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Saturday, October 31, 2015

 

Who’s Ready for NaNoWriMo?!


I’ve had a love/hate relationship with National Novel Writing Month, fondly known as NaNoWriMo, since my first attempt in 2009. Tomorrow, November 1st, will mark the start of the 17th annual event in which writers worldwide attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in just 30 days.

No need to pull out your calculators because I’ve done the math for you: that’s 1,667 words per day.

My initial thought about NaNoWriMo was that it would be a breeding ground for a lot of terrible writing. Write, write, write, write, write and don’t think too much about it or you’ll run out of time! No time to contemplate or craft or agonize over the exact right word to describe the shape of your protagonist’s eyebrows.

But my friends were doing it, so I thought I’d try it, too.

I have tried – and failed – at NaNoWriMo twice. In 2012, I made it to about 30,000 words, my best attempt to date. And my initial thoughts were confirmed: it did elicit a lot of bad, bad writing.

But it also elicited a lot of really good ideas, a lot of excitement and energy, and it rekindled my fire for novel writing.

In bits and pieces over the next three years, I molded those 30,000 words into a nearly 70,000 words novel draft of which I am very proud. So did I “fail” at NaNoWriMo? I don’t see it like that. At least not anymore.

How many of those 30,000 words from the NaNoWriMo draft still remain in today’s draft? Well, I’m sure there are some similar words, as there are similar themes and similar characters, but the story now is very different, as it should be. It is the months (ahem, years) after NaNoWriMo in which you’re meant to craft and polish and shine the words that vomit from your pen (or keyboard, probably) in November.

So, who’s going to try it this year? Who has tried it previously? What have your experiences been like? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I’m still undecided if I'll attempt it this year, but I still have a few hours left to decide...

Here are some resources to help you make your NaNo decision:



Ruminations by Anne Greenawalt

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Friday, October 30, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: Just Turn it Off

by Elizabeth Joyce

I haven’t written in three months. My addiction to social media is to blame. It started from logging on once a week to frequent checks throughout the day. I write on a tablet which has a removable keyboard. The accessibility of switching from Word to apps in seconds lured me into making a purchase.

One day the tablet wouldn’t turn on. “This can’t be happening!” I thought, as my finger repeatedly pressed the power button. Priorities needed to be addressed when I wondered about a friend’s recent post instead of written essays lost to cyberspace. After learning it would be two week until my tablet could be replaced, I knew the universe wanted to teach me a lesson.

The forced isolation reminded of reminded me of hours spent as a child crafting silly poems on paper. I grabbed an old notebook and wrote in free style. Three pages later an idea popped out of my loopy handwriting. I did more writing in one afternoon than the entire summer. There was no backspace key to distract me. A page of words left me satisfied as a writer.

Can balance be achieved between social media and the written word? Once I’m “connected” again, the plan is to set the timer for ten minutes. After “likes and shares,” everything gets turned off.

Pen and paper helped me overcome writer’s block. What’s more important is these tools never require technical assistance!
* * *
Elizabeth Joyce is an assistant Children’s Librarian and is a member of the Candlewood Writer’s Group. She is now working on a new play and hopes her new revelation culminates in a rough draft before the holidays.
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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, October 29, 2015

 

Four Tips for People Who Want to Write for Children

That fake-o smile over there? It looks like the one I give people who chat me up about children’s writing and then make the big reveal. “I normally write for adults/teach/climb mountains but I want to do something quick and easy and make some money out of it.”

Nine times out of ten, I wish them luck and make my way to the punch bowl. They don’t want to know how to write for children, but you’re different. You’re a Muffin reader. That means you take writing seriously. Here are four tips for those of you who want to write for children.

Don’t assume writing for children is easier than writing for adults. If you write, you know writing is hard work. Writing for children is harder than writing for adults because, in addition to knowing how to write, you have to know about the different levels of books.

Know what type of book you are writing. Is it a picture book or a chapter book? An early reader or a young adult novel? You need to know because a picture book is vastly different from an early reader. There is also the fact that certain genre sell at one level but not another. Mysteries? Think middle grade. Romance? Young adult.

Research your audience. When you write for children, their developmental stages effect what makes a good book for that age level. A middle grader is starting to identify more with their peers than their parents. A young adult is finding her place in the world and questioning what her peers think as well as continuing to challenge her parents.

Remember the story. New writers often have a lesson to teach. Kids don’t want a lesson. They want fun. You can include a lesson but hide it under the story. Melanie Watt’s picture book, Bug in a Vacuum, is about a bug that gets sucked into a vacuum but is also a lesson on the stages of grief. That’s obvious enough to an adult but a child want to see if the fly gets out.

There are amazing opportunities for writers who have great stories to share with young readers. Before you break into the children’s market, you’re going to have to do the work to get to know them and their books. I’ll leave you to figure out whether it’s quick and easy.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

 

Build Your Network

© Tuulum | Dreamstime Stock Photos 

Do you ever have days where you feel like you’re floundering in your writing career? Like the small steps you take each and every day to generate ideas, polish your work, hit the send button and earn those freelance paychecks are getting you no closer to paying the mortgage or any other substantial bills? Believe me, I’ve been there. But I’m also here to tell you not to give up on your goals. If you put it in the time and dedicate yourself to making yourself a better writer/editor, you will be rewarded.

The time I’ve put into freelance writing has landed me two different editorial positions in the past ten years. One, with a regional parenting magazine, didn’t work out because the position was a job share, and I realized a working mom has to have sick days, vacation time, etc. I left the company after a year on good terms and freelanced for them several months before going to work for a competing publication. The other editorial position was part-time and allowed me to work remotely. While it worked better for my schedule and having two kids in elementary school, it didn’t pay as much as the first position.

A few months ago I was at a crossroads when the magazine where I worked remotely folded. While I was still lamenting the loss of income, regular clients (such as WOW!) continued to provide me with opportunities for freelance projects. And then, through the power of LinkedIn (it does work!), the original magazine I worked for realized I was “back on the market,” so to speak. Within a week, I had a small but regular gig copyediting for their publication (remotely) and some website projects also came my way. Starting next week, I get the chance to freshen up my “work” wardrobe and take a temporary position at this magazine while their current editor goes on maternity leave for three months. If I hadn’t worked to maintain my contacts in the industry, continued getting publication credits, or spent time publishing my articles in other magazines and newspapers, I would probably still be banging my head on my keyboard.

So my advice to you is to keep going. Put in the time. Do the research. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and make those connections. Make yourself indispensible to regular clients if you’re looking for more in your professional career as a writer. It will pay off.

In what ways are you working to build up your own writing network? What opportunities have come your way because of the connections you’ve made?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning professional freelance writer, editor and blogger with hundreds of print and online articles and columns to her name. Her experience includes a background in journalism and communications, public relations, writing for regional parenting and city magazines, a daily newspaper and websites and e-zines. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 

Interview with Cheryl Eichar Jett: Spring '15 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Meet Cheryl Eichar Jett:

Cheryl Eichar Jett is a historian, author, and blogger. Currently working on her sixth nonfiction book for Arcadia Publishing, she is also a regular contributor to several regional publications including a monthly column “Along Route 66,” in the paper-plus-online www.thebuzzmonthly.com. She blogs about her adventures at www.route66chick.blogspot.com as the Route 66 Chick, a mostly lighthearted look at her travels, Route 66 and other history, and Route 66 events and tourism.

