening words, Renee Roberson, short story openings, writing inspiration
Three Ways to Take Your Children's (or any) Writing Career Seriously in the New Year
If you’ve been thinking about a career as a children’s writer, there’s no time like 2014 to begin. But instead of just talking about it or maybe even writing a novel chapter here or there, it’s time to get serious! Think of your children’s and YA writing as a career. Here are three things you can do—starting January 1 (or even right now):
1. Set Goals
—Children’s and YA writers come in all shapes and sizes. Some write picture books; some write novels. There are magazine writers and nonfiction book writers. What do you want to do? What is your main goal for your career? It’s important to set both short term (six month goals) and long term (one year or even five year goals). But what is even more crucial is that the goals are S.M.A.R.T. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely
The point I always make with fellow writers is that you need to create goals that you can actually control. You should not say: “I will have an agent for my middle-grade series by August 2014.” You cannot control whether or not an agent is going to sign you.
Instead your goal could be: “I will send out three queries a week to agents for my middle-grade series until August 2014 and re-evaluate my project at that time if I haven’t signed a contract.” This goal is S.M.A.R.T and within your control!
2. Schedule Time
—It is nearly impossible to become a children’s writer if you don’t set time aside every day to work on your career. The method that works best for me is to actually write down on our family calendar the times when I am going to write. Other people wake up early before going to their day jobs to write an hour each morning; some write during lunch hours; others are most productive when everyone goes to bed, and the house is quiet.
If you just say something like, “I will write every day,” but you never think about when this time will actually be—you will find it often gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Don’t let this happen.
—You have to invest in your career. You can do this by taking a class, joining an organization like Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (http://www.scbwi.org
), going to a conference, becoming a member of a critique group, subscribing to a writing magazine, or buying a writing craft book. The important thing is to either spend money on your career or make a commitment to other people (such as critique group members) to not only learn more about your craft, but to also show your family and friends that you are serious. And often if our pocketbooks are involved, we tend to be a bit more committed.
This is your year! Move forward in your writing career and take yourself seriously.
Do you have another way you're going to take your writing career seriously?
Margo L. Dill, award-winning author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength in Vicksburg, is teaching online, Writing For Children: How to Get Started and Take Hold of Your Career, starting on January 7, 2014. For more information, see the classroom page here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html.
computer photo by Joe Lanman http://www.flickr.com
Labels: a writing career, children's writers, effective writing goals, Margo L. Dill
Friday Speak Out!: I Lost, But I'm Still a Winner, Guest Post by Sioux Roslawski
NaNoWriMo rolled around once again, an annual torture-fest. Fifty-thousand words in one short month.
Last year I made it to the finish line. I ended up with 50,000 words. A novel. A hot-mess of a novel, and unfinished...my story had not come to a conclusion.
Because I was the kid who defied her mother and always played tackle (not touch) football...Because I was the teenager who refused to wear anything except overalls...Because I was the woman who never even owned a lipstick until she was in her late forties...I've become known as a rebellious spirit. And so doing NaNoWriMo 2013 as a “NaNo Rebel” made perfect sense.
I could have started a new manuscript, but why? I was already invested in the story from last year, and had worked on it during the rest of the next year, adding (a paltry) 10,000 words to it. But still, it was not finished. So, I decided to do NaNo 2013, but I was going to work on filling in the holes (holes the size of the Grand Canyon) of my 2012 NaNo. Once November began, I was officially a rebel yet again...
Now that November is almost over (as I write this), I have resigned myself to being a loser. I was not even close to tapping out 50,000 words; I wrote more like 20,000. Still, I have not gotten to the end, but I think
I know how it's going to end. Still there are huge plot holes (holes as big as my butt). And yet as I cheer on my friends who have succeeded, leaving me behind in the dust, I still feel like I was victorious, and here's why:
I have gotten closer to the end...not there yet, but I've got more than a glimmer of how I will close out this tale.
