Counting Your Writing Blessings
So it’s the last day of November, and many of you are slap wore out. And tomorrow is December 1st and you’re going to dash
into holiday mode and not come up for writing air until perhaps January 1st, where you will be a hypercritical mess, bemoaning all that you didn’t accomplish in December—and what the heck, why not just include all of 2014?
Friends don’t let friends berate themselves. So let’s do something different this year, starting right now.
First, I want you to open a document, or grab an actual piece of paper, or just turn over that napkin under your coffee cup. And now, I want you to number your page (or napkin) 1 through 12.
And now I want you to write down the very first thing about writing for which you are grateful. Don’t overthink it. Just write it down.
And no, I won’t give you my answer because then you’ll use it.
Now, I want you to write down the next thing about writing for which you are grateful. In fact, I want you to write down 12 different
things about writing for which you are grateful.
And I don’t mean writing in general. I mean your
writing. What, about your
writing, are you thankful for in this year of 2014?
Okay, hold on. You’re already scooching over to the negative, aren’t you? Probably thinking about what you didn’t
accomplish, like the 32,017 words you wrote instead of 50,000 for the NaNo
challenge. But guess what? YOU WROTE 32,017 WORDS! That’s pretty amazing.
What else did you do in the past eleven months?
Did you send out a query? YAY!
Did you pitch an article? Fire the confetti canon!
Did you write a short story, an essay, a haiku? Wheeee!
Look at you, writing and creating!
But maybe you’ve had a tough year, with life throwing all kinds of obstacles your way, and so you’re having trouble getting to 12. I had that kind of year, too. But I’ll bet you managed more than you think:
Did you remember to count all the books you’ve read? Reading (in your genre as well as craft books) makes you a better writer.
What about writer friends you’ve connected with this year? Did you count them? Whether you’ve met writers in person or virtually, aren’t you grateful for those connections?
And most importantly, did you count that you are here? Reading The Muffin
, reading articles on WOW! Women on writing?
Even if you’ve barely accomplished writing a grocery list, you have not quit.
That makes you a pretty awesome writer in my book. So pat yourself on the back and enjoy your December. And here’s to the glow of gratitude carrying you—and me—all the way through to New Year’s!
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: Cathy C. Hall, gratitude, National Novel Writing Month, the muffin, WOW! Women on Writing, writing advice
Writing During the Holidays
Thanksgiving is behind us along with turkey and cranberries and a wealth of other delights. Christmas is yet to come which, of course, means shopping and wrapping and more cooking. We are officially in one of the busiest times of year.
That may be, but some of us still need to write. For some of us, that means a story that just won’t leave us be. For others, like myself, it is because this is how we make our livings. I have deadlines – a book due December 3rd, an outline due the 15th, and a first chapter due just after New Year’s.
Here are five tips for working writing into your holiday schedule.
- Give yourself permission. That first one is a big deal. Acknowledge that it is okay for you to write even during the holidays. Whether you have a deadline or an itch, writing is what you do. If you identify as a writer, it is okay and even desirable for you to take the time to write. You’ll be more sane and your family will love you for that.
- Acknowledge what you can and cannot do with other people around. When I am hip deep in teens, I can proof on paper and reformat on screen. I cannot write a first draft of a chapter or do a sweeping rewrite. I can blog even with my husband home.
- Write. Giving yourself permission to write isn’t enough. You actually need to sit down and write. If no one is home, do the writing on the “cannot do with other people around” list. If they are home, switch to the other list, but write.
- Be the enforcer. Especially if this is a new habit, you may have to convince those around you. My son and husband often need gentle reminders that “just having a discussion” in my office door is forbidden. No, not discouraged. Forbidden. Your family can make do without you for 30 minutes.
- Go out and have some holiday fun. When you have done whatever writing you set out to do, go experience the holidays. Steps 1 – 4 don’t mean that I’m telling you that all of your time should be spent writing. We need to experience life so that we have something to write. Now that you’ve gotten the hang of giving yourself permission to write, you must also give yourself permission to experience whatever is going on around you.
Write and celebrate. You can do both. It’s a matter of balance.
Sue Bradford Edwards teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults
. The next section starts on January 5th.
Labels: a writing career, writing life, writing schedule
Friday Speak Out!: The Gifts We Are Given
by Carie Juettner
Last weekend, my husband and I went camping with some friends at South Llano River State Park, near Junction, Texas. We hiked and fire-gazed and ate s'mores and herded children away from hot things and pointy things and things that might bite. We watched the sky fill up with stars and saw the Milky Way stretch itself across the dark. Then we watched it fade away again in the light of the three-quarter moon. Just before nine, moon glow, star light, and campfire flames all dimmed as a bright blue-green meteor lit up the sky on its descent through our atmosphere. At some point, I heard from my tent the mournful cry of my cell phone battery dying. It was music to my ears.
I didn't write anything during our campout, but the smoke and the stars and the moon and the meteor all followed me home. They slipped into the poems I wrote on Sunday afternoon and curled up in the picture book draft that flowed from my fingers on Monday.
I remember thinking, as I watched the meteor light up my campsite Saturday night, that it was a gift, a rare sighting that need not be taken for granted. But then again, wasn't the Milky Way a gift too? And the smell of wood smoke? And the cold air that snuck in between my layers of clothes? And the dead cell phone battery? And the moon? Wasn't the moon a gift too? Isn't it always?
There are so many times when I sit at my desk, trying to force the ideas to come, attempting to wrangle words, kicking and screaming, onto my page or screen. Why do I do this when the world is full of gifts just waiting for me to notice them? All I have to do is step outside for a few minutes. Or read a poem. Or open a photo album. Or drive down a street I've never been on before.