She is the Conference Director of Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference in Edwardsville, Illinois, October 29-31 of this year. This new event is featuring Route 66 authors, artists, historians, collectors, and celebrities from around the world.

As a small child, she learned how to read road maps from her parents and soon put this skill to work in the back seat of the family car on road trips. Many years later, she began writing about history, Route 66, and travel and found herself published. She believes there’s a connection between the two.

Between then and now, this daughter of professional musicians/music educators worked as a salesperson, bookkeeper, music teacher, professional musician, grant writer, and nonprofit executive director. Cheryl holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in history from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and has done additional study at the Santa Fe Screenwriters Conference (in person) and from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (online).

Now about that fiction! Cheryl is thrilled to have placed in the WOW! Top Ten the second time in a row! This is her second placement in a fiction writing contest and she feels excited and inspired to aim for more. She has been writing short stories and parts of novels for 30 years. Her stories are usually framed by historical settings and she is drawn to themes of the impact of loss, ties between the past and the present, second chances, new beginnings, and travel (including time).

Cheryl lives in Illinois, where she is a member of Eville Writers (a play on her city, Edwardsville). In any spare time, she enjoys reading, genealogy, travel, music, and visiting her adult children and grand-dogs.

If you haven't done so already, check out Cheryl's award-winning story "Waiting Out the War," then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Spring 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Cheryl: I am fascinated by the WWII era, perhaps since my parents, aunts, and uncles lived through that time period. Or perhaps because it's such an interesting time in terms of women's social history. Stories seem to take on a greater poignancy in times of war or upheaval. Anyway, fiction ideas often just pop into my head, and one day there was an image of a woman on a train waiting for her man to come home from the war. I wrote several versions before I was reasonably satisfied with this one.

WOW: We are glad you were able to harness the power of that image of the woman on the train and turn it into an award-winning story. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Cheryl: I love the research, the planning stage, and the blossoming of my idea on my computer screen. (I don't write well on paper.) I love it when the words come fast and furious but know that it seldom happens that way—writing is work like anything else. The part I like the least, whether a short story, magazine article, or book, is when I have to do the final edit, trust that I've done the best job I can at that moment in time, and let it go on its way.

WOW: It can be hard to trust and let go. I understand that you write a lot about Route 66. What fascinates you most about Route 66 and how does that inspire your writing?

Cheryl: Route 66 seems to embody a lot of memories, or maybe it's our collective American memory, of rock 'n roll and drive-ins, or the Okies, or WWII. For me personally, it's the memories of road trips with my parents, and then with my children and their father. Learning to read maps as a child and “co-piloting” with my parents in the car. A hamburger and a Coke with someone special in a tiny roadhouse, somewhere in Colorado, with no one else around besides the guy behind the counter. This fascination goes beyond Route 66 to include the old named auto trails, like the Lincoln or the Dixie Highway, or other two-lane highways. I think it inspires my writing because there is always another story to tell—in the next town, around the next bend, in that abandoned business building. There's a story there, and sometimes you're lucky and you can find it.

WOW: I love the way you’ve described that – it makes me want to look deeper into unexpected places to find their people and their stories. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Cheryl: I'm reading Father of Route 66: The Story of Cy Avery, by Susan Croce Kelly. I chose to read this book because of this one man's incredible effect on one highway, Route 66, and its history. It's a little bit like that now, during what you'd have to call a Route 66 revival. What one person does – opening a new business, restoring a historic building, sharing stories and photos –on one end of Route 66 impacts the rest of us. Also, I recently had the pleasure of meeting Susan Croce Kelly, and she will be one of the guest speakers at our upcoming Miles of Possibility Route 66 Conference, for which I'm serving as director.

WOW: Wonderful! It’s fascinating to keep learning of all the different ways Route 66 has touched your life. If you could have dinner with one writer, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Cheryl: I would choose Erik Larson. I admire him tremendously, because he writes amazing nonfiction that reads like amazing fiction, because he shows incredible attention to detail and meticulous research while he clearly sees the big picture of the story, because he has a very funny dry wit, and because he appears to be as long-winded as I am. I think it would be a long and inspiring conversation.

WOW: Great choice with an excellent justification. Anything else you’d like to add?

Cheryl: I truly love both nonfiction and fiction. Whichever it is, there's certainly one thing in common – it's all about telling the story well.

WOW: I agree! Thanks so much for your inspiring answers! Good luck and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt

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Monday, October 26, 2015

 

Three Steps to Get You Closer To Publication

Last month, my first published books arrived! They were English books written for the Korean educational market. Not surprisingly, my kidlit writer friends have asked how I came to write books for the Korean educational market, and usually, I say it was just luck. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to see that it wasn’t “just” luck. There were a couple steps I took along the way to publication, steps that I’ve seen work time and time again.


JOIN GROUPS


Most writers join professional writing organizations or other writing groups in order to learn more about writing, and that’s always a good thing. But making connections in those groups is even better.

It was a writing friend from a group I joined years ago who passed along my name. She was asked about writer/teachers who might be interested in opportunities in the Korean educational market. The publisher doesn’t post writer guidelines; they work through connections. And they’re not the only ones who follow that formula. Editors often ask for recommendations, so join up, get to know your writer friends, and maybe you’ll be recommended next!


VOLUNTEER


So now you’ve joined an organization, but maybe there’s hundreds of people in the group. How do you get to know people? How do people get to know you? Volunteer!

And you don’t have to be that person in the top tier of the organization, or even the one who’s comfortable up on the stage, talking to everybody. Writers are often introverts by nature, I know, so volunteer in a capacity that suits you. For example, if you’re great with directions and love driving, volunteer to pick up an agent or editor from the airport. That’s thirty minutes to an hour of wonderful one-on-one time!

Of course, not everyone can pick up the agents or editors. But when you volunteer, perhaps you’ll get invited to a volunteer dinner at the end of a conference. That’s how our SCBWI region thanks volunteers, and so for a couple hours, we have the opportunity to chat with all the speakers at the conference. I know writers who’ve received book contracts, just because of a fortuitous conversation at dinner!


BE PREPARED


Mostly, make sure that you’ve done the work so you’re well-prepared when opportunities come along. Learn your craft. Write, write, and write some more. Know what’s going on in your chosen field. And be open to whatever may come your way.

Sure, luck has a little something to do with finding publishing success. But if you follow a couple simple steps, lucky opportunities will find you!

~Cathy C. Hall


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Sunday, October 25, 2015

 

We Would Like to Hear From You: Success Stories and More

We would love to hear from our readers. We need some success stories for a newsletter that is hopefully coming out this week. What have you been up to this fall? It can be a contest win, a published book, a new blog, a writing goal you met--what success have you had since the kids went back to school? Please leave it in the comments below in 100 words or less. It would be helpful if you wrote it in this format:

Name is happy to announce: "NEWS and any links you want people to know about." 

NaNoWriMo is coming up, and we would like to hear your tips. Have you done it in the past? What worked for you? What didn't? We would also like to publish these in the newsletter with a link to your blog, website, or Amazon book, so please write your tip in the comment below, sign your name, and include a link.

