A Magical Motivational Tool?
|Use the magic wand to pick up your pen|
and write! Photo | EKHumphrey
Worlds collided recently when a solution for a work project, became a tool for helping my daughter read more...and a tool to motivate me to look at my writing and my goals. Perhaps it will be of use to you! (Writers can always use more motivation, can’t we?)
My children learned to read and then, once they mastered the basics, decided they were done with reading. That’s right. At a certain age, no need to crack open any chapter books. After lots of progress, their reading time consisted of picture books—minus any words. Then a few months later, they will return to reading books—with lots of words. As an avid reader and writer, I know my kids will become passionate readers and the older two are (now) voracious readers. But these pockets of reading rebellion can be tricky for me.
A week ago, a colleague mentioned something that might be of help for a project at work:
A magic wand
The premise being that, if you had a magic wand to wave to ask for anything, what would it be? Then take your answer, determine what is the closest you can get to your answer and jump in to achieve the closest to what you can get.
Suddenly, I had the idea that the magic wand would work well for me as a parent and writer by helping to manage those pesky expectations and as motivation.
While I can ask that my seven-year-old daughter reads at a higher level than she is, what is the realistic goal I can look to have her achieve? Right now, she can wave an imaginary wand, look at the picture books and I can read her the chapter books. It’s a win-win and will help her to become a big reader. (And what seven-year-old doesn’t love a magic wand?)
As for my writing, my magic wand "ask" is to become a fabulously popular writer with dozens of titles to my name. What’s the closest I can get? To finish my works-in-progress. After all, I won’t become a prolific writer without finishing the works in front of me, letter-by-letter.
Go ahead, wave the magic wand, and tell us below: What’s your "ask" for your writing career?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She wonders if she could locate a magic wand before heading to her high school reunion later this week.
Labels: children, Elizabeth King Humphrey, motivation, Pen and Magic Wand, reading, writing motivation
Is Beach Read a Compliment? Ponderings from an Author and Reviewer
During the wonderfully glorious summer months, many book reviews (mine included) begin or end with something like, "This would make a great beach read." My own book, Caught Between Two Curses,
has received a review or two with this statement, and I smiled because there's nothing greater than imagining a beach full of people reading my book.
When I write this in reviews, I always mean it as a compliment. I love sitting on the beach or by the pool or on the porch in my backyard, reading a book and sipping an iced tea or even a long island ice tea (depends on the day!). But is "beach read" a good thing? What do we mean when we say beach read? Would you be happy if your book was labeled as a beach read?
I started thinking about this and driving myself crazy. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about The Fault In Our Stars
. I haven't done extensive research, but just going with a gut feeling here, I'm sure not many people labeled John Green's book about teens dying of cancer as a beach read. Why? Because it's well-written or because of the heavy subject matter? My feeling is the subject matter--a beach read is usually fun and ends happy, such as a lovely book by one of my favorite authors, Claire Cook
, author of Must Love Dogs
Let's look at the classics--would we call Catcher in the Rye
a beach read? It's about a teenager, but again, the subject matter is pretty deep. What if all these beach goers in their swimming suits started having a huge literary discussion about Holden Caulfield right in the middle of the kids building sandcastles and teens playing beach volleyball?
So, I'm going to attempt to define "beach read" here. Now, I know I'm stepping way outside the box and putting my professional reputation as a reviewer on the line, but I'm going to take the chance anyway, and list the characteristics of a beach read. Ready?
- Funny or humorous
- Happy ending
So, how about you? What's your favorite beach read this summer? I have to say that I recommend Beautiful Oblivion
by Jamie McGuire. I actually didn't read it at the beach, but stayed up all night when there was a terrible storm, and we lost our power. Hey, maybe I should come up with a new popular term that reviewers can use. Something like, "Try this book. It's a power outage read."
Until next time. . .
Margo L. Dill reviews books for her blog, for WOW!, and the News-Gazette
. She also teaches novel writing classes
and is a novelist herself. Find out more at http://margodill.com/blog/
Beach photo by anda :) http://www.flickr.com
Labels: beach reads, book reviews, humor, Margo L. Dill, summer
Meet Eve Bradshaw, Runner-Up in WOW’s Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
Today we welcome Eve Bradshaw, freelance writer and runner up in our Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest. Eve enjoys writing autobiographical snippets, and so does her character, Carl. Please take a moment to enjoy The Writer’s Group
(I’ll bet at least one of these characters will remind you of someone), but remember to come back and meet Eve!
On Twitter (@EPeevie
) I describe myself as a “writer trying to find her place and purpose in the world.” You would think that at age 52, I would have already figured those things out—but they are moving targets. I’ve aimed for a career as a writer since I wrote a “Where Will I Be in Ten Years” essay in tenth grade describing my future life as a magazine writer living in the mountains of North Carolina. To this day I don’t know if North Carolina even has mountains—but I never stopped writing. I write personal journals, journals for each of my children, and autobiographical snippets that will eventually become a best-selling memoir. My gainful employment has always involved a great deal of writing, and I have made a career prostituting my writing skills as a freelancer (Eve Bradshaw and Associates
) for a variety of public, private, and corporate clients. Writing for clients pays the bills, but it doesn’t feed my soul; and so I started blogging in 2007. The Green Room
has attracted upwards of seven loyal followers.
WOW: Hello Eve, congratulations and welcome to The Muffin! I see you write mostly non-fiction and biographical; what prompted you to write a short story and enter it WOW’s Flash Fiction contest?
The money and fabulous prizes. JK! I had come up with the idea of writing a short story about a writers’ group while I was actually attending my writers’ group because they’re such quirky and interesting people. After I wrote the story, I came across the WOW contest online, and it seemed like a perfect match.
WOW: It’s so fun when things come together like that! Speaking of interesting characters, it sounds like Carl has a bit of a past... Where did the inspiration come from for the back story of Carl and Delia?
Actually, I don’t usually write from inspiration. I write stories one line at a time, and see where they take me. Conversely, I suppose I could also say that my inspiration is everything that ever happens to me and everything that anyone ever says to me. It’s all potential material.
WOW: As someone on a daily diet of business writing, I imagine writing a flash fiction piece was a nice change in routine. Tell us about your experience writing The Writer’s Group.
I started with the concept of a writers’ group, and then began putting people around the table. I didn’t want the story to be about my own writers’ group, exactly—that’s going to go in my best-selling memoir. So I placed them in a diner in a farming town in the Midwest. I loved creating the characters. I’m more like Delia than Carl—minus the wild curls, stunning beauty, and elegant legs. OK, I’m nothing like Delia, except that I live in a city.
WOW: Maybe you were getting in touch with your inner-Delia (smile). In 1999 you launched your freelance career with a focus on business writing; what tips do you have for someone wanting to start their own business in that field?
I was only able to freelance after I spent time working “real” jobs that involved lots of writing. People that I worked with over the years valued my writing and editing. When I left the nine-to-five world, I pestered everyone I had ever worked with and asked them for projects or referrals.
WOW: How do you balance deadlines and “mom-time”?
My kids are old enough now that I can go in my office, shut the door, and ignore their cries for food. When they were younger, even though I was working from home, I had to hire a babysitter to keep them occupied and away from me so I could concentrate.
WOW: Those are some good tips! Gather initial business from friends and family, and hire a babysitter when necessary to help stay on track.
