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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

 

A Grown-Up Girl's Guide to Liking Herself?

Dear Reader,

Being a grown up can be hard. A recent conversation with a friend went as follows:

Friend: "I wish there was some sort of book we could give these girls that would help build their confidence and self esteem."

Me: "There is - I remember seeing one somewhere and I think it was an American Girl book or something. Hang on while I look it up on my phone."

Friend: "really? there is something like that?"

...we chatted, drank coffee, chased toddlers, and a few moments later...

Me: "Here it is and there's a lot of different titles to choose from, but I just ordered A Smart Girl's Guide to Liking Herself - Even on the Bad Days - I'll send you a link on Facebook."

A few days go by and the book arrives. I gave it to my 9 year old daughter and I believe my friend ordered her 9 year old daughter a copy too. My daughter is enjoying the book and I've been reading it along with her. This got me to thinking, shouldn't we create something like this for ourselves?

Seriously readers - isn't being a grown up just as difficult as being a young lady (or even more so)?

What advice would you give for the following:

* What can I do to trust myself more and stop doubting my talents and abilities?

* What can I do to be a better friend to myself?

* What can I do to make the bad days a little less daunting?

* How can I take better care of myself (body mind and spirit)?

* What are some ideas for things I can do to cheer myself up when I feel blue?

* How can I be more thankful?

Maybe there is a book out there, or maybe a blog? I think as mothers, we focus so much of our energy on helping our children accept and love themselves that sometimes we forget that the some acceptance and love is important in our busy lives too. I may have begun reading this book to help my daughter, but it really is helping me more than she knows.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments and maybe it will inspire some future posts and ideas on how we can do a better job liking ourselves. No comments are silly - so post away! Thanks in advance!

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 an abundance kittens (who are available for adoption by the way), 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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Monday, May 30, 2016

 

Don’t Rely on Memory Alone


When I sat down to work on my novel, I knew I needed to work on my character descriptions. They were, at best, scant. I wanted them to be rich and full. I wanted my characters to be so familiar to the reader that they would be recognizable on the street.

That's how I feel about Sharon Shinn's characters.  If I were to pass Senneth or Gabriel on the street, I would immediately know who it was.  I would probably go a little fan girl.  Okay, a lot fan girl.  I want readers to feel this about my characters so I pulled out Shinn's Mystic and Rider. I decided to study up on how Shinn had made Senneth so familiar to me. Skimming the first two chapters, I looked for the character description. I saw a word here and a phrase there but not the passages that I recalled. I read on and eventually realized that I had misremembered.

Yes, Shinn had brought her characters to life, but she didn’t do it through key passages. She did it a word here and a sentence there. She did it through action and experience and time. It was a lot like getting to know a real person which could explain why her characters feel so real. If I had tried to accomplish this working from what I misremembered, I would have failed.  I needed to refresh my memory.

Whether you are writing a book inspired by reading from your youth or a favorite adult book, get that book out. Give it another read and this time read it as a writer. You know the emotion that it elicited in you, but now look at how that was done. Don’t assume that you remember because the very best techniques are subtle and almost silent.

Love Yolen for her lyrical prose? Pull down your favorite book, whether it’s The Devil’s Arithmetic or Owl Moon, and refresh your memory.

Perhaps you’re drawn to the impish humor of Bruce Coville? Reread Jennifer Murdley’s Toad or I Was a Sixth Grade Alien. Take another look at how he does it – do the laughs follow physical gags or jokes in dialogue?

Trying to emulate the descriptive passages of Anne Rice? Don’t try it for yourself until you’ve reacquainted yourself with The Vampire Lestat or Memnoch the Devil.

The problem is that although we remember very well how books and stories make us feel, we aren’t very good at remembering how the author did it. In reality, that’s a good thing because it means that you were immersed in the story.  This is, of course, the same experience that you want for your own readers.

Don't rely on your memory. Take the time to renew your acquaintance with the books that made you want to give writing a try. Once you’ve studied how they did it, you’ll be ready to put this knowledge to use at the keyboard.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

 

7 Tips to Make Blog Tours Work for You


We do a lot of blog tours at WOW!, and I know a lot of my author friends do them, too. Here are 7 tips to help you get the most out of the tours.

1. When you schedule blogs, make sure that you find blogs from different groups of writers. For example, if you only do blogs where all the writers are friends, in the same critique group, or with the same publisher, then you won't be reaching a new audience.

2. Try to find blogs that aren’t just WRITERS talking about books and writing. Some of these type are great, but you want to have different types of blogs. For example, if your book has a main character who is a foodie, see if you can get on a couple foodie blogs, too.

3. Don't offer a giveaway of your book on every stop--do a couple of giveaways of your book. But you can offer other giveaways like journals, editing, swag with your book cover, etc. This drives people to the blog, but encourages them to buy your book instead of waiting to see if they win it.

4. Do different types of posts: write a guest post directed to that blog audience, do an interview, ask for a review.

5. Schedule the blog tour soon after your book is OUT (or the release month – some say before the book is out, if it can be ordered ahead of time)! That way, people can go buy the book right away.

6. Try to schedule 3 or 4 stops a week--the weekends are the worst because people are TOO busy. You could tour for one month or two. You should start scheduling well before you want to appear--bloggers fill up.

7. Follow up with everyone who left a comment on a post you did. Not only should you respond to comments on the blog where you appeared, but you can also visit readers’ blogs or websites if they leave a link in their comment.

Some of these will take a little bit of time and effort, but so does a blog tour. And you want it to be as profitable as possible. Happy touring!

Margo L. Dill, children's author

WOW! editor, instructor, columnist, and social media manager http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargoDill.author.editor

photo above by enokson on Flickr.com

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Friday, May 27, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Is It Time to Stop Blogging?

by Sheila Good

A few months back, a fellow blogger wrote a post about ending her blog. Her words gave me pause and left me thinking – when is it time?

The Most Cited Reasons for Quitting
1. You don’t post anymore
2. You don’t enjoy it.
3. Requires too much time.
4. Your blog isn’t growing.
5. Ideas are drying up.
6. You’re tired and interests lie elsewhere.
None of these reasons applied to me; yet, the question stayed on my mind.

I retired early from the profession of nursing, a career I loved, more than twenty years ago due to health complications.

In 2008, my best friend of 37 years passed away suddenly. Blogging helped exorcise the demons of grief and after eights months, I decided to take my writing to another level. I joined a writers group and started Cow Pasture Chronicles.

Then in 2012, my disease started tap dancing on my body. For nearly two years, my blog suffered, and posts were sporadic. It took me a while to regain the strength and enthusiasm to write again but those two years left an imprint. At sixty-two, I tire quickly, can’t always think of the right words, and on some days, it takes forever for me to complete a post, article, or story.

I’m a persistent and determined woman. I do not surrender easily and quitting is not a word found in my vocabulary. But, time is a gift we don’t get to keep forever. So, the question becomes, do I want to spend time on a keyboard or with my family creating memories?

I’m not ready to write that final blog post, yet. There are novels and memoirs I want to finish, and stories to share with my readers, family, and friends. I know the time is coming, but letting go is never easy, no matter what you’re releasing.

For Every Thing, There is a Season.

Is it time? Only you have the answer. Reasons and timing are different for everyone. Listen to your heart and you’ll know.

* * *
Sheila Good is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and the author of the Blog, Cow Pasture Chronicles. A member of the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, her work has been published in Blasting News, Angie’s Diary, Every Writer’s Resource, Every Day Fiction, and featured on No Extra Words Podcast. She resides with her husband in South Carolina.
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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, May 26, 2016

 

The Best-Kept Writer's Secret

(Heads up, y’all! Some of you may know the secret already as this post originally ran on May 15th. But another post was inadvertently run that day as well, and so I thought, “Well, dang. It’s STILL going to be the best-kept writer’s secret!” And I just couldn’t have that. So for those of you who missed the secret, this one’s for you!)

