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.
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.
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.
A Killer’s Grace by Ronald Chapman - Blog Tour and Book Giveaway!
Posted by Crystal Otto at 2:30 AM
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
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
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.
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)!
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/
I've been asked to write a biography - what do I charge?
Posted by Angela at 2:30 AM
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.
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.
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!
Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing vs Hybrid Publishing
Posted by Sue Bradford Edwards at 1:00 AM
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?
Friday Speak Out!: You will do anything to save your kids or your partner, but what about your writing?
Posted by MP at 1:00 AM
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.”
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.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Would you like to participate inFriday "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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested. You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves.
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.
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 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.
Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Pam Maddin-Baker
Posted by Sue Bradford Edwards at 1:00 AM
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!
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 recentlywent 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.
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!
Tips for Writing Reviews from an Amazon Top Reviewer
Posted by Crystal Otto at 12:01 AM
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?
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.
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: email@example.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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested. You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves.
Interview with 2016 Winter Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Catharine Fitton
Posted by Renee Roberson at 4:30 AM
For a writer, inspiration can come from many places--from a news story, observing a crowded busy street, or, in the case of Catharine's Fitton's entry, The Shower, after a scary accident in your own home.
Catharine Fitton lives in Toronto with her partner, her son, Jack, and her pug, Digger. A high school English teacher for fifteen years, she recently switched to a writing career. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, published her essay, “Victory of little big horn” about her son and his tuba. The Alice Munro Short Story contest 2016 named her a top ten finalist for her story “Margaret and Mary”. She has a B.A. from the University of Toronto and takes creative writing classes at its School of Continuing Studies. For her Master’s degree from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, she wrote her thesis on her favourite novel, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. Catharine is busy editing the manuscript of her first novel, The Brother. Travelling the world with her family is her other passion, and their adventures often inspire her writing. Recent trips included Galapagos Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. You can find her on Twitter @cfitton28.
WOW: First off, I have to tell you your story reminded me of an old episode of "Dateline" I saw recently, where a physician was accused of murdering his wife, who he found dead in the shower. Of course, he claimed innocence, but he had moved his wife to their bedroom after finding her in the shower, which threw suspicion on him. Did that story happen to inspire this piece or did it come to you another way?
Catharine: In January of this year, my partner slipped and fell in the shower. She hit her head and broke her arm. A few days later, when her arm was in a cast and she was, otherwise, fine, I started to think about writing a story focused on a fall in the shower, but with a sinister side to it.
WOW: Oh, wow, that's scary. I'm glad she's okay! You recently left your position as a high school English teacher. I would love to know which authors you enjoyed teaching the most and which books/short stories seemed to resonate with your students.
Catharine: I taught Shakespeare’s play Hamlet many times over the years and never tired of it. Teaching horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe was always fun. Introducing students to the poems of Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and Elizabeth Bishop was another highlight.
Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King, a coming-of-age story set on a reserve on the Canadian-American border, seemed to resonate with my students. They also enjoyed Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry and Arranged Marriage by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
WOW: I still have fond memories of all the great literature I read in high school--what a treat to hear some of your favorites. What were some of the main points you discussed in your master's thesis for "Jane Eyre"?
My Master’s thesis, completed at the University of Glasgow, examined the critical history of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, from the time of its first publication in 1847 to the present. I focused on the critical responses to her treatment of gender and female sexuality. Beliefs about female sexuality have undergone constant change through time, and I tried to show how these changes affected interpretations of the novel.
WOW: Sounds like a great topic for a thesis! Switching back to your own fiction, can you tell us a little about the manuscript you're working on, "The Brother"?
Here is a brief synopsis of my women’s fiction novel The Brother: When Erin first meets Mark, a talented heart surgeon, she thinks he’s an arrogant womanizer. But then he saves her mother’s life. Now, Erin is convinced that Mark is THE ONE. The only problem is, her friend Fiona met him first. The problem is solved when Erin starts dating THE OTHER ONE, Mark’s brother, Oliver. The foursome double date, and everyone is happy. Until Erin has sex with Mark. Twice. If Fiona and Oliver find out, she could lose them both. She juggles the roles of faithful friend, loving girlfriend, and secret lover. But troubling emotions, like jealousy and guilt, keep getting in the way. The obvious fix is to choose ONE BROTHER. But which ONE?
WOW: Sounds like a juicy story! When you're not busy writing, it looks you've travelled extensively with your family. What are some destinations that are on your bucket list?
I’ve explored places within the Arctic Circle, like Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, and Norway. In the future, I’d like to travel to more destinations south of the equator, such as Patagonia (Chile and Argentina), Easter Island, (Chile), Machu Picchu, (Peru), and Antarctica. WOW: Thank you so much for stopping by today. We can't wait to hear where your writing projects and travels take you next!