Thank you for visiting with us today, Eve. We hope to see you again in one of our upcoming contests
Labels: Contestant interview, Eve Bradshaw, flash fiction runner up, Robyn Chausse, WOW flash fiction contest
Bethany Harar launches her WOW blog tour for her debut YA, Voices of the Sea
& giveaway contest!
Nobody seems to fit in during high school, but being a Siren who can enchant men with your voice can really cause some teen drama! It also gives you a unique way to get even with the school bullies.
But seventeen-year-old Loralei Reines has more to worry about than who’s sitting with who in the cafeteria. While keeping her true identity a secret to protect their species, Loraleigh is honing her powers for when she will claim her birthright as the next clan leader. Life is normal—or as normal as it can be for a Siren—until the Sons of Orpheus, a vicious cult determined to kill all Sirens on Earth, begin exterminating her people.
Add to that the confusion of Lora’s abilities strengthening whenever she is near Ryan, a human boy. She knows she shouldn't be with a human. Yet, she can't resist her attraction to him, or the surge in power she feels whenever they're together. And the Sirens are running out of time. If Lora can't unlock the secret to defeat the Sons of Orpheus, she, along with everyone she loves, will be annihilated.
Paperback: 285 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 22, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #VoicesoftheSea
Voices of the Sea is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, as well as your local independent bookstore.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Voices of the Sea
, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, August 1
at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Bethany Masone Harar graduated with a Bachelor's degree in English from James Madison University and a Masters in Secondary English Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has enjoyed teaching high school English ever since. As a teacher, Bethany is able to connect with the very audience for whom she writes, and this connection gives her insight into their interests. As a writer, she wants to make her readers gasp out loud, sigh with longing and identify with her characters. Bethany also enjoys posting on her blog, bethsbemusings.blogspot.com
, is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and is an avid follower of literary-driven social media. She resides in Northern Virginia with her husband, two beautiful children, and her miniature poodle, Annie.
Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Bethany Harar’s author website:
Bethany Harar’s blog:
-----Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Where did the idea for your debut novel Voices of the Sea come from?
My idea came from a dream! In the dream, a young woman was wading into the ocean with outstretched arms. She wore a long dress, and I could only see her from behind. For some reason, I knew she was connected to the ocean, and could speak to it. When I woke up, I wrote down the idea. At the time, I was teaching The Odyssey
to my students, and connected the dream to the Sirens from the epic poem. I thought it would be a really cool idea to have Sirens in our modern world.
WOW: Voices of the Sea is for a Young Adult audience (although I loved it and I'm only young at heart!). Do you always write for a younger audience or was it just this particular plot that called for the YA genre? Will you continue writing for the YA audience or are you planning to branch into other audiences—middle grade, adult?
I think I’m exclusively a Young Adult author. I have three manuscripts (two unpublished), and all of them are YA. My newest manuscript-in-progress is also YA. I love it. Writing for young adults comes naturally. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
WOW: I always imagine that YA writing has added challenges simply because of your audience. Their language, activities, music...well, just about everything changes at the speed of light. How did you manage to keep your characters feeling current and not dated? Do you spy on teenagers to get your dialogue and other aspects correct or have teenage beta readers?
I have a secret YA weapon: I’m a high school English teacher. My entire world revolves around young adults. I’m with them from 7:00 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. every day (minus the needed eight weeks in summer), so it is safe to say I’m immersed in the culture. I’ve been teaching long enough that I can separate myself from all the drama, but am able to witness and observe it from a distance and use the information I acquire to my advantage. Plus, they correct me if I say something archaic and put me in my place immediately. I take the criticism like anyone would: with grace, dignity, and a hand up followed by a “whatever.”
WOW: (Laughs) But how do you get into the teenage mindset? For instance, throughout the book 17-year-old Lora refers to the two love interests in her life as "men." Of course, as someone who has been looking at 17-years-old in the rear view window for decades the word didn't sit right with me. Every time I read it somewhere in my brain someone said "Men!? They're boys!" It wasn't until about halfway through that I realized that to a 17-year-old girl they were "men." I would have called them boys and had the audience rolling their eyes. How did you get it correct? How do you manage to think like a 17 year old?
This is an interesting question. I think the answer is that I spend enough time with these young adults to realize that they are in this horrible state of in-between. They aren’t quite adults, but they certainly are not children either. And the reality is that they want to be adults, so will, by nature, veer in that direction. To treat them otherwise is, quite frankly, insulting to them. The more we treat them like adults, the more they will rise to the occasion, and we owe it to our future generation to do just that. When I was a teenager, I read adult novels and enjoyed that I could read them without feeling like someone was “talking down” to me. That is the biggest complaint I hear among my students, a huge reason they rebel against authority, and the primary reason I write my YA novels with an adult “edge.” If we give them age-appropriate content without making them feel like children, they love it. And I think that is the most important thing to remember: teenagers don’t want to be kids. They want to be treated with respect and maturity, and appreciate that same courtesy in what they read. I keep that in mind whenever I write.
WOW: Do you feel being a teacher helps you? Do you get ideas from your students? What do your students say about your being a writer?
Oh, being a teacher is like getting a “cut the line” pass at Disneyland. I’m up on all the latest trends, problems and goings-on. Oddly enough, however, except for the slang, not a lot has changed. My students do give me ideas, and sometimes events at school provide me with fodder. My latest manuscript-in-progress, in fact, developed directly from an event this past year in our high school. But I won’t go into more detail, so don’t ask.
As for what my students say about me being a writer, most of them are extremely supportive and enthusiastic! I’ve had kids I’ve never even taught stop by and ask for advice on writing and getting published. Many ask me for updates, and some made me promise to sign their book. They will, no doubt, be my toughest critics, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
WOW: What is the most rewarding and/or difficult thing about writing for this audience?
The most rewarding thing is seeing kids who generally aren’t excited about reading tell me they plan on reading my book. That is the biggest compliment I can receive from a student. Reading is SO important, and if even one kid reads my book who normally would not read for pleasure, I’ve succeeded. I’ve also loved YA lit for my entire life, and to contribute to the genre is an amazing feeling.
The hardest thing about writing for young adults is that EVERYONE is doing it. I feel like one of a million off-key singers at an American Idol competition. I see and read about all the amazing authors out there who write for young adults, and am both excited and super-annoyed. It is great that so many people want to inspire teenagers to read, but the competition is brutal! However, I remind myself that I’m honored to be a part of YA Lit, and just keep plugging along with my new book.
WOW: Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication? Did you consider traditional publishing, self-publishing, an e-publisher, an agent? How did you end up with WiDo Publishing, a small press?
I won’t sugar-coat this: The publishing world is brutal. I tried for some time to find an agent, and had several agents who expressed interest, but they didn’t pan out. I didn’t send out hundreds of queries. Fifty was enough for me to feel disheartened and discouraged. Self-publishing was not something I was interested in, and I hadn’t really thought about approaching small presses before, but read an article about how they could be a good option and decided to go for it. WiDo was one of the first I approached, and I received a positive reply within the first few weeks. Eight weeks later, they offered me a contract. I’m so happy I did!
WOW: What's up next for you?
I mentioned before that I’m working on a new book. It is a paranormal thriller, and different from Voices of the Sea
. However, it is still for young adults! Being in the beginning stages, I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll tell you that it deals with real-life struggles, only with a paranormal spin. It is going to be quite scary at times, but I think teenagers will really like it.