I’ve never been good at keeping secrets, so I’m just going to spill the beans. Or rather, books. Because the best writer’s resource I know is the good, old public library.

Yes, it’s the public library, so you’re probably wondering what’s so secret about that?

Well, today’s public library is not your mother’s public library. There are still books—the kind you hold in your hands and digital ones, too—but there’s so much more. Except… when was the last time you explored your library? There are all kinds of secret treasures waiting to be found!

Did you know that many magazines—the ones you need to peruse and study before querying your article—are available through your public library? So you don’t have to buy all those magazines?

Oh. You already knew that, Miss Smartypants. Then how about this?

Technology! Computers, wi-fi, wireless printing, a TechStudio—all free for you and me! And all kinds of support to go along with that technology. So if you want to make a book trailer, ask your public library for a little help.

Okay, fine. You knew that, too. And you probably know all about classes and workshops offered at your public library. But did you know that you could be the one offering a class or a workshop?

Hah. That’s right, you Not-So-Famous Author. And you, too, Not-Published-By-A-Huge-Trade-Publisher. Because your public library is mandated to provide services for the community. So all you have to do is come up with a service that the community might like.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can follow to offer a workshop in the library:

1. Meet your library’s Community contact.
2. Ask her or him about offering a workshop.

Yep. That’s about all you need to do. But here are a few tips that will help you “sell” your writer’s workshop to your library:

1. Offer to do the workshop for free and make sure that it is open to the public.
2. Develop a workshop that will have a wide appeal.

Now, maybe you’re asking yourself why you’d offer a workshop for free. After all, the big name authors don’t do workshops or author visits for free. That’s true, and when you are a big name author, you won’t, either. The thing is, libraries typically have small—very, very small budgets—so if you are willing to work for free, you’re already halfway to your workshop. And you can make a bit of money other ways.

Likely, you have a book that you can sell. Perhaps you have several books to sell. And maybe you have a website that you can direct patrons to where they can find out more about you (and buy from your links). Perhaps you’ll develop a group of local readers who’ll love your books and support you when your next book is released.

All because you gave a fun and interesting writer’s workshop at your public library. So pssst! Check out all the exciting opportunities at your local library—and pass the writer’s secret on!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

 

Interview with Fall Flash Fiction Runner Up Bernadette Yannacci

Originally from New York, Bernadette Yannacci has called New Jersey home for the past 20 years. She attended Rutgers University’s Douglass College where she earned a BA in English. Before shifting her focus to raising her family, Bernadette worked as a local newspaper reporter, earning awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

Her entry in the WOW flash fiction contest is Bernadette’s first foray into getting a fictional piece published. She is currently working on other short stories and the beginnings of a novel. Bernadette wants to extend her sincere thanks to the Women on Writing editors and judges along with guest judge Marie Lamba for considering her story among the finalists.

Read Bernadette’s winning story, The Opal, here. Then come back to learn more about this writer whose work starts with theme.  

WOW: First of all, congratulations! I love the subtle hints about relationships and past events in “The Opal.” What inspired your story?

Bernadette: In flash fiction, there isn’t the room to fully flush out a character or backstory. You tell a lot by those subtleties that you put in there and that’s a lot of the fun. I started out with an image of a woman digging. I wasn’t sure if she was covering or uncovering something, but I did know that the story was about family and loss and her need to save something for herself. At the center, this was something she had to keep for herself, something that was central to her and her development as a character. In her life, it was something she didn’t want taken away from her.

WOW: How did this story change between the time you contemplated writing it and the finished product?

Bernadette: I started writing the scene of her digging. It changed because at first I didn’t know if she was covering something or uncovering something.

Initially, there were more characters. She had a brother who was a state trooper and he stumbled across her as she was digging. There was a conversation, back and forth, but there was no tension. It was just wasting words. He wasn’t working, but she needed a sense of urgency. She needed that feeling that she would have to answer to authority.

 That’s where the sirens in the story came in. They lent the urgency and pushed the action forward. She’s assuming “they’re after me,” but it had nothing to do to her. It was a great tool for that frantic pace.

I had to pare the story down for the word count. I was going to flesh out the father more but there wasn’t room for it. I had to cut the story and characters to bare bones and, in terms of characters, ended up with Collete, Jackie and the dog, Ned. Fortunately Ned doesn’t have any dialogue so that helped my word count!

WOW: Can you describe your writing process?

Bernadette: I don’t have a set in stone ritual. I take a look at my day and block out the time I have to write. Sometimes it’s all morning. Sometimes it’s half an hour. It’s a matter of having the discipline to do it when I can.

If I have time but I’m not feeling like writing, I set an alarm for an hour and I make myself keep writing, keep going. I have found that even when I feel like I’m wasting my time, there’s that little nugget of something that turns up, something really good, and forcing myself to write was worthwhile. Making myself show up is the most important thing.

For flash fiction I find that being a pantser is the way to go. In a way having that word count is a challenge but it is also freeing. You get to use those hints at backstory. You can have a lot of fun with that.

But in terms of trying to get the novel that I’m writing off the ground, I need a road map. I need an outline. It helps me feel that I have more direction and I know where I’m going. I’ve had several false starts because I tried pantsing. I’m new to this so I’m still experimenting with what works for me.

WOW: How else does working on a piece of flash fiction differ from working on your novel?

Bernadette: Flash fiction is a scene, capturing a scene, more than telling a full story. For “The Opal,” I had this feeling that if I turned this into something bigger I could go this way or this way, but right now I’m just writing this scene. You can only do that type of exploration for so long in a novel because the reader is going to want some satisfaction.

I find it very frustrating as a reader if there’s a question in a novel and at the end I’m left hanging. As I writer I reflect on that. I want to write what I want to read. I want to give my reader the sense of satisfaction and of completion. I want them to think “Oh, I got it.”

Maybe that’s why I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies because you get that whole story. I like to see things from beginning to end.

WOW: What words of advice do you have for writers who are new to fiction? Who are new to flash fiction?

Bernadette: I’m just at the starting gate myself. Keep your head down and keep going. Just show up to write, because that’s what matters.

 Be kind to yourself. It should be fun. You should be enjoying this. If you aren’t enjoying it, think about why you aren’t enjoying it. Are you trying to write for someone else? If you are writing for yourself, then you are going to enjoy it more. If you are trying to fit a mold, “my goal is to write the next supernatural themed best seller,” that’s harder to enjoy. Write what your heart is telling you to do.

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards, writer and WOW instructor.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

 

Choose Potential Clients Carefully

Writers and editors are hungry. We’re constantly brainstorming ways to earn extra money, collect clips, expand our portfolios, and make important connections in the publishing industry. Unfortunately, sometimes we rush to work on projects without first protecting ourselves and our time and integrity. This happened to me last year, and I’m still angry with myself for being so naïve and gullible. In my case, the potential client was a friend of a friend, so I felt more confident getting involved in the project.

The client was a start-up media company (I’m not going to name names here) producing historical children’s books that were similar to the “choose your own adventure” books of my childhood. From my understanding, the books were only going to be available through an app produced by the company. I sent writing samples to the development director (not the friend of a friend), and he gave me a list of historical fiction topics they were looking for. I picked one, and he then asked me to develop a lengthy proposal on the subject, complete with sample chapters and examples of how they could have different outcomes if the character made different choices.

This should have been a red flag, because I didn’t have a contract at this point and no guarantee that I would be commissioned to work on the book. But I thought to myself that educational companies sometimes go through a similar process when hiring writers, right? (Looking back, maybe not!) So I kept going. It was a very complex process, and required hours of research and work to make it all come together. I put together a 10-page proposal, including a flowchart of how the book would be laid out. My contact came back and asked for revisions of the proposal and more sample chapters. This took more time away from clients I already had.

