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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

 

Keeping Book Reviews on Amazon

I received an email the other day from a Facebook friend and author, apologizing for “unfriending” me. Not for anything I said or did, but rather, because of something I might say or do a month from now.

You see, she has a new book coming out on writing craft and thought I might like to give it a read. Well, of course, I’d like to take a look, and I promised that I’d give her a fair review on Amazon or Goodreads. But my author friend was told that Amazon would pull my review, since we’re Facebook friends. So she unfriended me, hoping that my (future) review would make it through the marketing behemoth’s gauntlet.

If you’ve been kind enough to write a review for a Facebook friend’s book, you might find yourself unfriended, too. Or worse, your Facebook author friend has found that your review has suddenly been removed. All because you’ve used social media in exactly the way you've been encouraged.

You’ve engaged with readers, sometimes at a conference, or perhaps through a blog, or maybe through email, and you’ve invited them to “friend” you on Facebook so that he or she will know what’s going on in your author world. You’ve spent time and energy forming relationships; even if you’ve never met that reader in person, you feel like you’re much more than virtual friends. And just when your friends want to show you how much they appreciate your hard work and writing skills, Amazon says, “Oh, dearie, no. We can’t allow Facebook friends to write reviews for each other. It might not be unbiased—or some other sorts of shenanigans could be going on.”

Now, I understand that Amazon wants their reviews to be credible. And I get that there’s some algorithm set up to pull reviews when certain sets (like a Facebook reader and a Facebook author) intersect. But there has to be a better way to cull bogus book reviews. Because it seems to me that the authors being penalized are, for the most part, the ones who can least likely afford to lose a review.

I mean, the author with 812 reviews (and thousands of Facebook friends!) can certainly stand to lose 10 reviews. But the author who’s managed to get 47 hard-earned and honest reviews from her 600 friends? If he or she loses one or two reviews it can really make a difference!

I love to write reviews for my friends—and I have lots of author friends on Facebook. So far, all my reviews are still standing, and honestly, I’m not sure why. I like to think it’s because I write a good and fair review but I have friends who have written just as good and fair reviews and have had their reviews pulled.

This is not a new Amazon policy, but it’s odd that in the last few weeks I’ve heard from several authors about pulled reviews and the Facebook connection. So what has changed? If you’re an author, have you lost reviews? Or if you’re a reader, have you found that your review went missing from a friend’s page on Amazon?

I’d like answers. But if I can’t get a reasonable explanation, then I suppose I’ll unfriend every author friend I have in order to leave a review. And I’m fine if you do the same to me.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

 

Back in the Saddle

Sometimes you step away from a writing project—or even your writing life—for awhile. Summer break, family obligations, or plain old procrastination can take you out of your groove. At some point though, you're ready to come back to the page.

The problem is that it can be hard to recapture your inspiration and drive after some time away. However, with even the smallest desire, you can get going again. Here's how to get back in the saddle and ride:

1. Forgive, forget and move on. For whatever reasons, you took time off from your writing goals. So be it. Now you're back, and making things happen!

2. Make a plan. Figure out what you want to do, now that you're working again. For example, how many pages of your novel do you want to write per evening? Which markets will you query this month? Determine your writing objectives, and you'll have a track to follow as you get going again.

3. Take a step. To decide on a writing project, go through your notes or your journal and see what feels interesting to you right now. Then outline some ideas and start getting excited about your chosen assignment. Or, if you want to get back into a project that you've abandoned, drag it out and find one place that you can start playing with. Make a small movement to get things rolling.

4. When a plan is not enough. Maybe you know what you need to do, but you still keep doing other things instead. Until you make writing a priority, the hours will vanish. For this week, pick the days and times you're going to write, and keep those appointments. As bestselling author Jodi Picoult says, "When it's a writing day, I'm writing. Period."

5. Conjure up a cut-off date. Having a deadline will prod you to complete your writing goals where you otherwise might put things off. You can use online calendars, with periodic reminders, to prompt you toward completion. If you need a "real" time limit, then find a writing contest or an anthology call, or sign up for National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a NaNoWriMo).

6. Reading that lights you up. Reading certain material can make you want to write so badly you can taste it. The other day, I started reading essays at a favorite web site, and found myself with a powerful urge to start writing. Find something to read that sparks your creativity, then go write, right away… before the feeling fades.

7. Keep your writing sessions brief. Pick some short amount of time to write, and allow yourself to be done for the day. For example, write for only a half hour at a time. "That's how you can stoke the fires again," Jenna Glatzer says in Outwitting Writer's Block. "That's how your passion can reignite and your drive can build up."

8. The flow will return. As you begin to give writing your time again, the inspiration and the words will come. "When I'm writing, I feel like a magnet," a friend of author Jane Staw says to her in Unstuck. "As soon as I pick up my pen, ideas, people, possibilities come my way." So writers, just get started!

Marcia Peterson is the editor of WOW! Women on Writing's blog, The Muffin. To contribute to the blog, check out our Friday Speak Out program here.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

 

A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman - Blog Tour and Book Giveaway!

A Killer’s Grace will stay with you long after you finish reading the final page.

From the high desert of New Mexico comes a tale of mystery, murder and redemption. When journalist Kevin Pitcairn receives a disturbing letter from a serial killer, he is drawn into a compelling journey with profound psychological and spiritual implications, not just for the murderer, but for himself and society as a whole. As he tries to investigate and then tell the story, he finds himself battling his own inner demons and sordid history. Events conspire to propel an isolated matter to a national stage and audiences that are increasingly hostile. Forced to explore the roots of human psychology and sanity, Pitcairn must navigate moral and philosophical realms. What is the nature of evil? What powers of choice do humans actually possess? How may we be redeemed? And in the end, how do we reconcile with ourselves?

“…a work of fction, it was inspired by a real letter from a serial killer…important and compelling… will stay with you long after the last page.”
—Kam Aures, reviewer for Rebecca’s Reads

“A Killer’s Grace delves deep into the human psyche… Those who have experienced abuse or violence in their own lives will not only relate to the story, but may find their own self-discovery journey unfolding alongside Kevin’s.”
—Paula Renaye, author, Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation

Paperback: 240 Pages
Genre: Fiction/Spirituality
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1938288750
ISBN-13: 978-1938288753

A Killer’s Grace is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of A Killer's Grace, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, September 4th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!