Don't forget, our fall flash fiction contest is open, so if you are not into writing 50,000 words this November, write 750 and send it into our contest. Finalists are judged by a literary agent to pick the top 20! You can find more information here: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

Finally, you can find all these announcements and more if you join our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. We update every day, and sometimes more than once.

To join our Facebook page, please visit us here: https://www.facebook.com/WOW-Women-On-Writing-135164411877/

To follow us on Twitter, please go here: http://www.twitter.com/womenonwriting

We hope to hear from you! Leave us a comment with your success story or NaNoWriMo tip before Wednesday morning.

photo by alibree (http://www.flickr.com) 



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Saturday, October 24, 2015

 

Uneven Pavement - a flash fiction piece

It's taken me awhile to embrace this TimeHop feature on Facebook. At first I really enjoyed looking at the old photographs and it helped put things in perspective (as far as how much life can change in a short amount of time). Many of my WOW! Women on Writing book blog tours have appeared as memories and it's been fun to revisit some much loved authors, blogs, and posts.

Recently, one of my own flash fiction pieces came across my screen. I didn't remember writing it and I had a few minutes to spare. I sat outside the elementary school and read my own work as if someone else had authored it. I found some areas of improvement (of course), but for the most part I enjoyed what I had written. This served as a great reminder I need to find more time for my own writing. I thought I'd share it with my social media and just see if anyone thought it worthy. I was surprised by the support and praise. One of my friends from across the ocean eagerly asked where she could read the follow up to the story. I guess that was all the motivation I needed. Here goes...

PS - please be kind with your comments, I haven't written anything in several years

Uneven Pavement (Phase II for Gabe & Sylvia)

“Gabe?”
…silence…
“GABE!”

Gabe was washing out his travel mug, looking out the window enjoying the wind blowing through the old trees in the yard when he realized his father was trying to get his attention.

“Sorry Dad. Did you need something?” asked Gabe as he dried his hands on the towel sticking out of the back pocket of his faded jeans. He should be more attentive to his aging father. After all, Earl had come to live with him because he was lonely at the nursing home. Gabe hated to admit it, but he was lonely too. They were good for each other and Gabe enjoyed having someone to talk to at the end of a hard day at the office.

“I’ll have whatever it is you’re having son. I haven’t seen you smile that broad since your Mama was sitting at this very table talking about how delicious your cinnamon rolls turned out. You don’t feel like making those this morning, do you son? It would make an old man’s heart happy.” His father asked with a sweet twinkle in his eye.

Gabe gently reminded his father about the Doctor’s orders and how his medication would work much better if he watched what he ate and lost 5 pounds. The elderly man peeled his banana and tried to enjoy his fruit juice. Both men were aware a piping hot cinnamon roll with a large steaming cup of coffee would be far better start to the day.

Gabe finished the dishes, hung up the towel, and proceeded to give his father instructions for the day. He was running a bit behind due to that Sylvia woman who had landed in the yard. Gabe had gone out to get the morning paper and got more than he bargained for when Sylvia Slattery tripped on the uneven pavement outside Gabe’s home. It really wasn’t completely her fault as Gabe had been meaning to fix the concrete for quite some time. She had such lovely eyes and he couldn’t shake the feeling they had met before.

“You’re smiling like the cat that ate the canary son. What’s on your mind?” asked Earl.

“It’s that Sylvia woman I told you about Dad. I feel awful about her falling. I’m gunna call and get Sullivan Brothers to come fix the sidewalk before the snow flies.” Said Gabe, but the look on his face said he would be doing more than that.

Gabe headed to his office and on the drive he made a mental checklist:
Send Sylvia Slattery flowers
Call Sullivan Brothers
Buy a new suit
Get a hair cut

Gabe was so distracted; he drove right past his office building and found himself in front of O’Leary Floral. He had meant to call Karen and place an order, but as long as he was in the neighborhood, he decided it best to pick something out himself.

“Good Morning Gabe. Is that really you?” asked Gabe’s longtime friend Karen as he walked into her shop for the first time in nearly a decade.

“In the flesh. I’m wondering if you have something in purple?” he asked Karen as he looked past all the seasonal arrangements in orange, brown, and gold.

“Does your lady friend like roses, I have some lovely lavender roses over here in the cooler.” Karen said as she winked at Gabe.

“Oh heavens no woman. She’s not a lady friend at all. Sylvia is…well, she’s just sort of this woman who”

“Sylvia? Please say it’s not Sylvia Slattery Gabe.” Demanded Karen after cutting him off mid-sentence.

Gabe shook his head and together they picked out a suitable arrangement. Gabe couldn’t help but wonder why Karen didn’t like Sylvia but no sense letting the local gossip ruin what started as a phenomenal day. O’Leary’s would deliver the flowers to Sylvia and that would be the end of it, or so he hoped.


The original piece can be found here: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/2012/10/she-smiled-despite-herself-flash-fiction.html

Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 8, Andre 7, Breccan 2, and Delphine 7 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
and here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/


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Friday, October 23, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: Practice, Practice, Practice

by Michele MacKinnon

Back in April I started a four-week class which blended “low-impact art exercises” and writing about each exercise. The class description grabbed me: “Are you stuck?” “Yes,” I answered silently. When invited to write about my reasons for attending the class I scribbled “I feel I am starting a transition to something new, to something that allows me to experience joy more often.” Writing is a source of joy for me

I quit my corporate job in July. It’s October, and I am writing but not as often as I should. Competition has crowded out my writing time. Long-delayed lunches with friends, tending and tweaking the perennial gardens calling to me with their siren song of leaves and blooms and plants needing planting which I couldn’t resist bringing home, and all those recipes I finally tried which livened up the dinner menu over the last few months.

It’s time to get serious. I’ve given myself a stern talking-to. When my writing group met a few weeks ago I listed all the writing to-do’s I’ve meant to tackle for too long. Being a type A person, crossing items off this list will help motivate me. Practice will lead to improvements. It’s the same solution I repeated for building workplace skills when the question arose in multiple training sessions I led. My list covers a wide variety of writing topics also, which will help me narrow down my focus to the writing I enjoy most. Bouncing between memoir, gardening advice and travel tips is a spicy blend, but spicy blends are better suited to my cooking and may be slowing improvements to my writing abilities.

Now that I’ve confessed to the mess-in-a-dress approach I’ve been taking with writing, I need to come up with a plan, another common suggestion when asked for career advice at work. Even though my plan is simple I know I will struggle with sticking to it, and that’s why the practice, practice, practice is important. So what is my plan? I’m going to write every day. Even if it’s in 15 minute chunks I’m going to make the time. The light will stay on until I spend those 15 minutes and whatever words they produce are committed to the page.

There is a sense of deep satisfaction when I uncover a story, then write and re-write it until becomes a recipe I can make from memory. Back in the spring an art exercise prompted me to express my thoughts about writing and they’ve stayed in my mind throughout this busy summer.

Writing. Reading. Words. The right words to write. There is so much joy in writing the right words, to pulling them out of the air, placing them side by side, seeing if they fit. Writing is painting with words.

It’s time to do some painting.

* * *
Michele MacKinnon is a memoir writer and has been a member of the Candlewood Writer’s Workshop in Fairfield County, Connecticut since its inception.