As writers, we have to make the most of the gifts we are given—a snippet of conversation, a dog rolling on his back in the grass, the taste of an unripe raspberry, the moon.
The next time you're slouched over your desk trying to hog tie some poor piece into submission, take a break. Stand up. Turn around. Open your eyes.
The world has a gift for you.
* * *
Carie Juettner is a poet and short story author living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in over a dozen publications, including
The Texas Poetry Calendar, di-verse-city, Dark Moon Digest, and
WritersWeekly. Carie splits her writing time between her home office and her favorite Austin coffee shops. She has one husband and five pets, and she never leaves the house without at least a little bit of cat hair on her clothes for good luck. Her favorite color is purple. Follow Carie's blog at www.cariejuettner.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: Carie Juettner, Friday Speak Out, Inspiration, nature, taking a break, writer inspiration
My Progress? Wrapped in Gratitude
Earlier this month
, I promised to update everyone on my
progress with NaNoWriMo. Here’s the latest: I've made slim progress in my numbers and I’m not
going to win NaNoWriMo. (Now what am I going to write for the rest of this post…!)
Last week I had lunch with a former classmate who is an successful,
published author and we talked writing. She offered to be a reader for one of
my works, which I’ve been fiddling with for too long. Her offer touched me
because my manuscript is the biggest hurdle I see in front of my progress for other
Then I went on a walk with one of my NaNoWriMo buddies. I asked
about her progress—going great!—and she kindly dismissed my sheepish response
when she asked after mine. I easily received her encouragement—not for increasing
my word count, but for the act of writing.
Both encounters blew me away.
|Graphic credit | EKHumphrey|
Not because I didn’t expect if from such fabulous writers,
but because I realized how grateful I am that I have such supportive friends who
happen to be writers…and that they always seem to know the right, reassuring
words to say.
My focus on NaNoWriMo was to make progress in my writing. In
so many ways, I’ve made progress. It just hasn’t been in word count.
The past month I’ve spent time thinking and writing that I
wouldn’t have had a chance to if I hadn’t even thought about joining a writing
marathon. It made me push my boundaries to talk about my work with others,
including WOW! readers
Even without a hefty word count, November has given me
fabulous opportunities to reiterate the value of writing and being with other writers.
I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and NaNoWriMo ends in a
couple of days. This seems to be a perfect day to show gratitude for many things, especially our
writing lives, friends, WOW! and The Muffin
, and all of our works in progress. That’s what I’ll be
doing...while throwing in a side of writing!
What writerly things are
you grateful for?
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, gratitude, NaNoWriMo
5 Fab Literary Gifts
|One of my favorite Christmas gifts from last year.|
I’ve been trying to pretend the holidays aren’t practically upon us, with trying to meet several deadlines and wrap up my NaNoWriMo project (12,800 words to go), but I can’t deny it any longer. This week I had to jump online (and hit one store) to go ahead and order a few gifts on my kids’ lists that are sure to be sold out after Black Friday. I refuse to pay premium prices on things as I have in the past because I didn’t shop ahead of time. And earlier today I got a text from my husband that said, “It’s time for you to drop stronger hints about what you want for Christmas.”
That got me thinking about a gift he bought me last year that I absolutely adored--and still love to use--a coffee mug he ordered from CafePress. If you and the other writers in your life are anything like me, you’ll appreciate thoughtful, creative, or even practical gifts such as that mug just as much as a gift card to your favorite store or a cappuccino maker. And as a bonus, these could double as a great gifts for teachers and book lovers!
Here are a few ideas for you. And yes, I may or may not have scrolled through Pinterest to get some of these ideas. Feel free to print this out and hand over to your loved ones if you agree!
1. Novel Teas Box.
We all know writers are so much more productive when they have a hot beverage to sip, and with Novel Teas, you can pretend you’re having tea with the likes of C.S. Lewis and Alice Hoffman. Each box contains 25 individually-wrapped English Breakfast teabags featuring literary quotes from all over the world. This site also has great tea-related gifts for teachers, girlfriends, gardeners and more!
2. Printable Library Card Pillows.
I don’t know about you, but I miss those library due date cards that used to be in the back of the books you checked out. Such history! Pay homage to them with these stylish and fun accent pillows.
3. TOMS Live Your Dream Women’s Classics.
In the past, the popular shoe manufacturer has put out some cute slip-ons that featured dictionary quotes. This year, they have a neutral shoe that encourages the wearer to “live your dreams” and “believe.” For the writer who also worships shoes, it’s a win!
4. Out of Print Tote Bags.
These tote bags are both inexpensive, fun and functional. Whether a writer prefers the classics, children’s literature, banned books or library memorabilia, she will love this great conversational piece.
5. Book Scarfs by Storiarts.
These cozy yet literary handmade scarves have received scores of rave reviews on their site. Choose from Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Les Miserables, Doran Grey, Romeo and Juliet, A Tale of Two Cities, and Alice in Wonderland.
What are some writing-related gifts you're hoping for this year?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and WOW! Blog Tour Manager who also blogs at Renee’s Pages. She is currently looking for bloggers to host children’s book author Fiona Ingram’s blog tour for The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, launching in mid-January.
Labels: gifts for writers, holiday shopping, Renee Roberson, teacher gifts, themed gifts
Marci Mangham, Runner Up, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
Please welcome back Marci Mangham, runner up in our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. This is Marci’s second win in our Flash Fiction Contests; her first time was in Spring 2007 with The Wedding Zinger
. Marci has a knack for little, ending story twists! Please enjoy her winning entry, Behind the Curtain
, and come for a chat with the author.