About the Author:

Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at www.SeeingTrue.com, content for people in substance abuse recovery at www.ProgressiveRecovery.org, and other content from his master site, www.RonaldChapman.com. He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ronald can also be found online at:

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1338592.Ronald_Chapman

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/seeingtrue/


------interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Ron, thank you for choosing WOW for your book blog tour. It is such a pleasure working with you. You've received words of praise from a number of other authors. I know how much that means. Who was most influential in your writing career?

Ronald: I loved books as far back as I can recall. But it was when I read Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring that I found myself captivated by the power of a well told story. I recall reading the three volumes twice in rapid succession, then spring-boarding to The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. I was enthralled with the entire construction even though I was quite young. For many years thereafter, through writing for school, speech-writing, and commentary for public radio, I kept trying to master the craft of a well told story. While I’m happy with all the material I’ve created, I have to say I remain most pleased with stories well crafted.

WOW: You are spot on about a well told story being the key. You are a wonderful storyteller.

Obviously there is no time machine, but if it were possible, what advice would your current self offer to your previous, younger self?

Ronald: Be bolder, and strike out sooner. Experience is so very important, and the only way to gain experience is through as many efforts as possible.

WOW: That's fabulous advice for all of us. Thank you. What's next for you?

Ronald: Now that is quite a conundrum! Those who know my speaking style and radio voice really want me to next prepare My Name is Wonder and A Killer’s Grace as audio books. The sequel to A Killer’s Grace is almost half written, and the prequel to the sequel is written but in need of a re-working. Then there is a book on forgiveness and releasing practices. And I just completed a really cool leadership framework based on many years in leadership development, which just begs for a book.

The truth? A good vacation and regrouping.

WOW: A vacation sounds like a real treat. Speaking of treats, how do you deal with rejection or a negative review?

Ronald: Some years ago, I was coaching a manager on his development. He wanted as much feedback as possible, and in a later assessment he tested 90 percentile in all attributes. He was living proof of someone who had long solicited feedback, used it for his growth and development, and became exceptional as a result. That convinced me that all feedback is precious, and the life blood of success. While, like most, I have to take a deep breath to hear things that are uncomfortable, I am a willing learner because I can truly see the value.

WOW: You are wise to really accept that feedback. Now here's the opposite question: How do you celebrate your writing victories?

Ronald: I have a funny perspective on this. The real payoff is when I re-read something and realize I have captured it perfectly. There is a moment of intense pleasure and a realization it could not be better. I bask, which lasts a few moments, then the desire to do it again compels me forward.

WOW: A few moments? You totally deserve much more than that. Next time maybe a movie and some popcorn are in order. If your book were a movie, what song would be included? And why?

Ronald: For My Name is Wonder it would be the medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Such a sweet and innocent song perfectly fits the ambiance of Wonder’s life.

WOW: Thank you for your honesty as well as sharing your books with us and our readers Ron - it has truly been a pleasure (and not to be a spoiler, but I can't wait for your next book blog tour in about a month)!

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

Monday, August 29 @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday, August 30 @ Linda Loves Chocolate
Linda reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this highly acclaimed novel!
http://lindaloveschocolate.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 31 @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interviews Ronald Chapman about his highly acclaimed novel A Killer's Grace
http://www.sellingbooks.com/

Thursday, September 1 @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Find out what fellow author Madeline Sharples has to say about Ronald Chapman's latest novel A Killer's Grace.
http://madelinesharples.com/

Friday, September 2 @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Tara Forst shares her thoughts and ideas after reading the highly acclaimed novel A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 5 @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business woman and mompreneur Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings after reading A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman - don't miss this exciting blog stop.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 6 @ Writers Pay it Forward
The author spotlight today at Writers Pay it Forward is none other than Ronald Chapman and "A Killer's Grace"
http://writerspayitforward.org/

Wednesday, September 7 @ Bring on Lemons with Alison Taylor
Educator and mom of four Alison Taylor reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman. Alison offers her ideas and insight to readers at Bring on Lemons!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 8 @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Renowned speaker, historian, memoirist, and psychotherapist Linda Appleman Shapiro reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman. You won't want to miss this insightful review.
http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

Friday, September 9 @ Mari McCarthy's Create Write Now
Mari McCarthy at Create Write Now hosts Ronald Chapman on the topic of "The Power of Mentors and Teachers in our Lives". You won't want to miss this guest post and an opportunity to learn more about Chapman's novel A Killer's Grace.
http://www.createwritenow.com/

Monday, September 12 @ The Muffin
Crystal Otto of WOW! Women on Writing shares her review with readers of the Muffin. Find out how Crystal felt after reading Ronald Chapman's novel A Killer's Grace.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday, September 13 @ Beverley A Baird
Beverley A Baird reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman. Find out more about this highly acclaimed novel.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, September 14 @ Book Santa Fe
Elizabeth Seratt reviews Ronald Chapman's A Killer's Grace.
http://www.booksantafe.info/blog

Thursday, September 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Kwilinski
Cathy Kwilinski reviews Ronald Chapman's A Killer's Grace.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 23 @ Renee's Pages
Tange Dudt reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this highly acclaimed novel!
http://reneespages.blogspot.com/

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


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

Enter to win a copy of A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Monday, September 4th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

 

I've been asked to write a biography - what do I charge?

We received an email from a WOW subscriber asking for our advice on a writing project:

I am a linguist with a deep desire of writing my own biography. Recently, I was surprised when offered a job as a “writer” from this person who wants his wife’s biography to be written and published. Now, I don’t really know what I should be paid or how. I live in Australia; the couple lives in the US. All my trips will be fully paid, transport, accommodation, food. But I want to be sure I will not be working for nothing. What happens if finally he doesn’t want to publish the manuscript? Would you kindly advise me on this?  ~ Sarah

Sarah has just been offered a “ghostwriting” gig for a woman’s memoir/biography. From her email, it sounds like all her expenses will be paid by her client, which is great, but it also sounds like payment for her work will come from an advance and/or royalties of the published book, which is not so hot. While you can make an agreement to split an advance or be paid a percentage of royalties from book sales, your first priority should be getting paid as a freelance ghostwriter for the work you do.