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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, October 22, 2015

 

Pay Attention to the No

Interested in writing for a specific magazine, I asked an acquaintance involved with it if they were looking for freelance contributors. I was treated to a rant on his horrible experiences working with freelancers and the subpar quality of freelance work. So...

Fast forward two years. Two years that I ignored this market -- because they didn't want freelancers, right? Last week I ran into the magazine's editor and she mentioned a writer we both know coming to work for the magazine. When I replied that it would be a good thing for the magazine since they didn't like working with freelancers she looked at me like I had two heads.

"What we really need is a freelancer who can come to us with ideas. Do you have ideas?"

"Um...maybe. Can I get some together for you?"

"Definitely. And I'll keep you in mind when we need a writer for an idea we come up with."

Seriously? Seriously! Did I just waste two years because I took the words of someone (not the magazine's editor) on their relationship with freelancers? Was the magazine's editor standing in this hallway asking me to shower her with ideas and putting me on her to-call list after a five minute conversation?

If you take anything away from this story let it be: pay attention to the no.


  • Who is telling you no? Are they the final say? Even if they act "in the know" unless they have the word editor attached to their name their word is not law.
  • How are they telling you no? Is it a firm, that's-not-our-policy no? Or is it a meandering, complaining no? Sometimes a no is more about something negative that happened recently than about the question you're asking.
  • Did they actually say no? Or did you just hear no? Don't be afraid to follow-up (either in person or an email) parroting what you think they meant, just to make sure everyone's on the same page.
And don't waste two years like I did!

Have you ever written off a market or job because you mistakenly heard "no"?

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

 

6 Tips for the Aspiring Creative Writer

When students, friends, or family members tell me they want to be published creative writers, there are 6 tips and resources I provide.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles @ at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. You’ve got to sit down and write. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

2. You’ve got to read. See how others are writing so you can decide what works and doesn’t work. This includes reading within the genre(s) you intend to write, and also reading the tips and advice from other writers, agents, and editors. Some of my favorites:


3. You’ve got to get feedback from other readers or writers, and then use that feedback to revise. And revise again. And again. And so on.

4. You’ve got to learn the business and scout the literary markets to determine where you could publish your writing. Start with literary magazines. See what they’re publishing and determine if your writing would fit their styles or not. My go-to resource for this is the Poets & Writers Literary Magazine database.

5. When you are ready – i.e. you have gone through tips 1-4 dozens, if not hundreds, of times – you’ve got to send your work out for publication. Follow the guidelines thoroughly, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.

6. Keep repeating steps 1-5. You’ll continue to improve your writing and style. Writing is very subjective – even very well-crafted works will get overlooked in this industry.

Write well. Revise often. Be patient and persistent. And enjoy the process!

Have other tips to add? Let us know in the comments!

Tips provided by Anne Greenawalt.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

 

Meet Chaynna Campbell, Spring 2015 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Chaynna Campbell lives in the quiet town of Orange, Massachusetts with her fiancé, Michael and her mischievous cat, Toothless. Her love for writing and finding ways to inspire others has always been a positive outlet for her creativity. Chaynna also takes great pleasure in planning her annual Random Acts of Kindness birthday list. When she’s not writing, she’s collecting donations for the charity of others whether it’s for Veterans/Service Members, Animals, Children or any particular person in need.

Chaynna’s work has previously been published in the Athol Daily News: “The Power of Words” in dedication to Martin Luther King Jr., and “A Soldier’s True Colors” as a tribute to our heroes. Chaynna is also an aspiring writer for Children’s books. She currently has developed a chapter book geared for children ages 7-11, and has strong ambitions for its publishing future. Her passion to help children better understand diabetes education while also enjoying an entertaining story led her to write her recent manuscript. Among her many charitable activities, Chaynna is diving into the world of Diabetes Awareness Activism. She recently participated in Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes Event this September, an event near and dear to her heart. With a spritely attitude she’s excited to discover her next story.

Please take a moment to enjoy Chaynna’s winning entry, Best Friends, and return here to meet this aspiring author!

WOW: Hello Chaynna, Congratulations on your honorable mention in WOW’s Spring 2015 contest! Many of our readers here at WOW are pet lovers; I’m sure they’ll enjoy reading Best Friends. What was your inspiration for this story?

Chaynna: My fiancé Michael and I were talking about our past pets and how they moved on. Some who knew they were dying would find a hiding spot and go alone. Others died unexpectedly and with some we were fortunate enough to be there for them.Writing this story helped me bring closure to my fury friends I couldn’t be present for when their time came.

WOW: I don’t know of any pet owner that could read this and not get choked up—we’ve all been there! What prompted you to write from the pet’s perspective?

Chaynna: I read a circulating post online of a dog’s “10 Commandments” and the last commandment truly resonated with me, “Go with me on difficult journeys. Never say, I can’t bear to watch it; or Let it happen in my absence. Everything is easier for me if you’re there.” While I’m a lover of all animals I wanted to specifically focus on a dog’s POV. I wanted to further that point and emotion by writing their story.

WOW: You did a fantastic job! Tell us about your experience writing Best Friends; was there much editing, changes, input from Toothless?

Chaynna: Yes, Toothless had a great influence in my writing. Even though I wrote from a dog’s perspective, I painfully visualized myself going through the same ordeal with her. I imagined bringing her favorite mousey to comfort her, and how she’d look at me with an instinctual feeling. The most challenging part was making sure I articulated certain things that would apply to both characters until the reveal at the end.

WOW: That’s what made the story, I think. I had to read it twice before I realized the POV.

Switching topics, we’d love to know more about your children’s book and how that came to be!

Chaynna: My children’s book that I’m actively seeking representation for is about a young boy, Terry aka Diabetic Boy and his friends who venture out on Halloween to complete an assignment from their mysterious Tree House Master. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, “Observe and Report Obi City’s supposed haunted house of Glucose Glutton.” Things turn foul though when one of his friends goes missing and worse, when they discover something is still living there. Watching. Waiting.

Filled with adventure, humor, a hint of suspense and sprinkled with a few play-on-words diabetic terms, Diabetic Boy’s Spooky Adventures is a chapter book for an ideal target audience of 7-11 yr. olds. Don’t let the title fool you though. This book is not limited to only readers facing diabetes. My publishing goal is to help children comfortably learn about diabetes while enjoying an entertaining story.

Inspiration struck me to create this character because of a family tragedy involving my diabetic cousin. Fortunately he survived two hyperglycemic comas, but perhaps if he had been better educated about this disease they could’ve been avoided.

WOW: I agree with you on the need for more education, especially considering there are over 200,000 people under age twenty with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes!

Charities, and activism, are obviously close to your heart; what books or authors have touched this part of you?

Chaynna: As I mentioned in my bio I look forward to my annual Random Acts of Kindness Birthday List. Every year whatever age I turn, that’s how many “A.O.K.’s” I do.

Cue my nerd mode: I drew up this idea after reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s "The Fellowship of the Ring." One of my favorite excerpts is the celebration of Bilbo Baggins’ 111th Birthday where he hands out presents to his guests and loved ones. All Hobbits give presents to other people on their own birthdays as their own celebratory “Thank you”.