I began getting frustrated at this point, but I made the revisions. I didn’t hear back from him for a few weeks, and then he came back to me and told me his new CEO of the company didn’t think my topic would be a good fit for their target audience. This confused me, because the company had given me a list of topics to choose from in the first place! They then asked if I could put together another proposal from another list of topics. At this point I was angry. I told them I could not, as I had paying clients I needed to focus on. To this day, I’m not sure any books that were in development for this company have seen the light of day. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what I had gone through because it would make me look foolish. But this happened over a year ago and I now feel I should warn other writes of these types of writing scams. Maybe it wasn’t a scam and just poor management, but I suffered regardless, because I spent 15-20 hours alone on a project that went nowhere.

Have you ever experienced a writing scam? How did you resolve it if so?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also blogs at Renee's Pages. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

 

Book Review – Allen Long’s “Less Than Human” by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Review:
Allen Long’s writing style is unique in that in draws the reader in, tells of sadness experienced by the author, but has an undertone of triumph and joy. Even as you read the chapters outlining Long’s abuse at the hands of his parents, you still know there will be a triumphant ending. I enjoyed this memoir much more than most memoirs telling of abuse. This was a quick read and the pace of the book is excellent. I had no idea what to expect next.

Each individual story is told with such imagery it’s as if the author himself is having a glass of scotch and reminiscing with a kindred soul or old friend. I feel as if Allen and Elizabeth are friends I would enjoy having over for a dinner party. I also am reconsidering how I ask for “mom time” as I hope there’s no “Linda” creeping into our lives. (you’ll have to read Less Than Human for yourself if you want more details about that…).

Thank you Allen Long for sharing your life with readers. Less Than Human is well written, well edited, and I certainly enjoyed the short glimpses into your interesting life. The triumphant tone of the book really speaks volume about your resilient character.

Official Book Blurb: In Less than Human, Allen Long tells the story of his often nightmarish childhood in the wealthy suburbs of D.C., the wonders and mysteries of teenage love, his ill-advised journeys into corporate America and a hellish marriage, and ultimate breakdown. And yet, his story is mostly one of triumph. He draws strength from the joys of fatherhood, he finds true love in his second marriage, and through working with psychotherapists and leading a life rich in self-examination, he overcomes both child abuse and the resulting PTSD, finally learning that instead of being less than... he is, indeed... human. Less than Human follows an unconventional path, arranged as much by theme and association as by chronology. These stories take many forms, from driving narrative to lyrical reverie, at times evoking mythic overtones, and this variety, along with an unflinching confrontation with the conditions and consequences of childhood abuse, creates its own form of suspense-in what direction will this book take us next?

• Paperback: 120 pages
• Publisher: Black Rose Writing; First Printing ed. edition (January 14, 2016)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1612966381
• ISBN-13: 978-1612966380

About the Author: Allen Long was born in New York City and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. He holds a B.A. in journalism from Virginia Tech, an M.A. in fiction writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. He has been an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine since 2007, and his fiction and memoirs have appeared in a wide variety of literary magazines. He lives with his wife near San Francisco.


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Saturday, May 21, 2016

 

Don’t Forget to Build that Bridge

“Don’t send us what we’ve already seen. We want something new. New settings. New situations.  New stories. We want true diversity.” 

Editors, agents and publishers are singing this refrain or something much like it which makes sense.  They want to publish work that is new.  They want to publish work that represents the diversity of readers they hope to reach. They are also coming to recognize that diverse reading leads to greater empathy.  If you have seen Grace Lin’s Ted Talk on this subject, it is well worth the time. 

Duchess Harris and I are working on our second book together. Our first book was Black Lives Matter.  Our second is African-American women at NASA. Yet again, we are discovering how tough it is to write diversely. It isn’t the partnership that’s difficult although that can be challenging. 

What we are rediscovering is the need to build bridges for our readers.  It doesn’t matter if this reader is your agent, your editor or the person you hope will curl up with your book, if the subject matter is new to them, they will need a bridge. They will need a way to cross from what is familiar to what is not. 

In our case, we have to build a bridge between the dominant culture and the realities of racism and civil rights. Although we are familiar with the topic and often discuss race, we live in a society that has long sidestepped race. We can’t just plunk our subject down in front of someone and expect them to read long with us. It just feels too foreign, too extreme. To get them from where they are to where we want them to be, we build a bridge of facts, laying these details out one beside the other like the stones in a bridge.

But this problem isn’t ours alone. One author I know had written about both her native West Indies and her current Midwestern home.  In both cases, she was questioned by her coastal editors about details in her stories.  “Surely people don’t live like this?” “I’ve never seen a town with an empty street corner?” “Is the New Madrid fault a real thing?” She too had to build a bridge using sensory details and facts drawn from her own experience. It was the only way to make her settings real and accessible to big city readers who were more accustomed to skyscrapers than gravel roads.

Whether your story is set among the Ancient Maya, a futuristic Wild West culture or a fantasy world of elves and magic, you will need to create a bridge for your reader.  Lead them step by step, fact by fact, detail by detail, from the world that they know to the world of your story. No matter how much they want the experience, they need the bridge to get there.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Slow and Steady?

by Sara Codair

I’ve always hated the phrase “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” During my brief stints with competitive sports, I was a sprinter. I loved diving in the water and pushing myself to the max. I tired quickly, so I was often placed in shorter races. I’d win the 50-yard free style, but never the 200 IM. I swam the last leg of the relay, closing the distance between me and the other swimmers before climbing out of the water to stuff my exhausted face with cookies.

My impatience and sprinter mentality have been both a gift and a curse in my excursion into wild world of writing and publishing.

When it comes to first drafts, the sprinter mentality is my strength. My brain works fast and doesn’t stay focused long. If I have a story in my head, I sit down and let my fingers type at light speed until the first draft is done.

I get in trouble with revision. Once I clean up my draft and revise a couple times, I want to send it out to every publication. I have to fight with myself because experience has taught me that when I let a draft rest then return to it, I see things related to both content and grammar that were invisible to me earlier. With every rejection, I find myself wondering “Did I send that one too soon? Would it have gotten accepted it I have revised it a fifth time?”

The numbers tell me the answer is probably “no,” but there is enough doubt to make me wait a little longer. Sometimes I send things out prematurely, but more and more, I am waiting until I know the piece is truly done.

The sprinter mentality is great when I am submitting to places that accept simultaneous submissions. I’ll write a cover that just needs minor adaptations for the different publications, troll the Submission Grinder, and fire off one submission after another, only pausing long enough to make sure everything is following the proper guidelines. Most of my acceptances have been simultaneous submissions.

The waiting kills me. I avoid certain publications because their response time is too slow and opting for ones who promise to get back to writers promptly, like Clarkes World, Shimmer and Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The rejections come quick and hard, but this is where I see personal growth. I don’t climb out of the pool for a cookie break. I keep swimming. I revise my story and send it elsewhere.

I’ve had a few swift acceptances to unpaid markets, but the ones I had to wait for are the ones that pay. It took nearly a month to be accepted for Centum Press’ 100 Voices anthology and 149 days to find out I was in the WOW Top 10. I’ve learned that versatility is key. My sprinter mentality is great for finishing first drafts, but it takes a slow, steady persistence to get published.

* * *
Sara Codair writes because her brain is overcrowded with stories. If she doesn’t get them out, she fears her head will explode. When she isn’t making things up, she is either teaching college students how to write essays, digging in her garden or just enjoying the beauty of nature. Her short stories have appeared in or are forthcoming from Women On Writing, Foliate Oak, Centum Press, Sick Lit Magazine, Fantasy Crossing and Mash Stories. You can find her online at https://saracodair.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, May 19, 2016

 

Bake Your Way to Happiness Review and Giveaway

If you liked Julia & Julia – either the book by Julie Powell, or the wonderful movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep – you will love this book! In Bake Your Way to Happiness: Recipes and Strategies to Nourish and Heal, you will find fifteen recipes along with fifteen strategies to nourish your body and spirit, and which will help you heal from all kinds of modern-day stresses and ails: sadness, body image issues, low self-worth, negative thinking, fear, insomnia, mood swings, anger, inner child issues, self sabotage, anxiety and more.