Start with a Freelance Ghostwriting Agreement

Karen Cioffi, freelance ghostwriter and ghostwriting business instructor, suggests writers start by preparing a freelance writing agreement: “List the details of the project, including who does what and when, the compensation, and the time frame.” She also offers the following checklist of what she includes in her freelance agreements:

  • The terms (what the client is requesting and what the writer will do)
  • The relationships of the parties and ownership (the writer is usually an independent contractor and client has unrestricted ownership)
  • Compensation (fee, with a breakdown of the payment schedule and expenses, if warranted)
  • Services provided by the writer (I include the time frame, whether editing is included, and that it will be original if I’m creating the story)
  • Termination (the process if either party decides to terminate the agreement)
  • Non-disclosure (protects the client)
  • Indemnity (protects the writer)

In the list above, Karen suggests including the relationships of the parties and ownership, which is basically the copyright of the words. Since the writer is always the owner of her own words, you will have to specify that your client will own the copyright on the work, including ancillary products, notes, etc. in perpetuity. If you have made an agreement to obtain a percentage of royalties from book sales, or if you receive a byline, you can include that here as well. And if you are worried that the client may be a deadbeat, you could write into the agreement that if the client doesn’t pay, you retain copyright.

You may also want to include the length of the project (by chapters, pages or words, but word count usually works best—for example, 60,000 – 65,000 words), and how you will work together (“a series of face-to-face meetings,” or “a series of recorded phone calls” or “drafts in Microsoft Word” etc).

If you will be doing the editing or contracting someone to do it, you should factor that in. For example, you might want to hire a freelance editor to edit the book at $4 a page, so you’d add that and maybe a little more for your administrative time spent working with the editor, emailing, etc. to the total fee of the project. Also, you should think about how much research needs to be done, looking up facts, places, and verifying information, and factor in how much time will be spent.

What to Charge for Freelance Ghostwriting

Karen recommends setting up a fee and invoicing schedule, where you break up payments by milestones—such as per chapter or sections of the book—so you get paid throughout the project. “There should be an initial fee to start,” she says. “The writer may also choose to divide the payments into three: to start, midway point, and upon completion. I do this often with my picture book clients.” Since picture books are short word count projects, dividing payments into three makes sense. For longer word count projects, like a memoir or biography, you may want to break it down even more because it could take a year to complete. “I’ve ghosted two memoirs and they can take quite a while, this is another consideration—how long will the writer be tied up with the project,” Karen says.

You can choose to be paid by the hour, by the word, or by the project. According to Writer’s Digest’s "How Much Should I Charge" chart (pdf):

Hourly: according to the chart, typical ghostwriting rates range anywhere from $30 an hour to $115 an hour, depending on your experience and the type of work. If it’s an “as told to” ghostwriting project you would charge lower on the scale, depending on other factors like if you get a byline, advance or percentage of royalties. But if you’re willing to skip the byline and royalties, you can act as a work-for-hire ghostwriter and charge more on the front end.

Per word: some writers prefer to charge per word, which could be anywhere from .50 a word to $3 a word.

Per project: rates range anywhere from $5,000 - $100,000 per project.

Yes, that’s a wide range! I’ve heard higher and lower as well, depending on the experience of the ghostwriter, how much research needs to be done, the length of the project, and what the client is willing to pay. Whatever you do, don’t undercharge! Ghostwriting is not an easy task, but if you have the ability to write in the voice of your client and you’re willing to be “invisible,” it can be a fascinating way to make a living.

Here are a few sample ghostwriting agreements to help you get started:
http://www.alainaburnett.com/sample_ghostcontract.PDF
http://www.findlegalforms.com/free_product/ghostwriting-agreement/
https://www.printablecontracts.com/Writer_Ghostwriter_Agreement.php
http://blog.thecorporateattorneys.com/2015/10/free-template-basic-ghostwriting.html

Do you have any ghostwriting advice for Sarah and our readers? Please comment below!


Angela Mackintosh is publisher of WOW! Women On Writing and often mans (or womans) the WOW mailbox. If you have a question you'd like answered, email your letter to mailbox[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com and you may see it here!

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

 

Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing vs Hybrid Publishing

As you gain writing experience and move toward publication, you have some decisions to make. Chief among them – should you self-publish, traditionally publish, or do a little of both?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some self-publishing since I started hearing about authors who are “hybrid authors.” Some of their work is traditionally published. Some of it is self-published. The key to doing this successfully is in understanding what types of writing benefit from each approach.

Liz Schulte started my education when I sat next to her at a conference luncheon. Liz, the author of approximately 27 self-published novels, asked me what I write. When I told her that my work is educational nonfiction for tweens and teens, she nodded. Then she said something I’d never heard before from a self-published author. “You’re work wouldn’t sell if you self-published it.”

My books sell to school and library markets that buy books from educational publishers based on the reputations of those publishers and book write-ups in School Library Journal. Self-published books don’t have access to these markets at the national level I currently enjoy.

Another benefit of traditional publishing is the access to international markets. Since my conversation with Liz, I've been doing some reading. I just read a post about whether self-published authors need agents. The author pointed out that no self-published book has become an international success. Sure enough, I’ve been keeping my eyes open as various writers announce the international editions of their books. Not a single one of these books was self-published. I don’t know if these rights were sold via an agent or the publisher, but traditional publishing seems to be the key.

Obviously self-publishing isn't all bad. It is a good choice if you have a readily defined market that you can reach without the help of a publisher. For me, that would be my fellow writers. As I speak at conferences and workshops, it would be amazing if I had a book of my how-tos to sell. The market probably isn’t big enough to interest a traditional publisher but that’s okay. I have the material. I have access to the market. And I wouldn’t have to share the money.  The market might not be huge, but that's not as great a problem when you don't have to split the profits. This wouldn't be the right choice for everything I write, but for some of my work it makes sense.

Traditional publishing, self-publishing, or hybrid publishing. Which road to publication would you chose?

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section of this class begins on October 3rd.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: You will do anything to save your kids or your partner, but what about your writing?

by Karen Wojcik Berner

I ran out of the house as my timer blared Sencha signaling the beef burgundy in the crock pot was done. Not boeuf bourguignon mind you, just plain, old Americanized beef burgundy over egg noodles. It was Wednesday, after all. I had twenty minutes to pick up my son from football practice and shove some beef burgundy in my mouth before I retraced the same route back to the high school for Open House Night.

My husband drove while I scanned my son’s schedule, noting every other class was on the second floor. I anticipated a night of running from class to class, covering a school large enough for over 3,000 students, when he uttered words guaranteed to strike fear in my writerly heart.

“I need to work from home more.”

“What?”

I had just started a new freelance assignment the day before. It was going to be perfect. My son would be gone all day at school. My recent college graduate would be working. My husband would be at the office. The house would be mine again. Mine to structure the schedule. Mine to control the noise level, the vibe, the pace.

“The commute is killing me. I can’t afford to lose two hours a day in the car.”

Over the past sixteen years, literally every time I have begun a new project or a new novel, one (or both) of the kids would get sick, my father would call me every day right as I sat down to write, or my husband would start working from home again, which meant conference calls for the entire day, his voice booming throughout the house, and rendering me incapable of a solid thought without IT terminology creeping into my head.