I fell in love with the idea of my birthday serving more of a purpose than: Yeah, it’s my birthday –get me stuff! "The Fellowship of the Ring" turned this idea of a tradition into several charitable opportunities currently leading to my involvement with Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes.

So as much as I would love to be a fair and graceful Elf, I am a Hobbit to my very core –minus some physical attributes.

WOW: I take it you’re happy not to have fuzzy feet (smile)! Seriously though, I think that sounds like a worthwhile tradition.

Thank you for visiting with us today, Chaynna. I hope you’ll keep us posted on your publication of Diabetic Boy’s Spooky Adventures.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

 

Writer’s Retreat: Little Cabin in the Big Woods

This weekend, I drove out to a cabin in the woods in a Missouri state park. Long before I had a book due tomorrow, my group planned this event – Friday mid-afternoon through Sunday noon and nothing but writing. And food. And maybe some walking in the woods.

Why did I take the time to do this when I have a book due tomorrow? Because it is a retreat with my fellow writers and no one holds you accountable better than women who have been there.

At home I’d check e-mail and probably get talked into playing several rounds of Call of Duty with my son. (Yes, I game. Don’t judge!) My husband would no doubt need to know where I left his car keys, what I wanted for dinner, if I had changed my mind about painting the house. We have siding. His interruptions just don’t always make a lot of sense when I’m on deadline.

In the woods with electricity and no WiFi, I did hard copy edits and made one pass through each chapter in my book. The last chapter took a bit more work than the others but that’s quite often the case. I have to work my way through the whole before I know how to wrap things up.

Normally, I am someone who can’t write outside of my office. Public libraries and coffee shops are just too busy. Even when people are quiet, they walk by. When they do, I look up and wonder where they’re wandering. What can I say, I have the attention span of a three year old.

On retreat, we’re all working free from spouses, kids, grandkids and housework. There’s no dog to walk and no laundry to fold. We can’t even get called to the door by a well-meaning neighbor who just needs a minute of our time.

You don’t have to find an organized retreat to benefit from this kind of experience. Locate a state park with cabins and get a few writing friends together. It is amazing what you can get done and still have time for dinner and a glass of wine at the end of the day.

I don’t have another book due for about a month and a half. I wonder if we can get another retreat together in that little time?

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

 

The Courage to Be Who You Are


This past week, I ventured out on a Monday night to go to a concert. As I get older, I hesitate to do that unless it’s a weekend, but I decided to go for it. (I did have to brew an extra pot of coffee the next day.) A musician I greatly admire was the opening act, and I had no idea when he would come through the area again. He did not disappoint, and we decided to stay on and watch some of the next set, which was a singer I had heard of vaguely named Brett Dennen.

When the red-headed folk singer Dennen, with his signature Buddy Holly-esque glasses first walked onstage, my first thought was, “Wow, that guy is really tall!” Once he started playing though, I forgot about everything else. His lyrics were moving, insightful, and his guitar playing was right on the mark. I kept thinking he could easily have been transplanted back to the late 1960s, alongside the likes of John Denver or Bob Dylan.

As I marveled at his talent and stage presence, another thought hit me. Here was an immensely talented musician who did not fit the standard mold of what some think a “musician” should look like. I worry about this with my own two kids, who are generally not interested in playing a sport every season but feel constantly pressured to live up to their peers. My daughter throws her hair in a ponytail, likes her glasses because they make her look “smart,” and checks out every book in the library she can find on infectious diseases. She seems perfectly content, and I hope she always stays that way. My son excels in school but struggles a little more with trying to figure out what he needs to focus his time on.

I wished he could have been sitting with me that night, so he could see firsthand what the courage to be who you are can get you. It can get you contentment, joy, and the recognition to embrace the life you’ve been given. Courage is something I lack as a writer—I’ll be the first to admit it. I worry that I’m not talented enough, that my work isn’t polished to perfection, that my stories won’t resonate with enough people. And lately this has prevented me from working on revising my manuscripts. I sit down in front of my computer and edit the articles I’m contracted for and write the profiles I’ve been assigned, and then I walk away. All while the more courageous, hard working and determined writers experience the joy of success.

Attending this concert helped renew my own dreams. I’m extremely proud to call myself a writer. I’ve accomplished a lot in the past ten years. But I am capable of more. I only need to find the courage to be who I really am, and write what I need to say. The rest will fall into place.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Charlotte Parent, Lake Norman Currents, The Charlotte Observer, The Writer and more. When she’s not working on client projects, she enjoys spending time with her family and writing young adult and middle grade fiction. Visit her website at www.FinishedPages.com.

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Saturday, October 17, 2015

 

Facing the Sewing Moment

Here it is mid-October and I don’t know about you but for me, the whole year seemed to zoom by! Still, there’s a chunk of time left to get those 2015 goals accomplished.

But.

But what if you are one of those writers who struggle to accomplish your writing goals? To accomplish any writing goals? To even find your list of writing goals?

For the third year in a row.

It might be time for you to have a little think. Perhaps to face what I call the “Sewing Moment.”

When I was young and twenty-something, before Junior Halls, when Mister Man traveled, and TV channels were limited, I had time on my hands. And so I looked for Things To Do, and eventually, sewing showed up on my radar.

I’d always wanted to learn to sew. I mean, besides sewing on a button. I imagined myself making dresses, or whipping up fancy Halloween costumes, or curtains! Yes, I’d make curtains and slipcovers and pillows and …well, the possibilities were endless. So I signed up for a class. The goal of the class: to make a skirt and shirt.

I cut out all the pieces and geez, it was all very detailed and the instructor found a million little things that I hadn’t done quite right and that would apparently affect the end result and honestly. I just wanted to sit down at the machine and start sewing! And so there we were, only the second class, and the instructor stopped at my desk and said, “You are never going to learn to sew. You don’t have the patience for it.”

Okay, that really annoyed me. I’d show her!

Except I didn’t. Those cut-out pieces of material never materialized into a skirt and shirt. I threw out the mangled scraps because I didn’t like the constant reminder of my failure, but even so, I’m reminded now of the important lesson I learned: I didn’t have the patience to sew because I liked the idea of sewing more than I liked sewing.

I meet a lot of writers who like the idea of being a writer more than they actually like writing. They set all kinds of overzealous goals only to fail. And then they beat themselves up for not accomplishing anything.

Perhaps you’re one of those writers. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write. In fact, I hope you’ll continue to write. But maybe throw out the goals. Go ahead and write that story for your children, pen your memoir, work on your poetry, or find peace, writing in your daily journal. Write because you enjoy it. Don’t worry about marketing or selling or the business of writing. Just have fun, writing.

That’s what sewing is for me these days. Yep, I’ve made Halloween costumes and even curtains, but I use that sticky stuff that you iron. I don’t even know what it’s called, and you know what? I don’t care. Sewing (and I use that term loosely) is something fun that I do every once in a while, because dang it, I enjoy making stuff. And the end result is good enough for me. Not like my writing.

For me, writing is serious business. And why I’m looking at my goals this October morning and getting back to work!

