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Monday, March 31, 2014

 

The Pat Boone Fan Club by Sue Silverman - Blog Tour Launch and Book Giveaway

The square peg in the round hole. The fish out of water. The odd man out. We've all been there. What did you do to try and  fit in? Anything drastic like say...choose a husband because he perfected the picture you thought your life should be, move to another country, become obsessed with a musician? Sue Silverman did all that and more. Don't miss her struggle to finally decide who she was and who she wanted to be.

Gentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?

Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.

Paperback: 248 pages (also available in e-formats)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2014)
ISBN-10:0803264852
ISBN-13: 978-0803264854
Twitter hashtag: #SueSilverman

The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White, Anglo-Saxon Jew is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, as well as at your local bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White, Anglo-Saxon Jew, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Tuesday, April 8 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Sue William Silverman is the author of three memoirs. Her first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the AWP award series in creative nonfiction. Her second, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction (W. W. Norton), is also a Lifetime Television original movie. Her latest is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon, and Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir (University of Georgia Press) reveals all she knows about the art of memoir writing. She is associate editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has appeared on such national TV shows as The View, Anderson Cooper-360, and CNN Headline News.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Sue Silverman’s website: http://www.suewilliamsilverman.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SueWilliamSilverman

Twitter: @SueSilverman

----------Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Your memoir was so interesting because it matched up two unlikely parts of your life: your love of Pat Boone and your struggle to fit into a community that wasn't exactly your ideal. It was such a fascinating choice. What made you combine these two divergent parts of your life into one memoir?

Sue: Growing up, I had a crush on Pat Boone, a pop-music idol. I loved his music, but, on a deeper level, I was drawn to his squeaky-clean, wholesome Christian image. In fact, I wanted him to adopt me. Because my Jewish father hurt me, abused me, Pat Boone, a family man with four beautiful daughters, became an image for me of the ideal father, someone who represented a kind of safety lacking in my own home.

On a practical level, as an adult living in West Michigan, I happened to see a newspaper article about Pat Boone giving a concert near my home. I bought a ticket. After the concert, held in a mega-church, I barged backstage to meet him.

In other words, this connection between the overtly Christian Pat Boone and my shaky Jewish identity already existed in real life, so it seemed fitting to combine them in my book. Thanks to serendipity—that I attended this concert and met him—I was given a way to make the exploration of that connection very personal and immediate in my writing. For that, I’m grateful.

As writers, we always need to seek these connections in our lives and explore them.

WOW: This is your third memoir and it is definitely a change from your earlier works. So how do you go about looking at your life and saying, this is the aspect I want to share? Were you planning to use a lighter tone or did it just develop that way?

Sue: After writing about the darkness of growing up in an incestuous family (my first memoir) and the subsequent sexual addiction (in my second), I was ready to write a book that wasn’t as dark.

In this way, I was lucky that this particular subject matter lent itself to a more ironic and, at times, playful quality. I mean, there’s an aspect of my attraction to Pat Boone that is extremely ironic—even absurd—although an absurdity that is (hopefully!) humorous and constructive.

Also, unlike my previous memoirs, The Pat Boone Fan Club is a collection of thematically related essays. This allowed me to use a wider range of voices and tones.

WOW: With three memoirs, a how-to book on memoir writing and countless memoir writing classes to your credit, I feel you're our memoir expert. What is the best piece of advice you could give to budding memoir writers?

Sue: Thank you! Here’s a suggestion I always give my new students: When you’re writing about your life, it’s important to look for the “story behind the story.” In other words, a memoir isn’t just a straight-forward narrative of what happened to you, as in “first this happened, then this next thing happened.”

Rather, the goal of memoir writing is to discover why something happened to you. What does it mean? What are the metaphors that convey the experience? Writing memoir is like following a whisper into the depth of any given experience in order to convey a more universal meaning. So dig deep, emotionally, when you write your life story. I know this can be scary! But it’s also enlightening to discover those hidden meanings in our lives.

WOW: Have you done other types of writing? What made you decide that memoir writing was the type of writing you wanted to focus on?

Sue: I actually started out writing fiction, and have published some short stories and a poetry collection. I’ve also written a few novels—bad novels!!—that aren’t, thankfully, published. It wasn’t until I switched to writing creative nonfiction that I found my emotionally authentic voice. Ironically, it was a former therapist, not a writing instructor, who encouraged me to write my true story!