WOW: I have a feeling we will too!
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, July 28 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Bethany Harar and a chance to win Voices of the Sea
Tuesday, July 29 @ The New Book Review
Need the perfect summertime book for your teen reader? Read a review of Voices of the Sea
by Bethany Harrar.
Wednesday, July 30 @ Musings from the Slushpile
Bethany Harar shares why she thinks "Every Good Writer Should Have an Unpublished Manuscript" and gives you a chance to win her debut YA Voices of the Sea
Thursday, July 31 @ Book Talk
Does the teen reader in your life need something to read when they're hanging out by the pool? Stop by to learn about Bethany Harar's debut YA Voices of the Sea
Friday, August 1 @ Bibliotica
Want an ocean-themed book for this year's beach read? Don't miss a review of Voices of the Sea
by Bethany Harar.
Tuesday, August 5 @ Chapter by Chapter
Learn what YA author Bathany Harar's Top Favs are and enter to win her debut YA paranormal Voices of the Sea
Wednesday, August 6 @ Writer with Dogs
Dogs can be many things to writers: muse, beta reader (or listener), companion, distraction when writer's block rears its ugly head. Meet YA writer Bethany Harar and her furry friend.
Thursday, August 7 @ Escaping Reality Within Pages
Learn how YA author Bethany Harar balances family and writing and enter to win Voices of the Sea
, about a sea siren balancing saving the world and saving her love life.
Friday, August 8 @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews & Interviews
What makes an author tick? Learn more about YA author Bethany Harar today and enter to win Voices of the Sea
, a tale of love, bravery and discovering the unexpected.
Tuesday, August 12 @ Me and Reading
Why are dreams so important? Bethany Harar, author of the YA novel Voices of the Sea
, has some thoughts on that. Stop by and share your dreams.
Wednesday, August 13 @ Katherine Hajer
Bethany Harrar, author of the YA Voices of the Sea
, shares her thoughts on making your setting a character.
Thursday, August 14 @ Words by Webb
Save some time for a quick interview with Bethany Harar, author of the YA fantasy Voices of the Sea
Monday, August 18 @ Deal Sharing Aunt
Looking for a new author? Read this review of Voices of the Sea
, the debut by author Bethany Harar..
Tuesday, August 19 @ The Lit Ladies
Don't miss an interview with Bethany Harar by a fellow YA author, Margo Dill. You can also enter to win a copy of Bethany's debut YA novel Voices of the Sea.
Thursday, August 21 @ All Things Girl
Despite those devilish gray hairs appearing Life Doesn't End at 35! In fact for debut author Bethany Harar it's just beginning. Don't miss a post about growing older and better!
To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar
. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at email@example.com.
Enter to win a copy of Voices of the Sea by Bethany harar!
Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the rafflecopter widget this Friday, August 1
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Labels: Bethany Harar, blog tour, fantasy, small press, YA
Book Review: Blueberry Hill by Bette Lee Crosby, Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
I have read each of Bette Lee Crosby’s books and can say Blueberry Hill
has become my favorite. It is written with the heartwarming Crosby style I have come to love, but the touch of memoir makes the story stick with you long after you’ve closed the cover. I don’t even have a sister and I can still say this is a book you’ll want to share with your friends. Whether you’ve experienced loss, the pain of addiction in your family, or even if like myself you don’t have a sibling, there is something about Blueberry Hill that will touch your soul and make you an instant Crosby fan and follower.
is a story about two sisters but it is also a story about strength, family, unwavering love, and of course loss. The interactions between Bette and her sister, Donna, will leave you laughing one moment and in tears the next. You won’t want to miss a page as the story unfolds. Crosby always has a way of bringing relationships to life in her storytelling and Blueberry Hill
is no exception. This is a five star read that I would recommend to anyone who said they were looking for a good book. Kudos to Bette Lee Crosby on another top seller!
CAN LOVE SAVE A SISTER FROM SELF-DESTRUCTION?
From the USA Today Bestselling Author of Spare Change comes the heartwarming story Blueberry Hill, a Sister’s Story.
Based on the realities of her own family, Crosby calls this a memoir of sorts. Traveling back to a time when the sisters were young enough to feel invincible and foolish enough to believe it would last forever, Crosby has bared her soul in a story of regrettable decisions and inevitable outcomes.
Blueberry Hill is a tale of family relationships, love and tragedy. It is a story that will touch your heart and stay with you long after you have closed the book.
• 111 Pages
• Publisher: Bent Pine Publishing (June 27,2014)
• Sold by: Amazon
• ASIN: B00LD76K5I
Bette Lee Crosby Biography: USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby brings
the wit and wisdom of her Southern Mama to 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.
Born in Detroit and raised in a plethora of states scattered across the South and Northeast, Crosby originally studied art and began her career as a packaging designer. When asked to write a few lines of copy for the back of a pantyhose package, she discovered a love for words that was irrepressible. After years of writing for business, she turned to works of fiction and never looked back. "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."
Crosby's work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. Since that, she has gone on to win several more awards, including another NLAPW award, Royal Palm Literary Awards, the FPA President's Book Award Gold Medal and Reviewer's Choice Award and Reader's View Southeast Fiction Literary Award.
Her published works to date are: Jubilee's Journey (2013), What Matters Most (2013), The Twelfth Child (2012), Cupid's Christmas (2012), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2011), Spare Change (2011), and Life in the Land of IS (2012). Life in the Land of IS is a memoir written for Lani Deauville, a woman the Guinness Book of Records lists as the world's longest living quadriplegic.
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 6, Breccan 10 months), two 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/
Labels: 5 star book review, Bette Lee Crosby, blueberry hill, book review, memoir style book, usa today bestselling author
Business Card Love
I just ran out of business cards and I’m beside myself!
In a good way, I mean. I love
getting new business cards!
I love that for twenty bucks or so, I can design exactly what I want for my business. I love that I can correct the past mistakes. And I love that each time I go through the process, I learn a little bit more about branding—and about myself as a writer.
So I gathered up all the business cards I’d collected from writers through the last year to find what I really liked, and what worked well. And I thought about how I wanted the world to see Cathy C. Hall,
the writer. Then I designed my new card. (Wheee!)
But first, here’s the essence of what I kept in mind when designing:
PICTURE, PICTURE, PICTURE
I am horrible with names (especially if I’m meeting lots of new people!), but I’m very good with faces. So when I see a card with a face, I remember that writer (or agent or editor or publisher). Don’t you?
That’s why I always put my face on a business card. Front or back, I don’t think it matters as long as the picture is recognizable. (Haven’t you seen those cards with a twenty-years-younger face and found yourself wondering if it’s the same person? Don’t be that writer, please.)
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Oh. My. Word. It’s hard to believe that writers will sometimes put their names in the fine print of their business card. You need a magnifying glass to read it!
I always make my name just a bit bigger, and sometimes in a different color. Now, I know authors work hard to get their books noticed, but your name is important, too, so make it stand out! After all, for most writers, our name
is our brand.
If agents or editors give you their card, they want you to send material. If writer friends give you their card, they’re hoping you’ll get in touch. So it’s pretty darn important that contact information be on the card.