~Cathy C. Hall



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Friday, October 16, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: Walking the Talk!

by Jennifer Brown Banks

A few months ago, in an effort to build my writing portfolio and my bottom line, “this little piggy went to market.” Though I have publications to whom I submit on a regular basis, I was seeking more opportunities to reach new and larger audiences with my work, and meet income goals established. Boy was I surprised.

I discovered that though the Internet has exponentially increased the number of places that are available for writers to showcase their talent, paying opportunities are as rare as fine wine, comparatively.

Foolishly, I thought the task would be easy. Armed with over 700 publishing credits and a few blogging awards I had garnered, I thought that pay would be “commensurate with my experience.” Wrong…

Here’s what I encountered instead: publication after publication that paid writers in “copies,” “exposure,” “hopes for the future,” or third-world-country wages.

“Successful” Blog owners who boasted about making boatloads of money online, but refused to pay contributors for content submitted to their site. “Experts” who admonished us not to write for free, unless it was for them, of course. Maybe it’s just me, but I see a contradiction here.

Frustrated, I decided to make an effort to make a difference. I posted an announcement on my site that I would begin to pay for submissions, effective December 1st.

As writers we are influencers. We are policy makers, consumers, thought leaders and messengers. We have the ability and the responsibility to make a difference in our words and actions.

So, I’m on a mission to do just that. Cash-strapped, I vowed to pay for contributing articles at a rate of ten bucks upon publication, moving forward. Though it won’t knock off a bill, it can at least replenish a writers’ chocolate stash, or buy a cup of coffee at the nearest StarBucks (often used as a morning office location).

It’s not much; but it’s a start. And sometimes, all you need is a “start” to cause a paradigm shift, a movement, a fire. Or to lead by example.

* * *
Jennifer Brown Banks is a content creator, columnist and award-winning blogger. Her work has appeared in publications such as: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Personal Growth.Com, South 85 Literary Journal, and Tiny Buddha.

Visit her "Top Blogging site for Writers" at: http://Penandprosper.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, October 15, 2015

 

Social Media and Critique Groups

by Wonderlane (Flickr)
I've written about my critique group on here before--the Lit Ladies. You know I'm very fond of these women and forever grateful that they keep me moving toward my goal of someday becoming a bestselling author. But we are also busy women with a lot going on in our lives, and we also live all over Missouri and Illinois. So it is hard for us to:

  1. Find time to write
  2. Find a time and place to meet
This is difficult when you are supposed to be encouraging each other's writing habits and critiquing work. But in the last six months, I feel like we have become creative and are not letting time or distance stop us! 

Last month, we had a virtual write-in. Although my life was super crazy that week and I didn't get to participate how I wanted, here's what we did. One of our members set up a private event on Facebook for the virtual write-in, and then she invited all members of our critique group. Once we all accepted, we could write on the event page, and only the attendees could see what we wrote. Throughout the 2.5 hour period, we caught up on life and writing projects; and at home, we wrote. We then updated our progress on the Facebook event. 

We also had "word wars." One of our members would type, "GO!" and then for 15 minutes, at our own houses, we wrote as much as we could without stopping (a mini, mini, mini NaNoWriMo). At the end of this time, everyone who participated put their word counts on the Facebook event. 

This was a great way to stay in touch with each other and motivate one another to write and work on our WIP in a month when no one had anything to critique--because no one had been doing much writing.

Next week, we are going to try Google Hangouts for our critique group. We have used Skype before, but we have 3 members who cannot physically attend our meeting. So we thought we would give Google Hangouts a try. This week, members sent their writing by email for critique. Each of us is supposed to read and critique before next week. Then during the meeting time, three of our members will get together at one house, and the rest of us will join using Google Hangouts. I'm wondering if anyone has used Hangouts for something like this before. If so, please let me know in the comments below.

It is difficult to juggle everything if you are not a full-time writer--work, home, kids, family, and more. People are moving all the time for jobs and school, and so when we find others we trust with our work, we don't want to give them up. Social media can help us stay connected to our peers and keep us producing! Have you used any social media platforms with other writers for critique or anything writing-related? 

Margo L. Dill is a children's author, living in St. Louis, MO. She also teaches novel writing and children's writing in the WOW! classroom. Find out more at: http://www.margodill.com .

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

 

Book Review of Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Book Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert was such a welcome break during what is essentially an incredibly busy time of year on our dairy farm. To give you an idea of what I mean by busy: Last week, I saw my husband for 20 minutes and most of those he was falling asleep sitting at the counter attempting to eat something I reheated for him for supper. It was 5 in the morning on his birthday and he had just gotten in from helping our neighbors get their corn off the fields before the rain came. I've received 8 texts from him during this time. They've been short and super romantic (insert eye roll here):

1)could someone bring me coffee?
2)remind me to pay the cellphone bill
3) lunch? deliver?
4) don't wait up
5) need udder balm - u run?
6) 2558
7) hot coffee today
8) got ibuprofen?

****no idea about number 6....I think he fell asleep because the question was "are you awake yet?"

This is NOT a romantic time of year. I sleep alone. I worry he's too tired and I try not to think about the dangers of operating heavy equipment on no sleep. I question our marriage. I wonder when I will be a priority. I find joy in our children, our home, my friends, and I busy myself with canning, cleaning, and baking.

I love Elizabeth Gilbert as an author and have been meaning to pick up one of her more recent books. After coming across Committed, I felt drawn to the opportunity for a little reflection and self discovery. After all...before I married my farmer, I swore I would be single forever. Who doesn't love a good book written by a kindred skeptic?

I thoroughly enjoyed Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a book you can read and relate to whether you are pro-marriage, anti-marriage, in the midst of marriage, wishing for that special someone, etc... (in fact, I have a friend going through a divorce, and I think I'll gift her a copy). One reviewer wrote that this book has a talky/chatty quality and I would agree. Gilbert explains early on that she wrote Committed as if her audience were only a small group of her close friends. The intimate feeling of a small gathering of friends is felt throughout. Gilbert's writing is completely open and honest, with a vulnerable feeling. She explores her personal life and allows readers to get close and personal with her emotions which begs the reader to do the same in their own life.

Committed is a very different book and shouldn't be compared to Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert says so much in the opening. To be fair, I enjoyed both books though Committed is a much more personal experience where reader and author get very personal.

On a personal note, when I finished I felt renewed and able to clearly see that harvest time on the farm is just a season. This isn't the most glamorous season for my marriage, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. Committed was a great reminder of all the great reasons I am deeply in love with my husband. This was just the book I needed right now. I'm putting it back on the bookshelf with a reminder to read it again next fall!

Product Details
Hardcover: 285 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (January 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0670021652
ISBN-13: 978-0670021659
Available on Amazon




Official Book Summary (from Amazon):
At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who’d been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which—after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing—gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert’s trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to “turn on all the lights” when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert’s memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.

Author Bio for Elizabeth Gilbert:
Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love, as well as the short story collection, Pilgrims--a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and winner of the 1999 John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. A Pushcart Prize winner and National Magazine Award-nominated journalist, she works as writer-at-large for GQ. Her journalism has been published in Harper's Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine, and her stories have appeared in Esquire, Story, and the Paris Review.










Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 8, Andre 7, Breccan 2, and Delphine 7 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
and here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/


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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

 

Interview with Carrie Hatland, Spring 2015 Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Carrie Hatland lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada with her husband, two sons, foster sons, and a menagerie of family pets. Carrie’s passion for reading and writing was instilled in her by her grandmother, Ina, who exposed her to the classics at a very young age. Her short story, The MS Lord Selkirk, earned an honourable mention in the 2015 Soul-Making Keats literary competition and placed as a runner up in the WOW! Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Contest.

This summer, Carrie was accepted into Yale’s sixteen-day writer’s conference and attended the Writer’s Digest conference in New York. She looks forward to completing her historical fiction novel, Byzantine Dusk.

Carrie placed third in our Spring 2015 Flash Fiction Contest with her emotional entry, "The Statue of Laocoön." Read the story here and then come back to learn more Carrie.

WOW: Tell us a little about the process of writing ‘The Statue of Laocoön.’ The sensory details really made the story come alive. Have you personally travelled to Italy?

Carrie: I toured Italy six years ago and, for me, this story started with a sketch. When I was exploring the Vatican museums, I was drawn to the statue of Laocoön and decided to draw the three figures that comprise the statue in my sketch pad. It seemed to me that the sculptor was trying to portray a struggle against death that all of us will face at some point in our lives. If you look at the anguish on Laocoön’s face you will sense a universal human emotion. There is fear, horror that he cannot protect his children, and grief. Laocoön is fighting for his life and losing.

In my story, I wanted my character to seek personal meaning in her life. She travels to Italy to find the beauty of discovery and a sense of wonder in the world. I drew upon my own experiences in Italy because I found my time there to be completely enchanting. What surprises me is that the sensory details from that entire trip stand out more to me than the historical sites themselves, which supports the point of Robin William's monologue. To find meaning, you must get out and live.


The sketch that inspired Carrie's winning entry.

WOW: What a beautiful sentiment! I love how the sketch led to the story. Speaking of being inspired by history, how did you get the idea for Byzantine Dusk, the historical novel you’re working on? How is the process going?

Carrie: I was standing in St. Mark’s square in Venice, looking up at the Triumphal Quadriga that sits on top of the basilica. There was a tiny blurb in my tourist book that indicated the Venetians had looted the famous statues during the sack of Constantinople in 1204. Something about that fact niggled and when I got home I began to research it out of curiosity. I found it extremely interesting, and read everything I could find on the Byzantine Empire. As with most topics I get interested in, it had no relevance to real life so I left it behind for a few years.

Last fall I was reading ‘The Talisman’ by Sir Walter Scott and the characters and plot for Byzantine Dusk began to emerge in my head. I was compelled to follow the trail of breadcrumbs and begin writing.

The process is both exhilarating and challenging. I’ve been going to writing conferences and am currently taking long distances creative writing courses through Stanford, Cambridge, and the University of Toronto in effort to bring Byzantine Dusk to life.

WOW: What are some of your favorite classic novels and how have they influenced your own writing?

Carrie: I grew up reading Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Tolstoy, and Victor Hugo. I’ve found something to love in all of them. In the past year, as I am learning the craft of writing, my favourites are evolving. For example, I am impressed by how Daphne du Maurier wrote the entire novel of Rebecca without ever naming her protagonist. I pull books out of my bookshelf and read the first lines, and was recently captivated by the first line in Pride and Prejudice. I've read these books multiple times, but am now reading them differently.

The classics have influenced my writing by instilling in me a love for beautiful prose. My goal as a writer is to share the beauty of words, without letting my readers get lost in the language. I want to paint pictures in their heads as they move forward in a compelling story.

WOW: Your acceptance into Yale’s writing retreat this past summer sounds so exciting. What was the experience like?

Carrie: The program ran in New Haven from June 6-21. It involved panel discussions with agents and publishers, presentations from best-selling authors, and daily workshops to develop our individual writing pieces. I had the opportunity to take a master class with Colm Toibin, discuss writing with Christina Thompson from the Harvard Review, and attend sessions with speakers such as Cheryl Strayed. To gain access to such highly knowledgeable presenters and hear their opinions on what constitutes good writing was extremely valuable.

WOW: Do you have any tips for writers who are on the fence about attending a writer’s conference?

Carrie: Yes. Go to them. I haven’t found any one source where someone can go to learn how to be a writer. For me, this process is like a treasure hunt and I never know where I will find the next piece of the puzzle. The information is out there, but you have to search for it. The more sources you explore, the more you learn. Simply put, go.

WOW: Thank you again for joining us today and sharing the inspiration behind your writing. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future!

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Monday, October 12, 2015

 

Managing Your Online Reputation

With review sites like Amazon, Google, Yelp, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram--even GoodReads--both positive and negative reviews can spread like wildfire. So what can you do to make sure your online reputation is positive and the best for your brand?

That's what I'm talking about today over at Franchise Gator, in the post, 5 Tips for Managing Your Franchise's Online Reputation. Although this article is written for franchise owners, the advice applies to anyone looking to manage their online reputation. Learn how to monitor what's being said about you with a few easy tools and how to deal with negative reviews.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

 

Rough Draft: The Down and Dirty Draft from Hell

Are you thinking about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November? I have a deadline so I’m going to miss NaNoWriMo, but I often have to write and polish a book draft in 6 weeks. To succeed, I had to adjust my attitude about that first draft.

Start with an outline. I’ve heard a lot of writers say that an outline kills spontaneity. I keep my outline spare, but it gives me something to follow so I know more or less what needs to be in each chapter. I can always change my mind if something doesn’t work or if a better idea comes along, but it gets me started.

Leave gaps. When I have to pound through a chapter (roughly 1650 words) a day, I don’t have time to do the research needed to fill in every gap I’ve somehow left the first time I did the research. I’ll do a quick search, but if the answer doesn’t present itself, I leave a gap. They’re easy to spot because I always include a note (WHEN DID THIS ACTUALLY HAPPEN?) and highlight it in yellow.

Don’t worry about the best possible word. Sometimes I get hung up trying to find a more specific word for something. When I catch myself opening the thesaurus on my computer, I close it again, highlight the word, and move forward. This is the sort of thing I can fix in the rewrite, assuming the paragraph survives that process.

Some things just won’t come together. I finished a draft of a new nonfiction book last night. My last chapter contains more gaps than text, because chapters 1 through 8 aren’t solid enough yet for me to wrap the whole thing up. I simply highlighted the section headings where I couldn’t provide text. I’ll fill it in when everything else has taken shape. And that’s okay.

Writing a down and dirty rough draft is liberating. It isn’t going to be perfect and I know it. When I get caught up angst-ing about something, I give myself a few moments and then push on. This isn’t meant to be particularly good. And neither is a NaNoWriMo draft. The point is to get it down so that you can make it better.

You can only do that, once you’ve finished that down and dirty draft.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on November 9, 2015.

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Friday, October 09, 2015

 

Friday Speak Out!: Voiceless in Storyland

by Elizabeth Harris

Imagine you’re in a mixed-gender group of writers and we’re talking about omniscience. I suggest that you each write the first page of a story as an omniscient author who openly expresses his/her own views of it—Jane Austen’s kind of omniscient author. My totally unscientific prediction—from experience—is, about a third of writers will inadvertently write from a different perspective, the third-person intimate, that of a single character. And more of that third will be women than men.

