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Sunday, July 31, 2016

 

Comparing: the Key to Unhappiness

My favorite unhappy face (in case you needed a visual)
Picture it: Third grade in a small Midwestern town. A little girl with glasses reaches her hand out to accept her spelling test. She is incredibly proud when she notices the 100% at the top of the page. Next to the grade is a smiley face sticker. She can’t wait to bring it home to show her parents. She leans over to tell her friend the good news. Before she can express her excitement, her friend shows her the 101% on her own paper. The first little girls smile fades and by the time she shows her test to her parents, her enthusiasm has faded away and she simply places the paper in the pile on the table.

Did the 101% grade of her classmate really change her 100% to something substandard? Of course not! The second student had somehow managed to do some extra credit. The 101% had absolutely nothing to do with the first girl’s grade. I suggest that the comparison is the root of the problem in this scenario. There are many pieces to the puzzle of unhappiness, but the key element is comparing. If you start comparing yourself with others, your joy will be stolen and all that remains is unhappiness and discontent.

Your weekend away at the local campground was exactly what you needed to feel rejuvenated and refreshed. That was until your co-worker told you about her upcoming cruise in the Bahamas. Her brochure showing bikini clad supermodels walking on white sandy beaches has you feeling like a pauper with your flip flops your hammock and the bonfire before bed. The 500 words you managed to write over the weekend felt like quite the accomplishment until your BFF posted to social media that she’s got 2,000 words per day under her belt.

There will always be someone faster, smarter, richer, more organized, thinner, taller, more successful, etc… The key is to compare less and enjoy more. If we go back to our original example, the little girl with the 100% should just take her test home and tell her parents the amazing news about her fabulous test score.

How do you stop yourself from comparing? Do you have an example of a time when comparing stole your joy and happiness? Please leave your comments and ideas here – we love to hear from readers and we can all learn from one another!

Hopefully just reading this article will help you the next time you want to compare yourself to someone else. Maybe you’ll stop and just bask in the happiness of the amazingness that is you!


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.


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

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

 

5 Secrets to Writing a Great Mystery

If you’re a regular Muffin reader, you’ve probably figured out that I never work on one project at a time. Never. I’m always roughing something out, taking something to final and contemplating something new. One of the manuscripts lurking in the back of my brain is a mystery. I’ve never written a mystery before so I was thrilled to find Susan Spann’s post on mystery writing. Here is a small part of what I learned.

1. Great mysteries start with great detectives. If you’re contemplating your first mystery, you may be noodling over the crime. That’s well and good because mysteries do focus on solving a crime but truly central to the story is a memorable detective. She doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or Phryne Fisher but she has to be memorable and part of what makes her memorable is . . .

2. The damage that’s been done. Great detectives have something they are trying to overcome. For some it is alcoholism and a partner killed the day he was supposed to retire. For others it is a missing sibling, a less than stellar childhood, or physical injury. Whatever it is, give your detective something to struggle with as she seeks to solve the crime.

3. Do it in a big, grand way. Your readers will have read not only mysteries but the daily news. Cold as this may sound, you can’t serve up a death that’s ho-hum and ordinary. You need to give your dastardly deed a bit of panache. Come up with a murder and a victim that you can make intriguing and/or colorful. This is going to take a bit of . . .

4. Planning makes perfect. From the crime and victim to the murderer and the big reveal, carefully plotted mysteries don’t just happen. Your mystery is going to take careful planning. If you’re a pantser like me, you may have to overcome your natural tendencies but, in truth, it is the only way to pull together a solid mystery.

5. Rewriting makes perfect. Even you plotters and planners are going to have to rewrite because there will be things you’ve missed. Be sure to fix them in the rewrite, planting red herrings, leaving the murder weapon in plain sight and otherwise creating the carefully crafted work that will pull readers in.

If you’re thinking about writing a mystery, be sure to read Spann’s original post. Me? I have damage to uncover. As she stands, my sleuth is a little too perfect to darken the pages of a mystery.

--SueBE

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

 

Words of Inspiration: What Inspires You?

I had a zero hour drama class in high school. We woke up before the sun several days and met together, often tired and stressed out high school students. So our teacher started each class with words of inspiration. She was also smart. Instead of creating more work for herself, she assigned each of us the task of presenting words of inspiration to our classmates about once a month. We could share a poem, a song, a small skit, a quote, a talk from the heart--we got creative (we were drama students after all), and it was a fun and inspiring way to start the day.

Some of you may begin the day now with your own form of "words of inspiration." Maybe you read a devotional or do morning pages. Some people read a particular blog or sit out on their deck with coffee and watch the birds (and other wildlife depending on where you live) in their own backyards. I've seen all these posts on Facebook and Twitter, and love to see what inspires other writers. I've kept it no secret that I've had a hard time for over a  year now with inspiration and fiction writing, and so inspiration is currently on my mind. I am being led a different direction with my writing and continue to be inspired by making plans for a new blog that could turn into more. Stay tuned, because if I ever turn these plans into reality, you all will be the first to know.

Anyway, let's talk a little about what inspires you!

Is it. . .

Nature?


Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon by Joe Kopp (See more at joekoppart.com)

Your family?
My daughter & friend at the Magic House in St. Louis

Other Works of Art?


Photo book by Sheree & Russell Nielsen;  Painting by Irina (Henri Edmond Cross-Antibes-Afternoon)

I would love to hear what inspires you. Currently, I have a bulletin board full of notes I write myself, in hopes that I follow my own advice, and I start that blog I'm beginning to feel inspired to write. Here's a glimpse:


So please share with us: What inspires you to write? Do you use "words of inspiration" in the morning to help with your creative process?

Margo L. Dill is a published children's author, writing teacher, and editor. She teaches the novel writing class for WOW! Women On Writing, which is another form of inspiration--teaching and learning. 


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 

Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Supie Dunbar!

After retiring Supie Dunbar surprised herself by becoming a writer. Her poetry and flash fiction are published in print (Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Blotterature Literary Magazine) and online (A Quiet Courage, The Voices Project). Supie lives in Chicago with her good dog Charlie.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2016 Flash Fiction competition. What inspired you to enter the contest?

Supie: My story, "Call Home", made it to the second round of judging in your Spring 2015 contest. That motivated me.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “A Shirt Tale?” I like the play on words with the title.

Supie: Usually an image or line of dialogue or a character’s name enters my head and lingers there for months until it becomes a story. With "A Shirt Tale," I had an image of a shirt running along the side of a country road. Months later, Lorraine appeared with her clothes-pins and cluster of bruises. This is my first story with an element of unreality in it. It had a fairy tale quality, hence the title. When Angela informed me I was in the top ten, she commented on the magical realism of the piece. I had to google that. Thanks, Angela, for enhancing my knowledge.

WOW: You mention that you surprised yourself by becoming a writer during your retirement. Since then, your flash fiction and poetry have been published in several places. Tell us about your writing journey so far, which seems like it would be a lot of fun.