I put my email address on the front of the card. (And please make sure that your name is in your email address.) And I also include my website on the front of my card. I don’t list all my social media addresses on my card because that’s easily found on my website. That’s a style issue, I think, but I’d rather leave off all the Facebook, Twitter and other media so I can squeeze a little bit more out of my name!
Once I have the necessaries, I’m ready to add the extras, all the fun stuff where I can get creative.
I like to include the tag line from my website, and artwork that ties everything together, so that my brand is reinforced. But I’ve seen writers who use a simple title like “Author” and include book cover art. Or writers who tie in their genre with the background of their cards. Say a science fiction writer whose name floats on a starry night sky.
When all is said and designed, I think the best business cards for writers work because they’re packed with clean, professional information as well as personality, and I’m always working toward that goal. If you have any ideas about what works—or doesn’t work—in a business card, I’d love it hear it!
And now, the unveiling of my newest card. I think I like it.
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: business cards, Cathy C. Hall, marketing with business cards
Friday Speak Out!: HENLIT: Whether They Realize It or Not, Millions of Boomers Are Waiting For It
by Jo Barney
When did I stop writing about the angst of torrid love, motherhood, wandering husbands, and terrible bosses? About the time, probably, that I got bored with the angst and became a hen.
The transition was subtle, in me and in my writing. Not that I didn’t still pay attention to love, children, work, but the women I began writing about had concerns and problems that reflected my growing uneasiness in a world that worshipped youth, in literature as well as in life.
So, one of my characters decided that romantic love was not a real entity, but something conjured a few centuries ago to complicate the reasons for marriage. She opted for good conversation over a 2012 bottle of white wine. Another character rejoiced when her children grew up and she discovered a world beyond report cards and teenage sex, including a little of her own.
One of my favorite women told her prick of a principal to go f**k himself and walked out of a career built on files of old lesson plans. Her next stop was a tent in Rwanda and she didn’t care what might come after that.
In contrast, if a chick hates her boss, she’ll probably piss, screech, toss her head, flap wildly, and stomp out of the roost. A hen will just waddle away, exit the yard through a hole in the fence, leaving behind only a ruthless peck or two of revenge.
At least, that’s what my characters do because after a little foundering, my old hens often realize that they can take control of the rest of their days, uncertain in number as they might be. Unlike young chicks who have little awareness that an end may be right around the next pile of corn, they know there might not be another pile of corn. Appreciate the one in front of you, the life you are living right now, they tell each other, clucking and nodding.
Like giving time and thought to the path they’ve been following for years. Older women set on nests full of memories, turn over the eggs, ponder, exalt about small, clicking cracks, or, when a memory turns out to be a dud, they toss it out. And they sometimes cluster near the water bowl, or most likely glasses of white wine, in twos or threes, cackling softly about the uncharted territory that lies ahead.
I am guessing that the millions of baby-boomer women who are way past being chicks have settled into their hen lives and are looking for books about people like themselves--intelligent, flawed, problemmed, seeking, mature individuals who can make their ways through the hole in the fence when necessary.
* * *
Jo Barney writes about older women, something she knows a lot about nowadays. While it wasn't always that way, her latest three novels star: an older woman who removes graffiti in her neighborhood (Graffiti Grandma), four women in their 60's reliving their pasts and coming to grip with the reality of the present (Uprush) , and a seventy-year-old who wakes up from an unloving marriage and to a dead husband ( Not There Yet, 2015). Her writing emerges on the old adage, "Write what you know about," expanded to "Write what you don't know about and lie awake at night thinking about." She would add, "and can laugh with friends about."
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: baby boomers, Friday Speak Out, Hen Lit, Jo Barney, mature women, novel, older women, writer inspiration
Cashing in on Your Vacations
This time next week, I will be on a much-needed family vacation at one of our favorite South Carolina beaches. Workwise, the timing couldn’t be better, as we will have just sent the latest issue of the magazine I edit to the printer and my next round of freelance assignments aren’t due for a few more weeks. But, as most freelancers know, vacation is no time to rest upon our laurels.
I’ve turned many a vacation into blog posts and travel articles, and over time, I’ve definitely learned to keep my eyes open to possible story ideas while traveling. I’ve been able to write about several trips for different magazines I write for, such as this article, Which Carolina Beach is Best for Your Family?
This past year, when we ventured out on a weekend trip at a bed and breakfast in the North Carolina mountains, I reviewed the inn in a regional magazine parenting article that began, “As much as I love my kids, there are times I need to get away with just my husband.” It doesn’t have to be a lengthy or expensive trip—even just a few days to decompress works wonders.”
The great thing about brainstorming while on vacation is that it’s relatively simple. All you really need is an open mind and a good camera to help you take photos to accompany any articles (editors love it when you can do this). And the best part? Save all your receipts, because if you write about specific places/restaurants/experiences within that year, you can possibly deduct them from your taxes
Vacation is also a great time to snap photos of things you don’t normally see that you can then archive for future blog posts, such as the image I've included at the beginning of this post. I’ve also started a Pinterest
board combining some of my travel photos and articles.
In addition to mining the brochure racks for story ideas, I also plan on spending some time each day doing a little prospecting, so that I can make sure to start lining up assignments for the fall and winter. But don’t worry—I won’t spend too much time behind my computer. I have a tote bag full of books and several more saved on my Kindle that I’ve been saving specifically for next week. Until next time!
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. She also blogs at Renee’s Pages.
Labels: freelance writing and vacation, generating story ideas, Renee Roberson, travel photos, travel writing
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo launches her WOW! Blog Tour for her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
& giveaway contest!
The Fourth Wall
is a fabulously written first novel. When Marin was little and monsters chased her through nightmares, she learned to weave her own dreams. Her mother called the lucid dreaming a gift, and when an accident takes her mother and leaves her baby brother an empty shell, Marin uses this gift to spin a new reality for herself. One without time or sorrow. A world without memory.
But just when Marin thinks she’s safe in her make-believe fantasy world, the monsters come back and her dream turns to a nightmare. Something in the dream doesn’t want Marin to wake up. In order to heal herself and her family, Marin must face the truth she’s forgotten and conquer what lies behind the fourth wall.
Paperback: 235 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (June 10, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #FourthWall
The Fourth Wall is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of The Fourth Wall
, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, July 25th at 12:00 AM EST
. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo grew up writing short stories and bad poetry before escaping the cold winters of Wyoming and settling in the Sonoran Desert. She lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband and two children, Abigail and Gabriel. She still loves to write, but fortunately gave up on poetry. The Fourth Wall
is her first novel.
Elizabeth’s creative nonfiction has appeared in Brain, Child
, Phoenix New Times
, Literary Mama
, and is forthcoming in Brevity
. Elizabeth is also an award-winning fiction writer; her short stories have been published in The Portland Review
, Hospital Drive
, SLAB Literary Magazine
, and Bartleby Snopes
. Links to her work and information on classes/critiques can be found at http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com/
You can also connect with Elizabeth on her social networks:
----- Interview by Crystal J. Otto
WOW: Elizabeth, I am so happy to have you here today! I know you’ve been busy so we sure appreciate your time. If you don’t mind my asking, who inspired your love of writing and how did they inspire you?
That’s a really interesting question, because I can’t remember when or why I started to write, I just remember always doing it. It felt like a part of my identity, probably because my teachers reinforced that. You know how each kid has an identifier, whether that’s right or wrong—Sally, the math whiz; Bob, the class clown; Anne, the artsy one. I was the one who wrote stories.