Most women writers are good at empathizing with characters: some men can’t imagine why anybody would do anything. But women tend to disappear into their characters, maybe hide in them. Men find it easier to speak out in a voice that acknowledges their presence and pretends to omniscience.

Writing as an omniscient author is a way to explore your own voice. It can haul you out of your characters, invite you to speak as a fictional “self” of your own. And— the best part—if you don’t like how “you” sound, you can change it by tinkering with your author’s attitude or style. The authorial narrator is not you: she’s a creation of yours.

If you’re up for this exercise, choose an omniscient passage where the author seems strongly present. Maybe the beginning of Pride and Prejudice or Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Alice Munro’s “The Love of a Good Woman.” Copy it out, in longhand (if you’re a purist) or (if you’re bionic like me) on the keyboard, noticing things.

Where does the voice of the author speak clearly, offering opinions, judgments, or explanations? At what points does she enter the perspective of a character or a group? At what points does she pull out afterwards to her own perspective or zoom into another character’s? At those points, watch where the “camera” of the story is pointing and whose eye—character’s or author’s—seems to be behind it.

Where does the author do other things that, in life, nobody reliably can? Maybe she says what a character doesn’t think (“it never occurred to him.”). Or sees ahead in time (“later, she would understand”). Or sees actions happening simultaneously in different places (“while he was trying to rob the bank, his children were at school, cutting angels out of silvery paper”). The omniscient author you’ll create could do any or none of these.

After saving a copy of your copy, revise the passage in some consistent way, changing the author’s attitude, to get a different tone (Jane Austen as a meanie?); or style (Jane Austen as street?) to get a more casual or contemporary effect. (Been done, I know.)

Then write an omniscient authorial voice of your own. Maybe try it on a story set over a long period or in widely separated places; it makes transitions easy. Maybe try jazzing around with it; it’s so flexible. You may find a story you couldn’t tell in a narrower voice.

You may find more. A newly freed voice may say the unexpected.

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Elizabeth Harris is winner of the University of Iowa Press award for short stories. Her debut novel, Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman, releases October 5, 2015.


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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, October 08, 2015

 

Good Idea, Bad Idea

I was a big fan of the Animaniac cartoons. (Um...yeah. I spent hours watching them while writing up this post. Still a big fan.)

The humor was subversive and super funny, and one of my favorite bits was called, “Good Idea, Bad Idea.” As in Good Idea: Throwing a penny into the fountain to make a wish. Bad Idea: Throwing your cousin Penny into the fountain to make a wish.

So as I head out to a writer’s conference next week, I find myself thinking about good ideas and bad ideas, and how sometimes, the difference between the two can be a very small thing indeed.

Good Idea: Create a unique business card.

Bad Idea: Add glitter to your business card.

Sure, you want to stand out, grab an editor or agent’s attention. But keep it professional, and keep in mind that for the most part, you’ll be giving your business card to other writers you meet. If you want to be remembered, add your photo, not pink glow-in-the-dark glitter.

Good Idea: Take notes and ask questions in the workshops you attend.

Bad Idea: Take the workshop hostage by asking question after question after question.

Of course you want to get your money’s worth at every workshop you attend. You want to be the best writer you can be and if you don’t understand something, you need to ask questions, right? Well, sort of. The thing is, asking questions is like imbibing in adult beverages: you can get obnoxious fast if you don’t realize when to say when.

Good Idea: Be friendly and approachable and make new friends.

Bad Idea: Be friendly and meet lots of new people and then forget them five minutes later.

I know it’s hard to remember names and faces, especially when you’re nervous about meeting new people. But make an effort to be in the moment, to focus on the person you’re meeting instead of thinking of a hundred different things. Engage in conversation, even if it’s brief, and you’re more likely to remember that new person. And hey, if you struggle with what to say, ask for a business card!

Good Idea: Follow up on opportunities from the conference.

Bad Idea: Follow an agent or editor on social media to the point where you’re referred to as “Creepy Stalker Writer.”

Look, it’s fine to connect with professionals on Facebook and Twitter. They expect that sort of social media interaction. But don’t make a nuisance of yourself; you are not their new best friend. You are one of many writers they’ve just met, and if you really want to make a connection, work on your craft, then follow up on that opportunity to submit. You might be surprised where that connection leads!

I’m sure that I’ve barely scratched the surface of Good Ideas/Bad Ideas when it comes to conferences, so come play! I’ll gladly give you my (cousin) Penny for your thoughts!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

 

With All of Your Senses

by Bernadette Geyer

One of the best ways to experience a place is to be there. Outside of that, reading a wonderful collection of poems, or a work of prose, has the ability to convey a wealth of sensory information about a place. By stimulating all of a reader’s senses – not just one or two – you can captivate a reader and help them experience a place.

Consider how you experience a place. How do your senses shape your experience? Let’s look at some ways of writing about a place that can evoke all of the senses.

1. Sight – Details about what can be seen at a place are very important. Use details that set “this” place apart from “other” places. There isn’t just “a bridge” across “the river”. What type of bridge? A covered wooden bridge? A steel suspension bridge? Which river? Is it a wide river, or a river suffering through a drought?

2. Sound – Think about the layers of sound in a place. There is the layer that is most obvious, such as car engines, or helicopters flying overhead. Then there is the layer that is hidden by the louder layer. Are there children playing in a courtyard? Voices in the next room? Details here are also important as you may not want to simply convey that there are “voices,” but that these are the voices of two businessmen having a heated discussion about a project. You may not just hear children “playing,” but you hear the sound of a ball being kicked against a wall while a baby cries.

3. Smell – Is there a smell particular to the place you are writing about, such as a Maryland beach boardwalk with the smell of fresh fish and Old Bay Seasoning? Perhaps you are writing about a summer fair and the smells of cotton candy, funnel cake, and sweaty children. In the town where I grew up, we could tell when the steel mills were operating because the stench of sulfur was nearly impossible to escape.

4. Taste – Sometimes, how a specific food tastes is highly dependent on the place where it is being eaten. For instance, how would the taste of a hot dog from a baseball park vendor differ from the taste of a hot dog at a backyard cookout? Or the taste of a hot dog that’s been steeping all day in an iron pot full of sauerkraut at an Oktoberfest event in Bavaria?

5. Touch – Even the feel of a windowsill as a character rests her hand on it will differ due to place. Following a dust storm in Tel Aviv, everything exposed to the outdoors is coated with a fine layer of dust. The windowsill of a cabin in the woods may be sticky with sap from the evergreens around it.

There are many ways to describe a place in your writing. These are just some of the examples. By considering how you would describe your environment to someone else, you will also be more attuned to the wonders of the unique space that you inhabit at this moment.

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Bernadette Geyer is the author of a full-length poetry collection, The Scabbard of Her Throat, and a poetry chapbook, What Remains. She is the recipient of a Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County (Virginia, USA) and was a finalist for the 2011 Brittingham and Pollak Prizes. Geyer has served in the past on editorial boards of an independent press and literary journal, and has led workshops for The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She lives in Berlin, Germany, where she works as a freelance writer, editor, and translator. Her web site can be found at http://www.bernadettegeyer.com.

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Join Bernadette's upcoming online class, WRITING ABOUT PLACEwhich starts on October 26, 2015. Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

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