Supie: I’ve always been creative but my focus was on visual art. Four years ago, I accompanied a friend to a one-day writing session. At the end of the day I had two stories generated from prompts. I continued writing. My friend didn’t. It can be fun—an acceptance letter will leave me giddy for days. But I have over 100 rejections. Surprisingly, some rejections are supportive and positive. Not many, but some. Recognizing a talent late in life can be bittersweet. Of course "Better late than never" is true. But there is a little bit of regret. If I had started earlier maybe I coulda been a contender.

WOW: You still are a contender, keep at it! Do you have any writing goals in mind for the rest of the year?

Supie: Well, I’d like to place in the top three in one of your contests.

WOW: That's a good goal to reach for. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Supie. Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Supie: Submit. Submit. Submit.

*****

Our summer flash fiction contest is currently OPEN!
For details and entry, visit our contest page.

*****

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Monday, July 25, 2016

 

Book Review: The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan

I was excited for the chance to review the middle grade novel, The Friendship Experiment, by Erin Teagan, as I have a daughter in this age group who is obsessed with science much like the main character. The book will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers in November 2016, so put this one on the wish list for the young readers in your life now!

Synopsis:
Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

Age Range: 10 - 12 years
Grade Level: 5 - 7
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0544636228
ISBN-13: 978-0544636224

Review:
Eleven-year-old Madeline Little is about to start middle school, still absorbing the loss of her beloved scientist grandfather, and generally feeling ill-at-ease about many things in her life, including the rare blood disorder that she shares with her older sister. She’s so obsessed with science and microbiology that she swabs random items she finds at school and then sees what kind of fungus grows from them in the petri dishes in her closet.

Readers soon learn that Maddie’s mind works a little differently than some middle schoolers—for example, in her lab notebook that she always has in her possession—she writes Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), that help her navigate through her world. Below is an example:

How to Fake Sleep to Get Out of a Conversation with your Mother About Your Social Life.
Step 1. Yawn and then go limp. Like complete and total limpness.
Step 2. Open your mouth and breathe like you have a nasal blockage.
Step 3. If you are on a couch, or a bed, or a chair, dangle an arm or leg off the side for extra effect.

In true middle school fashion, Maddie is separated from her best friend, Elizabeth, who is attending a private school instead. She is also jealous once she learns about all the homework, special projects, and science labs Elizabeth will get to be a part of in her new school. There is a new student at the public middle school, Riley, that is just as interested in science as Maddie, but Maddie refuses to consider a friendship with her.

When I received this book to review, I knew it would be right up my 13-year-old’s alley. She’s also fascinated by microbiology and finished the book within a day. She loved all the descriptions of the lab Maddie’s dad works in and the storyline about the blood disorder Von Willebrand disease, which causes public humiliation for both Maddie and her sister Brooke at the worst possible times.

At first I was frustrated with Maddie’s character, because of her extreme stubbornness and unwillingness to see other people’s point of view and her refusal to be friends with anyone but Elizabeth, a friendship which hits a major roadblock. But then I realized this is middle-grade literature at its finest—the characters can’t be perfect at the beginning of the book because they won’t have any room to grow.

In the end, Maddie learns a lot of important life lessons, along with strengthening the relationships among her own family members. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed The Friendship Experiment and has read it several times, and mentioned she might want to start swabbing items for her own fungus experiments. That should be interesting!

About the Author:
Erin Teagan is a former research scientist who now writes for readers full-time. The Friendship Experiment is her first novel. She lives with her family in Virginia. Visit her website at www.erinteagan.com.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also enjoys reading and writing fiction for middle grade and teen readers. Visit her blog at Renee's Pages.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

 

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie - a book review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

I recently had the pleasure of reading Hidden by Catherine McKenzie and I enjoyed it so much I recommended it for our recent book club discussion. I must say a special word of thanks to author Catherine McKenzie who included book club discussion questions at the end of the book and upon hearing that we were discussing her work offered to Skype in to the discussion. We did not take her up on this gracious offer, but isn't that absolutely sweet?

Here's a quick summary of Hidden:
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is
struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

About Author Catherine McKenzie: A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine's novels, SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN, HIDDEN and SMOKE, are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. HIDDEN was also a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller for five weeks. SMOKE was named a Best Book of October by Goodreads, one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by Amazon, and was a #1 Amazon bestseller.

Her sixth novel, FRACTURED, will be published on October 4, 2016.

And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots.

Visit her online at www.catherinemckenzie.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/catherinemckenzieauthor, and on Twitter and Instagram at @cemckenzie1.

And now...onto the review!



I generally find it confusing when a book is told in multiple voices. However, McKenzie's writing style has a beautiful flow to it and Hidden was quite easy to follow even though it jumped from voice to voice. This was a quick read because of the underlying suspense as you tried to figure out exactly how the pieces of the puzzle were going to fit together. I enjoyed the surprise ending and even though I knew it was coming, I was still a bit shocked. Since reading Hidden, I have purchased copies of several other books by the same author and must say I am equally impressed with those. McKenzie is an author worth following. I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve in the future. Hidden is a nice summer read (or anytime for that matter) and you'll find yourself enjoying each of the characters.

During a recent book club discussion about Hidden, we were speculating about what would happen next for Claire and Tish. I think that is such a good sign that the characters were well written. Had we not felt connected to each character we likely wouldn't care about what happens next in their lives. The wee bit of irony, the lovely flow of the writing, and the depth of which McKenzie describes her characters all make Hidden a 5 star book in my opinion.

Special thanks to amazing friends Cathy and Alison for this evening's lovely book club discussion - I'm looking forward to chatting about Forgotten next month!


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.


You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at:http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/ Today is Crystal's birthday so be sure to leave a thought or some unicorn poop in the comments on this post - show her some love ya'all!!!!

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Friday, July 22, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Failure Doesn't Have to Be Forever: Overcoming Writing Disappointments

by Lindsay Detwiler

When my husband came home from work, I was crying in our pantry, convinced my writing career was over. He found me somewhere between the tomato soup and cheese crackers, sobbing like someone had died.

In many ways, someone had died—the writer within.

A few weeks before my less-than-admirable pantry-crying moment, I’d received the wildest news. My first novel was accepted by a small romance publishing company. My biggest dream was going to be achieved at the age of twenty-five. After dozens of rejections, I was on my way to being a published author.

I was just getting ready to shout it from the rooftops, to announce my big secret. I hadn’t told anyone I was writing a book, the fear of failure perhaps stifling my confidence. Now, though, it was time. I was breaking out my true persona, sharing my dream with the world.

Until the email that seemed to seal my fate. The publishing company who had finally signed my book had gone bankrupt. The pre-editing I’d done, the cover design forms were all for naught. My book was done before it had even started.
Once he decoded my snot-filled detailing of what was wrong, my husband wrapped me in his arms and said the words that, at the time, infuriated me.