How do you bake your way to happiness? The answer is easy. You bake the wonderful recipes that have been tested especially for you by food editor, Gilean Watts, and you follow the creative workbook reconstructions that have been formulated by registered expert therapist, Marilyn Riesz.

Both the recipes and the reconstructions have been proven to work! The recipes come from Gilean’s granny and, during Gilean’s time at university, when she was suffering from a bout of depression, Gilean used these very recipes to overcome depression. And Marilyn’s unique therapy of reconstruction has been called miraculous by her clients, who are amazed by the level of healing that they bring.

A friend of WOW also has a hand in Bake Your Way to Happiness! Lisa de Nikolits, who had several books of hers tour with WOW, traded in her author hat for something different this time. This publication sees her wearing her art director and designer hat, more than that of author. But she hasn't relinquished her writer hat! In fact, Bake Your Way to Happiness was inspired by one of her books – the protagonist in one of her forthcoming novels pens a collection of Bake Your Way therapy cookbooks and de Nikolits realized that her character's cookbooks could be a real thing! So, with the help of the extremely talented Gilean Watts and Marilyn Riesz,  Bake Your Way to Happiness became a reality.

Bake Your Way to Happiness is available as a paperback here.


About the Authors

Marilyn Riesz
Marilyn Riesz, MA, RP is a registered psychotherapist with over 16 years private practice experience treating eating disorders, depression, anxiety, OCD and relationship issues. Marilyn has published numerous academic articles, led workshops, seminars and conferences. In addition to supervising and training graduate psychology students, she has enjoyed making guest television appearances, and presenting inspiring lectures in the mental health community. For more information about Marilyn and her therapeutic techniques, please visit eatingdisorderstherapy.ca

Gilean Watts
Gilean Watts is a recipe developer, food editor and writer with over six years of experience in food media. She is currently a food editor for Canadian Living, and has previously worked for brands such as Clean Eating magazine and Yahoo Canada. Gilean is a graduate of George Brown College’s prestigious Chef School, and the founder of the food blog Stuck in Thyme. For more of her work, visit stuckinthyme.com.

Lisa de Nikolits
Lisa de Nikolits has art directed and worked on international magazine titles including Marie Claire (South Africa), Vogue (Australia), Vogue Living (Australia), Cosmopolitan (Australia), SHE (Australia), Canadian Health & Lifestyle, Cosmetics, and Canadian Living. She is the acclaimed author of five novels: The Hungry Mirror, West of Wawa, A Glittering Chaos, The Witchdoctor’s Bones and Between The Cracks She Fell (all Inanna Publications). Visit Lisa at lisadenikolitsdesign.com and lisadenikolitswriter.com.



*****Book Review of Bake Your Way to Happiness*****

I'm on board for any book that's going to encourage me to bake, but Bake Your Way to Happiness is so much more than that! Each chapter is a mini-self improvement course addressing a different issue: everything from mood swings to negativity to overextending yourself. Things we all deal with everyday but too often ignore because we "don't have time" to think about them or change bad habits.

Each short chapter is laid out the same way: a short writing on the chapter's issue, an activity or writing assignment to get you thinking about the issue in your life,  the recipe, a long term activity to change negative habits, a drawing (they even leave space in the book so no searching for paper needed) and space to write down some conclusions on the issue's affect on your life and the activities you've done while addressing it. The recipes are Watts' grandmother's recipes and are uniquely chosen to "fit" the issue. I love the body issue chapter with orange-cranberry bread where the discussion is about how orange-cranberry bread is wonderful no matter if it's oval or round and how different ingredients are equally important and delicious no matter what their size and shape.

This is a great book where (like a recipe book) you can pick and choose what chapters appeal to you and your needs. There's no wading through endless discussions. Instead they identify a common problem and dive right into what you can do to make simple changes if you have that problem that can add up to big changes in your life. Things like the recipes and the drawings add a light-hearted aspect to the book. Bake your Way to Happiness makes self-improvement fun!

Paperback: 142 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (May 1, 2016)
ISBN: 1530539862

BOOK GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win your own copy of Bake Your Way to Happiness. This giveaway ends June 1st at 11:59pm. You can also enter a second giveaway until June 15 by visiting Goodreads.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

 

Bring Traffic (People) to Your Website through Power-Blogging - Build Authority and Make Sales

by Karen Cioffi

If you were to ask any marketer what the most important online marketing strategy is, each one is sure to say: Get traffic to your website.

Why is this such an important element of your online platform?

Well, without website traffic . . . no one will know what you’re about or what you’re offering.

So, how do you go about getting that traffic?

Below are 5 simple strategies to use.

1. You’ve got to blog. There’s no way around this one. You need to generate ‘valuable’ content on a regular basis.

2. Make your blog posts search engine and reader optimized.

If you’re wondering what this means, it simply means to use relevant keywords and format the post for easy reading.

An example of using relevant keywords: suppose your article is about cooking French food. You will want to include “French food” or “French cooking” in the title, the first paragraph, and near the end of the post.

3. The next essential element is to share those great articles you write to all your social networks. You should have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GooglePlus. While there are many others, these are a few of the biggies.

Sharing on social media will help broaden your marketing reach in leaps and bounds.

4. Visit other bloggers’ sites and leave comments. Be sure to actually read the article you’re commenting on. If your comment is interesting or informative, the author and/or other commenters may click on your link – bringing traffic back to your site.

5. It’s still a good idea to use article directories to generate more traffic. It gives you another pond to fish at - each of these directories has its own set of readers. And, many of the directories allow reprints, so simply use your blog post.

A few of the top directories to use are: eHow; Hubpages; Ezinearticles; Examiner; Articlebase; and Technorati.

When using article directories, be sure to include a brief, but effective bio in the provided resource box. And, include a link back to your landing page or sales page.

There are lots and lots of other article directories you can use, just do a Google search.

These are some simple ways to bring traffic to your website to gain visibility and authority. Keep in mind that marketing is an on-going journey. Just keep producing that content. And, be sure it’s valuable enough so others will want to share it.

***

Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.

>>>>Join Karen Cioffi's upcoming online class, BECOME A POWER-BLOGGER AND CONTENT WRITER IN JUST 4 WEEKS. Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

 

Interview with Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Runner Up Tori Malcangio

Tori’s Bio:

Born to a national champion gymnast and a rodeo queen, Tori can’t do the splits or race barrels. Arizona was home for her first twenty-something years, then a stint in Atlanta and finally San Diego where she currently lives and writes and tries tirelessly to teach her three kids tolerance and how to pee neatly. She’s also been an advertising copywriter for a long, long time and has, admittedly, written a sentence with exactly six adjectives in it.

Stories can be found in: American Literary Review; Chattahoochee Review; Mississippi Review; Tampa Review; Cream City Review; ZYZZYVA; River Styx; Ruminate Magazine; Passages North; Smokelong Quarterly; Pearl Magazine; Literary Mama; and more. Winner of the William Van Dyke Fiction Prize, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and Waasmode Fiction Prize. Pushcart Prize nominee and MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars. And that novel she’s been writing...fingers crossed.

If you haven’t done so already, check out Tori’s award-winning story “Thirst” and then return here for a chat with the author.

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

Tori: I live in San Diego and with the drought and California's new stringent water restrictions, water is top of mind. Of course, I took those feelings to a darker place because it's so darn hard to write happy. Oh, and I'm a mom who thinks obsessively about worse-case scenarios. Oh, and I'm selfish with my time and I think in Gestalt therapy that might be symbolic for water.