WOW: Memoirs are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, even Scholastic Children's Books is actively looking for memoirs for children (my son actually just bought one by a cartoonist). Why do you think memoirs are so popular?

Sue: I love that your son is reading a memoir! I’m delighted that this genre is available for young readers.

Reading about someone’s personal experience is very powerful. Being emotionally vulnerable on the page allows a reader to enter your world, albeit, yes, artistically rendered. A memoir, regardless of subject matter, conveys the human condition, addressing universal concerns, to which we all can relate.

I think aspects of society can be alienating, so immersing yourself in someone’s true narrative is a way to feel more connected. I receive hundreds of heartfelt e-mails from my readers thanking me, in effect, for telling their story, too. In this way, I feel as connected to my readers as they feel toward me.

WOW: Of your four books, three are by university presses and one by a large New York publisher. Can you tell us a little about the differences between the two types of publishers and if you prefer one type of publisher over the other?

Sue: My first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) award in creative nonfiction. The prize included publication with the University of Georgia Press. So no choice there!

After that publication, I happened to meet an editor at W. W. Norton at a writers’ conference. She asked me what I was working on. I told her I had a draft of a second memoir, Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction. She asked to read it and Norton bought it. I was very fortunate.

Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir came about because my first editor, at the University of Georgia Press, asked me if I’d consider writing a craft book. To be honest, I’d never considered writing one, but when you’ve got a publisher offering a contract for an unwritten book, you always say “yes”!

Now, with The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, I’m with the University of Nebraska Press. They have an American Lives Series (series editor Tobias Wolff) that I like a lot. I met the editor of the press at one of the annual AWP conferences, and she invited me to submit this book once it was completed. Nebraska’s interest and invitation to submit meant a lot to me. I admire the press, and I thought The Pat Boone Fan Club would be a good fit for this particular series. I’m delighted they thought so, too!

Oh, and my poetry collection, Hieroglyphics in Neon, is published with Orchises, a small, wonderful, independent press.

Frankly, I’ve been very lucky. All of my publishing experiences, with all these various editors, have been excellent. I’ve received good advice and attention from commercial, university, and “small” presses.

WOW: Do you think emerging writers would benefit more from approaching small presses or large publishing houses?

Sue: For many writers, both emerging and established, it can be a more comfortable publishing experience to work with a university or smaller independent press. There can be a more intimate working environment and, since they are non-profit, they tend to keep books in print longer.

The large for-profit New York publishers, generally speaking, let a book go out of print fairly quickly if it doesn’t make it big within a few months. But if you think you’ve got a book that’s going to be a big seller, sure, try New York. Obviously, the budgets those presses offer for advances and advertising are much larger than what university presses can afford.

If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with less money and a smaller print run—and are more interested in knowing your book will stay in print—you might want to consider a university or small, independent press. It really comes down to your own comfort level.

Most importantly, become familiar with the books any given house publishes before you submit your own.

WOW: Could you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you write daily? When? Where?

Sue: I try to write every day, but it doesn’t always work out that way! When I’m in the middle of a writing project, I write as soon as I awake in the morning. In fact, overnight, I keep my laptop on the floor beside the bed and, first thing in the morning, I just plop it on my stomach and write for a few hours while the world is still quiet.

Later in the day, when I mix writing with answering e-mails (and a quick check on Facebook), I work at my desk in my home office.

I also teach at the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. So when I receive my students’ monthly packets, they get my full attention. No writing, then. But I love to teach, so I find that to be a good balance.

WOW: How do you develop book projects? Do you just decide on a topic and begin writing or do you look at your daily writing and a theme or piece jumps out at you as a possible book project?

Sue: The first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, about growing up in my incestuous family, was kind of a given. My childhood weighed so heavily on me that I reached the point where I had to write it. I had to get the experience “out of me” and onto paper.

Then, because my struggle with sexual addiction was a direct result of the incest, Love Sick seemed to be the obvious second book.

The Pat Boone Fan Club didn’t begin as a book. Initially, there was just the title essay, which I published as a stand-alone piece. Then, I simply continued to write essays on a seemingly wide range of subjects, all of which I thought were stand-alone essays, and so were published individually. I was a few years into this project when I realized all the essays, in one way or another, were about a life-long spiritual crisis and search for identity (a result of the incest). It was then I thought I could craft these essays into a thematically congruent book. To do so, I revised the already written essays to more clearly align with the theme and then went on to write new sections specifically for the book. That’s how The Pat Boone Fan Club evolved!

WOW: What are you working on now?