Every. Single. Time.

My stomach sank. As the most flexible and only female of the group, I usually ended up putting their needs first, and my writing would be pushed aside until it swelled up and I exploded.

After Open House, I vowed this would not happen again. My job was every bit as important as theirs. I would fight for my writing space. I’m sure many of you have been in the same situation. But, how do we do this without World War III breaking out at the dinner table?

Our negotiation is a work-in-progress. Most of the time, he takes the upstairs office to contain the conference call volume, while I work at the kitchen or dining room tables. When I have interviews to do, we switch. Other days, he might go to a local coffeehouse for a few hours, like I did when I was writing my first novel, or he works outside when the weather is good.

The key is negotiation. Remember, your writing is important. Period.

What strategies are in place when you and your partner work from home? How do you deal with managing your time to write?

* * *
Karen Wojcik Berner writes contemporary women’s fiction. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, and Fresh Fiction. She is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. When not writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her youngest’s football or lacrosse games, discussing the Celts with the oldest, or snuggling into a favorite reading chair with a good book and some tea. For more info, please visit www.karenberner.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, August 25, 2016

 

Back to School

It's that time -- the mass exodus of communities as the college students head back to campus. Listening to friends' tales of the traditional stuffing of the car with bedding, snacks, computers, microwaves and all the miscellaneous things that create life on campus I felt a little twinge for that time that feels like yesterday when I was the one heading back to campus. That feeling of jumping into the unknown with each new class. Wondering what the professor would be like, what we would learn, if it would be worth that 8 a.m. starting time (my major seemed to have a high percentage of professors who enjoyed early morning classes).

I've been toying with the idea of taking a class at my local college but not only is the cost prohibitive but the idea of fitting it into my already jam-packed schedule seemed like an impossibility. That's when I recalled hearing something about MOOCs (massive open online courses). Universities all over the world are placing some of their courses online. Online courses come in many forms. There are the truly free ones where you download videos of the class lectures to watch. This is a great way to dip your toe into MOOC learning. But there are also options that include payment for things like grading assignments or receiving a certificate of completion.

I began my search for online courses at Coursera and found a few great options in creative writing but, by its very nature, creative writing demands feedback so you might end up paying something for these classes. However MOOCs are a great way to do a little research into Medieval England, The Rolling Stones, epidemics or another topic that plays a part in your WIP. So if you want to do your research with the help of PhDs then MOOCs may be the place for you.

Although I did learn a lot from the two classes I checked out, I found that there was a second advantage to MOOC learning beyond the skills and knowledge. It gave me a jump start. Taking a class made me want to write more simply because I was devoting so much time to thinking about writing and World War II. So if you need a little inspiration and don't have a writing group or writer friends to turn to you might want to try a MOOC class to help you get your focus back.

Of course, for improving your actual writing skills I would chooses an interactive class such as the ones at the WOW classroom. Not all these instructors have a PhD but they have two things that count for a lot in our business -- experience and writing credits. Lots of classes are starting September 5 but the schedule has classes listed for through the spring. Why not find a class that can help you with your writing career?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. Her next tour will be Sugarland by Martha Conway, a novel that involves murder, Chicago and 1920s jazz clubs. Contact her at jodi@wow-womeonwriting.com if you're interested. You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

 

You Do Need a Writing Retreat

Retreat house
You need a writing retreat. Yes, you do. I didn't know this year when my writing group planned a retreat at the lake, if I would be able to attend. Sometimes, things like this seem overwhelming as a single parent, and I often question, "Is it worth the planning and trouble before I even get there?"

Yes. A thousand times yes.

So why?

I went with four women writers who are a complete and total inspiration to me because all of them are actively working on their novels. And let me tell you, these novels are good! I read the first 40 to 70 pages of all of them this past weekend, and I felt like I was reading published books. My group can write, and that inspires me to get back in the seat and create something they can read!

So that's one reason why it is worth it--I am feeling the stirrings of getting back to fiction.

The view

The second thing is that it gave me time to myself to work on that new blog and catch up on some editing. When I'm at home, I want to write, and my daughter is great--she really is. But I also want to spend time with her and she is only 5 years old, so. . .I am distracted and don't get a lot done. At the retreat, we had meals planned out. We all had goals to accomplish, and we all respected each other's time. I mean, it was perfect. And I am almost done with my blog!

One thing we do every year that I think is super important is create a vision board. If you haven't done one of these before, just GOOGLE vision board, and you will come up with all sorts of blog posts on how to make these and why they are important. There's even a vision board app if you would prefer to do this the electronic way. My vision board is currently hanging by my desk, and it is full of what I want my life to look like during the 2016-2017 school year. It's not just writing--although that is part of it. It is also love, parenting, self-esteem, friends and family, hobbies, travel, self-conduct and more. Of course, it also has my word of the year on it-ORGANIZATION.


Anyway, if you have the chance to go on a retreat, go. Make the effort, organize your family, take a day off of work--and go. You will not regret it. If you don't know of any retreats, you can create your own. You don't need to know anyone with a lakehouse--you can have a retreat in a hotel or at someone's house if her family can clear out for a couple days.

You love your friends and your family. But there is NOTHING like spending quality time with other writers to get you inspired and working toward your goals.

Here's to retreating! Cheers!

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. Check out her new blog on parenting and writing here or her editing site here

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

 

Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Pam Maddin-Baker

Pam received her Bachelor of Education in Theatre Arts and English and was lucky enough to share both of these passions with her students for 28 years. She has recently retired from teaching, but still cultivates a lifelong love of learning. Her reading and writing these days are for personal enjoyment. She is currently working on a historical fiction novel set during the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. She also enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction. She is particularly interested in issues of social justice and women’s issues. Pam’s other passions are spending time with family and friends, caring for animals, and riding her bike around the many trails of her home city, Ottawa, Canada.

If you haven’t read Pam’s story, “Snow Boy,” and read this story about family and love, loss and moving forward.

WOW: As a teacher, you shared your love of theatre and English with your students. How does this background impact your writing?

Pam: As a writer, I am very lucky to have a background in theatre and English literature. I have a lot of training in acting, and that means I have experience imagining and creating back story and motivation for a character. When I am creating characters for a story, I am constantly imagining their history, the way they would feel, and what that makes them do or say in the narrative.

My love of literature, everything from Shakespeare to Game of Thrones, has allowed me to explore a wide of variety of writing styles and learn to have confidence in my own style and voice. My students have also taught me a valuable lesson: Every reader responds uniquely to a piece of writing. Not everyone is going to like a piece of writing, and that is okay.