I've “discovered” the connecting thread. When I first began this story, it was fairly two-dimensional. However, after going to my annual writing retreat in Conception, Missouri (where wonderful ideas are conceived, I like to think) and after doing a “mock” pitch at a writer's guild meeting, I realized I didn't really have—at the core of the story—a plot line that would make non-writers care. (This project of mine is about writers.) Now, I have a thread that I'm weaving in, here and there, to what I wrote a year ago.
I didn't “cheat.” I didn't avoid contractions (“do not” is better than “don't” to some NaNo-ers—double the word count), and I didn't write the names of 5,000 people who became zombies (one NaNo writer did that). What I did was simply work on my story.
Now, the goal is to finish my manuscript, so I can start revising in February. There's another writing retreat in the works and a conference, both this upcoming Spring.
And this time when I make a pitch, I want to be ready to hurl a true winner to an editor...
* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher in St. Louis and freelances in her spare time. Her stories have appeared in seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books (an 8th has made it to the final stage; Sioux's fingers are crossed) and more 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!
Labels: Friday Speak Out, NaNoWriMo, novel writing, Sioux Roslawski
Finding Time to Write: 5 Ways that Writing in December is like Baking Christmas Cookies
Finding time to write is never easy. Many of us work, we manage households and there is always something that needs to be done.
This becomes even more difficult during the holidays. We still have to do all of our normal activities, but there are now also holiday tasks (shopping, gift wrapping, socials, concerts, and even more cooking and cleaning).
Yet, you can still work writing into your schedule once you understand the 5 ways that writing in December is like baking Christmas cookies.
- Planning Required. You can’t accomplish either one of these tasks if you don’t plan for them. For Christmas cookies, this means making a grocery list and shopping. In terms of writing, it means deciding ahead of time what to write and planning accordingly. This might mean simply knowing what is going to happen next in your story. Have what you need to write and then. . .
- Make Time. Your plan won’t do any good if you don’t make time. “I’ll do it when I get a minute” isn’t good enough. Actually block out a period of time on your schedule, but be realistic. Making a batch of cookies from dough to baking may take more time than you have in one evening just as your morning activities may not allow you to write an entire chapter. You will have to . . .
- Break It into Do-able Steps. For cookie baking, this might mean making the dough one night and baking another. For your writing, how you do this will depend on what you are writing but it could be as simple as dedicating yourself to writing two pages of prose or three lines of poetry each time you work. Add these small chunks together day after day and you will have accomplished something worthwhile.
- Try Something New. Sometimes we need to try something new and now is the perfect time. If you have roughed out your novel, you may not be able to rewrite amid the hustle and bustle. Now might be a good time to try your hand at the craft activities you’ve been wanting to write or the no bake peanut butter bar recipe hanging on your frig.
- Plan to Share. Your family is more likely to help if they get to sample both cookies and your writing. When I read my son pages of my middle grade novel, he wanted to know what happened next. I wouldn’t tell him. He had to read the finished pages. This meant that if I ended at a cliff hanger he actually wanted me to go back to my writing.
Writing in December isn’t easy, but it is doable if you go at it with a plan.
Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey
Labels: daily writing schedule, finding time to write, writing, writing time
The Subjective Side of the Writing Business
About a week ago, my horoscope read:
“Your success and failures are not based solely on your own actions. Be firm with yourself, but have compassion, too. It’s not all in your control.”
I smiled when I read it, appreciating the timely reminder from the Libran stars. You see, just the evening before, I’d received an email about a contest I’d entered.
I had a short story (a flash) that I really liked and a couple contests with similar deadlines for a flash story. So I sent off the piece to three different contests, and though I hadn’t set it up intentionally, I realized I had a sort of writing experiment going on. The same story to be judged by three different people. How would it fare?
The results trickled in. For the first contest, the story won a first prize and I was super-excited! I proposed what I thought was a sound hypothesis. That if the story placed first in one contest, it was bound to place well in the other contests. I sat back and waited for more results, with visions of dollars dancing in my head.
But when the second contest email came in, the story garnered an honorable mention. Just an honorable mention?
An anomaly, I figured. I was sure the validity of my hypothesis would be proved in the third contest.