Sue: I am, in fact, working on yet another memoir! I’ve got a very rough first draft that only now seems to be taking shape. It, like The Pat Boone Fan Club, is more ironic than dark, but I’m not sure I’ve totally nailed down the theme yet. I think it’s (more or less) about my encounters with the medical health-care establishment—given that I have an amorphous fear of dying and a tendency to be a hypochondriac! Well, it’s about more than that, too, but that’s probably as much as I know right now. Hopefully it’ll all come together!

WOW: And we'll all be anxiously waiting to see how it comes together!

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

Monday, March 31(today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Sue Silverman and a chance to win The Pat Boone Fan Club!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Wednesday, April 2 @ Caroline Clemmons
Ever wonder what inspires writers? Learn what made Sue William Silverman, author of The Pat Boone Fan Club, want to write.
http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 3 @ Choices
Ready for a shocker? Then stop by to read Writing Taboo Topics: Incest, Sexual Addiction, and – gasp?! – Pat Boone!! by Sue William Silverman, author of the memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
http://madelinesharples.com/

Saturday, April 12 @ Vickie S. Miller
Stop by for a review of Sue Silverman's latest memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and a chance to win your own copy.
http://www.vickiesmiller.com/blog.html

Monday, April 14 @ The New Book Review
Don't miss a review of Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
http://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 16 @ Words by Webb
Learn more about Sue Silverman’s obsession with Pat Boone and share your own musical obsessions.
http://jodiwebb.com

Monday, April 21 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Don't miss a review of Sue Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club by the memoir experts: the National Association of Memoir Writers.
http://www.namw.org/blog/

Wednesday, April 23 @ CMash Reads
Do you wear a mask? Find out by reading Sue William Silverman's The Mask that Reveals: Discovering the authentic person among the many roles we play; or, fake it ‘til you make it. And don't miss a chance to win her memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
http://www.cmashlovestoread.com/

Thursday, April 24 @ Memory Writers Network
Jerry Waxler gives us his thoughts on The Pat Boone Fan Club by Sue Silverman and an interview with author Sue Silverman.
http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog

Friday, April 25 @ All Things Audry
Learn How Pop Culture Shapes the Self from memoir writer Sue William Silverman.
http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com

Monday, April 28 @ Memoir Writer’s Journal
Stop by to learn about The Baby Boomer Syndrome: Serial Personalities…or how many memoirs does it take to discover you? in a guest post by memoir writer Sue William Silverman.
http://krpooler.com/

Tuesday, April 29 @ Thoughts in Progress
Memoirist Sue William Silverman writes about everyone's favorite topic: love. Don't miss April Love: What the first romance reveals and enter the last giveaway to win Sue's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 2 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Do you wonder what makes writers tick? Well, you can hear the tick-tock of memoirist Sue Silverman in today's interview.
http://www.namw.org/blog/

Sunday, May 4 @ Vickie S. Miller
Follow memoirist Sue Silverman on "The Crooked Path: The Journey Out of a Damaged Childhood".
http://www.vickiesmiller.com/blog.html

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

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

Enter to win a copy of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew by Sue William Silverman by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The contest closes next Tuesday, April 8th. One lucky winner will be randomly chosen the same day and announced in the Rafflecopter widget. We will also follow up with an email requesting a mailing address. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, March 30, 2014

 

Finish Your Draft. . .NOW!

Finishing drafts!
Why are you still reading this blog post? You should be finishing a draft of whatever it is you're working on. . .now. Me, too. I should be finishing the draft of a YA novel that I started during NaNoWriMo 2013, and it's still not done--no 50,000 words for me. But why am I so passionate today about finishing drafts? I'll tell you two things came up this past week to make me write this blog post.

First, both of my children's and YA novel writing workshop students who stuck with me for several four-week sessions, one poor guy going through a few critique partners even, have both FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF THEIR YA NOVELS! When I read the final words of the guy's novel this past weekend, I almost wanted to cry. He had worked so hard, while also going to college, to write this novel, critique his partner, and continue to improve his craft.

He put a note at the end about how much he was going to have to change of the beginning because the ending is quite different than he had imagined, and he didn't know how he felt. I stopped him right there! I told him: YOU SHOULD FEEL GREAT. Do you know how many people never even finish the first draft of their novels?

Do you have a draft of a novel, memoir, short story, personal essay, picture book, etc. that you haven't finished yet? I can raise my hand yes for this question. It's not easy to finish drafts; so regardless of how much revision has to be done, he wrote from the beginning of the story until the end. Then the fun part begins--revision!