What I do remember is that the inspiration for my stories usually came from songs. Even as a very young child, I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music and daydreaming about the stories in the songs. So I guess I came around to answering your question—musicians and song writers inspired my love for writing.
WOW: That’s interesting and a friend recently posted something similar on their social media saying, “You can tell a lot about someone based on their favorite song.” If you had to choose a song to go along with The Fourth Wall, what would it be?
It would definitely be “Infinite Dreams” by Iron Maiden not only because it's a favorite and fits the book well, but because the first six words are so perfect. I actually wanted to use them at the beginning of the book, but it's very difficult to get permission for song lyrics.
WOW: Some of us credit our writing friends and writing groups for some of our inspiration and encouragement. How do you feel about writer's groups and book clubs and why?
I think writer’s groups can be fantastic because they keep you disciplined. Having to show up on a regular basis with fresh pages is very motivating. You don’t want to be the one hanging her head, mumbling some excuse or another about why you didn’t have time to write two pages in seven days, or whatever.
I think book clubs are great, too. Readers are so passionate, and they love sharing and discovering and talking about books. A lot of the titles on my to-be-read list right now are there because friends on Goodreads discussed and reviewed those books.
WOW: You’re right on about the passion. Thanks for sharing your passion with us. Even when we are passionate about writing, it can sometimes happen…the dreaded writer’s block. How do you overcome the block when it happens to you?
If I’m stuck, I write by hand. Switching to pen and paper, even if it’s just to scribble ideas, draw outlines, or list character traits, seems to get me moving again.
WOW: That’s great advice…wish it was that easy for all of us; you’re amazing Elizabeth! Sometimes I revert to journaling and set down other work until I can work around or through the block. Do you journal?
I’m not comfortable keeping a journal. I did when I was a young girl, but looking back at entries, even just weeks later, always embarrassed me. The same way first drafts are embarrassing, but those change; they are meant to be edited and refined. It’s like hearing your own voice recorded. You cringe and think, “Do I really sound like that?”
WOW: That’s an interesting take on journaling Elizabeth.
Is it still pretty surreal or is it sinking in--The Fourth Wall already has Amazon reviews! When did you say "pinch me, I'm dreaming?"
It felt more like a dream when WiDo Publishing offered me the contract last August. Since then, the feeling comes and goes. Moments like a few weeks ago, when my copies of The Fourth Wall
arrived and I held the book in my hands, still feel surreal.
WOW: I’m sure holding the copies were similar to holding a new baby. Of course we know we are pregnant, but it just seems unbelievable to have a little person in our arms! The Fourth Wall is a beautiful baby Elizabeth; you did a fabulous job!
Here’s a question I would ask a new author but never a new mother. What’s next for you? Can we expect another ‘book baby’ soon?
I’m working on research for my next novel, and I want to get back to writing essays and submitting my short fiction. There hasn’t been a lot of time lately for writing, unless it’s answering emails or writing blog posts etc. See, now I’m making excuses. I should maybe join a writer’s group.
WOW: I’m sure any group would welcome you with open arms! Writing groups make me think of reading groups, so let me end with this question: What do you hope readers "get" out of reading The Fourth Wall? What did you intend the take away to be?
I hope they get a good story. That’s the most important thing. Essentially, the book is about the power of grief, and how holding onto it can do damage. It’s about the importance of moving on.
WOW: That’s a great takeaway!
I just have to ask one very last question: what is your advice to other writers hoping to publish?
Start scribbling. Just grab a pen and a notebook and write something. Now, keep going.
WOW: Thanks for the great advice and awesome interview Elizabeth. It has truly been a pleasure working with you on your tour and we here at WOW! will be looking for many more novels from you in the future!
---------- Blog Tour Dates
Monday, July 21 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Tuesday, July 22 @ The Lit Ladies
Don't miss today's interview with Elizabeth Maria Naranjo as she talks to Margo Dill about The Fourth Wall
. Once you've found out about Elizabeth's debut novel, get in on the giveaway to get your hands on your own copy!
Wednesday, July 23 @ All Things Audry
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo makes a visit at All Things Audry and shares her thoughts about "Lucid Dreaming" and offers a giveaway of her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
. This is a blog stop you won't want to miss!
Thursday, July 24 @ Nutshell Newsletter Post
Join Sheila Gazlay as she reviews The Fourth Wall
by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo!
Friday, July 25 @ Renee’s Pages
Find out what Renee has to say in her review of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's debut novel The Fourth Wall
. Elizabeth is also offering a giveaway of her fabulous book. A blog stop too exciting to miss!
Monday, July 28 @ Create Write Now
Join Elizabeth Maria Naranjo as she shares information about her debut novel The Fourth Wall
and provides insight into "The Advantages of the First Novel".
Tuesday, July 29th @ Katherine Hajer
Join Katherine Hajer as she reviews The Fourth Wall
by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and offers not only her insights but also a giveaway for this debut YA novel!
Wednesday, July 30th @ Words by Webb
Join Jodi Webb as she interviews Elizabeth Maria Naranjo to find out more about this first time author and her fabulous first novel, The Fourth Wall. Jodi will also have a giveaway for her readers so you won't want to miss this exciting blog stop!
Thursday, July 31 @ CMash Reads
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
will be highlighted on CMash reads today. Tune in and participate in the giveaway for this highly acclaimed first novel from a very talented young author!
Monday, August 4 @ Choices
Learn about the "Benefits of a Small Press" with Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and she gives insight about the publishing process of her debut novel The Fourth Wall
Wednesday, August 6 @ Blue House Review
Elizabeth Maria Naranjo takes her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
and stops at The Blue House Review where she shares some little known "Facts About Elizabeth" and offers a giveaway of her highly acclaimed first novel!
Friday, August 8 @ I’d So Rather be Reading
Today's spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading is none other than Elizabeth Maria Naranjo with her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
. Find out more and read a review by Crystal Otto of WOW! Women on Writing as she shares her thoughts of Naranjo's work.
Tuesday, August 12 @ Romance Junkies
Today's interview at Romance Junkies gives us a glimpse into the writing life of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and her debut novel The Fourth Wall
. This is a "can't miss" blog stop!
Thursday, August 14 @ Bring on Lemons
Read Crystal's review of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's debut novel, The Fourth Wall
and get in on the giveaway to receive your very own ebook copy of this fabulous book!
Friday, August 15 @ Selling Books
Check out the interview today at Selling Books and find out about today's spotlight author, Elizabeth Maria Naranjo and her debut novel, The Fourth Wall
Wednesday, August 20 @ A Writer’s Dream
Today you won't want to miss a review and giveaway for Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's The Fourth Wall
. Stop by and see what Rae Lori has to say and learn for yourself why this debut novel is receiving such high praise!
Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enter to win a copy of The Fourth Wall
by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, July 25th
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Labels: author blog tour, book giveaway, dreams, Elizabeth Maria Naranjo, grief, The Fourth Wall, YA novel, YA writing
Netflix-ify Your Reading Library
|Oyster logo courtesy of Oyster.com|
If Netflix offers a monthly subscription service for TV shows and movies, and Spotify offers the same for music, so it's only natural that a monthly subscription service for book exists, too. In fact, there are three subscription book services vying for your attention.