“That’s okay. Just try again. Someone else will pick it up.”

Try again? Was he crazy? I’d just ridden what I’d thought was the most extreme emotional roller coaster the publishing world had to offer. Going from a first contract back to square one was draining.

The tears eventually dried, though, and the disappointment simmered down. I came back down to earth, as reaching for the stars seemed to be pointless. But then I did something crazy, something unexpected—I listened to my husband and tried again, sending my work off to another publisher.

I got another contract within a few weeks. Now, four books under contract and a publishing company I adore, I’m happy I didn’t let the tears or the feeling of failure stop me. Other than the negative side effect of constantly having to hear my husband say how right he was on that day in the pantry, my initial failure helped me in so many ways. It prepared me for this crazy-hard journey as a writer.

As writers, we know the publishing world is the most extreme roller coaster of emotion you can imagine. Since that failed contract, I’ve had many more tear-filled days. I’ve dealt with rejections and criticism, disappointments and let-downs. However, thanks to my husband, I learned a valuable lesson—failure doesn’t have to be forever.

So when it feels like your entire writing career is dying an agonizing death or when a sudden change throws you off-course, cry a little. Cry a lot. But then, pick yourself up off the pantry floor—or wherever you do your crying—and take my husband’s advice.

Try again.

You never know what is waiting just around the corner.

* * *
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author and high school English teacher. She has published three novels: Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. Her next book entitled Where Love Went is set for release in August with Hot Tree Publishing, and To Say Goodbye is set for release in September. She currently lives in her hometown with her husband Chad, their five cats, and their mastiff Henry. You can find out more about Lindsay’s writing at www.lindsaydetwiler.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler, or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lindsaydetwiler.
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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, July 21, 2016

 

Choosing Your Path: Writer’s Groups, Self-Publishing and More

Last weekend, I spoke at a writers’ conference in Cape Girardeau, Missouri sponsored by the All Write Now! chapter of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. At lunch, we discussed flash fiction, science fiction novels, self-publishing and more.

Eventually, someone asked me why I don’t belong to the Missouri Writers Guild.

Early in my writing career, I sampled several chapters of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. I quickly discovered that the majority of their members were interested in self-publishing. That would have been okay if they were also working to perfect their craft or learn how to build a platform. But that wasn’t the feeling I got. Again and again, they asked about self-publishing -- how to do it quickly and affordably and how much money you could make. It didn’t seem to matter what they were writing or who the audience might be. Self-publishing, to their way of thinking, was the only way to go.

Most of them wrote for adults and I was already focused on writing for children. That meant that there wasn’t even an overlap in terms of audience. Besides, I was already a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Why pay two sets of dues when only one organization felt like a good fit?

I was a little nervous about sharing this because sitting next to me was Liz Schulte who gave the presentation “Taking Control through Self-Publishing.” Liz didn’t even bat an eye. Instead, she asked what I wrote. We discussed my ABDO books -- Ancient Maya, Trench Warfare, The Bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Black Lives Matter.

“Your books are a perfect match for an educational publisher, but if you self-published, you’d lose the school and library sales.” Liz may be the first person I’ve ever met who self-publishes but doesn’t see it as the one and only way to publish. She sees it as a good fit for some topics and a bad fit for others.

Throughout your writing career, you are going to have to make choices. These include:

  • Which writer’s organizations to join.
  • What to write.
  • Whether to traditionally or self-publish.
  • What rights to sell.

As you try to decide, remember that you are only choosing what is right for you right now. You might want to make different choices later on as your interests change or new markets open up.

Just because I only belonged to one organization early in my career doesn’t mean that that can’t change. Most of my work is educational so traditional publishing makes sense. That said, if I come up with a topic that suits a well-defined niche, perhaps something for my fellow-writers, I may choose to self-publish.

The high road. The low road. The road in the middle. There’s more than one road that leads to publication. The key is to choose the one that leads there from where you are today.

--SueBE

Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on August 1, 2016.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

 

Back in the Saddle

Over the past three decades I've had many jobs: waitress, bookkeeper, toy saleperson, teacher, typist, writing tutor, blog tour manager. Of course writer was always somewhere in the mix. For the first decade of my son's life that's all he knew. To him I was a mom and I was a writer. Then a job that offered a few things most writers can only dream of--a steady paycheck, regular hours, insurance, contributions to my 401K, an office that didn't double as the kitchen table--came along. Plus, I could get my son on the bus in the morning and be home early enough to make supper for the family before my husband headed to his night shift job. It was perfect.

Except it wasn't. Yes, the job was great but it wasn't writing. Not only that but it had a negative effect on my writing. On my list (my long, long list) of things to do at the end of a work day, my writing continually was pushed to the bottom. I tried but I never seemed to have the time or energy. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that maybe that aspect of my life was over. I had tried to be a writer. I hadn't been able to make a living as a writer. Now I was something else. I believed no one had even noticed that I had stopped writing. Seven words challenged that belief.

"I liked when you were a writer."

My son had noticed. That offhand comment made in passing as he was setting the table one evening forced me stare the facts in the face. I wasn't a writer any longer. Writers write. It also jump started the writer in me. I began writing again. Maybe not as a living, but enough that I can feel that joy again. I've accepted a writing assignment at my "real job" and am working on a curious idea that even if it isn't published makes me happy. And I can say to my son, "I still am a writer."

Did you ever take a break from writing (voluntary or not)? What made you "get back in the saddle" again?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. You can find her at Building Bookshelves. Today Schuylkill Heroes, a feature about military personnel that she's writing for The Republican-Herald, begins. She's also found inspiration for a new WIP at her non-writing job.
 

Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Tricia Berry

Tricia Berry spent most of her early life in landlocked Indiana and now teaches English as a foreign/second language in beautiful Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a city of warm, lively people and stunning beaches. She appreciates the simplicity and truth in Victor Hugo’s advice, and tries to live by it: “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.”

If you haven’t read Tricia’s story, “Good,” click on through and see the world through the eyes of Annie, a girl who is struggling to find her way in the system.

WOW: What compelled you to enter the flash fiction contest? What other types of writing do you do?

Tricia: I made a decision at the beginning of this year to either enter a writing competition or submit to a respected journal, either print or online, at least once a month. For now, I write short stories and flash fiction. But who knows what I might write in the future? I’ve also written web articles, mostly about natural health.

WOW: With all of your experience writing, you’ve definitely clocked a lot of time rewriting various pieces. How did "Good" change between first idea for the story and final draft?

Tricia: I’d say the story developed, because the initial kernel was very small. The development was all about who Annie was and about her journey. It was about why she was in foster care in the first place, what her life had been like before which gives us a sense of what she’d lost, how long she’d been in the foster care system, how she’d changed in that time--and how she hadn’t. That was important too.

WOW: And you do give us, the readers, a lot of insight into Annie’s character. Flash fiction is such a tight form, but you work a lot more backstory into “Good” than I typically see. How did you decide what details to include and what to omit?