The second thing that happened this week was at my critique group, The Lit Ladies. One of our group members is in a writing funk, and part of her trouble she realized is in writing a sequel to her first published novel. The draft she has (which is not finished) needs big revisions, and the thought of having to delete all that she has already written has her writing almost nothing. My advice was to start a brand new file, so that way she doesn't actually have to delete any words. But the best advice came from the youngest and often wisest member of our group:

"You should finish the draft to the end. Then you can go back and revise."

Exactly! Why didn't I think of that--it's the exact advice I had just given to my students and to myself. Geez, it's the perfect advice. She needs to finish the draft, while keeping notes about what she's going to change at the beginning. But continuing to start over numerous times doesn't get anyone closer to actually finishing a novel, short story or article. You might have a good beginning, but there will be no ending; no one is going to publish or buy that.

So, let's finish our drafts. What draft do you want to commit to finishing? 

Margo L. Dill is a writing instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. Check out her novel and children's writing classes here. She is also the author of the new young adult novel, Caught Between Two Curses, and the award-winning middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg. Find out more at: http://margodill.com/blog/ 


photo by Bernard Goldbach http://www.flickr.com (typing contest 1926)
 

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

 

Interview with Susie Kearley, Author of Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens and Book Review

In 2011, Susie Kearley quit a 15-year marketing career to focus on freelance writing in the middle of a recession, and while it wasn’t always easy, she eventually went on to build a thriving freelance career. Read on for a review of her new book Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens and an interview with Susie Kearley.

About the book:
In this book, Susie Kearley shares how, in under two years, she went from being an aspirational rookie to working for some of the biggest names in publishing. Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens provides valuable tips to get you started in writing for the health, food and gardening markets, and has wider relevance to other fields of journalism. Interviews with other writers--all working in the health, food and gardening markets--give superb insight into the highlights and challenges that each of them have faced in this field of work.

Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens is available on Amazon.
Print length: 166 pages
Publisher: Compass Books; Reprint edition (February 28, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1782793046
ISBN-13: 978-1782793045

About the author:
Susie Kearley is a British freelance writer and journalist, working for magazines, newspapers, and book publishers around the world. In addition to Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens, she is also the author of the e-book Healthy Sustainable Living: God’s Way and has been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology Miraculous Messages from Heaven. She lives in Bucks, UK.

Book Review:
My own personal freelance writing experience includes food and health-related article sales, so when I got the chance to review Susie Kearley’s book, Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens, I jumped at the chance to learn even more about how to successfully pitch and write for these markets.

While the book might have “health, food and gardens” in the title, these topics make up only one portion of the book. Kearley provides a primer on all things freelance writing related, from pitching article ideas, researching markets, conducting interviews, food and garden photography, copyright do’s and don’ts and much more. She offers tips on how to provide find inspiration from everyday life, such as mining the local newspapers and social media news feeds for interesting bits of news that can be expanded into longer articles. She even touches upon the aspects of freelancing that all writers struggle with, like dealing with rejections, overcoming negativity and focusing on productivity. Each chapter ends with a helpful exercise to help writers get started. Throughout the book, Kearley weaves in interviews with other writers who specialize in the health, food and garden markets, such as Jackie Lynch and Nick Baines.

I enjoyed reading Kearley’s personal anecdotes of both successes and failures, many of which I could relate to. She even guides writers who might just be starting out on the best way to showcase clips online, social media tips, blogging, and developing a marketing plan. Kearley has obviously done her homework and her attention to detail makes for a great writing resource for writers, whether they are seasoned or just starting to pitch articles.

-----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: You made the decision to embark on a career in freelance writing after working in the marketing industry for 15 years and in the middle of the recession. How hard was it to make that leap? What happened that finally encouraged you to focus on your writing full time?

Susie: It was tough. I had no contacts and no idea if I would succeed, but my tenacity and determination paid off. The thing that enabled me to focus on my writing full-time was the sheer volume of work that I started to get in after I'd been working on building up a writing career for nine months. I’d managed to keep the work-load steady for long enough to feel that it was sustainable. Basically, I convinced myself it was more than just a lucky blip!

WOW: What was the first article you sold in the health, food and garden market? Can you share a little about how the sale came about?