WOW: You seem to write for many different readers – you’re working on everything from a historical fiction novel to short stories and flash fiction. What motivates you to write such a variety of pieces?

Pam: Ideas for stories are always popping into my head. Some of those ideas are best told in a short piece of writing. But others keep coming back and developing in my imagination. I feel the need to continue exploring them.

That is how my novel began to take form. It actually began as a flash fiction piece about a Canadian woman on vacation in Mexico. She meets an impoverished Mayan woman the same age as herself and is amazed by her strength. The story would not leave my thoughts and now it has grown into a full novel centered round the Zapatista revolution in 1994.

I just keep following my characters and let them lead me through a story until the end!

I am always working on the craft of writing. Learning through doing is an ongoing and important goal for me. My novel is research and on the job learning. Flash fiction helps me explore telling a story when every word is important…and counted.

WOW: What inspired this particular piece, Snow Boy?

Pam: I was moved by the recent understanding that a child who is born after the loss of another child is sometimes called a rainbow baby. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm in comparison.

Snow Boy developed from the complicated mix of joy and guilt that a mother would feel after losing a child and then finding out she was pregnant again. She would want to be excited about this new life, but also respectful toward the life that is no longer here. I wanted to explore how the lost child would have been happy for the mom.

WOW: How did Snow Boy change between the initial idea and the finished story?

Pam: I actually submitted this story to WOW twice! The first time I asked for a critique and received some excellent advice. I developed the character of Sherry more and explained more of her past. I tried to make her relatable to the reader, rather than "she could be anyone".

I also decided to let the reader imagine what happened to her child rather than impose a story. The loss was the important aspect of the story, the “how” was not as necessary.

WOW: What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction but are thinking about entering one of the WOW contests?

Pam: Trust your reader. Your reader doesn't need to know everything, it is fun for them to figure out the back story of even put their own experience into the story. But you need to give enough information so it is clear why the story is happening. Ask yourself, What does the reader need to be told? What can be implied through words or actions? A reader loves to be surprised as well, so have an interesting ending.

Also, don't be discouraged. Remember that writing is subjective. Everyone has a different opinion about what is good. Tell your story as best you can and be proud of it!

WOW: Thank you for giving our readers a look into how you create your characters as well as the surprising link between WOW and Snow Boy.  I know I speak for the whole community when I say that I hope we see more of your writing out there in the world!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

 

5 Freelance Writing Mistakes to Avoid

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on



One of the biggest pieces of advice freelance writers hear is to keep pitching, no matter how much work you have. The reason for that is because you will most likely reach a few months where you’ll have a dip in income. When you have specific expenses and bills to cover each month, that dip can result in a cash flow problem. I’m just as guilty as the next person in not sending out article queries as much as I should. I was fortunate to do a lot of traveling this summer, and much of it resulted in some great story ideas. But with juggling the travel and trying to keep up with my regular clients, I haven’t sent out any queries all summer. With school starting back last week, I’m starting to feel the strain of not knowing how much income I’ll have coming in through the end of December. So that you don’t fall into the same trap I have, I’ve put together five freelance writing mistakes to avoid.

Don’t get behind on updating your portfolio. Occasionally I post updates on my blogs with links to articles I’ve published, but I’m not as consistent with updating my website or LinkedIn profile, where they would be the most beneficial. This is an important step because a writer’s website is her resume. If an editor is thinking about hiring me, I don’t want them to look me up and see that the last published article on my portfolio is from two years ago.

If you’ve taken an interesting trip somewhere, don’t delay in sending out queries as soon as possible. I recently went to places such as Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas, (the retail brainchild of HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines), Washington, D.C., and a lowcountry island in South Carolina where no cars are allowed and only 400 or so residents live. I also have plenty of photos of each place, which I should include in my queries. Which I will begin sending out this week. Seriously.

Don’t get behind on your invoices. Most freelance writers I know send out invoices for their work immediately upon completion. This can help avoid having a gap each month where you are waiting for payments. Please don’t be like me and get behind on doing this, because you’ll end up spending too much time looking through your spreadsheets trying to figure out what you still need to send out, and this messes up the rhythm of any pay cycle you have in place.

Don’t be afraid to turn down work. This may seem contradictory to my advice on not lining up work properly, but you need to be mindful of your time. I accepted an article assignment with a quick turnaround right before going on vacation a few weeks ago, which I probably shouldn’t have done. I had several sources I had to contact, and I didn’t do as much research on the topic because, well, I was having too much fun on vacation. I had to get an extension on the article, which wasn’t a huge deal, but I do feel guilty because I know I’ve held up production on three different magazines that this will be running in, as it’s a shared article. And it could also make an editor less likely to hire you in the future if you can’t deliver what you promised on time.

Don’t be disorganized. I mentioned above I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my assignments. Unfortunately, that’s about as organized as I get these days. My desk is a mess, I can’t find my to-do list, I haven’t filed my e-mails all summer, and last week I had a panic attack in the middle of the night that I had missed a deadline. I hadn’t, but it was a stressful few hours before I hunted through my e-mails for the due date.

I hope these tips have been helpful, and that they don’t dissuade anyone from hiring me! I promise I put a lot of thought into my assignments and work hard, even if I can be a hot mess at times. Do you have any do’s and don’ts for other freelance writers you’d like to share?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is spending a Sunday afternoon catching up on work, because, that’s just how she rolls these days. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

 

Patterns, Woh-oh-oh, Patterns


I’m sorry if you have the song “Feelings” stuck in your head now. I’ve had it stuck in my head since the idea about writing patterns came to me and that was…ugh. Three, four days ago? It’s hard to say because I have this song stuck in my head—

Anyway, writing patterns. We all have ‘em. Maybe they’re really destructive patterns, like the one that starts in the summer when you take off a day or two from your usual writing ritual because the kids are home or you went on vacation or some calamity has befallen you. Whatever the situation, your routine has been disrupted. And before you know it, you haven’t written a lick in two months.

Or maybe it’s just a small, annoying writing pattern, like a word or a phrase that comes up continually in your stories or articles. It’s so small, in fact, that you don’t even see it. But you know who does see it?

Yep. Your readers.

Here’s the thing about writing patterns—or for that matter, any behavioral pattern. Our brain likes to take the road well traveled because frankly, it’s easier. Why claw your way through brambles and thickets when you can take the worn path? You’re used to it.