WOW: Will you tell us more about that novel you’re writing?

Tori: An exploration of the triumphs and dark places a tight mother/father team endure while raising a troubled, mentally ill child, and then what happens when that mother is suddenly, tragically, faced with doing it alone.

WOW: Ooh, intriguing, and that brings to life similar elements you’ve just described about your short story: that darker place, worst-case scenario writing. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Tori: Favorite: my life is otherwise pretty vanilla predictable as it has to be with 3 kids, but when I'm with my characters they take me places I'd never go and we do things that might otherwise get me kicked off my sweet suburban street. My least favorite part is how being a writer skews my radar to ultra-sensitive mode. I'm no longer able to just spectate. Every place I go, everything I see is smothered by "story" —who feels what, motivations, dialogue inflections and tics etc. I'm always writing, even when I'm not, which means I have a bad habit of drifting from moments I should be paying closer “conscious” attention to.

WOW: Yes! I get that. I’m also always wondering about other people’s stories, or the stories behind certain objects or places. Sometimes that perspective can be a gift and a great catalyst for new stories. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Tori: I'm in a reading drought at the moment. I was on a roll, reading lovely book after book: A whip-smart debut short story collection, “People Like You,” by Margaret Malone, Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See" and then started a novel I’m just struggling to get through. I may give up, but I hate giving up because I know there’s a writer behind the story who sacrificed so much in heart and time to get the words on paper.

WOW: If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Tori: Writing, and the squirrely act of being a writer, requires so much—time, space, advocacy—so it’s not always possible to sit down and write every single day (which can get depressing if that story is clawing at your skull), but my mentor years ago said: do something writer-ish every day, even if that one thing is simply jotting down two new books you desperately want. It is something. And it’s keeping you spinning in the writerly orbit.

WOW: I love that advice! Thank you for it and for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

 

The Facebook Page Post Boost Experiment

Before two weeks ago, I had been completely lacking in my social media marketing. Call it a bad attitude, rough spot in life, or thinking no amount of marketing mattered unless I was J. K. Rowling--my Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram were sorely lacking. I was still active on Facebook and Twitter thanks to my job with WOW! as social media manager, but my personal accounts were a mess.

While recovering from being sick and thinking about a blog idea I'd had for a couple months, I decided to get out of my self-induced rut and focus on these three social media accounts. And here's the great thing: the social media world is very forgiving. As soon as I was active again, so were my followers, friends, and page fans. And best of all, I was having fun! It was bringing back a spark for my writing life that had been missing for months (over 12 months actually). 

Okay, okay, so you probably decided to read this post because of the title--so yes, during this resurrection, I also decided to boost (for $$) a Facebook post on my professional page. (And you could LIKE it right now and join in the fun--no pressure--it would just make this little author writing this blog post so happy.) On a whim, I had asked my Facebook  fans (the people who like your professional page are called fans) what is some advice they follow day to day to make it through--do they have a saying or inspirational quote that helps them? The response was more than I could have hoped for. 

Facebook in all its wisdom also noticed that this post was getting more attention than most of mine do; and in my notifications, I was informed I could boost this post and reach a much greater number of people. I started thinking: What would it hurt to spend $20 to boost this post and try to get more likes on my page? I am getting ready to start a new project, and I need all the support I can get. So, I did. I spent $20 and boosted the post, which shows up as a SPONSORED post in people's newsfeed. You can also target whom you want to see this sponsored post, and I chose my friends and their friends. I did it this way because I was thinking two things: 1. new people might see their own friend answered my question so I would have a connection already  2. there might be people I know, but have not connected with yet on Facebook. 

I also decided to run a contest with this post. For the week the post was sponsored, if someone commented on a different post OR liked my page, they were entered to win one of my books or $20 toward editing. I put this contest announcement IN THE COMMENTS of the sponsored post, so people sharing their day-to-day inspirational advice would see the contest. I also put it on my private Facebook profile and on Twitter.

I am extremely happy with the results. I have 32 new fans (which I had been stuck on 939 for MONTHS), and the woman who won my book was a NEW FAN--one I did not know before this boost experiment. I don't have to tell you how every new person who will read your book is an opportunity.

Also I learned, people like to share advice and be asked their opinion. I don't think I would have gotten the same results if I would have simply said in my sponsored post: Like my page. Win a book. 

But best of all, I have my marketing passion back--and I'm planning more marketing ideas all the time. I'm sure if my publishers are reading this, they're saying: "Well, thank goodness for that!" If you have any questions about Twitter or Facebook pages or boosting posts, just ask in the comments below. 

Margo L. Dill is the author of three books for children and teaches classes for WOW! Women On Writing.

Are you a fan of WOW!'s page on Facebook? You can join it here

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The Best-Kept Writer Secret

My secret writer resource!
I’ve never been good at keeping secrets, so I’m just going to spill the beans. Or rather, books. Because the best writer’s resource I know is the good, old public library.

Yes, it’s the public library, so you’re probably wondering what’s so secret about that?

Well, today’s public library is not your mother’s public library. There are still books—the kind you hold in your hands and digital ones, too—but there’s so much more. Except… when was the last time you explored your library? There are all kinds of secret treasures waiting to be found!

Did you know that many magazines—the ones you need to peruse and study before querying your article—are available through your public library? So you don’t have to buy all those magazines?

Oh. You already knew that, Miss Smartypants. Then how about this?

Technology! Computers, wi-fi, wireless printing, maybe even a TechStudio—all free for you and me! And all kinds of support to go along with that technology. So if you want to make a book trailer, ask your public library for a little help.

Okay, fine. You knew that, too. And you probably know all about classes and workshops offered at your public library. But did you know that you could be the one offering a class or a workshop?

Hah. That’s right, you Not-So-Famous Author. And you, too, Not-Published-By-A-Huge-Trade-Publisher. Because your public library is mandated to provide services for the community. So all you have to do is come up with a service that the community might like.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can follow to offer a workshop in the library:

1. Meet your library’s Community contact.
2. Ask her or him about offering a workshop.

Yep. That’s about all you need to do. But here are a few tips that will help you “sell” your writer’s workshop to your library:

1. Offer to do the workshop for free.
2. Develop a workshop that will have a wide appeal.

Now, maybe you’re asking yourself why you’d offer a workshop for free. After all, the big name authors don’t do workshops or author visits for free. That’s true, and when you are a big name author, you won’t, either. The thing is, libraries typically have small—very, very small budgets—so if you are willing to work for free, you’re already halfway to your workshop. And you can make a bit of money other ways.

Likely, you have a book that you can sell. Perhaps you have several books to sell. And maybe you have a website that you can direct patrons to where they can find out more about you (and buy from your links). Perhaps you’ll develop a group of local readers who’ll love your books and support you when your next book is released.

All because you gave a fun and interesting writer’s workshop at your public library. So pssst! Check out all the exciting opportunities at your local library—and pass the writer’s secret on!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

 

Customizable Journaling System

As most writers do, I keep a journal.

Sometimes many journals.

And I stress over whether I should keep separate journals or combine them into one.

(Side note: The first time I openly discussed this dilemma was with one of my creative writing graduate school professors who told me I should read The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, which I immediately purchased, have started several times, have not yet finished, but it is still on my bookshelf, thoroughly taunting me.)

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to keep a journal, so that makes this decision even more difficult.

I am an impulsive notebook buyer, so I have plenty of empty journals stacked in various drawers, closets, and floors of my office. They beg me to write in them, which is how I usually end up writing in multiple journals.

But I rarely, if ever (?), fill a notebook completely from start to finish for myriad reasons. My journals are not just places that I write with a pen or pencil – I also fill them with collage and stickers and lists written in Sharpies and even occasionally mark them up with paint and spray inks. Your $1 composition notebooks don’t hold up well to this kind of treatment. The bindings of many notebooks collapse with all of the expansion from glue and collage. And I refuse to even consider using a notebook that I can’t lay flat.