Susie: It was an article for Amateur Gardening magazine, titled ‘the healing power of your garden’. It looked at the healing power of common garden vegetables on a wide range of health conditions. I drew on my knowledge of nutrition and on recent scientific studies to show how a diet rich in home-grown vegetables can reduce your risk of disease. I pitched the initial idea by email, highlighting my qualifications and experience, and was offered a commission on that basis.

WOW: I love that article idea! I always enjoy hearing stories of first sales--they are all so different. In your book you also discuss a few freelance writing myths. Can you share one or two of those myths with us and why you think they are misconceptions?

Susie: The whole book is based on my own experience and many of the myths highlighted in the book are the misconceptions that people perpetuated all through my youth. The myth that writing is too competitive, so you might as well give up now, is no way to succeed in anything. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. The idea that you need a journalism qualification to be a journalist has also been disproven by my own experience. Essentially, believing these myths can hold you back for years. I let some of them hold me back for far too long.

WOW: You have a lot of great article ideas in your chapter on “Writing for the Food and Cookery Press.” What ways can writers come up with fresh and unique story ideas for food magazines that don't just include recipes?

Susie: Think widely about article topics on food. You might consider visits to breweries, stories about vineyards, interviewing the owner of a thriving local cake-making business, restaurant reviews, or food travel writing. It depends on what kinds of stories the magazine you're targeting runs, but there are lots of story opportunities in food writing other than writing recipes.

WOW: Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens also includes a section on how writing for a living has changed your life. We’d love to hear more about that.

Susie: Well it’s been a radical career change, just because I work for myself now. I don't have to commute any more. I can be creative and write about the things I enjoy, and I can work the hours I like. I get paid on results not on process. Having bosses interfering with process used to really get my goat! I love being my own boss and I'm good at what I do. I also learn a lot more from researching topics for articles than I ever learnt in a conventional job. It’s been a fascinating journey.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at Renee's Pages.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

 

Friday Speak Out!: Sometimes It's a Velcro Day, and Sometimes It's More Teflon

by Sioux Roslawski

On the show CBS News Sunday Morning recently, they did a piece on how criticism impacts us. Movie reviewer Leonard Maltin was interviewed. The book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence was discussed. An actor claimed that they could recite the negative reviews word for word...the positive ones—not so much.

A term that was new to me--”negativity bias”--came up. According to some experts, the brain is like teflon when it comes to positive things. They don't stick with us. But when it comes to the bad things, the brain is like velcro.

And it's been this way since the caveman days. It makes sense, I guess. According to the news feature, we remember the bad things because bad can kill us. It's a matter of survival. If cavemen and dinosaurs were around at the same time, the image of one of their family members being swallowed, appetizer-style like a spinach ball by a Tyrannosaurus rex, would probably stay with them forever. The memory of themselves eating a chunk of greasy triceratops...most likely forgettable.

As writers, the positive comments about our work make us feel momentarily proud. We bask in the glow for a second but if we're serious about our craft, we cast the compliments aside as we insist, “But how could I improve it? What parts do I still need to work on?” People gushing over the lines we've crafted doesn't move us forward as writers.

(At this point, if you'd like to shower me with glowing praise, I'll gladly accept it, but then let's move on.)

Certainly, not all negative remarks help us. When people comment, “Sioux, what is that shade called that you've chosen for your hair? Metallic Magenta? Lucille Ball Gone Awry? Tangerine Terror?” I only smile. Left to their natural state, my tresses are the color of rat fur. I have a limited budget. My dye jobs are DIY. You do the math.

And sometimes, even the negative comments about our writing shouldn't stick to us. If one person (perhaps a family member?) is completely clueless about the point of your essay or the plot of your story—and everyone else (especially writers/editors you respect) thinks your piece is spot-on—just accept the criticism with a comment like, “Thanks. I'll consider that,” and forget about it.

But when plot holes are pointed out...when characters' voices are not distinct...when our story is dragging, and more than one of our respected writing friends is making the claim—that is the sort of thing that should stick to us like velcro.

If we're going to survive as a writer, we have to constantly be trying to improve our work—because bad writing can kill us as authors. (And now, please excuse me. I've got to re-dip my hair. The gray has sprung up like weeds.)

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher and a freelance writer. She's been published in twenty or so national anthologies and magazines, including ten Chicken Soup for the Soul books. You can find more of her work at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

 

Writing to Discovery for Spring and Beyond


A new season is a great time to rediscover the "miraculous process"
of writing and discovery. Photo credit | EKHumphrey

I had another topic I planned to write for today. Then I read this blog post

In spare language, Parker J. Palmer  elevates writing. He describes it as a “miraculous process.” He talks about writing leading to discovery.