Marci is the worst writer on earth. Okay, maybe not. But creativity comes in spurts these days, so she is very happy to have written a little something new. Marci published a short story collection called Both Ends Burning
in 2007 and has 2 unfinished novels waiting for some attention. This is her second time placing in the WOW contest, so here’s hoping it will be a catalyst to get her writing “groove” back. She has also been featured in WOW’s Friday Speak Out
. Marci lives in Dallas, Texas with her German Shepherd, Louis, and daydreams of living in Colorado and writing the great American novel...or HBO’s next great series.
WOW: Welcome back, Marci! When did you first realize you enjoyed writing stories?
I was in the gifted and talented program when I was in 6th grade and one of our assignments was to write, illustrate and bind our own little book. The binding part wasn’t so great as I’m not particularly crafty, but I loved writing and drawing. I won 1st place for my story about a German shepherd who saved his family from an intruder.
WOW: First place; what a thrill for a young writer!
Marci, in Behind the Curtain you captured the tense relationship between the doctor and her patient perfectly! What was your inspiration for Mr. Watkins?
I was without insurance a couple of years ago and had to go to the ER of our local county hospital. While I was waiting I saw two deputies bring in a shacked prisoner. I could feel the tension as they walked him past us. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to meet that guy in a dark alley, even in shackles. Well, maybe if my dog were with me!
WOW: You’ve published a book of short stories and have two novels on your desk; how would you compare the experience of, or discipline needed, between short stories and novels?
I haven’t finished a novel since 1994, and even though I threw it away, I actually enjoyed the experience of writing and growing with the characters and story over a year’s time. But as I’ve gotten older, I have become more ADD and my attention span is roughly that of a 6-year old these days, so I really need to recapture the dedication and discipline to get back to my unfinished novels. I was cranking out short stories at a pretty fast pace 7-8 years ago and so I decided to put them all together and publish a little collection. I’m currently not so prolific, but I’d like to at least start writing them more frequently again.
WOW: Tell us about your writing process; do you tend to know the ending and work backward, allow the story to unfold with time, or…?
I’ve done both, actually. It really depends on what my idea and inspiration are. For this story, I pretty much knew right away how it would end. One that I submitted for the summer contest began with me consulting a writing prompt app that gave me a setting of a dry cleaner, and paper clips as object. Then I just started writing, and ended up being inspired by something that had just happened to a friend. I had no clue how that one was going to end up when I started writing.
WOW: We’d love to hear more about your novels—tell us a little about the one you are working on now.
Well “working on” might be a bit strong (back to the attention span thing), but one is about Santa Claus. It’s definitely not a children’s story, though. It begins with him sitting on a toilet unable to go, thinking about what he has in common with Jesus. He is in crisis and is very depressed about how he treated Rudolph, the never-ending snow and cold, and being stuck for eternity at an age where everything hurts and creaks.
WOW: Fantastic opening scene! Be sure to let us know when that one is finished!
Thank you, Marci, for visiting with us today. Maybe we’ll see you back here with a third win!
Will you win our next round?
Entries for the 2014 Fall Flash Fiction Contest
are now being accepted. We can only allow 300 submissions so don’t wait too long to send your in!
Labels: Contestant interview, Fiction Contest, Marci Mangham, Robyn Chausse, Runner up, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
Book Review: Passing Through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby, Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Passing Through Perfect will be released January 10th 2015 but is available for pre-order now: http://betteleecrosby.com/books/passing-perfect
Overview: Passing through Perfect
, Book 3 in the Award-Winning Wyattsville Series
It’s 1946. The war is over. Millions of American soldiers are coming home and Benjamin Church is one of them. After four years of being away he thought things in Alabama would have changed, but they haven’t. Grinder’s Corner is as it’s always been—a hardscrabble burp in the road. It’s not much, but it’s home.
When Benjamin attends a harvest festival in Twin Pines, he catches sight of Delia. Before their first dance ends, he knows for certain she’s the one. They fall madly in love; happily, impatiently, imprudently, in love. It doesn’t matter that her daddy is staunchly opposed to the thought of his daughter marrying a cotton farmer, never mind a poor one.
It’s true Benjamin has little to offer; he’s a sharecropper who will spend his whole life sweating and slaving to do little more than put food on the table. But that’s how things are in Alabama. Benjamin is better off than most; he has a wife, a boy he adores, and a house that doesn’t leak rain. Yes, Benjamin considers himself a lucky man until the fateful night that changes everything.
Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t start by saying I am a huge Bette Lee Crosby fan, so I went into Passing through Perfect
knowing I would absolutely love this book. However, Passing through Perfect
is unlike any of the other books Crosby has written. In Passing through Perfec
t Crosby writes in the voice of a young black man. This was definitely a stretch for Crosby, but I only know that because she said so herself.
If I didn’t know better, I would think Passing through Perfect
was indeed written by a young black man. The characters were rich and believable, the settings and scenery were perfect to depict the living conditions during the mid-1940’s and once I picked up Passing through Perfect
I couldn’t put it down. I was so drawn into the lives of Benjamin and Delia I finished the book the same evening I received it.
Passing through Perfect
brought out so many emotions for me as a reader. The racism experienced by the main characters made me tense up and I was angry about the ignorance and injustice of the time. The love between Benjamin and Delia was so strong from the moment he laid eyes on her that my own pulse quickened with excitement about the thought of true love at first sight. These emotional ups and downs were felt throughout the book. I especially love the title of Passing through Perfect
because I think we can all relate to a time in our lives that was so absolutely wonderful we wanted it to last forever.