Now maybe your writing patterns are practically perfect in every way. Good for you! But what if your writing patterns have taken a bad turn of late?

You need to get unstuck from the not-so-perfect patterns. You need to make changes and that starts with mindfulness, the quality that makes you aware of something. (Namely, your not-so-perfect writing patterns.)

Right now—yes, right this second—I want you to think for three whole minutes and then I want you to write down the bad pattern that’s crept up in your writing life. I’ll even give you a few of mine to sort of get you started:

· the it’s-summer-and-so-I-don’t-need-to-write pattern
· using the word “just” all the time
· starting sentences with “and” just a little too often (D’oh. I CAN’T STOP USING JUST!)

Next, I want you to write down the new pattern you will work on, now that you know your target areas. For example, I will refuse to use the word “just.” Even though it’s a perfectly good word and many times, it’s the perfect word for a particular sentence. But I will not use the word “just.”

It will not be easy, forging that new writing pattern. My brain is literally screaming at me to use the word “just.” But I shall not succumb. I shall find a better word, a stronger word. I shall overcome my bad writing pattern!

You can, too. It just…er, only takes a little practice to step off that worn writing path and develop a bright and shiny new writing pattern.

How about it? Want to share your bad writing pattern and how you’re going to fix it? Or perhaps we can help you come up with a solution. And then—please, friends! —you can tell me how to get that stupid song out of my head!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

 

Tips for Writing Reviews from an Amazon Top Reviewer

I love when authors send signed copies!!!!
Here I am with Donald Dempsey's Memoir
I started writing book reviews a few years ago. I would publish them on my blog, Goodreads, Amazon, and Ezine Articles. In the beginning, I was reading because I wanted to improve my writing skills. I figured it was the least I could do for the hard working authors. There’s something wonderful to be said for any book and I wanted to tell the world. All of a sudden, authors were approaching me. They were offering me free copies of their books if I would write an honest review. Then I took my current position with WOW! Women on Writing and as they say, the rest is history!

It’s not really that straight forward. Someone approached me asking “can we send you some of our chocolate covered peanut butter cups to try and review?” and that’s what sparked the rest of my reviews. Now, the UPS truck pulls in the yard every day bearing gifts in exchange for my reviews. My dear friend Michelle recently told me she was having trouble writing reviews. She came to me for advice and I want to share with you not only the story of how I became an Amazon Top Reviewer, but also a few tips for writing your own reviews:

1) Read through the description of the product or the summary of the book first. Make sure you have what you expected you were receiving. If there’s a discrepancy, you’ll want to let the company or the author know right away and you may want to include that in your review.

2) Look at the questions other people are writing. Look at the other reviews. Review the comments on the product/book. If there’s a way for you to include commentary about those concerns, do so in your review. (ie: if a book received a 1 star review from someone stating the author was whining about their life while writing their memoir, you may want to include a sentence about how you felt concerning the author’s storytelling.)

3) Talk about what sets this product/story apart from the others. You may have used many flashlights in your life, but this one may be brighter, the battery may last longer, it may fit in your hand better, etc…or in the case of a book, there may be many memoirs on the market today, but this one may have touched you because _____________________, etc.

4) Speak from your heart. In the case of a book review, you’ll want to talk about how you felt when you finished reading the book. Did you want the book to continue because you couldn’t bear to part with the characters because they were written so well? In the case of a product, how did it make your life easier/better?

As a reviewer, it isn’t your job to “sell” the product or book. You don’t need to include the details that are already provided, unless it makes it special. If you say “this book is about Donald Dempsey’s amazing life” when the book is clearly being marketed as a memoir, you are going to come off looking silly. You may want to say “as Donald Dempsey shares the pivotal moments of his life, I felt my heart breaking for the young man he was while I was cheering on the man he is today. He has overcome incredible obstacles and has become a hero in so many ways.”

Use your writing skills to make your reviews interesting and informational. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and read something you wouldn’t usually chose or try a product you haven’t considered before. Had I said no to those peanut butter cups, I probably wouldn’t be wearing this great free shirt and leggings! Reviewing is a fun way to try new things and it’s the best way to thank an author!

Leave a link in the comments for your favorite book or book review – we would love to hear from you!


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy 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 Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at:http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

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Friday, August 19, 2016

 

Calling all Muffin readers!

Hello blog friends,

You can contribute to The Muffin: Fridays are "Speak Out!" days on the blog, and we love to hear from our readers. Submit a post to our ongoing guest blogger program!

Your post can be about: writing inspiration, balancing family life/parenting with writing, craft of writing fiction/nonfiction, how-tos, tips for author promotion/marketing/social media, book reviews, writing prompts, special opportunities (paying markets for writers), publishing industry news/gossip, and anything you think our readers will love.

Please make sure that there is take-away value to our readers. No press releases please. We're more interested in hearing from our core audience--personal essays and humorous anecdotes are encouraged as well, as long as they provide something useful to our audience--including a good laugh! ;)

Note: We welcome submissions from previous Friday Speak Out contributers.

How To Submit: Submit your 250 - 500 word post in the body of your email to our blog editor Marcia Peterson: marcia@wow-womenonwriting.com. Upon acceptance, we will ask for your bio, links, bio photo, and any other pictures to illustrate the article. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

 

What Is Your Market?

What is your answer when an editor or agent asks you to define the market for your book? I’ve always answered this question, depending on the book, “Horse loving girls from the ages of 9 to 12-years” or “Science curious students in middle school and high school.”

Then I read Carly Watters post on demographics vs markets. I have to admit, I’m a little red-in-the-face. The two answers that I gave above? Those aren’t markets. They’re demographics.

Strictly speaking, a demographic is a segment of the population. Other examples of demographics include “thirty-something women who read mysteries” or “women who want to save for their retirement.” Demographics are amorphous groups of people. Yes, you may be able to attach a number to your demographic thanks to the Census Bureau, but that doesn’t mean you can reach them as a group.

That’s the big difference. Demographics are people who fit in a certain category. A market is a group of people, quite possibly within this category, that you can reach and have a reasonable expectation that they will buy your book.

With that in mind, my answer should have been “Horse loving girls from the ages of 9 to 12-years who read my column in Young Equestrian magazine” or “science curious students in middle school and high school who have read Women in Science.”

Members of a demographic may be a potential market, but you have to be able to reach them. You can do this through your newsletter, web site, blog or Facebook page. Maybe you do a podcast of v-log. Or you might have access to people through a professional organization or alumni group.