And just a week or so ago, the afore-mentioned email came and the story won…nothing. It didn’t even get an honorable mention. How was that scientifically possible?
It didn’t take me long to answer that question. Even without the horoscope, I would've eventually remembered that writing is not an objective, scientific business. The story may have been the same, but the people reading
the story—well, every person brings a different perspective into the reading experience.
Some aspects of writing can be quantified, I suppose. Poor grammar, for instance. But once a writer gets to the level where he or she can produce a well-crafted story, then personal opinion becomes a factor in the judging. And one judge’s “Wow!” is another judge’s “Didn't care for it.”
So, just sending along to you a timely reminder: Don’t let a rejection (or even a stack
of rejections) undermine all your hard work. Keep submitting.
And feel free to borrow that gem of a horoscope (and maybe print it out and stick it above your desk).
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: Cathy C. Hall, persistence in submitting writing, Writing Business
Meet Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Winner, Jenny Wang!
is an Ann Arbor native who’s studying English at the University of Michigan. But don’t ask her how she came to choose English and writing over all the other subjects, because she doesn’t have a clue. Whatsoever. It’s all kind of a blur. Ask her friends and they would tell you that they had never expected her to be interested in writing. It was always supposed to be something in math or science, which she’d been more comfortable with. She had always struggled with reading and writing when she was younger, and it wasn’t late in high school that she’d finally felt more confident in her skills. So no, she’s not really sure how she’s gotten to this point. All she does know is that she’s enjoying every minute of it right now.
She’s grateful to all who have supported her: her teachers, her professors, her classmates, her friends, her family. She’s amazed that they have been patient enough to read some of her really embarrassing, really rough drafts. And of course, she’s thankful to WOW! for all they’ve done for aspiring writers. If it weren’t for everyone’s support, she’d never have realized that the random and private stories in her head were worth jotting down.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on your first place win! What inspired you to enter the contest
Over the summer, I was working on a few stories to submit to class in the Fall term. (I was hoping to take a creative writing course, and it required that I turn in a portfolio before classes began.) So, being new to the writing world and the writing community, I was hoping to find more people who were willing to critique my stories. Someone told me about WOW! and their quarterly flash fiction contests and their extra "critique" option. By then I already had my idea for "Stage," and so I thought, "Why not? I can probably learn some really valuable writing tips from them." Several days and some 600 words later, I submitted my story, and here I am now.
WOW: So it turned out pretty well! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Stage?
A lot of things were going on during the summer, and I think they all sort of mixed together into "Stage."
After my first year of college, I was finally back home with my mother, and our relationship got off to a rough start. While I was at school, my mother had gotten used to not having to cook and clean for another person, and I had gotten used to not having a curfew. Arguments over whose turn it was the do the laundry, or wash the dishes, or vacuum to carpet ensued. Somewhere in the middle of this bickering, I suddenly remembered a simpler time, back when it'd become just me and my mother, when I'd been so willing to do absolutely anything for her. My loyalty to her was rock-solid, because I'd known that all I had was her.
At the same time, I was watching a show (or maybe reading a book) that talked a lot about hair, and what hair meant to different people. And so I wondered what sort of value little kids, especially little girls, placed on hair, or the lack of hair. Would a little seven-year-old be able to understand the significance of losing hair to cancer, since she might not fully grasp the concept?
WOW: It's interesting to hear the background and how your idea developed. How did you craft your winning flash fiction story? Did you have to edit much to get to the final version?
This story was really hard to craft, even though it's one of my shortest stories. The framework and timeline I had pretty much figured out from the beginning. But I just didn't know how I wanted it to be told, and in what context it should be told. From the voice of a seven-year-old? Retrospectively from when the character grows up? Should I add dialogue if I tell it retrospectively? Or should I keep it feeling like a memory? I had a lot of different versions of this story, and in the end, I chose this one -- the one told retrospectively in a more formal tone, with longer sentences to evoke the "memory-like" feel of it. (Or at least I hope that's the feel of the story.)