On Friday, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited
which allows readers unlimited access to over 600,000 e-books and audiobooks for $9.99 per month. Oyster
, founded in September 2013, offers a nearly identical service: For $9.95 a month, you will have unlimited access to over 500,000 books, and Scribd
's subscription service, released only a month later, offers a 400,000 title collection for $8.99 a month.
Will Oyster and Scribd survive the unveiling of the Kindle Unlimited?
Libraries for each service include a great mix of titles from multiple genres – literary and young adult fiction, to mysteries and thrillers, to sports books, political science, history, business, children’s books and more.
Authors: you can have your publisher request
that your books are offered through Oyster. Scribd also offers numerous services
for writers. Kindle Unlimited's web site does not currently provide information for authors, though it's likely they make deals directly with publishers.
All three services offers apps for both Android and iOS users, and Kindle owners can continue to use their Kindles. The Oyster app was rated as one of the best apps
for 2013, and Scribd has also received social media awards
. For fun, check out the clever infographic
Oyster created to break down the stats of readers using Android vs. iOS systems.
As a book lover, and an avid reader of e-books and audiobooks, these services excite me! The books I read are typically $9.99 for Kindle books, and closer to $15 for paperbacks. I could read a book a week (when I’m not reading textbooks for school). At that rate, I could easily save $30-$45 per month on reading material with either service.
As a teacher, the site further excites me because it can give students access to many books for much cheaper than they might normally pay. I wish these apps existed when I was an undergrad English major!
|Oyster app courtesy of Oyster.com|
Other than any shortcomings normally associated with e-book reading, I can only think of one potential downfall of this system: not having time to read at least $10 worth of books per month while in school or _____________(fill in any of your activities that eat away at your reading time).
But, to me, that just sounds like motivation to keep reading.
If you want to try Oyster, use this link. If you sign up using that link, you and I both get $15 reading credit. Otherwise, you can sign up through Oyster’s homepage and get a one-month free trial.
Go here for more about Scribd.
Use this link to check out Kindle Unlimited.
Written by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor
Labels: Anne Greenawalt, e-books, Oyster, reading apps
Finally Jumping On the John Green Bandwagon
So, I finally started reading The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green. As a young adult author and reader of YA lit, this is rather an embarrassing confession. I should have read it earlier and before it became a blockbuster movie. So, what was my resistance?
It wasn't because it was popular--I love best-selling YA. I'm a Divergent
, Hunger Games
, and HUGE Harry Potter
fan. It wasn't because I hadn't heard about it before--I have an 18-year-old avid reader in my critique group and a Twitter account. No, my resistance came from the subject matter mostly. I didn't want to read a realistic contemporary fiction book about teens that have cancer.
But I'm so glad I did. By the time you're reading this post, I will have finished the book and most likely dabbed a few tears from my eyes. It is an utterly depressing book, if you only look at it from the subject matter--kids with cancer are not fun to read about. It can not possibly have the typical happy ending we often want, where the two main characters ride together off into the sunset. Cliche, yes? But it's what many readers want.
Then why is this book so popular? Why did it become a movie? What draws us in? My guess is the characters, the humor, and a setting that we are not used to.
Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters are amazing teenagers--smart, funny, appreciative, loyal, and good. They are not perfect--Green throws in some typical teenage behavior every once in a while, but Hazel and Gus are a pleasure to read about. I read the pages quickly and turned them even faster because I wanted to see what intelligent, witty, hilarious thing they would say next. Green created a brilliant supporting cast to go with them, from Issac to both sets of parents to the eccentric author living in Amsterdam. I haven't had the chance to Google “Everything I Need to Know About John Green” yet; but when I do, I'm hoping for some insight into how he developed these characters.
I know it's strange to say that a book about kids having cancer who fall in love while mutually admiring a book about kids with cancer is humorous, but TFIOS (what our friends on Twitter call this novel) is laugh out loud funny. I giggled several times while reading this book, so much so that my three-year-old asked me, “Mama, what is so funny?” I could not explain to her the Night of the Broken Trophies or the Support Group jokes or the fact that the kids with cancer made fun of cancer perks while taking advantage of them--because she wouldn't understand. I didn't understand until I read the book, but John Green is a brilliant writer, and he knows how to draw readers in with humor.
Finally, I didn't know much about this novel besides the cancer part before I started reading. I don't want to do a bunch of spoilers here, if there is anyone left on the planet who hasn't read this book yet; but part of the novel takes place in Amsterdam. At first, I thought--no way. Why would this teen cancer novel take place in a city known for prostitution and smoking pot? But there is a part of the novel set there, and instead of those things the city is known for--we get an inside look at the Anne Frank House while two teenagers with cancer fall in love.
The Fault In Our Stars
has been reviewed so many times--it's not like you needed to see another review here today. But we are writers. When a writer reads a book that is marvelous, she should take the time to figure out why and see if she can incorporate any of these lessons into her own writing. So, I'm trying, and probably will be for a long time, but I'm so thankful I finally read this wonderful novel, and I think it will change me in more ways than one.
Have you read The Fault In Our Stars
? Is there another book you've read that made you want to be a better writer?
Margo L. Dill is the author of Caught Between Two Curses
and Finding My Place
. This weekend, she is holding a contest on her blog to win a $25 gift card or a 3000-word edit, in celebration of the All-Star Break. To find out more, visit: http://margodill.com/blog/2014/07/14/all-star-week/
Labels: John Green, reading, review, The Fault in Our Stars, what makes a book popular, YA Lit
Friday Speak Out!: Warming Up (It's Not Just for Exercise Freaks Anymore)
by Sioux Roslawski
In my past life as a quilter (now I've been reincarnated as a knitter) I used to have a “junk” project to work on. There would be a wall hanging or a bed quilt that I was working on, but each day that I quilted, before I worked on the project I truly cared about, I'd quilt a bit on some smaller, not-so-important piece. It might have been a wall hanging for an in-law (a relative I was not very fond of, so I didn't care how large my stitches were). Perhaps it was a placemat that was going to be very utilitarian, so if the quilting was not my best, I didn't care. After working on my warm-up piece, I'd set it aside and start working on the sewing I did care about.
Because then, my fingers were warmed up and ready. My needle was nimble. My stitches were so tiny, a microscope was needed to see them. (Okay, that is a slight exaggeration. Forgive me.)
The same technique can be used when writing. Julia Cameron, in her wonderful book The Artist's Way
, calls it the daily pages. You write a few pages to get the junk out, so that creativity can really flow once you start working on your novel/short story/article that day.
Recently, I've been working with some middle school and high school teachers. They're working on a graduate class and get the opportunity to explore themselves as writers as well as themselves as teachers of writing. One of the course requirements is a daily writing prompt; every day we begin the class with some sort of quick “exercise” to get us started writing.
One morning, a teacher told us to “Write a story about a girl named Dot without using any words that have a dot in them.” That meant we couldn't use a word that had a lowercase i or j in it. We became word contortionists as we crafted flash pieces, tossing out words that had those dreaded dots.
Another teacher instructed us to write a story with only commands and exclamations. We couldn't use any statements. That was great fun as well.
Along with Cameron's book, I'd recommend Unjournaling
by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston. It's filled with 200 prompts like the “dot” one and ones like “Describe someone who looks bored. Don't use any form of the words yawned or stared or sighed,” or “Create an impression of a person, real or imaginary, by describing only the person's hands. Use only three sentences.” (See? Some of these exercises might be useful when working on your “real” writing project, so you can double dip!)