All of which I know.

Yet when was the last time I, as a freelance writer and editor, had a moment to use writing to lead to self-discovery? When was the last time I spent time just contemplating writing for writing’s sake? Or spent time just allowing my writing to take the lead and put me in the back seat with a muzzle on?

Last year I zigged and zagged from one project to another and kept the blinders on—through the death of a close family member—to keep writing to an end goal. Then another goal. Then another.

I had deadlines. I had articles to write. I had clients I needed to answer, a contract I needed to fulfill. I edited in early mornings and there were weekends when the words and letters from the computer screen burned the inside of my eyelids. 

Parker Palmer’s writing gently reminded me to take some time. Take time to stop thinking about how I’m behind on this project or cursing that my works in progress are languishing from inattention.

If I don’t take the time to write without goal, the deadlines may be met, but I’m no closer to returning to the reasons I love to write. It’s the process of discovery during writing that can get lost in all the noise of deadlines and daily writing demands. 

With a new season upon us (although the mercury continues to disagree), I took some time to write without purpose and without a deadline. To me, I found the experience refreshing and vibrant. It was tough to shut out the deadlines and the daily chaos, but so worth it!

The earth is releasing its greenery (for some through what seems like endless cold and snow) and spring is a perfect time to return to writing as a path to discovery. Or re-discovery.

I encourage you to (if you don’t already) take some time away from goal-oriented writing to write without a goal. Rediscover writing and yourself. And enjoy…as spring unfolds.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.She's finding joy in rediscovering writing already this spring.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

 

Coping: What To Do When Life's Too Much

First, a note. This is not the blog post I had planned to write. It was inspired by Margo’s post, Book Birthdays, Sick Kids, and Selling the House. She asked what we do when we feel overwhelmed by our good fortune. How do you cope when there is just too much going on in our personal lives and our writing careers?

Here is what works for me:


  1. Admit you are overwhelmed. Good things, bad things, it doesn’t matter. Stress is stress and writing moms can only handle so much. Let your partner know that you are at your wits end. Seriously. My husband will pitch in and take over any number of tasks – if I ask. Otherwise, he buys into my Superwoman routine and assumes I’m coping just fine. Spot someone who will help, give them something to do, and . . .
  2. Let them do it. This means not micromanaging or insisting that something be done your way. When I’m up against a deadline, my fifteen-year-old will make dinner. I taught him to cook about five years ago and at fifteen I’ll let him take charge. He’s baked Christmas cookies, made pasta for lunch and even brings me chocolate when things get intense. Whether the task at hand is decorating for your book launch or putting a meal on the table, let someone else do what they can.
  3. Turn the electronics off. Between our computers, tablets and I-phones it is way too easy to be connected 24/7. For this reason, I don’t have an I-phone. I don’t do e-mail on Sundays. And when I go out of town? Yep, I’m gone. The lake we visit in Southern Missouri has truly wonky connectivity. In the winter, you can get a cell phone signal anywhere in the lodge and at our cabin. When the trees are leafed out, you can still sometimes get service at the lake. At the lodge, you have to stand on the roof of an SUV or pick-up or stand in one square foot space in the parking lot. When I’m on vacation, I’m truly out of touch. Three days without e-mail can be a glorious thing.

Good time, bad times. They can both be stressful. When it happens, ask for help, accept help and periodically disconnect to recharge. What you do to recharge will depend on you. I read and knit and walk, walk, walk. What do you do to recharge?

--SueBE

Find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards’ writing at her blog,One Writer's Journey. Sue also teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session of this course is scheduled to begin on April 7.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

The Importance of Now

I received the sad news last week that a writer friend had died.

To be honest, we weren’t very close friends. We’d attended the same weeklong workshop and had been in the same small critique group. I had read her work-in-progress and been impressed—and even after these two years, after reading hundreds of books and blogs, I remember her story. But we hadn’t kept in touch except for an occasional note in the social media world, a comment on a blog. And yet, she lay on my heart, and I grieved for her, leaving much too soon.

I started skimming her last blog posts, reading comments of those who knew her well. She had been writing, working on a manuscript, all through the challenges of her illness. I read where many of her friends were buying her books and donating them to schools and libraries so that her legacy would continue, and I loved that idea.