Tricia: Annie’s backstory pretty much came to me as I wrote “Good”. When I revised and edited, I didn’t need to cut too much of it. I tried to include what gave the reader a sense of who she was and where she’d been, where she’d come from, and what she cared about. I discovered these things about Annie as I went along. I saw that I wanted it to be clear that she had had parents who loved her, and whom she’d loved.

WOW: Can you share something about your writing process with our readers? What does your typical writing day look like?

Tricia: I wish I had a typical writing day! As far as my process goes, I spend a lot more time on revising, editing, and rewriting than on the original writing. I’m pretty sure this would be the case even if I were an inveterate planner or outliner, which I’m not. Every single time I go over a story I’ve written, I see something to do that might improve it. Part of the trick for me is knowing when to stop, I think.

WOW: What recommendations do you have to writers who have never attempted flash fiction but want to try it?

Tricia: Flash fiction is a lot more fun to write than I had imagined before I tried it. I thought it would be harder than it is, too. I love the challenge of telling a story in so few words. It makes you decide what’s really important, and that makes you dig deep, in spite of the shortness of the form—or maybe because of it.

It’s exhilarating to explore the moment of the story until you’ve got only what needs to be in it, and have chosen just the right words to tell it. The restriction of the word count somehow becomes, for me at least, liberating.

WOW: Thank you for giving our readers a look into how you created “Good” and how they might go about writing their own flash fiction. Good luck putting more of your writing out into the world!

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Monday, July 18, 2016

 

What Should I Write? Finding Ideas for Freelancers

Most writers have an abundance of ideas—all of them are not publishable. If you don’t have a ton of ideas or you don’t think yours are going to get you published, what can you do? Ideas that sell need to be original or a new spin on an old favorite. Articles need to be specific, targeted to an audience, and fit the tone of the publication.

Here are some tips to find article ideas:

Study the Markets: If you're writing for magazines, make a list of all articles published in the magazine for the past six months. Group them into categories, and then study this list. How can you add to it? How can you shine? Don't forget to notice any upcoming themes. Finally, do a Google search for interviews with editors/writers to see if they suggest any upcoming articles they would like to see. You can also study newspapers if they use freelancers and of course, ezines and blogs should be a very similar process to print magazines mentioned above.

Brainstorming techniques:  Take a subject you are familiar with and find the unique angle. Here is an example for an article I did for a family magazine.
  • Theme: Gardens and Spring
  • So, what do I know would be a good article for this audience (for Families magazine)?
  • POSSIBLE IDEAS FOR ARTICLES (writing down any that come to mind--good or not)
    • Parks are popular in spring.
    • People like to plant with children
    • Are there unusual plants I could write about?
    • Planting veggies w/kids for healthy eating.
    • Recent book I read SHADOW GARDEN & how to make one* (Here is my best idea.)   
So I turned in a query about creating a shadow garden this summer, and they took it. I mentioned the book too as another reference for families with small children.

Ask Yourself What If: This is a technique often used by fiction writers to come up with ideas for stories. Basically, you keep asking what if? until you get a good idea—one that will sell.

  • EXAMPLE: Traveling with a dog
    • What if you have to travel with a dog?
    • What if you have to travel with a large breed dog?
    • What if you have to travel with a large breed dog that has separation anxiety? 
The last question is a great story idea, and it is one that I sold to a newsletter about traveling with dogs. 

Everyone gets stuck in a rut--but with a few simple tips and tricks, you'll have plenty of story ideas to query in no time. 


Margo L. Dill is a published author, teacher, and editor in St. Louis, MO. Find out more at http://www.editor-911.com




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Sunday, July 17, 2016

 

What Makes a Good Ghost Story?

This past week, my husband had to attend a conference in a nearby North Carolina city full of rich history, heritage, and culture. I jumped at the chance to stay at a hotel more than a 100 years old and take the kids with us. Although I lived in the city of Asheville between the ages of 12 to 23, there were a few “touristy” things I had never done while I lived there, so while my husband was in meetings, I decided to take the kids on a trolley tour of the city that specialized in visiting different spots around the city famous for having ghosts. After taking the tour, I started thinking about which of stories shared had the most "chill factor," and what types of ghostly tales seem to be the most popular among fans. Here are three things that stood out:

It makes you afraid to drive down a dark, deserted road alone. I had always heard the story of Helen’s Bridge, but was too afraid to visit the spot, because legend had it that Helen didn’t appreciate visitors and would cut the engine of any car who dared approach. There are varying stories of why Helen hung herself off the bridge, but most locals believe she lost a young daughter in a fire at a nearby castle. After hearing our tour guide relate similar stories, as well as mentioning that the spot is the one place the trolley won’t visit any more, I was convinced enough. When my kids asked me to drive them to the bridge during our trip, I said, “No thanks!”



It makes you realize not all ghosts have to be evil spirits. The hotel we stayed at, The Omni Grove Park Inn, has one of the more famous ghosts in the area, “The Pink Lady.” The name stems from the pink haze that surrounds most sightings of her. From what we were told, a woman fell to her death from a third floor balcony in the old section of the hotel (there have been renovations and additions in recent years) and since then, many guests and employees have reported interactions with her. Most believe she is a friendly spirit who has a special fondness for men and small children. Guests and staff have also taken photographs of the property that show magenta-colored orbs in them—what some consider evidence of The Pink Lady’s existence. After hearing such stories, my daughter insisted we go to the floor where The Pink Lady occurrences have most been reported, which happened to be one floor above ours. I was glad that she wasn’t frightened, but rather intrigued by this lore.

The Pink Lady story from The Omni Grove Park Inn.

It shows you the dark side of human nature. On part of tour, we drove past the grounds of what was once Highland Hospital, a psychiatric facility run for many years by a Dr. Robert Carroll, until he turned it over to the Neuropsychiatric Department of Duke University in 1939. One of its more famous patients was Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. According to the most popular story, in 1948, a former patient was working at Highland when she decided to set fire to the main building, and nine women (including Zelda) died. There is a home that once served as an administration area on the grounds of the hospital that is the place where numerous accounts of paranormal activity have been reported, especially on the top floor. Let’s just say items do not stay in place and furniture and other items will be overturned. That house is also for sale and has been languishing on the market for some time . . . wonder why?



Of course, after this tour, the wheels of my imagination were spinning, as I’ve always loved a good ghost story. I’m ready now to tackle a ghost tour in one of the other famously-haunted cities in the Southeast, Savannah, Ga.

What do you think makes a good ghost story? Who are some of your favorite authors that love to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Have you ever written anything with paranormal elements? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. She has always been fascinated by the idea of ghosts and has included them in some of her fictional works-in progress. Visit her website at www.finishedpages.com.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

 

Squarespace Review: Is it the Right Choice for Your Author Website?


I design websites for clients with businesses in many different industries—everything from healthcare to custom clothing—and lately they’ve been requesting websites built on the Squarespace platform over WordPress. Why? It’s a website they can change or update themselves without having to mess with any coding.