Yes, this means that you are probably talking about a smaller group of people then when you talk about demographics. While that may initially seem sad, if this small group is the group that will be interested in buying your book? It’s the group that matters.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section of this class begins on October 3rd.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

 

Searching for the Sprite

Just got back from the annual extended family week at the beach. Waves, junk food, sand in everything! Our family has many traditions that go along with our beach week -- the sticky buns from a local bakery being at the top of the list. There are also the newspapers. All week my mom gathers whatever local newspapers she can find and even family members who aren't avid readers find themselves perusing the pages. After all, beach newspapers are a little different from your average hometown newspaper. Where else can you read about the cost of "re-boarding" the boardwalk, a day in the life of the guy who weighs in the huge marlin brought in during the fishing tournament or what happens when people retire to the beach (in one case he became the guy who spends 10 hours each day building sandcastles).

This week my mom read an article about a local writer who just released her debut novel that takes place in one of our favorite Delmarva beach towns. It was a great article promotion wise: two photos, big headline, mentioned an upcoming book signing and that the book was published by a small local publisher. Anyway, it convinced us. We had to have that book. That night we headed to the local bookstore. These are small beach towns and almost every one has one indie bookstore for that tourist who needs a beach read.

We found the local authors section but it wasn't there although we saw several other books by the same publisher. Hopefully, they had all sold but there were more books "in the back". We turned to the frazzled guy behind the counter.

"It was called The Sea Sprite. Something like that. The cover is blue. It's a mystery. A local author." The man at the bookstore looked at my mother blankly. "There was just a big article about her in the paper. She's doing a book signing."

He checked his clipboard. "Not here. I haven't heard about it."

An author was having a book signing this week in a town ten minutes away and he hadn't heard about it? Amazing. Please authors, if you are lucky enough to have an article published in a local newspaper make sure that every book selling spot in the newspaper's reach knows about the article and your book. Because sometimes articles encourage people to buy books! But if they can't find the book most people will abandon it quickly in favor of another book that is right there in front of them. After all, we have all become accustomed to the instant gratification of online shopping.

Happily for this author, my mom is searched until she found it--two beach towns later.

Let this be a lesson for all authors...get to know your local indie book sellers. Even if you don't have a book signing at their store, make sure they at least stock your book. Give them a simple flyer or a few bookmarks for their counter or window. You never know when something so simple is going to pay off. Don't let you prospective readers become discouraged.

And for the record we were partially correct with the book title: The Sea Sprite Inn by Lynnette Adair and the cover is blue!

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. Her next tour will be Sugarland by Martha Conway, a novel that involves murder, Chicago and 1920s jazz clubs. Contact her at jodi@wow-womeonwriting.com if you're interested. You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves

Monday, August 15, 2016

 

Two Websites: What Am I Thinking?

I have decided to have two websites--one for Margo Dill, the author and hopefully consistent blogger, and one for Editor 911, my freelance editing business. I know many of you are thinking: this woman likes to make her life difficult. She is on here constantly complaining how she never has time to write and her energy level is down, and NOW she has TWO websites?

Okay, I understand why you might be thinking that, but hear me out. For years, I have struggled with dual professional identities and one website, which I had hosted by Yahoo because I have had that website domain, margodill.com since 2000. Now it is easy and inexpensive to get domains and build websites, which I am now using Wordpress to do. So for the first time since 2000, I have created a website margoldill.com for writing/blogging and editor-911.com for editing/proofreading. They are currently under construction (yes, I am planning to write about my progress on the Muffin more than once--I hope that is a good thing). But you can check them out here (margoldill.com) and here (editor-911.com).

My word of the year is organization, and although I joke about my lack of it often, I really am making progress in several areas of my life. Just this weekend, I cleaned out a closet in my bedroom, and recently I made a much-needed trip to a financial adviser to start understanding my retirement accounts and money from several different day jobs. It is also time to get my writing life organized, and these two websites are helping me.

Now I could stress out about both of these being "under construction" and wondering when I will find the time to write posts, finish the pages, and get both of these fully functioning like the plans in my head. But for some reason, I am not stressing out about this because 1. it feels good after 16 years to finally have some clarity about how I want to run my business 2. it is fun to design these websites myself 3. it is absolutely wonderful to have been writing and editing for 16 years and STILL have a need for both websites.

Yes, I am focusing on the positive instead of the frenzy of when will I finish these beauties.

I'm wondering if you have a need for two websites or if you already have two (or more). I know writers who write under different pen names and have sites for their various genres. I also know some that write fiction and then have a professional business, so they have two also. How do you handle both? Do you spend more time on one than the other? Once they are set up, do they pretty much run themselves? Do you update and or blog?

Finally, if you don't have two but this is something you've been mulling over lately, I will tell you I used GoDaddy to purchase the domains and am managing them with Wordpress. I find GoDaddy easy to use because their chat ability on their customer service is fast and efficient; and whenever I have been confused, the person at the other end of the chat window has been able to help me. But if you have different companies you have used, let us know. I'm sure several readers would love the information.

So this is the first post of I'm not sure how many, but I will keep you updated on this two-website life I now lead.


Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher in St. Louis, MO. To find out more about her writing, visit margoldill.com .  To find out about her editing, visit editor-911.com .  To find out about the class she teaches for WOW, visit the WOW! classroom


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Sunday, August 14, 2016

 

My First Seven Jobs



I’ve noticed a few people on social media sharing their “First Seven Jobs,” and as I’m getting ready to hit the monumental big “40” this month, I started thinking about my own first forays into employment. Food, fashion, movies, and writing have always been a big part of my life, as supported by these first few jobs!

1. Belk Teen Board. This regional department store selected a certain number of teenagers each year from the county schools to make up this board. We had to fill out applications and go through interviews like any other job. I did this during my junior and senior years of high school and it was a blast. We modeled in fashion shows for the store, set up merchandising displays, handed out perfume samples in the cosmetic departments, and one Christmas, I worked in complimentary gift wrap having no prior experience in gift wrapping. By myself.

2. Movie Theater Employee. After accepting a job in a local manufacturing plant that produced parachutes with my best friend and lasting exactly one day, we stumbled upon a job at our local movie theater. I think we were hired by phone interviews alone, which must have been how desperate they were for help. I started out in the concession stand and worked my way up to the box office, where I would help count all the concession stand inventory each night as part of my job and reconcile the accounts. Again, another great job for a teenager, especially since I got to see most of the movies free. (A character in one of my YA manuscripts has a similar job.)