This is definitely a book I would recommend to others; in fact I’ve already told a friend that she absolutely MUST read Passing through Perfect
. Whether you’ve read the other books in the Wyattsville Series or not, you’ll find yourself drawn in and enjoying every turn of the page with this fabulous book. Thank you to Bette Lee Crosby for sharing her storytelling time and talents.
USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby’s books are “Well-crafted storytelling populated by memorable characters caught up in equally memorable circumstances.” – Midwest Book Review
The Seattle Post Intelligencer says Crosby’s writing is, “A quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about important things in life and madcap adventures.”
Samantha from Reader’s Favorite raves, “Crosby writes the type of book you can’t stop thinking about long after you put it down.”
“Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”
It is the wit and wisdom of that Southern Mama Crosby brings to her works of fiction; the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away. Her work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. She has since gone on to win nineteen awards for her work; these include: TheRoyal Palm Literary Award, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal, Reader’s Favorite Award Gold Medal, and the Reviewer’s Choice Award.
Crosby’s published works to date are: Blueberry Hill (2014), Previously Loved Treasures (2014), Jubilee’s Journey (2013), What Matters Most (2013), The Twelfth Child (2012), Life in the Land of IS (2012), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2011), Spare Change (2011). A Cupid inspired romance, Wishing for Wonderful, is scheduled for release in November 2014 and Book Three of The Wyattsville Series, Passing through Perfect, will be be available in January 2015.
Keep up with Bette - find links to her social media by visiting her website: http://betteleecrosby.com/
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 200 Holsteins. The Otto family is expecting an addition with Delphine Elizabeth Otto due March 1st 2015!
You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
and keep up with her WOW! tours and blog posts at: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/
Labels: bette lee, Bette Lee Crosby, book review, crosby, passing through perfect, wyattsville series
Friday Speak Out!: Beware Scams Targeting Self-Published Authors
by Penny White (Pen)
A self-published author promises additional exposure for your book if you purchase and review her/his book. It sounds like a fair and equal exchange.
Until you purchase the book and discover the true reason behind the offer.
The book you’ve just purchased is, in a word, horrible. Just a hint of a plot at best, underdeveloped characters, poor writing, little to no dialogue...you get the picture. The only way the author can get positive reviews is by making such an offer.
And you are expected to write a favorable review in order to get that extra exposure for your own work.
You can make something up. But do you really want to sacrifice your integrity?
Hundreds of people fall for this gambit. People rave about how wonderful the book is in droves. This leaves any writer with integrity scratching her/his head wondering how in the world these people could even like the book.
Chances are, they honestly don’t. But in order to get that extra exposure, they compromise ethics with the hope of receiving free promotion. It’s easy. All that’s required is purchasing the book and writing a glowing–albeit not completely honest–review.
This hurts more than it helps. Especially when it comes to building a platform or a brand. Do you really want to be associated with a terribly-written book? A book that has absolutely no redeeming value? It’s a given those reviews were written for the express purpose of getting that additional exposure and not necessarily an honest assessment of the book.
By engaging in such scams you not only compromise your integrity, you weaken your own platform. Are you willing to risk it falling out from under you?
It isn’t easy for self-published writers to gain the exposure and following hoped for. It takes hard work, often working on promotion and marketing when you’d rather be writing. It takes skills most of us don’t have. We end up learning and honing those skills as we go. Most of the time we learn by trial and error.
Earning that experience with those skills is a bonus in and of itself. In the long run, we appreciate what we endured to become a successful self-published author.
Is it worth it to engage in these scams? Certainly not. Not only do you compromise your own integrity, but the person running these scams is the one who truly wins. The author in question takes advantage of other authors while her/his book rises in undeserving notoriety. S/he is the one making the money with each sale and promise.
It casts a shadow over the self-publishing industry, already questionable by society at large. It makes it even more difficult for self-published authors–with actual writing skills–to gain the exposure they deserve.
* * *
Pen has self-published 20 titles in print and ebook formats. Her latest endeavor,
Nero’s Fiddle, can be found here: http://bit.ly/1rsEQFX Follow her on Twitter @penspen
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: book reviews, Friday Speak Out, Penny White, writing scam
Why Is It So Much Fun to Write the Antagonist?
Recently I was teaching an adult education class about characters in a novel, and I said, "Writing the bad guy is so much fun. At least I think it is. I hope I'm not the only one. I think this is normal." The students kindly gave a little laugh, and we went on to talk about famous antagonists and how to write your own bad guy to stand out in the crowd.
Come on, I'm not alone, right? Some of you out there also love to write your antagonist, don't you? Bad guys are fun to write because they can say and do things your protagonist never could, and these characters are usually what give your novel tension and page-turning action. From Darth Vader to the Wicked Witch of the West, from Cruella DeVille to Voldemort, readers have a love-hate relationship with each one. This is what you're also striving for in your novel. Here are a few things to consider:
Your antagonist needs a redeeming quality or at the very least, a reason readers can understand for their behavior.
This is the biggest detail about antagonists to spend time on when thinking about this character in your novel. Why is your bad guy bad? Here's an example. When I was writing my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place
, my antagonist, Mrs. Franklin, was mean just to be mean. She didn't have a redeeming quality or reason for her evil ways. Although she was fun to write and gave my 13-year-old heroine a lot of drama, the story wasn't as rich as it could be until I worked on Mrs. Franklin's character.