But is Squarespace right for your author website, freelance portfolio, or blog? In this Squarespace review, I take a look at the popular site-building tool and weigh the pros and cons for writers.

What is Squarespace?



Squarespace is an all-in-one website building platform. It provides you with professional templates, a drag-and-drop editor, a content management system, blogging platform, SEO tools, ecommerce solutions, and hosting.

Although many of my clients debate over whether to use Squarespace instead of self-hosted WordPress, Squarespace is more comparable to other all-inclusive website builders like Weebly or Wix. I haven’t used either of the latter so I’m not going to cover those in this article. The two I use are Squarespace and self-hosted WordPress, so I make a few comparisons below.

Squarespace Templates


Pros:

Squarespace templates are beautiful, clean, and professionally designed. They are so gorgeous that you can pick one of their templates out of the box and fill in your own photos and text and it will look like a highly polished website.

Their templates are all responsive—you can resize your browser and content including images, slideshows, and videos and they will automatically scale. This means they look great on tablets, cell phones, and other mobile devices.

Squarespace offers an extensive selection of styling options where you can easily change the typography (writers will love the huge range of fonts available), colors, sizes, button styles, sidebar width, background images, opacity, spacing/padding and more to your website without using code. However, if you are tech-savvy and want to use code, you can use their Custom CSS section and manually insert code.

You can easily change your template and preview it before you set it live. It automatically loads demo content that you can modify or delete, and will carry over existing pages. There are tweaks you will need to do explained in the link above, and you will probably want to style it before you set it live. I also discovered you can mix and match pages from different templates. You can only set one template live at a time, but you can install as many templates as you like and use a page from one and set it live, and then switch templates and that page will stay from the other template if you’ve saved it.


You may be thinking: with so many great features, why would anyone hire you to design their website on the Squarespace platform? Well, if you want your template to be totally different from the ones out of the box, you can hire a designer to custom code your site to make it different. For instance, I created a website for a client who has a Cryotherapy Salon. We used the Bedford template, but since my client didn’t have a strong focal image to use for their header but she had a great logo, I created a video of rolling cryofog and inserted it into the background with her logo over it (the video only plays on larger screens). This is where my learning curve started because I was so accustomed to WordPress that figuring out how Squarespace does things was a bit of a challenge. They have a code injection area in the header section and I also had to add code into the Custom CSS, which is a bit tricky and you can easily break your template.

Cons (Sort of):

Like I mentioned above, if you want to custom code your website extensively, Squarespace is not the best option. I’d go with a self-hosted WordPress site for more flexibility.


You can add, rearrange elements of your website by dragging and dropping blocks. This is great because you don’t have to install a new template or modify code, you can just rearrange the layout and see the results in real time in the live preview screen. The con is that it’s not as easy as it looks to get that little hand to show up that allows you to drag and drop. Perhaps it’s just me, but many times I was like, Oh, there’s the hand! And then a second later it disappeared because my mouse moved a millimeter over, which was frustrating.

The templates come with large, beautiful images, so you might find that when you replace them with your own images, the template doesn’t look as great. As a writer, I tend to be more text focused, but it seems like most templates are designed with photography in mind these days, so you’ll want to think about your brand and perhaps get professional author photographs taken or find the perfect stock image to use as a background. Squarespace has great tools for photos though, like Aviary online photo editing and Getty Images stock photography that you can search for and select while you’re editing and purchase for a fraction of the price you would at the actual Getty Images site. It’s $10 per any Getty Image on Squarespace, instead of $50 - $700 at Getty Images.

Plugins

Everything is built into the Squarespace platform, so there’s no need to figure out which apps or extensions are available. Check out the integrations here.

For example, authors will find it easy to add:

  • a contact form
  • email subscription sign up via MailChimp or Google Apps
  • a slideshow of their books
  • an author events calendar
  • social media sharing buttons
  • social media streaming (automatic updating)
  • integrated automatic posting to your Facebook Page
  • shopping cart and buttons to purchase your books or downloadable content while staying on your website
  • book trailer videos
  • and more

All these tools update automatically as well, so you don’t need to manually maintenance anything, which is one of the most tedious parts about a self-hosted WordPress website. However, with WordPress you have way more plugin options available to you because it’s open source software and that means the WP community is constantly creating new plugins. Also, another disadvantage to Squarespace is that although they have ecommerce built in already, they only have Stripe as a payment gateway. So if you want to use PayPal, you’d have to use custom code for Buy Now buttons and plug it in to the html code box.

Blogging



I haven’t delved extensively into blogging on the Squarespace platform, but from building client’s websites and creating blog posts, it seems almost comparable to WordPress. It has built in SEO (search engine optimization) tools and analytics, so out of the box it’s optimized. I’ve seen the websites I’ve built get Alexa rank in just a couple days of going live. I haven’t seen that on any other platform I’ve used, which is pretty exciting, but I'm sure there are other factors that contribute to that like social media links. But if you are planning on running a large blog with many posts, WordPress makes it easier for you to filter posts and add new categories. Also, if you have a group blog, WordPress is the way to go because you can have as many contributors as you’d like. You can do this with Squarespace, too, but you have to pay for a Business Account.

Pricing

Everything is included in Squarespace, so you are paying for your website, template, ecommerce functionality, hosting and custom domain name. It’s $5 a month for a cover page, $12 for a personal site, and $18 a month for a business site. They also have ecommerce packages for power sellers that I didn't include here because I think the business site would be enough for most writers. Check out this page on Squarespace for discount codes. Before you purchase anything though, you should check out their free 14-day trial to see if you like it. You do not need to give any credit card info for the free trial. Below is a chart of what's included in their packages.


How does this compare with WordPress? With WordPress, you’d purchase your own domain name, which you can get for around $12 per year, and you’d need to purchase hosting, which on average would be around $85 a year. You can find professional free themes, but if you wanted to purchase a premium theme, you’d pay about $30 - $200. If you need someone to install it for you and need custom coding, you might need to contract a designer, which ranges on average of $200 - $1,500 or more. Same thing though with Squarespace. Designers are not cheap! But you probably won't need one with Squarespace.

Support

Squarespace has customer support via email and live chat. For email, they attempt to get back to you within 1 hour. I’ve worked with them before and they were very prompt in replying. They also have an extensive discussion forum.

Before making any decisions, ask yourself: What do you want your author website to do?

It’s important to know what you need your website to do now and in the future. You may only need a portfolio site for your freelance clips right now or an author website for your books, but maybe in a couple of years you’ll want to create online writing classes or a membership site. Currently, Squarespace doesn’t have an option for either, but it does have an export feature that you can use if you want to move to WordPress.

Personally, I’m so used to WordPress and am comfortable with custom coding that it’s my first choice, but I’ve found that my clients are happier with Squarespace for easy editing and updating.