She was a children’s writer and loved making school visits, so I thought of the SCBWI Amber Brown Fund, too, and how donating to that fund would surely please her. But mostly, I thought the best way I could honor her was to work hard at writing.

She was passionate about her writing; it was a passion that came through from the first day of that workshop, from the first moment we spoke. It drove her to work on being a better writer, even though she had several published books. In fact, I wondered why she needed the workshop. She’d already accomplished her dream.

But that’s not the way she saw it. She wanted to be a better writer, wanted to get her new stories out there. She wasn’t ready to rest on her laurels; she was ready to work, and work hard!

Remembering her drive brought that iconic shoe slogan to mind. You know the one I mean, right? I think it could’ve been her motto.

And so now, I’m taking you to task, friends. If writing is what you really want, do it.

Quit talking about how you want to write when you have the time, or when you can quit your day job, or when you have a really good idea. Put a plug in that endless stream of excuses and plug into your heart’s desire.

You know what? It doesn’t have to be writing. Whatever is in you, whatever it is you really, really want to do, start working on it. You can start with small goals, little steps, day by day.

As long as you start today.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Monday, March 24, 2014

 

Book Review – Previously Loved Treasures by Bette Lee Crosby

Bette Lee Crosby is one of my favorite authors. She writes books you’ll want to share with friends and each book is filled with characters that fill your heart and leave you wanting more. Bette has a new book set for release in April 15th 2014 and you’ll want to add it to your TBR (to be read) pile as soon as possible. There is no question Previously Loved Treasures is a five star story!

The twists and turns in Previously Loved Treasures ensure you won’t want to put it down. There’s a little something for everyone in this particular story. There’s drama, longing, romance, mystery, deceit, and a little bit of magic! Each character is written in true Crosby style. You feel you’ve known them your entire life and they stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover and placed the book back on the shelf.

Crosby has a way of engaging readers from cover to cover. There has never been a point I have thought ‘get to the point already’ and I find the time passing quickly as I am unable to put the book down. Previously Loved Treasures is no exception. My only complaint is I finished the book too quickly and can only hope there will be a sequel so I can continue my journey of friendship with the delightful characters I have grown to love.

Book Details:
Previously Loved Treasures - A lonely widow and a young woman trying to rebuild her life discover a family connection and a run-down second hand store where the clairvoyant owner anticipates every need. When a pocket watch is stolen, he warns of the danger ahead, but will the young woman listen and heed his advice?
Being Released in April; Watch Bette’s Website for Details - http://betteleecrosby.com/books/previously-loved-treasures/
Length: 191 pages

Author Details:
Bette’s website: http://betteleecrosby.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3222582.Bette_Lee_Crosby

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Bette-Lee-Crosby/284499021568642

Bette’s Bio: Bette Lee Crosby, originally from New Jersey now living in Southern Florida, has written seven novels, won fourteen literary awards and with well over 2,000 reviews her average rating is 4.5. Her 2011 novel Spare Change is a USA Today Bestseller, a #1 Barnes and Noble Bestseller and an Amazon #1 Literary Fiction Bestseller. Her other novels consistently rank in the Amazon top 100 for their genre. An active public speaker who makes frequent appearances to support various charities and women's groups. Schedule permitting she will join the discussion of book clubs by phone or by computer teleconference. Contact bentpinepublicity@gmail.com



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 7, Andre 5, Breccan 6 months), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

 

Get Ready for National Poetry Month in April

April is National Poetry Month, and although it’s not quite April yet, I wanted to post this now so you have enough time to dust off your poetry-writing skills and get started on time with this nation-wide celebration!

To get in the mood, check out the performance poetry by Sarah Kay below, as well as the rest of the performance poetry playlist.



I often get so busy that it is half way through the month (or sometimes half way through May or June) when I realize National Poetry Month has come and gone and I had done nothing to participate.

Although I am a poetry appreciator, and I have about a half-dozen journals full of poetry written in adolescence, I don’t know if I'd consider myself a poet. I fell out of touch with this art form when I steered towards prose and academic writing.

Last April, however, I discovered the Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge on the Writer’s Digest website and tried it. I did not quite write 30 poems in 30 days (I may have written 11...), but the experienced tapped into my inner poet and helped me to find ways to write more expressively in my creative fiction and academic writing.

All people – writers/non-writers, poetry enthusiasts/poetry neutralists – can benefit from taking a moment to read, write, and/or think about poetry, whether it is in April...or at a later date.