So, I gave her a reason for her meanness, and this reason was a bit of a redeeming quality, something that readers could possibly relate to. Mrs. Franklin was cruel because she loves her family above all else. Her family is the only important thing to her, and she's willing to treat others badly in order for her family to have comfort and safety during the Siege of Vicksburg (U. S. Civil War, 1863). She takes loyalty to her family to an extreme, which is also something many bad guys do. They have a normal desire (such as inheriting the shoes of your dead sister) to a crazy extreme (trying to kill or enslave a teenage girl to get the shoes).
Your antagonist has a past, favorites, and an appearance, too.
In my opinion, it's as important to spend time on a character study of your antagonist as it is on your hero. Writers will pen page upon page of their protagonist's likes and dislikes, family, appearance, and hobbies, and write two sentences about their bad guy--why he's bad and what he does that's evil. But your antagonist had a past too, and he or she also has a favorite color or food, does something in his or her spare time (even if it's making plans to destroy the world, it's still a hobby), and might even like to watch TV. Figure this out before you do too much writing, and even if their love for everything chocolate never makes it into your book, your antagonist will stand out on the page and be a real figure for readers.
Your antagonist may not be a person at all.
Another huge discussion we had in the novel writing class was whether or not an antagonist has to be another human or even paranormal (vampire, zombie) character in your novel. The answer is NO. In my young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses
, the antagonist is the curse. Well, actually, it's two curses that my main character tries to break. Readers could argue that the woman who put the curse on Julie's family is the antagonist, but she plays such a minor role and is not the driving force of tension in Julie's life. You could also argue that it's her boyfriend, Gus; but again, what is blocking Julie from her goal throughout the book? The curses.
How about The Perfect Storm
? Although this is based on a true story, the antagonist is the storm. Same for the movie Twister
. In Jaws
and Jurassic Park
, the antagonists are living things, but animals. Heck, your very own loveable flawed hero can even be your antagonist--Mr. Hyde, anyone?
So to sum up. . .have fun writing your bad guy or force of nature or hero with a split personality. Take time to develop this source of tension in your novel, and maybe one day, readers everywhere will be discussing your antagonist the way we have He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Margo L. Dill is a writing teacher and novelist for kids and teens. She teaches classes in the WOW! Women On Writing classroom about writing novels and writing for children. To check out her upcoming classes, please see http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html . To find out more about her books, including the current holiday sale, please see http://margodill.com/blog/books/ .
Photo above by The Western Sky, www.flickr.com
Labels: antagonist, creating characters, Margo L. Dill, novel writing, protagonist
Writing Lessons I Learned From My Dog
See Libby Hall. Doesn’t she look adorable in that T-shirt?
Too bad that Libs doesn’t agree.
Libs is a short-haired, miniature dachshund who shivers, even in the house, now that it’s cold outside. (Okay, I recognize that cold in Georgia is nothing like cold in Minnesota. The point is, for Libby and me, it’s forty-two degrees and freezing.) And so I thought that her T-shirt would be just the thing to keep her warm and toasty. But Libs—after approximately three hours—wriggled out of her T-shirt.
But here’s the amazing part: Now, Libs can wriggle out of that T-shirt in about ten minutes!
Thanks to Libs, I realized that a manuscript I’d struggled with for three years
had been useful. All the writing and work and revisions I’d put into that story helped me learn the finer points of crafting a middle grade novel. And now, I’m applying that knowledge to my latest manuscript. I still make mistakes, but I recognize them—and I know how to fix them.
Lesson learned: Apply hard-earned knowledge to correct present writing problems.
I keep a basket of Libby toys on a shelf, and the other day, I found a treat in that basket that I’d forgotten was there. I broke off half and gave it to Libs. Five minutes later, Libs was back under the basket, jumping up and begging for another treat.
I ignored her. So she plopped down and whined in her little high-pitched puppy voice.
And she whined. And whined. And whined
. That dog is nothing if not persistent. And as you can probably guess, I finally gave in, tossing her the other half of the treat.
I thought about several editors that had bought essays from me in the past. Libs prodded my memory about those markets, giving me a push to submit again. After all, if an editor bought once, she or he liked my style and voice. And eventually, all that whining—er, submitting is bound to pay off.
Lesson learned: Once an editor has accepted your work, keep submitting.
Speaking of treats, Libs is all about delicious little doggie morsels. She was not so much about taking her little doggie business outside. So we decided that we’d train her with treats, and it was quite the successful ploy. Even now, despite cold or wet conditions, which she definitely doesn’t like, Libs will dash outside and get ‘er done so that she can come back inside and get her treat.
Goodness knows, writing is a tough business when it comes to tangible rewards. It can be years before a project pays off. So Libs reminded me that I need to treat myself for the little successes as well as the big successes. When I give myself a reward, I’m ever so excited to dash back to work.
Lesson learned: A reward can be a great little motivator.
So I suppose you can
teach an old dog new tricks after all. But it helps to have a new dog like Libby Hall around (and plenty of treats)!
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: Cathy C. Hall, submissions to editors, writing advice, writing lessons, writing motivation
Franziska Macur places in the Spring Flash Fiction Contest with "The Unicorn"
Congratulations to Franziska Macur, a runner-up in the Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't read her story, "The Unicorn" yet, please check it out here.