3. Express Store Associate. Once I started college the minimum wage salary wasn’t enough to live on anymore, and the theater couldn’t give me a raise. I headed across the street to the mall once again and got a job in Express, where I promptly ran up a store credit card so I could effectively sell their clothes. FYI, I’m pretty sure much of the first few seasons of the TV show “Friends” got their clothes from Express. I sometimes recognize specific styles when I watch old reruns.

4. Restaurant Hostess.  I worked at Express for about a year, and then they gradually began cutting my shifts back until I could barely afford to eat. I took a job as a host at a local restaurant, which was one of the toughest jobs I ever had. Trying to keep the wait staff and impatient, hungry diners happy was a definite challenge. I eventually worked my way up to server, and then to a headwaiter, which meant I helped settle the books at the end of my shift. (How did I keep ending up in accounting-type positions when I never considered myself good at math?)

5. College Newspaper Staff. After working as a reporter for two years at my college for credit, I took job as the features editor of the newspaper and eventually news editor. I got paid $40-$50 an issue for these jobs and we produced the paper each week. I worked these editing jobs in addition to my wait staff jobs.

6. Blockbuster Video. Remember those? After getting burned out at my restaurant job, I took a break and thought it would be fun to work at a video store since I loved movies so much. Wrong. The corporate office had a lot of rules and procedures that I found tedious. I quit after getting scolded because I didn’t answer the phone the right way one night when the district manager happened to call.

7. Clerk at a Chocolate Shop. I mostly weighed chocolate bark, sold bottled water, sodas, boxed up truffles, and gained at least 10 pounds that summer. I also began my lifelong love affair with dark chocolate raspberry truffles.

I have to admit this has been a pretty fun exercise. It’s also been interesting to see how technology has changed since I had several of these jobs (such as the way we printed the different sections of the newspaper and pasted them together and the video store). Having trouble coming up with an interesting job for a character or subplot? Go back and list your first jobs and I guarantee you’ll dig up something interesting to write about.

You know where I’m going with this. I want to hear about your first seven jobs now! Please share in the comments below.

What I looked like when I first began working.
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who finds it interesting that so many of these jobs involved working with the public when she considers herself an extreme introvert. Go figure. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.


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Saturday, August 13, 2016

 

How To Be A Champion (Writer)

There’s something so compelling about the Olympics. I can’t keep from watching the games, even when I’m supposed to be working. And that’s why today, I bring you writing lessons from the Olympics! (And the crowd roars!)

You’re Never Too Old To Pursue Your Goal

I was stunned to learn that equestrian Phillip Dutton is 52; he finally won his first medal, after competing in six Olympics.

How many times have you met a writer complaining about age, how she’s too old for the grind of the business? Heck, I’ve been that writer. But goals—or at least when it comes to writing—don’t have age limits. That’s the wonderful thing about writing; you can keep at it. You can stay in the game…well, for as long as writing matters to you, for as long as you still have goals to reach. It might take years—lots of years—but you do not walk away because you’re too old. So thank your lucky stars that you don’t have to throw yourself up into the air and stick a landing. All you have to do is write.

Don’t Let Anyone Psych You Out of the Game

Even if you didn’t see LeClos shadowboxing in front of Michael Phelps—and Michael Phelps refusing to let the other swimmer’s antics get to him—I bet you heard about it. Swimming has an element of mind games to it, where the players sometimes try to out psych each other. Sometimes, it works. And sometimes, it happens in writing, too.

Except it’s usually not other writers who try to out psych us. We do it to ourselves. We beat up on ourselves, berate ourselves, undermine our confidence, and eventually, all those mind games start to affect us.

We don’t try as hard because what’s the point? Then we’re defeated before we ever try. So take a cue from Michael Phelps. Put on your game face and ignore all the negativity. Then write.

Enjoy Your Moment in the Sun

Every time I see those athletes on the medal stand, I wonder if they’ll remember that moment and appreciate what they’ve achieved. It’s amazing, really, to be the best in the world, and it always chokes me up, seeing the winners (and yes, the losers, too).

But I suspect that before those men and women even leave the medal stand, they’re thinking of the next race, the next Olympics. What a shame.

And what a shame if you don’t take the time to enjoy your writing achievements. If you’re so involved in what’s next on the journey without taking a moment to appreciate where you are now, you’re cheating yourself.

So find a way to celebrate when you succeed. Whether you get a book contract, make a sale to a magazine, or acquire a regular writing gig, even if the money’s not amazing, you are.

We are the champions! Now get out there and write, champ. (And the crowd roars!)

~Cathy C. Hall

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

 

Social Media - Friend or Foe?



If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times: “Without social media, my happiness level would be much much lower.”


What? Wait? Lower? You ask…

When I make that statement, I often am met with a furrowed brow and curious expression. People have come back with assumptions that it must be because I work from home and/or that’s how I make money, make contacts, etc… I suppose a piece of the puzzle might be the extra income social media generates for me, but the human factor is much more important. If you’ve read my previous posts about being content and not comparing yourself to others, you’ll know that I’m an optimist. As an optimist, I should be able to find joy with or without social media. The part of me that craves social media is the human side. The empathetic part of my being needs to be part of a circle.

The same empathetic part of me struggles with social media, but I am getting better at just scrolling past anything that looks like it might be sad or ugly. I have found immeasurable joy in groups I have found on Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads. If you haven’t discovered groups, you’re really missing out on the joyful part of social media. For example, there is a group for breastfeeding moms, unicorn moms, attachment parents, local gardeners, bakers, cloth diaper families, music lovers, organists, and that is just to name a few.

If you are having trouble with XYZ in your life, just query it on social media and I bet you’ll find a group of likeminded individuals or those going through a similar situation. There are cancer survivor groups, diabetes groups, spouses of alcoholic groups, and the list goes on and on.

If you have an unlimited amount of time to spend in person with your friends, then never mind anything I’ve said. However, if you are busy and trying to juggle too many balls, you may be just like me where you need a friend at 2am because you can’t quite figure out why the baby has a temperature or why the fridge smells weird. Social media never sleeps. There is always a friend out there to chat, bounce and idea off, or just lend a listening ear or sympathetic shoulder.

I went from being in a business setting with nearly 100 women, to being a stay at home mom. If it weren’t for social media and the relationships I’ve developed, I’m afraid to say that I’d be lonely. My husband works long hours, my kids don’t appreciate me anymore than they should at their age(s), and it’s so nice to lean on other people. Before you poo-poo the internet and social media, check out some groups and affiliate yourself with some positive online friends.

Do you have any favorite groups you’d recommend to others? How did you hear about them? Is social media a happy place for you? Share your thoughts and comments – we absolutely love hearing from you!

Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy 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 Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at:http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

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