After a bit of research – and a bit of stress – I just made my next journal purchasing decision: the Staples Arc Customizable Notebook System. This is similar to other customizable notebook option such as Create 365’s Happy Planner or Mead’s Five Star Flex, but I chose the Arc because of its array of accessories for the 8.5” X 11” size and its option to NOT buy the Arc paper.

Let me explain: I bought a poly cover, a set of 11 rings for the binding, a special hole puncher that allows the papers to move easily from one location in the notebook to another, and a clear pocket to store supplies. Then I punched holes in the card stock and heavy-weighted printer paper I already had at home to fill the gap between the front and back covers.

And voila! A notebook that meets all of my specifications for a journal:

  • Lays flat
  • High-quality paper
  • Expandable binding
  • Portable yet...
  • ...Large enough for all of my journaling needs

I wondered if it would be cheaper and easier just to get a three-ring binder and fill it will paper of my choice, but I have tried that before, and although that works pretty well for affordable scrapbooking, it loses the bendable notebook feel I love for my journals.

So here it is, my customizable Arc journal in progress:
Disc binding that allows me to move pages and even swap covers.
Glimpse of the blank pages inside the journal with tabbing system.
Tabs by Roben-Marie
Clear storage pocket and May cover.
Have you used this or anything like it? Are you as picky about your notebooks and journals as I am?

Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor

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Friday, May 13, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Beat Writer's Block!

by Allie Long

How do you confront what is stopping you from just sitting down and writing? Hopefully this list of the reasons will help combat writer’s block and tap into your inner ability to "just do it."

1. Perfectionism: It's easy to think your writing will never be as great as your favorite writers’. The blood, sweat, and tears are absent from the glossy book covers and lists of awards, but just because you don't see them doesn't mean they didn't happen. Write now, edit later. You'd be surprised the amount of material you can come up with just be writing a stream-of-consciousness about your day. The only way to access a diamond is to weed through the rough and find something worth polishing.

2. Feeling uninspired: This is probably the biggest problem I have when writing. It can make a person question his or her entire identity as a writer, but the solution to this problem is right under our noses. Writing is solitary, no doubt, but too much isolation can leave a writer severely lacking in the ideas department. Our commitment to our work can be self-sabotaging if it leads to neglecting our lives outside of writing. Take a couple days to just live, and you'll be surprised at just how quickly you are ready to write again.

3. You aren't reading enough: Time to go back to the drawing board. The books you read are a vital part of your writer's toolbox. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more problems you'll be able to solve and things you'll be able to build. I don't believe in over-studying or over-rehearsing, and I certainly don't believe in over-reading.

4. Fear of failure: Maybe you're scared of criticism, maybe you're horrified at the thought of rejection, or maybe you've already written something great and you're worried you'll never top it. Self-expression will not always please everyone around us, but you'd be surprised how much openness and vulnerability are appreciated. Maybe you will even inspire others to overcome their fear of failure in the process, and that's worth just as much as writing something spectacular.

5. Too many distractions: Facebook, Twitter, just one more Netflix show. We've all been there. Commit time during the day to writing and enjoy your favorite TV shows at night. If you don't take your work seriously, nobody else will. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish, and it will make your relaxation time that much sweeter.

6. You don't really want to write: If you've tried everything under the sun, and you still can't force yourself to write something, it might be time to come to terms with the idea that you may not want to write anything at all. The only way to know if this is the case is to do some serious soul-searching about why you want to write. If there's a will, there's a way. But if there isn't a will, well, you can figure out the rest.

* * *
Allie Long is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, majoring in economics and English. Her poems and essays appear in Hooligan Magazine, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Bird's Thumb. You can find more of her work at http://www.upyourallie.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, May 12, 2016

 

What Middle Grade Readers Really Want

As I sat pondering what to write my latest post about, I called out to my kids to pick up ALL of their stacks of books that were downstairs. Then it hit me. Books. A lot of them. I switched my tactic and sat them both down so we could talk books. They loved that. As an aspiring children's books author, I know I should take advantage of the fact that I have two voracious readers in the house. I already make them read my crappy first drafts--why not ask them what reels them in as a reader?

First I chatted with my daughter (almost 13 years old). I've spent the last two years watching her devour every single book (including the graphic novels) in the Warriors series. She said the series, which follows the various clans of wild cats as they battle the elements and each other, initially drew her in because it was full of action and adventure, along with being fast-paced. She loved them so much her brother had to read a few of the books because he wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Did I mention these books are all about cats, and take place from the point of view of cats? So for many children, animal characters mixed with fantasy can do really well.

Another collection of books on my daughter's bookshelf (besides the Percy Jackson series) are graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. She had already read Smile (I'm positive that book helped her get over the shock of having to get an orthodontic appliance recently) and Drama when she discovered Telgemeier had created a series of graphic novels based on The Babysitter's Club series. As she explained, it was fun reading about a series she was already familiar with, because this time, she could see the story visually appear on each page.

Both of my kids love a good series. I guess I can understand that, having grown up reading Sweet Valley High, The Babysitter's Club, Trixie Belden, and many others. Or I would get hooked on one particular author and have to read everything in his or her catalogue (hmm . . . I still do that)! At first I thought Harry Potter was going to pass right by my kids. Then this year, my fourth-grade son saw all his classmates reading the first book in class, and thought he'd give it a try. I was skeptical when he first brought it home, because he is normally drawn to humor like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I Funny, or Big Nate. Imagine my surprise as he is now on the fifth book in the series. And my daughter decided she needed to read the series since her brother was reading it and she was not going to be left out.

So let's see. What do middle grade readers really want to read? If you look at what my own kids are reading, it varies. They love humor . . . British humor included. They love stories with animals. They want to read about magical, fantastical worlds, where characters are taught an important lesson. Stories that help them deal with bullying and growing up are also high on the list. (And based on their reaction to a middle-grade book draft I wrote a few years ago, you can throw time travel in there, too.)

I'm impressed and proud of my kids' tastes in books. I hope I've had a little to do with it. However, I can't take all the credit. Their school does a wonderful job introducing them to new authors, such as the unit they had on Roald Dahl. Now I'm hooked on his wonderful tales after reading with the kids.

What are some of your children's (or your own) favorite books for kids?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who loves reading good middle-grade and young adult fiction almost as much as adult novels. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

 

There's No Sparkly Bow

Here it is 7:21pm my time (I'm in chilly Wisconsin) and just a few hours ago I realized I missed the deadline for my WOW! article. The article should have posted at midnight last night and you should have been reading it with your morning coffee instead of your evening cocktail (you're having a cocktail, right? Tell me I'm not the only one?). When I realized my error, I went through all those emotions you feel when you think you've let someone down. That's such an awful feeling, isn't it?

As I was processing my mistake, I was also writing a check to the hooftrimmer, cleaning up a mess from our potty training toddler, changing a diaper for our 1 year old, reminding my older children to get their homework done and have dinner because it's baseball night, etc...and then I picked up my phone. Across the front of the screen was a message from a local mom who I've gotten to know through a local parenting group. Her baby was born 16 weeks early and today she took her last (assisted) breaths as she lay in her father's arms.

I stopped in my tracks.

The frustration I had been feeling drained right out of me - picture an ice sculpture long after the party has ended. My frustration was nothing more than a puddle on the floor. Spent, meaningless, and without purpose.

I take on too much. You take on too much. Instead of saying "NO", we try to fit one more thing into our schedules. We try to please one more person, meet one more deadline, and what's the big deal, right? It really isn't a big deal, UNTIL we start beating ourselves up. When our lives don't fold up neatly and fit in the box with the bow, we sometimes feel we have failed. I'm not sure who told us that life was a pretty little box with a sparkly bow...but it's not. I'm here to tell you today, that life is messy. Some days it's a "did I even brush my teeth today?" kind of messy.