What do you think? If you have any questions about the Squarespace platform, I’d be happy to answer them.

***

Angela Mackintosh is publisher of WOW! Women On Writing. She also designs websites through her design company, Mackintosh Multimedia.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

 

Is Content a Four Letter Word?

I’m not sure if all of my friends are even aware that I have a previous life. Well, not really, but that’s what we call it. I was once the business woman who said “what a waste” when an intelligent employee with a bright future would decide to be a stay at home parent. I put my emphasis on my title and assumed everyone else lived in the same world I did. Boy how things have changed.

Instead of spending my days in a conference room analyzing legal garble printed on a page, I now change cloth diapers, pull weeds in my garden, read books, and write flowery prose instead of technical manuals. I joke saying, “the old me wouldn’t like the new me anymore than the new me likes the old me.” Now that you have a bit of the back story, you can really appreciate where I’m coming from with today’s post.

My friends often gather for coffee at our house. We enjoy sitting in the sunshine on the patio when the weather cooperates, otherwise you’ll find us around the breakfast nook discussing everything from politics and current events to breastfeeding and baby led weaning. We don’t always agree, but what we agree on is that each of us is valuable and our opinions matter. A particular friend stopped late one morning and the look on her face said it all. For the first time in quite some time, she didn’t have any of her three children (1, 4, 8) in tow. She had just come from a motivational work program. I furrowed my brow as I poured her coffee and added cream. This was not the expression I would expect after a motivational program.

“What’s with the long face? Was the speaker a dud?”

“She wanted us to write down and talk about our goals.”

“Pretty typical, right? So what’s the problem?”

“I feel like a loser. Other people wanted to tour Europe or buy a vacation home. Why don’t I have goals like that?”

I paused and took a long sip of my coffee. I chose my words carefully because this was a make it or break it moment for my friend. I looked right at her and firmly said: “You are living the dream. You aren’t searching for external happiness, because you are content.”

We had a fabulous conversation about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the importance of a healthy family, and how the goals other people mentioned are valid for them, but how she shouldn’t feel bad if her short term goal is getting the pantry organized or finding a reliable childcare provider.

I keep thinking about that day and our conversation. When did being content become a bad thing? We’ve become so goal oriented that I wonder if we as a society have lost sight of what matters. Yesterday morning, I sent my husband a text about my contentment. I don’t need a bigger boat, a faster car, a pay raise, or a bigger house to make me happy. I’m all for having goals, making lists, and moving forward, but when is enough enough?

When do we sit back and enjoy what we have?

When do we simply say Thank You, Life is Good.?

Has CONTENT become the newest 4-letter word?

Weigh-in. What do you think?

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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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

 

Interview with Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Runner-Up, Laura Ruth Loomis

Today we welcome Laura Ruth Loomis, whose story, Notes to Self, One Week Out takes readers deep into the psyche of a sexual assault victim. Read her thought-provoking entry here, and then come back to learn more about this talented writer.

Laura Ruth Loomis is a social worker. She lives in Northern California with her wife and a ridiculous number of pets.

Laura’s fiction has appeared in On the Premises, Phone Fiction, Many Mountains Moving, Wordrunner Chapbooks, and elsewhere. Her flash piece, “Notes to Self: One Week Out,” grew out of a haunting news story from a few years ago.

When the real world gets too grim, Laura writes humor, including one piece that appeared in Writer’s Digest. So far, the highlight of her writing career was getting both a runner-up and a dishonorable mention in the Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night” Awards: http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2015win.html

Laura is currently working on a series of interlocking short stories that fit together into a novel. Here is a sample: http://onthepremises.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/On-The-Premises-Issue-10.pdf.

WOW: You mentioned "Notes to Self: One Week Out" came from a story splashed across the headlines a few years ago. Do you often find inspiration for your fiction from stories inspired by real life?

Laura: I sometimes get ideas from real life, though it's not usually a front-page news story like this one. More often I'll run across an odd item, like someone getting a letter from her bank erroneously telling her that she's deceased. One of my first published stories came about because of a news item where someone had stolen a mail truck. I decided it would be interesting if the thief was an impulsive lover, trying to retrieve the breakup letter he'd just sent to his girlfriend. (Nowadays, of course, they'd just do the breakup by text.)

WOW: I love that--clever premise for a story, although you're right about letters in the mail becoming obsolete! What do you want readers to ultimately take away from "Notes to Self" once they've finished reading it?

Laura: In the media coverage of the rape trial, and others since then, I was struck by how the victim disappeared from the story. Obviously the anonymity is necessary to protect her from harassment or worse, but the result was that the coverage humanized the attackers more than it did the victim. It's also tempting to avoid thinking about what it's like for her, because none of us want to imagine being in her position.

I can't speak for the real person, obviously. But fiction is about empathy, seeing through another person's eyes. I wanted to make visible a woman who's been through this trauma and humiliation, and how she reaches for the courage to find her way back from that. The worst experience of her life is not the end of her story.

WOW: That is so true about the victim often "disappearing" from the news story.  Besides this flash fiction piece, you've been published in a lot of different places.What is your favorite genre to write and why?

Laura: You wouldn't know it from reading "Notes to Self," but I love writing humor. I'm a social worker, so I see a lot of depressing things - and occasionally some wonderful ones. Laughter keeps me going.

As I mentioned in my bio, my current obsession is writing a series of short stories that fit together, different characters having very different views on the same events. It's a bit like doing a logic puzzle, and it's very satisfying when the stories can stand alone, yet also intersect with the others.

WOW: That's a neat concept--and it sounds very difficult! Can you tell us about the humorous piece that appeared in Writer's Digest?

Laura: They used to have a feature called "Reject a Hit." I wrote a rejection letter for Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," telling him it was too grim and depressing. The editor made me take out the anachronisms, such as suggesting that Hardy watch "Old Yeller " to cheer himself up.

WOW: I remember that feature--I always looked forward to it! I'll have to dig back through my back issues so I can read it again. Do you have a routine when it comes to submissions? Do you submit more fiction than non-fiction, or do you feel you write/submit both types evenly?

Laura: I write some essays and creative nonfiction, but I my real love is fiction. The stories I write - including science fiction and fantasy--are more believable and make far more sense than most of the real--life events I see in my line of work.

WOW: Thank you for visiting us today and sharing insight on your writing life. We wish you all the luck in the future!

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Monday, July 11, 2016

 

Francie Healey Launches her WOW Blog Tour of her cookbook: Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s

Eat to Beat Alzheimer's offers a practical guide and an empowering tool to bring nourishing, healthful, and delicious food into the lives of people concerned about Alzheimer's and other cognitive problems. Almost 9 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, and the toll is rapidly increasing. This book will appeal to everyone concerned about dementia and memory loss in either themselves or a loved one.

Recent research makes clear that the impact of aging on the brain can be reduced by simple diet and lifestyle modifications. The delicious food choices and easy-to-prepare recipes in this book are based on the latest findings showing that they can help slow the progression of Alzheimer's and other conditions like it, or prevent them entirely.