Franziska is a professor of communications turned
homeschooling mom, a writer, a Certified Simplicity Parenting Coach,
and a lover of stories. She is the author of Charlie and Noel: An Advent Calendar Story
Franziska and her husband raise their two young daughters bilingually
and are passionate about family rhythm and simplicity. Franziska blogs
about the power of stories and her journey to live and parent simply,
creatively, and wholesomely at www.homenaturally.org
. Franziska is currently working on a middle grade novel about a
10-year-old girl who longs for just a little adventure but gets much
more than she bargained for.
WOW: Congrats, Franziska, on placing in the top 10 of the Spring Flash Fiction contest! Great job. What gave you the idea to write, "The Unicorn"?
I like the idea of making ordinary things magical. And I like the fact that we – as storytellers--get to infuse this magic into stories. It doesn’t have to be real. It just has to be believable. So I guess I wanted to show that it really doesn’t matter if you have a horn or not – as long as you believe and make others believe.
WOW: The real joy in this piece, besides it being well-written, is the twist at the end of it. What gave you the inspiration to end it this way? Did you know your ending before you finished?
Yes, I knew the ending first. Then I created the rest around it. This is actually pretty unusual for me. I generally think of an interesting beginning and go from there. But as I said before, I do like semi-magical twists, and they generally happen closer to the end.
WOW: We talk so much about trying to balance our lives on WOW! because we all seem to be talented, passionate women with a lot of different hats. You are certainly no exception, according to your bio. How do you find time to work on your writing?
Ha, I sometimes do and I sometimes don’t. But I try really hard to get up early and get some heads down writing done without little girls pulling on me. I can still do some editing later in the day, even when the noise level is up.
WOW: What made you want to enter this flash fiction piece in our contest?
I am a children’s writer, but I thought that grown-ups might enjoy this piece, too. And it’s always fun to share your writing with others.
WOW: How is your novel writing going? We know you've taken a few WOW classes. Do you find classes to be helpful with your novel writing?
I do think that classes are very helpful. They teach you something new, and they keep you on track. Win-win. The novel itself …I think that some days it’s two steps forward and one step back. Other days, it’s the other way around! But it is definitely coming together.
WOW: Great to hear! Congrats, again!
Labels: balancing life as a writing mom, children's writers, Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest winner
David W Berner Launches his blog tour for Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
& giveaway contest!
Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
is a heartwarming and heartbreaking story told with humor and grace, revealing the generational struggles and triumphs of being a dad, and the beautiful but imperfect ties that connect all of us.
Recipient of a Book of the Year Award from the Chicago Writers Association, Any Road Will Take You There
is honest, unflinching, and tender.
In the tradition of the Great American Memoir, a middle-age father takes the reader on a five-thousand-mile road trip--the one he always wished he'd taken as a young man. Recently divorced and uncertain of the future, he rereads the iconic road story--Jack Kerouac's On the Road
--and along with his two sons and his best friend, heads for the highway to rekindle his spirit.
However, a family secret turns the cross-country journey into an unexpected examination of his role as a father, and compels him to look to the past and the fathers who came before him to find contentment and clarity, and celebrate the struggles and triumphs of being a dad.
Paperback: 242 Pages
Publisher: Dream of Things (September 17, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #AnyRoadBook
Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon
, Barnes & Noble
, and IndieBound
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, November 21st at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
David W. Berner--the award winning author of Accidental Lessons
and Any Road Will Take You There
--was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he began his work as a broadcast journalist and writer. He moved to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursue a career as a writer and educator. His book Accidental Lessons
is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area's most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a "beautiful, elegantly written book" by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and "a terrific memoir" by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). Any Road Will Take You There
is the author's story of a 5000-mile road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called "heartwarming and heartbreaking" and "a five-star wonderful read."
David can be found online at:
-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto
WOW: David, thank you for choosing WOW! for your tour. This has been such a pleasure for me! Who has been most influential in your writing career? And how so?
There have been many. Great authors have certainly spurred me on. Hemmingway, Kerouac, even the poets Billy Collins and W.B. Yeats. So have great songwriters: Dylan, McCartney, and some wonderful new songwriters with bands like Dawes and Iron & Wine. Music and wonderful lyrics have made an immense impact on my writing. It’s the lyrical aspect. There’s music in words even without musical notes. I love prose and poetry that moves like a song. It inspires me.
But more than anything, everyday people and the people closest to me have been very strong influences. Working as a journalist, I see incredible stories all the time, stories of humanity and triumph and tragedy. Those stories inspire me. But there’s also my mother, who was a voracious reader and encouraged me to both read and write. And of course, there are my sons. They continually motivate and encouragement me to keep telling stories one way or another.
WOW: Motivation and encouragement is so important in all areas of life. Speaking of life and lessons, what advice would your current self offer to your previous self?
Don’t be in such a hurry. I worked in daily journalism for so many years and I expected the publishing world to move as quickly as that industry does. I expected, even though I knew better, that drafts and edits would happen more quickly, that story ideas and narratives would come more easily. The truth is you need time, time to think, walk around, experience, breath. Time to savor the stories. Slow down.
WOW: Sounds like solid advice, and speaking of publishing, what prompted you to go there with your story? What made you want to publish Any Road Will Take You There?
I believed my first book–Accidental Lessons
–the story of being a new teacher was truly universal in its deeper meanings. Although it is about a year teaching in a troubled school district, and clearly appeals to educators, the bigger idea is about renewal and the reinvention of the spirit. We all can relate to that. But my sons are the ones who got me to see that. They are the ones who encouraged to write the book and see that so many people would find the story relevant to their lives, teachers or not.
WOW: Lessons taught to us by our children--what a gift! Thanks for sharing your story and helping teach others. What’s next for you?