After I'd picked the right version, I did a bit of cleaning up, and I finally submitted it.
WOW: As a college student studying English, what have your favorite classes and reading assignments been so far?
The problem with being an English major is that there are so many good professors and classes out there. I have a running joke with my friends that we've been recommended pretty much every English professor in the department. I really love having professors who are clearly passionate about what they study and what they do. My favorite classes are definitely the fiction writing classes, especially my first one, because I'd taken my first few stabs at writing short stories there. I also like classes on contemporary literature -- in one, we read Love Medicine
by Louise Erdrich, which I really enjoyed. Right now, I'm taking a class on Victorian literature, and I'm still surprised by how much I love it. The Story of an African Farm
is one of my favorite books now. I'm also taking a disability culture class, and it's quite an eye-opening experience. Exile and Pride
by Eli Clare is also a great book.
WOW: Sounds like a great college experience for you. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Jenny! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?
Maybe this is just me, but I tend to think that because I'm still young and living within the protective bubble known as college, I don't have much of an opinion to contribute. What does this kid know about the real world, anyway? But I think we get some of the most valuable perspectives from kids and young adults. Everyone has experiences that only they can tell, that deserve to be told. I guess my word of advice would be to voice shamelessly, through storytelling, what you think deserves to be said.
Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest Information:
Labels: first place winner, flash fiction contest winner, Jenny Wang, Summer 2013 Flash Fiction Contest, WOW flash fiction contest
Content Marketing – Three Steps to Properly Formatted Articles
by Karen Cioffi
Creating article content is an essential marketing strategy. It establishes you as an authority in your niche or on a particular topic, increases your visibility and readership, and brings traffic to your site. It also broadens your marketing reach, which helps bring more traffic to your site.
Bringing traffic to your site to sign up for your mailing list is the primary goal to any marketing strategy, even more so than selling a product. The reason for this is that a person on your mailing list gives you the opportunity to build a relationship and promote various products and services – it provides the basis for multiple sales
In fact, Jeff Herring (Article Marketing Guy
) says, “Article Marketing, when done correctly, is one of the most powerful forces online.”
If you notice, Herring says, “when done correctly.” Part of doing it ‘correctly’ is to have your article content properly formatted.
If you’re taking the time to use article marketing, whether posting to your blog, guest blogging, or submitting to article directories, you should create quality content, use proper grammar and punctuation, and have it formatted properly. Any content you publish or share is a reflection of your writing skills – make those skills shine.
Three Steps to Properly Format Your Article Content
1. Article Titles and Subtitles
According to EzineArticles.com
, “Better Titles = Additional Article Views = More Resource Box Clicks = Higher Website Traffic.”
Your title should be reflective of the article content and the first letter of each word should be capitalized.
Not Effective or Correct: Article marketing: formatting your content
Effective and Correct: Article Marketing With Properly Formatted Content
If at all possible leave out punctuation that can break-up the article’s url. Notice above that the ‘effective title’ eliminated the ‘colon.’
Titles should also be keyword effective. Try to include the keyword at the beginning of the title, not at the end.
The same rules hold true for your subtitle.
2. Include Keywords in the Body of Your Article
Unless you don’t care if the search engines pick up your article, or if it gets more distribution in the article directories, you need to include keywords throughout your article. But, don’t overdo it.
3. Spacing Your Article Content
Every paragraph in your article should have an extra line between it and the next one. If the formatting calls for it, the beginning of each paragraph should be indented.
You should also keep your paragraphs relatively short. Readers like plenty of ‘white space.” This ‘white space’ allows for easier and quicker reading.
Notice my formatting in this article.
There you have it, three formatting tips to help you create great article content.
Writers, start off the New Year strong! Join Karen Cioffi's online class, CREATE AND BUILD YOUR AUTHOR-WRITER ONLINE PLATFORM: Website Creation to Beyond Book/Product Sales, which starts on Monday, January 6, 2014.
For information and enrollment, visit our classroom page.
Labels: article content, article writing, author marketing, Karen Cioffi, online class, WOW online classes