So, today before you get working on your YA novel ...Before you start your revision-of-the-day ...Before you begin writing the article you've got on your to-do list ...Warm up your fingers. Get your laptop heated up. Get rid of the “junk” that's in your head—and get ready to really
* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a proud member of the notorious (and sometimes felonious, at least in their fantasies) writing critique group, the WWWPs. During the day she is a third grade teacher. In the early mornings and late at night, she is a freelance writer. Her stories can be found in Chicken Soup collections (soon to be 10) and
Not Your Mother's Book anthologies. This summer, she is busy cleaning up puppy pee puddles. More of her writing can be found at http://siouxspage.blogspot.com
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
Labels: Friday Speak Out, Sioux Roslawski, writer inspiration, writing exercises, writing prompts
Writing for Educational Packagers: Is It for You?
Monday, I turned in the rewrites on
my first work-for-hire gig for an educational packager. Educational packagers
put together series books for educational publishers. They recruit authors to
do the writing.
To work for a packager, you submit a
resume and writing samples. Then, you wait.
If they like your samples and have a
series that matches your interests and expertise, you get an e-mail. That’s when the serious work begins. From the date of initial contact to final
deadline, I had six weeks to research and write the book, chosen from their
topic list. I had another week to do the
rewrites which were minimal.
The deadlines are tough but the money
is good. I hope they contact me
Here are five things to consider
before applying for this kind of job:
- Are your interests varied enough to
write a book on someone else’s topic? I lucked
into a series on ancient cultures. The list
included two cultures that I’m deeply interested in, but I would have written
about any of them if it meant getting the experience. My background is anthropology. Ancient cultures in general intrigue me. A sports book would be a less comfortable match.
- Do you have access to the resources
you need? It doesn’t matter if you go to
a local university library, use Google scholar, or an online catalog, you have
to have access to something. The reality
is that with a six week deadline you need to be able to access and request
- How quickly can you write? My final word count was 14,500 words. This means I researched, wrote and did 2
rewrites on almost 15,000 words in under two months. I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t easy, but I
write hard and fast so for me it was do-able.
That isn’t the case for everyone.
- How long do you have to let something
rest before you can approach it with fresh eyes? You can’t put this kind of project aside for
a month before you finalize it. I wrote
the manuscript from chapter 1 through chapter 9 and then started again at the
beginning with the rewrite. By the time
I reached chapter 9, chapter 1 was no longer fresh in my mind.
- How well do you deal with an editor’s
comments? Step 1 in this job was to
rough the first chapter and an outline. When
I wrote the complete draft, I had comments back and, not surprisingly, I had
things to fix. I’m not shy so when I had
questions, I asked. I looked hard at
what they wanted and, the few times their fix wouldn’t work, still addressed
This type of work isn’t for everyone
but I love research. I can pound out 4
adequate pages before I take a break and I’m not afraid to ask questions or
tackle academic primary sources. If this
sounds like the kind of assignment for you, polish your resume and check out
the listings at Evelyn B. Christensen’s EducationalMarkets for Children’s Writers.
Labels: Educational writing, packagers, work-for-hire
Unique Character Names
I just finished reading a novel with two characters named after mythological figures. OK. I have nothing against mythological figures. The author took considerable time to tell readers that these were mythological names (they weren't names you would instantly see and know that) and why their mother had chosen these rather odd names. OK. Except the fact that these were mythological names did nothing to advance the story. It didn't tell us anything important about the characters, the mother, the story. It was as if we were taking a short break from the novel for a lesson in mythology. It was a bit distracting. And you never want to distract our reader from their true agenda: reading your book and falling in love with your story and characters.
I have nothing against unique character names. I often name my characters after my children (or at least give
them the same first initial). I even named one of my characters after Helen of Troy. The difference is, that little piece of information remained my secret (yes, now you know too). But knowing that secret made me feel a little closer to Helen and helped me to develop her into the person I wanted her to be. So how can we give our characters unique names (as opposed to paging through the phone book).
|Helen of Troy|
- Name them after people in your life. This is fun but I recommend using middle names or variations on names (Ian instead of John) just in case your character ends up doing something their namesake won't enjoy -- like murdering someone!
- Name them after historical figures. My Helen is named after someone left behind by someone who goes to fight a war. But there are tons of possibilities. Franklin D. Roosevelt's namesake could have a bum leg (FDR was in a wheelchair after a bout with polio), Pete could be a baseball fanatic (Pete Rose was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies) or Jean could have once been an aspiring actress (after Norma Jean a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe). Just don't make it TOO obvious. You want your readers to feel they've uncovered a secret if they decipher the origins of the name.
- Name them after a place. Please, no Brooklyns or Milans (unless of course your book takes place in modern times -- but aren't there enough Brooklyns and Milans in the world today?) But so many places beg to be shortened or used as a last name.
- Foreign words. Of course the fun of using names with a foreign origin is you can choose a name that "matches" your character and use it, or a portion of it. Such as the beautiful Bonnie, coming from the Spanish bonita for beautiful.
- The Baby Names Book. You knew you were keeping that old baby names book for a reason! Now you can page through it) or one of the many wonderful online sites) and find a name that means stubborn or shifty or princess and you're in business.
But I beg you, don't explain why your characters have their names in your writing. Save that for an interview after you book is published!
So, what are the names of your characters and where did you find their names?
Labels: Characters, fiction writing, names
Patricia Tompkins, Second Place Winner in the Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest
What I liked about Patricia Tompkins's flash fiction piece, "American Underwear" from the very beginning of the story is the topic, the tone, and the voice. This story starts with a woman in a foreign country at work sewing a large pair of underwear for American women, "The novelty of sewing extra-extra-large cotton panties faded by late
morning. Earlier that Tuesday, Sanetha laughed at their size. They must
be American underwear. Such fat women in the United States and so many." To read more of this winning story, go here and scroll down to Patricia's name!
Here's a little more about Patricia: As a longtime editor, Pat has learned about writing from
working on others’ prose, from lifelong reading, and from trial and
error. Following the words of the great Dorothy Parker, “Brevity is the
soul of lingerie,” Pat is drawn to short forms, including haiku,
tanka, and flash fiction; her shortest stories have appeared in Nanoism
WOW: Congratulations, Patricia, on winning second place with your short story, "American Underwear." Great title! Where did you come up with the idea for this story?
I first wrote the story 10 years ago. It’s always been short, varying from 500 to 800 words over several revisions. I don’t remember what was the impetus, but I always thought it was worthwhile, despite 20 rejections. One journal accepted it, held onto it for months, and folded before publishing it.
WOW: It's stood the test of time, and it shows what persistence can do! What are the themes you are exploring in "American Underwear"?
Essentially, the power of stories, whether true or fairy tales, what we tell ourselves and what others tell us.
WOW: How long have you been writing and editing, and how did you get started?
I’ve been an editor since the late 1970s, starting in nonfiction book publishing. As a longtime avid reader, I tried to write a novel long ago. With no success getting that published, I put the idea of writing aside. Eventually, I tried short stories and finally poems.
WOW: Another example of your determination. I think this has to be giving people inspiration. Your bio says you like short pieces. What draws you to this form?