All kind of stuff, I guess. I like doing different things. I’m involved in a songwriting competition. We’ll see where that goes. I play guitar and I occasionally write music. The songs are just my way of expressing something in another way. It’s mostly for fun.
My publisher, Dream of Things
, is releasing a book of my essays in the spring of 2015. It’s a collection about the connection between our lives and our pets. These are not necessarily sentimentalized stories of cute cats or loyal puppies, but rather the deeper tales about how our souls can be shaped by the animals in our lives.
I also have a novel I’m hoping to get out there soon. Looking for a publisher. It’s entitled Night Radio
and it’s the story of a young man in the early 1970s, during that wonderful period when music truly was the soundtrack of a generation, and his dreams of being a radio sage. The character makes a mistake that changes his life and compels him to broadcast a unique and unforgettable New Year’s Eve show that forces him to face his past. It was fun writing about an industry I grew up in and still work in today. I still do broadcast work for CBS and occasionally for public radio.
WOW: No dull moments at the Berner house I guess, wow! Since we are sharing, what is something readers may not know about you?
I cry when I hear Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.”
I am a rabid Steelers fan, even though I live in Chicago.
I want to visit Cuba someday.
WOW: David, I am a firm believer in networking and support. Have you been in any writing or reading group and what are your thoughts on writers groups or book clubs?
I am a member of the Chicago Writers Association and they are wonderful, truly a good group for networking and support. I’ve been involved with a couple others from time to time. Honestly though, I’m not extremely active. I love CWA, but I’m not that big of a joiner.
On book clubs, well, I’ve never been in one. But I have spoken at a few, clubs that have read one of my books. That’s a hoot. Would love to do more of that.
WOW: When did you know you were an author?
I like to think of myself as a writer, more than an author. An author implies a level of marketing and sales. So, when did I know I was a writer? When I was a little kid and wrote my first book in 2nd grade. It was this little story I wrote about a Cyclops and deep-sea explorers that was turned into a little paper Mache book as part of a class project. I loved that book. Still have it. But a professional writer? Probably when I held the first copy of my memoir Accidental Lessons
in my hands.
WOW: I hope you know you’ve graduated to writer and author status – you’re a big deal David! How do you celebrate your writing victories?
Quietly, with a glass of wine and a smile.
WOW: Be looking for that next email from me – you’ll have to let us know what wine you’ll be drinking this evening as your blog tour launches!
If your book were a movie, what song would be included? And why?
If we’re talking about Any Road Will Take You There
, we could easily fall into clichés, right? “On the Road Again” and so many other road songs come to mind. But there’s one Bob Dylan song that I truly believe says it all. The chorus, or refrain in “My Back Pages” is “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” That’s a statement about rebirth, transformation, and renewal of the spirit. I like that a lot.
WOW: Now those songs will be going through my head all day – you won’t hear me complaining! Thank you for sharing and for choosing WOW! David, this tour has been such a pleasure!
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, November 17 @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Tuesday, November 18 @ Choices
Join David Berner as he offers insight into writing about your life and choosing what to write about. David shares his thoughts with Madeline Sharples and readers of Choices. Learn more about Berner and his memoir, Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
Wednesday, November 19 @ Jerry Waxler
Join memoirist Jerry Waxler as he reviews David W. Berner's memoir, Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
Thursday, November 20 @ All Things Audry
Today is the day to catch up with David W Berner and his WOW! tour as he stops by All Things Audry with the guest post topic of "The Allure and Redemptive Nature of Road Trips". Read this post and find out more about Berner's memoir Any Road Will Take You There
Friday, November 21 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
David W Berner shares his thoughts in a guest post at National Association of Memoir Writers and shares "How to balance the story with what can be the sometimes intrusive nature of writing about family". Hear from David W. Berner about this and find out more about his memoir Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons
Tuesday, November 25 @ Create Write Now
David W Berner stops at Create Write Now as he shares a guest post with Mari McCarthy and her readers. Learn more about Berner's book Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
and read his insightful post about "How to incorporate reflective moments in memoir or creative nonfiction."
Wednesday, November 26 @ Lauren Scharhag
David W. Berner and his memoir, Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
make a stop to share thoughts about being a writer in residence with Lauren Scharhag and her readers. This is a blog stop you won't want to miss!
Wednesday, November 26 @ Lisa Haselton
Join Lisa Haselton as she interviews David W. Berner about Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
. David has also offered an ebook copy of his book for a giveaway; so don't miss this great blog stop!
Friday, November 28 @ Words by Webb
Jodi Webb interviews David W. Berner about his memoir Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
Monday, December 1 @ Renee’s Pages
David W. Berner writes today's guest post at Renee's Pages where h talks about "What Broadcast Journalism Taught Me About Parenting". Learn more about David W. Berner and his memoir Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
Tuesday, December 2 @ Chynna Laird
David W. Berner shares his thoughts as he writes today's guest post at Chynna Laird Author Blog. Hear about "How Accidental Lessons Changed My Life" and learn more about David W. Berner and his popular memoir Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons
Thursday, December 4 @ Romance Junkies
David W Berner is interviewed by Romance Junkies. Find out more about Berner and his memoir Any Road Will Take You There
Monday, December 8 @ CMash Reads
David W. Berner writes today's post at CMash Reads as he writes about how to be disciplined with writing - - writing like you workout. Don't miss this guest post as you find out more about his memoir Any Road Will Take You There
and register for a giveaway so you can read your own copy David's book!
Tuesday, December 9 @Sioux’s Page
David W. Berner stops by Sioux's Page to talk more about his memoir Any Road Will Take You There
and also provide some insight into his experience publishing with Dream of Things and how he came to choose this publisher.