Readers will gain the knowledge and tools to take charge of their health by incorporating tasty, healing foods into their diet. The information in this cookbook will be as relevant and useful 20 years from now as it is today. And the recipes will still be just as delicious.

Paperback: 200 pages
Genre: Cookbook
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (June 30, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1938288610
ISBN-13: 978-1938288616

Eat to Beat Alzheimer's: Delicious Recipes and New Research to Prevent and Slow Dementia by Francie Healey is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Eat to Beat Alzheimer's please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, July 17th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Francie Healey is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice in Santa Fe, N.M. She specializes in the psychology of eating, helping people with health conditions to develop conscious eating habits and understand how food contributes to healing. Using her expertise to help clients manage cognitive decline through nutrition, Francie educates them on meal planning; the creation of simple, nutritious meals; and other keys to achieving a healthy relationship with food. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling, and is a Certified Health Counselor and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

Find Francie Healey Online:

Websites:
http://www.eattobeatalzheimers.com

http://foodtohelpwithdepression.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsciousWellnessCoaching/

Twitter: @FrancieHealey

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/franciehealey/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109142523542637266835/posts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/franciehealey

----- Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Good morning, Francie! I’m so excited you are here. Let’s start at the beginning. When did you get passionate about food and health? Was there a particular moment when you knew this was your calling? Tell us more about where it all began.

Francie: My sixth grade teacher told me how hot dogs were processed and that got me thinking about what’s in food. I was eleven-years-old and I started to really think about how food was put together and how it was prepared. But when I started to get really passionate was when I was in high school, running track and field, and I became interested in fueling my body and staying strong. I was curious about food and how it made my body feel. In college, I started to explore more deeply a different contrast with food. I was curious about the fat-free foods and fat-free craze, trying it and understanding it – I was misguided about what an “ideal weight” was, so I bought into the message that as an athlete I needed simple carbohydrates for fuel (spaghetti dinners), and that eating fat made you fat. I was studying exercise science in college, so I was definitely interested, but the information back then was misguided. I didn’t have the right information, nobody did, and it seemed that no matter what I did, I felt bad; and then I got injured and couldn’t run anymore competitively.

I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins, and became a vegetarian after that because I was appalled at how the animals were being treated. This was more about ethics than quality of food, but it led me more into nutritional research. I started to get a bit more confused in my research and eventually learned by listening to my body that being a vegetarian wasn’t a good fit for me. So I continued my research to find what works for me, because I wanted to feel better. I had bought into this, beyond my sports nutrition background, by reading Ann Louise Gittleman’s books Your Body Knows Best, Living Beauty Detox Program and Why Am I Always So Tired? that highlighted in part the negative effects of copper imbalance from excessive soy in the vegetarian diet, which made me realize that we can think we are doing something really healthy, and have the best of intentions, but unknowingly make ourselves really sick, which is what I did. I was also reading a lot of books by Andrew Weil, who is one of the pioneers in the holistic health and integrative medicine fields, so his work started to integrate my experience more deeply and the other research I was doing. I started to ask more questions and stopped being a vegetarian; however, the meat I eat and the way the animals are treated are still important to me. I buy my meat really consciously and look for the balance, always, because for my health I need the nutrients meat has to offer and I can’t deny that anymore. 

So, my personal experience with health and wellness really motivated me to research and learn and eventually this passion extended in such a way that I wanted to share what I was learning with others, which is when I went back to school to pursue more training and education in the field of health counseling. As a mental health counselor I saw so many examples too of people suffering unnecessarily because of their poor diets, so I felt this was a critical component to mental health as well as physical health – that they cannot really be separated.


“As a mental health counselor I saw so many examples of people suffering unnecessarily because of their poor diets, so I felt this was a critical component to mental health as well as physical health  that they cannot really be separated.”


WOW: As a mom, I can really appreciate what you teach about mental and physical health. I tell my older children “garbage in, garbage out” when they want to eat processed foods. You can’t go wrong with fruits and vegetables when it comes to learning! Good eating equates to good learning. I hope I’m teaching our family some good cooking and healthy lessons.

Was it your mom, or who was most instrumental in teaching you about cooking and health? Were they involved in Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s?

Francie: The health interests were always there for me, but the cooking part became much more important to me when my first daughter was born. Prior to that I had always been around people who loved to cook. When I became a mother, I became deeply invested in how to cultivate eating and wellness for a family and for my children. It was infant nutrition and children’s health that inspired me to take risks in the kitchen and put my knowledge into practice every day. It was also what led me to step into my role more as a wellness expert, as an advocate for children’s nutrition. Embracing that role then planted the seed for me to even consider writing my own cookbook one day.

WOW: This mom thing has so many perks, doesn’t it? These little people make us better in so many ways!

You have so many recipes on your blog. I’ve been enjoying them but have to ask: how do you keep everything organized? What is your system at home? Do you have a recipe box, book, etc.?

Francie: I keep the recipes I like in my Dropbox, and I also love to hold a cookbook in my hands, so I have my favorite cookbooks, like Nourishing Traditions. Otherwise, I keep them organized on my computer. I also adapt recipes a lot, so for example if I’m not sure how to cook something I look in my book, How to Cook Everything, and then adapt it for my family’s needs. Dropbox allows me to share recipes really easily too, since people ask for them so much, it’s easy for me to send to them.

WOW: Technology sure makes our lives easier – remember those old index cards stained with oil and finger prints? Our great grandmothers would be jealous of your system!

Tell me more about being true to yourself. Can you give us a glimpse into how this plays a role in your health and cooking?

Francie: To me, this is about tuning into your body and listening. Being true to yourself is about cultivating deep listening and deep presence with our bodies so we have the skill to identify what foods nourish us, and what foods deplete. This requires being invested enough in our own wellbeing to be curious about the answer. Most people are getting feedback from their bodies all the time about what nourishes or what depletes. When we are being true to ourselves we are open, curious, and willing to hear this feedback. Too often, we override our own feedback information because we don’t want to change for whatever reason. Being willing to be in the discomfort of knowing what changes we need to make, and how that may affect others in our community, does require courage. In my opinion, this is the “conscious” part of conscious wellness that we all get to learn and continually develop.


“Being true to yourself is about cultivating deep listening and deep presence with our bodies so we have the skill to identify what foods nourish us, and what foods deplete.”


WOW: Oh yes – I’m a resistance to change type myself. You give such great advice – thank you!

What makes you passionate about dementia/Alzheimer’s and how would you encourage others who want to get involved in finding a cure?

Francie: Originally, I thought about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as a topic to explore from a very meaningful conversation with my stepfather. What I found was that the component of dementia that is about brain health was completely aligned with the nutritional science I had been investigating, and the whole premise of Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s is about prevention and living a high quality of life so as not to go down the path of chronic illness and disease, which does apply to AD but also to many, many other ailments that people are currently facing and worried about. So AD, is a focus, but it is also a way in to what Conscious Wellness really is about, which is choosing your own health by listening and making positive informed choices for your own body and state of mind.