And

That's

OKAY!

It really isn't that big of a deal. There is no special prize at the end of life for the person who has the most tidy underwear drawer, the cleanest vehicle, or the person who hasn't missed a single deadline. The messy times of life, the times we struggle, and the times we break down - those are the times that teach us grace and humility. We learn how to beg for forgiveness and learn how to prioritize. We may even (over time) learn how to say no and take on less...maybe.

I took a deep breath after hearing the sad news about baby Valerie. Then I looked at the clock and raced off to baseball practice. We were 3 minutes late which is in improvement over Monday night. A friend ran up to me and we hugged. She said she is tired and life has been hard. She told me social media has her down. She feels like she's the only mom struggling with temper tantrums, meltdowns, and the ups and downs that is life with children. She said "why can't people be more real?".

I'm here to tell you (and my friend) that there is no sparkly bow and no neat little packages. Life is messy and sometimes curse words double as a coma. Life is moldy apples under the drivers seat of the minivan, boogers wiped on the wall, unshaven legs, a mom bun, and yoga pants. Life is saying goodbye too soon, hello too late, but most of all it's about grace and humility. Saying I'm sorry and meaning it, offering comfort, providing support, and just showing up.

Stop looking for those sparkly bows and just accept who you are and where you are. Know that you are loved and there's lots of us out there in the same boat you are.

Cheers!

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 7, 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 here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

 

Meet Kip Wilson, Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Kip Wilson is a YA writer with a Ph.D. in German Literature. Her work has been published in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies as well as several magazines for children. She is also the Events Editor at Mommy Poppins Boston and the Poetry Editor at YARN: The YA Review Network, publishing new teen poets alongside superstars like Jacqueline Woodson. Find her on the web at www.kipwilsonwrites.com and on twitter at @kiperoo.

Read Kip's winning entry, Flight 6300, here and then come back for an engaging interview!

WOW: Welcome, Kip, and congratulations! Your bio says you have a passion for "books, languages, and travel." Where are some of the places you've traveled and what are your top three favorites?

Kip: I do love traveling. I have a Ph.D. in German Literature, and have spent a fair amount of time in the German-speaking world, including a year in Austria on a Fulbright. What a beautiful country! It is definitely one of my favorites. My husband is from Spain, which has some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and I can't forget Iceland, which just has something completely haunting about it.

WOW: What inspired the idea for Flight 6300?

Kip: Some ideas just hit you, and this story was like that for me. I had just woken up--and I get up at 5am every day--and could just see the boy and the peacock-haired girl piling on the plane with all their gear and somehow it seemed evident that they were part of a French class on a trip to Paris. This was my first attempt at flash fiction--I've had one short story published, but my other projects have all been novels--and it also seemed obvious that this was going to be a quick snippet into these lives for a very short time.

WOW: You are represented by Roseanne Wells of the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. How did you go about finding your agent?

Kip: Like most, through querying. All the details about getting my agent are here in this blog post (http://www.kipwilsonwrites.com/writing-news/), but even though I was able to improve my manuscript significantly after being selected in PitchWars (see below), I was a slush puppy for years, but along the way, I kept working on new projects, learning as much as I could, and always, always striving to improve.

WOW: You've participated (successfully, it sounds like!) in PitchWars in the past. For those who aren't familiar with it, can you give us a brief overview of what it is and how it can be beneficial to writers?

Kip: PitchWars is pretty much the best contest ever. Many writing contests are great in that they help writers polish up their queries and first pages, with the aim of getting the writers' work in front of agents, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But PitchWars is truly unique in that it grants each writer a professional mentor for a thorough revision before those agents see the project. I was lucky enough to win Sarah Guillory (http://sarahguillory.com/) as my mentor in PitchWars 2014, and she not only gave me the tools I needed to polish my manuscript that ultimately helped me land an agent, but she also taught me practical writing tips I'm still using on other projects.

 The thing about contests is that they work great if you keep your expectations in check. If you expect to nab an agent and a book deal right away, well, it might happen. But realistically, most projects actually need more work, and they take as long as they take. So if you wind up with an improved manuscript, new writing friends, and more tools at your disposal to continue to improve, then you've already "won."

WOW: As mom to 8-year-old twin girls, what are some of the books they've read recently that you would recommend in children's literature?

Kip: The very best thing about being a mom to twins is witnessing what unique people they are becoming, and that's already evident with my girls based on their book choices. I do bring a fair amount of books into the home because they won awards, they are diverse, or because I know the author. However, I also adore watching my girls in libraries and bookstores as they each gravitate to their own types of books that uniquely match their personalities. One of my girls reads a LOT (like 10 books a week--I'm not even kidding). She loves fantasy and historical, and one of her recent favorites was PAPER WISHES by Lois Sepahban (http://www.loissepahban.com/). She loved it so much that of course I read it right away, too. SO GOOD. My other girl prefers graphic novels and picture books. She doesn't read as much as her sister, but when she falls in love with a book, she drops everything. Right now, she is reading (and loving) ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson (http://www.victoriajamieson.com/books/), which is pretty much the perfect book for her personality.


Thanks for all the great insight, Kip! We look forward to reading more of your upcoming work.

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Monday, May 09, 2016

 

Incarnation by Laura Davis Hays: Blog Tour Launch and Giveaway

Kelsey Depuis, Santa Fe scientist, and Iriel, betrothed on Atlantis to a man she cannot love―two young women bound by a single soul.

In Kelsey’s everyday world, three men shape her life: Myron Crouch, the boss of BioVenture Enterprises; Harrison Stillman, a brilliant colleague of hers there; and Stan Dresser, who twists her feelings with his kisses and lies.

But gradually, growingly, Iriel is shaping her life too. Through dreams and visions, she draws Kelsey into the ancient realm where refusal to marry Gewil has driven her to daring flight with fantastic creatures across a strange and terrible land.

As Kelsey joins other BioVenture researchers testing a new organism on a remote Caribbean island, turmoil and violence darken her fate―and Iriel’s presence grows stronger. Worlds shift and merge, danger grows. Past and present, vengeance and love swirl together as the seas rise up, the seas that once swallowed Atlantis.

Tested in life-or-death struggle, Kelsey must face an ordeal she can survive only through great courage and deep karmic understanding.

Paperback: 388 pages
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (March 1, 2016)
ISBN-10:  1938288440
ISBN-13:  978-1938288449

Incarnation is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Incarnation, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Monday, May 16th at 11:59 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About Laura Davis Hays:
Laura Davis Hays is a California native, the only child of a theoretical physicist and a librarian. Her prize-winning body of work includes a forthcoming fantasy series, the Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early twentieth century. Hays is also an accounting consultant, a performing pianist, a composer, and a skier. She and her husband live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with their two cats, Rufus and Dexter.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Website: http://www.lauradavishays.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Laura-D-Hays/452218858264307

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gotoatlantis

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14508920.Laura_Davis_Hays

-----Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Laura! We're excited to get this tour launched and help spread the word about your novel. Where did you get the idea for Incarnation, and come up with all the twists and turns?

Laura: In 1984, I read Shirley MacClaine’s book Out on a Limb about her encounters with psychics, channels, and her exploration into memories of her own past lives. I was fascinated by the topic and found myself wanting to read an account of past life memories that were as full-on as a real memory. I thought I might be able to write such a story and that it would have to be fiction because that would allow me to explore a “what if” situation more freely. Ever since my father died at the age of 40 from radiation-induced cancer, I wanted to believe that life went on after death. Now, as I think more deeply about my fascination with life after death and reincarnation, I believe I am searching for meaning that strong events, like the death of a loved one, can bring to one’s being. Life is so beautiful, and just like places on earth that might remain unvisited, other times on earth also call to my soul.