Friday, December 12 @ Sherrey Meyer
David W. Berner takes his WOW! blog tour to Sherrey Meyer's blog with a guest post topic "Writing about the living and writing about the dead. How to be true to both. " Hear what David has to say as you learn more about his memoir Any Road Will Take You There
Monday, Dec ember 15 @ Kathleen Pooler
Stop by Kathleen Pooler's blog, Memoir Writer's Journey today to learn more about David W. Berner and his memoir and read David's guest post about "The unique connection between fathers and sons."
Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour
Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enter to win a copy of Any Road Will Take You There
by David W Berner! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, November 21st!
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Labels: david berner, david w berner, Family, fathers and sons, memoir, parenting, relationships, road trip
Nonfiction or Fiction: The Choice to fictionalize real events
Because I write for children, I read a lot of
children’s books. My recent reading has
been limited almost exclusively to picture books and I’ve discovered a wealth
of nonfiction gems including Mr. Ferries and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated
by Gilbert Ford (Houghton Mifflin) and The Kite that Bridged Two Nations by
Alexis O’Neill, illustrated by Terry Widener (Calkins Creek).
Or at least I assumed they were both nonfiction until I
looked more closely and made a surprising discovery. The
Kite that Bridged Two Nations is a fiction book based on a real event.
In the back matter of the book, author Alexis O’Neill explains
that her decision to write about the event as fiction was based on what is essential
for a gripping story.
Conflict. A good story
has to have conflict. Homan, the main
character, couldn’t simply make a kite, fly it and win the context. For this story to be picture book worthy,
there had to be conflict big enough to bring Homan to a halt before he could
even build his kite. O’Neill introduced
needed conflict by creating a disagreement with Homan’s father, who strongly
disapproves of his son’s frivolous kite flying.
Do you see what O’Neill has done with this conflict? Homan not only win’s the contest, his father
comes around to see the value of what his son does. This subplot creates not only needed tension
but a warm, satisfying conclusion to the story.
The Catalyst. All good
stories require something to get the main character moving. O’Neill knew that the drive to win the contest
was what brought Homan to achieve the impossible. But how on earth did he find out about
it? O’Neill created a handbill, typical
for the time but not part of the historic record, to bring the contest to Homan’s
attention and get the story underway.
Acceptable Risk. Homan
wasn’t an adult but a journey to the Canadian side of the falls stranded the
real Homan for 8 days in Canada. A
picture book character separated from parents and family for eight days. Can
you say banning and censorship? Of
course you can, if the book would even be published. To make this Canadian stay more acceptable, O’Neill
invented a kind Canadian family who takes him in.
When you find a true story that just won’t work “as is,” consider
writing it as fiction. A story that
works as fiction will soar into the hands of your readers. A story that doesn’t work as nonfiction,
simply won’t fly even if it’s about a kite.
Labels: fact based fiction, historic fiction, nonfiction
Updates from a NaNoWriMo Battlefield
|Photo | EKHumphrey|
This is the blog post where I admit that I’m still on the
battlefield, but I have no plans for winning the battle. (I refuse to call
myself defeated.) Two weeks ago
I braved jumping into NaNoWriMo without a plan,
a story outline, or a writing
schedule. (Thank you for all the cheering after my November 1 post! I appreciated it!) Diving into NaNoWriMo was less pressure for me than in other years, but I knew it would
still require a commitment of my time.
I wish I could claim that I haven’t been writing for the contest because of
some other fantastic project. Unfortunately, that’s not the
case. In this time, the biggest realization I’ve come to is that—writing or no
writing—I’m not putting aside enough time for me
For example, those times when I had a spare moment, my focus shifted from writing
to helping my daughters clean their room during a crisis—a buyer contacted us
to buy their beds we were replacing and we would do some repairs. Or I was diving
into the launch of my email list
. (That excitement was lessened by some last-minute editorial changes
that took time.) These were not the only things that became a bump in the road.
Unfortunately, I’ve let individual bumps grow into a mountain that was between
me and my writing.
For the next two weeks, I’m going to shift my focus. Obviously, I’m not going
to finish a novel in the next fifteen days.
But I know I want to finish it. What I can do is I can
put a plan in place to at
least get writing during this busy time. And these are tips that are applicable post-NaNoWriMo.
Refrain from reading (too much). Don’t
get me wrong, I love to read. Lately I
find that if I check my phone or email, I start clicking on links. Thirty minutes
later, I’ve started reading the longest article in the history of the world. It’s
a sign of my procrastination, which I need to curtail.
Plan better. The bed fiasco sucked
more time than necessary because I let it. I could have stepped back and allowed
my kids more
autonomy while I supervised. I thought by jumping in, I would get return to writing
time. Instead, I was pulled deeper into my kids’ activities.
(Totally worth it, mind you, but I still could have planned better!) This weekend, we are throwing a birthday party...and I've been planning!
Better buddy contact. I needed to
check in with my NaNoWriMo friends and give them support. I find having those writing
conversations energizing, but I haven’t made time for them…yet!
Shuffle writing time. I’m a morning
writer, so I often tell myself I can’t write creatively later in the day. So,
for the next two weeks, if I don’t write in the mornings, I vow to write during
my lunch hour or before bed at night. I will be writing, no matter the time of
What have you been
doing to reach your writing goals, NaNoWriMo or others? What have you had to rearrange or stop doing
in order to make progress on your work-in-progress?
Labels: achieving writing goals, daily writing, Elizabeth King Humphrey, NaNoWriMo, planning, work in progress