WOW: I love your openness about how things began versus what you found and moved forward. Thank you for being so honest.

What’s next for you?

Francie: I’m currently working on my next book, which is going to be a deeper dive into how the food we eat really does affect our moods. This is going to be really informative and helpful read for anyone who wants to address issues like fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and unpredictable mood swings with diet and lifestyle. I am also launching an online course for folks interested in making these changes within the context of a class with me. They will have access to some of the information and research that will be foundational for the book. Participants will also get weekly exercises and step-by-step guide to a protocol for addressing mood challenges with food and lifestyle. It’s going to be really powerful class.

WOW: This sounds fabulous – please keep us in the loop as our readers will undoubtedly be interested in learning more!

Speaking of sharing with us – is there a particular recipe you are known for? Something friends always ask you to bring to a picnic or gathering?

Francie: I actually get a lot of requests for my Coconut Carrot soup, which is a recipe in Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s, actually. I make it every Thanksgiving. Very happy to share it!


Coconut Carrot Soup Recipe

Coconut is quite nutritious; it contains lauric acid, which is found in mother's milk and has been shown to strengthen the immune system. Coconut oil is a healthy fat, which has been shown to have numerous beneficial effects on the aging brain. Coconut oil is made of medium chain fatty acids, and there is strong evidence that it improves cognitive functioning in older adults with memory disorders. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C and antioxidants. I add ginger to support digestion. I have found that adding lime juice greatly enhances the flavor.

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large shallot, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons curry powder
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 2 limes, cut in wedges

In medium-size pot, heat oil and 2 tablespoons broth over medium heat. Add shallot and sauté about 5 minutes. Add ginger, sauté another 2 minutes. Add curry powder and mix well.

Add remaining broth, carrots, and sweet potatoes, and simmer on medium-high heat until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes). Add coconut milk, and salt and pepper to taste.

Blend in batches, making sure blender is not more than half full. Return to soup pot and reheat.

Serve in bowls, garnished with cilantro and fresh-squeezed lime juice to taste.

Preparation: 30 minutes
Serves: 4


WOW: That sounds delicious! Thank you again, Francie. You are absolutely a joy to work with and I have enjoyed every moment of preparation for what is sure to be an amazing cookbook blog tour!

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

Monday, July 11th @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday, July 12th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Join Francie Healey as she writes on the topic of "Why Healthy Eating Matters to Me" and visits the blog of fellow author Madeline Sharples to talk about her latest creation, a cookbook entitled: Eat to Beat Alzheimer's.
http://madelinesharples.com/

Wednesday, July 13th @ Dealsharing Aunt
Join Vicki Brinius as she reviews Eat to Beat Alzheimer's. Readers will also have a chance to enter a giveaway for their own copy of this great cookbook.
http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 14th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton hosts Francie Healey and her cookbook, Eat to Beat Alzheimer's, as Francie shares a blog post explaining why she published this cookbook. Don't miss this exciting blog stop and giveaway!
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 15th @ Renee’s Pages with Renee Roberson
Renee Roberson reviews Eat to Beat Alzheimer's - don't miss this exciting blog stop and opportunity to learn more about Francie as she shares her knowledge in this great publication.
http://reneespages.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 18th @ Nichole Smith’s Chaos in the Country
Nichole Smith at Chaos in the Country hosts today's blog tour stop for Francie Healey's Eat to Beat Alzheimer's. Don't miss Healey's gust blog post about "Releasing Personal Obstacles."
http://www.chaosinthecountry.com/

Tuesday, July 19th @ Gina Hott’s Hott Books
Gina Hott at Hott Books hosts Francie Healey - readers can find out more about Healey's cookbook titled Eat to Beat Alzheimer's and read as Healey shares in a moving blogpost "Why Alzheimer's and Dementia?"
http://www.hottbooks.com/

Wednesday, July 20th @ The Road to a Dream with Ava Louise
Francie Healey visits The Road to a Dream and shares with readers of Ava Louise's blog. Learn more about Healey's cookbook, Eat to Beat Alzheimer's as well as enjoying some insight in her guest post "Social Media for Authors."
http://avalouise.net/theroadtoadream/

Thursday, July 21st @ Kathleen Pooler’s Memoir Writer’s Network
Join Francie Healey and learn more about her cookbook, Eat to Beat Alzheimer's as she stops to visit with Kathleen Pooler's readers at Memoir Writer's Journey. Healey pens today's guest post "From Concept to Publication" and Pooler offers her thoughts as she reviews Healey's cookbook. Don't miss this blog stop!
http://krpooler.com/

Friday, July 22nd @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Linda Appleman Shapiro hosts fellow author Francie Healey as Healey writes today's guest post titled "How I Knew it was Publishing Time." Don't miss this blog stop and opportunity to learn more about these amazing authors and Healey’s recently published cookbook Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s.
http://applemanshapiro.com/my-blog/

Monday, July 25th @ Building Bookshelves
Learn more about Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s by Francie Healey and check out today's guest post by her as well - guest post titled "Energizing Baby Boomers." You won't want to miss this stop!
http://blogs.republicanherald.com/bookshelves/

Tuesday, July 26th @ Bring On Lemons
Read Francie Healey's post "Feeding the Brain" and find out more about her recently published cookbook Eat to Beat Alzheimer's.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 27th @ Mari McCarthy’s Create Write Now
Join Mary McCarthy as she welcomes Francie Healey at the Create Write Now blog today. Healey pens today's guest post titled "Connecting with Readers." Find out more about Francie Healey and her new cook book Eat to Beat Alzheimer's.
http://www.createwritenow.com/

Thursday, July 28th @ One Sister’s Journey with Lisa M. Buske
Francie Healey pens today's guest post "How to Eat Clean in Today's Busy World" as she visits the blog of Lisa M Buske. Don't miss this post and opportunity to learn more about Healey's cookbook Eat to Beat Alzheimer's.
http://www.lisambuske.com/


Friday, July 29 @ Selling Books
Stop by Cathy Stucker's Selling Books blog for a fascinating interview with Francie Healey, author of Eat to Beat Alzheimer's. Find out more about Francie's book, her writing rituals, her publishing journey and more!
http://www.sellingbooks.com

Monday, August 1st @ Android After Forty
Join the lovely Linda Peters as she reviews Eat to Beat Alzheimer's by Francie Healey. You'll love Linda's blog and readers will be delighted to learn what she thinks about this highly acclaimed cook book!
http://www.AndroidAfterForty.com

Friday, August 5th  @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A Baird reviews Francie Healey's cookbook, Eat to Beat Alzheimer's - check out Beverley's blog and her thoughts on this excellent new publication!
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

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

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

Enter to win a copy of Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s by Francie Healey! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Monday, July 18th!

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