I read like an editor, so I appreciate writing that isn’t sloppy or wordy. Short is more difficult, and I like the challenge; it also helps me edit myself. Beginning writers often think shorter is easier. That has led to lots of bad haiku, among other things.
WOW: (laughs) I think you have a good point there. You seem like you have a very humorous side! Do a lot of your pieces incorporate humor? Could you give us a couple tips how you include humor in your work?
I like to use humor, but it’s tricky, especially with poetry. The term “light verse” almost dismisses humor. Because humor stems from outlook, I doubt that I can offer any tips, aside from read such masters as Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and Carl Hiaasen.
WOW: What's next for you in your writing life?
I hope to keep improving and write longer stories. It’s certainly encouraging to win a prize for my work, and I thank WOW for sponsoring contests that are not winner takes all.
WOW: We are thankful that talented writers like you are entering! Congratulations, Patricia. Keep us posted on your writing life.
Labels: 2014 winter flash fiction contest, editing flash fiction
Pitching a Manuscript (Or Behind the Scenes at a Weeklong Retreat)
Day 1: We arrive at our retreat
, nervous and excited. Everyone’s in a fine mood as we gather for dinner, getting to know one another. But hold on a tic. Did you hear someone mention that there’s a pitch session on the last day? You laugh gaily and have a glass of wine. You have all week to write, revise and learn the ins and outs of pitching. In fact, maybe you’ll have two glasses of wine. After all, you have an entire week of work ahead of you. Might as well live a little.
Day 2: You spend the day at a writing boot camp
. Your brain is about to burst with all the information gleaned, and you can’t wait to apply all that new knowledge to your own little manuscript. But first, you need a little break, a chance to let the gray cells rejuvenate and take in all that new stuff. So you sit around after dinner, make a few new friends. Besides, tomorrow, you’ll do a roundtable critique. You’ll have plenty of time to figure out that manuscript before the pitch.
Day 3: After quite the informative workshop
, you are ready to tackle that manuscript at last. To be honest, you’re pretty sure it’s awesome and all the people at your table will love it. Probably, it just needs a few tweaks and then it’s time to start thinking up that pitch.
Day 3 (A few hours later): Well, okay, you’ve suffered a bit of a setback. The tweaks you planned have morphed into major revisions. But not to worry! You know exactly what to do to fix it—and you will—right after the bonfire. And after you talk to that agent you met earlier. And after you stop at a friend’s room for a last glass of wine. And you know what? It’s way too late to work. But you’re not concerned. You have a “first thing in the morning” plan, right?
Day 4: You oversleep. You barely make it to the first workshop
, but whew! You head to lunch and what’s that you hear? Another
roundtable critique? Okay, fine. You
remembered to bring two
manuscripts, so you’ll just sit back and listen to what others have to say and really, this is a much stronger manuscript anyway. So you probably won’t have to fix a thing. And then, you can start thinking about that pitch coming up in three days.
Day 4: (After dinner): You are beginning to think the people in your roundtable group have it out for you. Nothing
pleases those persnickety writers. For crying out loud, they want plot arcs, and emotional depth, and protagonists with agency—in a PICTURE BOOK—and frankly, you’re pretty sure they don’t even know what that means. You decide to stop at someone’s cabin (someone not
in your critique group!) for a wee bit of a chat before you hit the revision. Maybe she can explain that whole agency thing to you over a glass of Merlot.
Day 4 (Midnight): Tomorrow is another day. And at least you understand agency now. Sort of.
Day 5: You slap down a revised manuscript at the roundtable and dare your critique partners to find anything wrong with it. They do not say a word (but they scribble furiously). You scribble back on their
manuscripts. At dinner, the room is abuzz with talks about the pitching session. Writers are filling up gallon jugs with coffee and stuffing two-pound chocolate bars in their laptop bags. (You are not speaking to your critique group partners.)
Day 6 (5:00 PM): You have back-to-back
, ending with “how to make a strong pitch.” You receive directions for the pitch session (where there will be a collection of editors, agents, and publishers). You hear something about it beginning the next morning, promptly at nine. You pass out.
Day 6 (5:30 PM): You scramble to find your dear, loving critique partners, the folks who, if you promise to listen to their
pitch, will listen to yours. You wolf down salad, or kale, or something green and hunker down with 20 other writers.
Day 6 (9:00): You decide the pitch session is not worth all this angst. Your manuscript’s not ready. You get a glass of wine. You feel a sense of calm. Ommmmm.
Day 6 (9:21): You bang on the back kitchen door, begging for one lousy glass of tea! Caffeine in hand, you buckle down. You will write that perfect pitch. (You hear someone outside humming “ommmm.” You yell at them to shut the heck up.)
Day 6 (9:37): You cry. Your partners tell you that no, your pitch does not suck at all. (But you know they’re lying.)
Day 6 (9:49): Your critique partners (and new best friends forever) have your back. Together, you come up with the most awesome pitch known to mankind.
Day 6 (10:49): You have 34 pitches and you have to decide which one is best. You think maybe a glass of wine will come in handy in this process.
Day 6 (11:29): It does not.
Day 7: You make your pitch. It’s a blur, but you have a couple business cards from agents and publishers and whatnot and your writer friends are hugging you and you smile and nod. Honestly, you had this figured out all along. Cheers!
~Cathy C. Hall
Labels: Cathy C. Hall, pitching a manuscript, writer humor, Writer's retreat
Recovering from Hitting a Speed Bump
On Friday, a blog post by Mridu
put me in a contemplative mood. One of her great lines from
the post is: “The writing life is full of surprises, some of them good, and some
of them upsetting.” To me, the upsetting part of a writing plan may be when you find a speed bump (or two) in the path you've decided to take.
No matter how
we try, our writing life may not follow the plan we had set for it. Recently I had a chance to experience a couple bumps I hadn't expected.
Last year I
wrote the gluten-free eating
and was thrilled with the experience. Capitalizing on the momentum I
was feeling, I focused on some fiction I've had rattling around in my head. I expected I would
be able to write another book and
looked forward to completing
it. This spring, I was
contacted to write another book for
the same publisher.
I put the fiction aside and hit the ground running. I
Googled. I went to the library. I started checking out books on the book's
subject. I downloaded medical reports. I visualized writing the book and
following the same pattern that worked so well last year.
And then I looked at my life. Really looked at it. I looked
at it more than just
clearing the proposed deadline date in my calendar. There was too much going on
in my life as it is: My mother-in-law
and ailing father-in-law
have moved to town. I have a different, more
demanding job than I had last year. I
accepted several teaching gigs this summer, which I
had rarely done
before. I'm traveling a bit in the next couple months.
And I wanted to relax and explore new avenues, such as recipe development.
So, I returned the books to the library. Recycled the
medical reports I had printed. I removed my name from consideration and
scratched my name off the imaginary byline I had
While I enjoy writing and think the book would have been a
great challenge, I'm glad I made the decision I did. I’m picking the fiction
up, albeit a slower pace than previously, and spending quality time with my in-laws.
I’m just trying to enjoy my life
right now, even if I've hit a speed bump in my writing plans.
Do you make plans with
your writing life? How well do they pan
out? What do you do when you hit a speed bump?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is
a writer and editor living in
coastal North Carolina. When
she’s not at her computer,
she is happily playing in her kitchen.
Labels: Elizabeth King Humphrey, planning, plans, writing plan