What Is National Poetry Month?
According to the Academy of American Poets,
“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.”
Poets.org answers this question and many more on its National Poetry Month FAQ page.

How Can You Participate?
The American Academy of Poets has created a list of 30 ways to celebrate poetry, including:
  • Read a book of poetry
  • Put poetry in unexpected places
  • Put a poem on the pavement
  • Write a letter to a poet
In addition, Writer’s Digest is again hosting its PAD Challenge (which I will be attempting again this year).

And the Poetry Foundation is offering back copies of Poetry Magazine in April, which are free for individuals, classrooms, and reading groups.

A quick Google search may also announce other opportunities in your hometown.

How do you plan to celebrate?


Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

 

Why You Need Two WIPs

Each month my fifth grader’s class gets a “big project”. Last month it was to write a poem. A rhyming poem. And, as luck would have it, my son’s topic was squirrels. Nothing rhymes with squirrel. Have you ever tried to pull a poem about squirrels that rhymes and makes some sense from the brain of a ten year old? It’s safe to say no one was happy during this project: my son, my husband, me…I think even the dog ran away to hide around the third stanza. But somehow he managed to create eight lines for his first – and I was pretty sure his last – attempt at being a poet.

Until last week. He was working on this month’s project when he looked up at me and out of the blue said,

“The squirrel jumped in an acorn pile,
And looked at me with a great big smile.”

“What?”

“For my squirrel poem. It just popped into my head. Wouldn’t that be great?”

My son is living proof of a writing belief I’ve always held –that you should never be working on just one project. If you spend all your writing time musing on one WIP you can become overwhelmed. Going over the same problems or weaknesses in the piece, in the same way, it seems almost impossible to find solutions or new ideas. the answer isn't to toil away until you puzzle out the solution. The answer is to start another project!

If you’re working on two projects, many time as you work on one an idea for the other will pop into your head. Trust me, it’s happened to me (and apparently my son). I believe that even when you’re totally focused on something some small part of your brain is still working on the other piece. Strangely enough, this phenomenon work best for me the more divergent the two pieces are: a humorous essay and a dramatic scene in my novel or an article and a children’s story. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon have even done studies on the subconscious continuing to work on one problem while occupied by another totally unrelated problem. So it’s official – never stick to just one WIP!

Have you ever found the perfect snippet of dialogue or essay ending while working on another piece?

Jodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Right now she's looking for blogs to promote Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and Barbara Barth's debut novel The Danger with Words. You can contact her at jodi@wow-womenonwriting.com. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

 

Friday Speak Out!: Sentences, Seasons and Time

by Carol Hogan

I’m currently editing the chapters of my first book while simultaneously checking email, posting on Facebook, and reading about writing and publishing books. I know there are helpful suggestions out there so I rationalize by telling myself it takes a lot of reading to write a book. However, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever finish the book itself?

It’s the same feeling I had when we were blue water cruising. Often we’d be at sea for twenty or more days where the only marker ticking off the passage of time was wave, after wave, after wave.

“Will we ever arrive in port?” I’d think to myself. It’s a similar question to the one children ask on a long car trip, “When are we gonna’ get there?” Finally, after twenty-one or twenty-two days at sea we’d sight land, and then I’d wish the passage wouldn’t end.

Writing a book is like sailing long distance, running a marathon or pedaling a bicycle across country. You put one foot in front of the other, pedal one full rotation, and write or revise one sentence at a time.

While I’ve been doing that, I notice that the Lynden tree outside my office window has subtly marked its own passage of time with the changing color of its leaves and finally the lack of them. Each day as I sit at my computer and move through the sentences my tree moves steadily through the seasons; it’s leaves turning from spring buds to summer green, then autumn red and finally to winter’s bare branches, leaf, after leaf, after leaf.

And I know I must move through the sentences and chapters as steadily and patiently as that tree moves through the seasons. I can’t hurry, or fill up sentences with words that aren’t quite right, just to make the work go faster. I search for exactly what I want to say, no matter how long it takes, and at the end of the day I pray have written words worth reading.


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Carol Hogan a freelance photojournalist and reporter in Hawaii, California, now living in Washington, not far from the Canadian border. She attended Western Washington University late in life and received a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Nonfiction, graduating in 2012. Hogan is currently editing her first book, In the Wake of Discovery: Two Adults, Two Children and 25,000-Miles on a Small Boat, and hopes to publish it soon.

web addresses: InTheWakeofDiscovery@wordpress.com, or ByCarolHogan.com.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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