Twists and turns came with the writing over a long period of time. The characters had their way with me and ultimately led me to the ending that seemed to satisfy all that came before.

WOW: Did you read Edgar Cayce’s writing as research for your story?

Laura: Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet, did life readings for many people and found experiences of far and long ago events. This was another piece of evidence lending veracity to reincarnation. I found his book On Atlantis helpful in writing about the lost continent, because his vision was broader and more fantastical. I don’t like to do research as much as I like to imagine and make things up. Cayce gave me a baseline from which to work. I also read several books on near death experience that give a consistent picture of what happens at the moment of death and what the afterlife might be like, including the decision to reincarnate.

WOW: Who was your favorite character to write, and who was the hardest?

Laura: Kelsey, my protagonist, was probably the hardest as I was closest to her. She had to change during the course of the writing, becoming stronger, angrier, more courageous, and less of a victim. I suppose I too have made these changes. Stan was also a bit hard because I felt I needed to have compassion for him, which I did in the end. I enjoyed all my Atlantis characters. Quiri, who is important particularly in the second book, came walking down the road one day as I was writing. I didn’t have any idea about him before that. He is fun because he is a wizard and can play tricks on those around him and has special knowledge.

WOW: How long did the first draft take and what was the revision process like?

Laura: The first draft was 1200 pages, back and forth between Kelsey’s and Iriel’s point of view. I think I wrote that fairly fast, like in a year or two. I knew it was too long, so I started trying to cut the book down by editing the writing, polishing, shortening. When I went to a writers’ conference in Albuquerque one summer, I met a “psychic” agent who told me I should “cut the book in half.” I was thinking, yeah, that’s what I’m doing, until it dawned on me I might have multiple books. At that point I excised a lot of the Atlantis Material that will be at least a trilogy—kind of a sequel to Incarnation. Also, I was in a learning curve and was certainly making beginner mistakes, like starting with a dream (agents didn’t like it) and some of what I wrote was not very concise or engaging. I was in a writers’ group at that time, and we all were enthusiastic editors of one another’s work. The process led to a lot of rewrites of beginning chapters. After the group broke up, I took a look at the ending and knew it wasn’t that good. I was reading Steven King’s book, On Writing, and learned he wrote 1000 words a day. I said to myself, if Steven King can do it, so can I. So once again I found myself doubling the size of the book. Still, I had all the scientists, and the island, and a lot of new good stuff. After that I began cutting again, relying a lot on word count, trying to target a reasonable under 400 page length. That process was a lot of fun, learning that I could leave off sentences, paragraphs, intermediate dialog and the writing would still make sense. So the process was expansion, shrinking, expansion, back and forth. On the last edit I wrote a few new short scenes that I’m happy with. The whole thing took 30 years from inception to printing.

WOW: How involved were you with the cover?

Laura: I only knew I wanted that turquoise water. Scott Gerber, publisher of Terra Nova, created the cover, and I approved it immediately. I like the mysterious figure and even the slanted letters in the title.

WOW: Can you tell us more about your upcoming fantasy series?

Laura: The Atlantis Material started with excised writings from an early draft of Incarnation, and is entirely set in antediluvian Atlantis. The first book, Chosen, is Iriel’s coming of age story. She is 13 at the beginning of the book, and her family has arranged a betrothal to the son of the richest most powerful man on their outlying island in the Atlantian chain. It is a time of unrest and change in their peaceful isolated village as the young people become curious about the events of the past (the prior destructions of the continent that caused it to break up into smaller islands) and a desire to travel to what remains of the mainland. Chosen is also Muamdi’s story. Muamdi is Iriel’s grandmother and she has been shunned for her abilities to work with healing psycho-active crystals that caused a personal tragedy early in her life. The next book, Rain, goes back to the seeding of Atlantis by star-beings, and the life of Queen Lyticia who stole the throne from her parents, caused the second destruction, and was later redeemed. The rest of the series is about the final days of Atlantis and Iriel’s mission to stop it.

WOW: How did you find your publisher, Terra Nova Books?

Laura: I heard about a local talk on e-books. Marty Gerber, editor of Terra Nova, spoke, and I liked what I heard about their new press and their program. Afterwards I went up and spoke to him and he encouraged me to send the book. He read it and liked it, so that was a good start to the process.

WOW: How did your degrees in mathematics and psychology lead you to writing fiction?

Laura: I have always been a reader. As I child my father read to me every night, adventure books like Kon Tiki, and She, by Edgar Rice Boroughs. I also read all the Oz books, Nancy Drew, and many others. In high school, I was given the option to write stories instead of research papers, which I found much more fun. I suppose that planted the seed. I also loved math—my father was a physicist and taught me math beyond my years, and my grandfather was a mathematician and a writer. In college I found psychology, sociology, history, and literature also held a lot of fascination, so I double majored. I think the psychology helps me understand characters and relationships, and the math makes me enjoy structure and complexity in my stories.

WOW: Ah, this makes sense given the history between Kelsey and her father in the novel. You are also a musician. How do you balance your music and writing?

Laura: I have been a musician since I was 9 years old, and they say music goes along with math. Music is my great pleasure—I’ve never been particularly ambitious musically—it makes me feel happy, takes away my troubles, expresses my joy and passion. I play piano at a new thought church in a small band, doing lots of rock and roll, some originals, some contemplative ballads, and I love it. I also play jazz and classical. At home, if I have a writing day, I go back and forth to the piano. It’s very compatible. I also have a day job doing accounting for small businesses and personal clients, which I do enjoy, certainly tapping into and pleasuring the math part of my brain and the psychology of money. So the balancing act gets a little more tricky with so many things to think about and remember. I need to be alert whether I’m performing, meeting with clients, or solving structural problems in my books. When I’m deep in the story or playing the piano, I can enter an altered state. I am my most dreamy and relaxed.

WOW: What books do you read for pleasure?

Laura: I like good literary novels and short stories: Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Ann Patchett, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Franzen. I like a touch of fantasy for sure. I’m currently reading Lila by Marilynne Robinson, and enjoying the very unusual character of Lila as she navigates her proper world married to a small town preacher. I recently enjoyed Euphoria by Lily King, a takeoff on Margaret Mead’s life and work in the early 20th century. I love exotic settings and adventure stories, and this is one of the best. There are so many great authors out there these days.

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

Monday, May 9 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Laura and enter to win a copy of Incarnation.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday, May 11 @ Renee's Pages
Renee Roberson reviews Incarnation.
http://www.reneespages.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, May 17 @ Beverley A. Baird
See what Beverley thought about the mystery and intrigue of Incarnation.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

Thursday, May 19 @ Knotty Kneedle
Judy shares her take on Laura Davis Hays' novel.
http://www.knottyneedle.blogspot.com

May 20 @ Thoughts in Progress
Mason reviews Incarnation, by Laura Davis Hays.
http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com

May 24 @ Celtic Lady's Review
Stop by for an author spotlight with Laura Davis Hays.
http://celticladysreviews.blogspot.com/

May 25 @ MC Simon Writes
MC discusses her experience reading Incarnation.
http://www.mcsimonwrites.com

June 1 @ Vickie S. Miller
Read Vickie's review of the metaphysical thriller, Incarnation.
http://www.vickiesmiller.com/

June 2 @ Building Bookshelves
Jodi interviews Laura Davis Hays about the writing process.

blogs.republicanherald.com/bookshelves
June 3 @ Deal Sharing Aunt
Vicky Brinus shares a review of the novel.
http://www.dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

*We are still seeking at least two more bloggers to review Incarnation. Contact renee@wow-womenonwriting.com if you are interested in receiving a copy of the book in exchange for a review.


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

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

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

Enter to win a copy of Incarnation! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce a winner in the Rafflecopter widget on Monday, May 16th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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