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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

 

No No NaNoWriMo?

There's definitely some benefits to doing NaNoWriMo in November. However, if you couldn't do it this month, don't despair. You can reap the same rewards in March. Or July. It just takes some creativity.

Think of these NaNoWriMo components--and create your own writing challenge:
  • Accountability and Support--Let your writing pals know what you're embarking on (go public with it) and you'll be amazed at the outpouring of love and help you get in return.
This is one page from my 2016 NaNo.
I shared it at a writing retreat a few weeks ago.
Four different writers gave me feedback.
Those purple notes on the margin are going to be gold when it comes time to revise.
  • Networking and Perks--Sure, when doing the official NaNoWriMo, you can network with other NaNo-ers all over the planet. However, if you're doing a DIY NaNo, you can create your own network. I'm working on a historical fiction project centered in the 1920's. A writing friend was at a teachers' convention a couple of weeks ago, and she snagged a free YA novel about the same era--just 'cause she knew it would fuel my fire. And yes, if you do NaNo in November, you can earn all sorts of cute badges and banners. But you can set up your own perks if you do your own version of NaNoWriMo.
When I add 800 more words to my manuscript, I'll treat myself to 1/2 a jar of Nutella.

When I finish this chapter, I'll mix up a batch of chocolate chip cookies... and I might even bake some of 'em.

Well, you get the idea...
  • Competition and an Artificial Sense of Urgency--A bit of friendly competition never hurt anybody. Pair up with a writing colleague, and see who can make the most progress in a month. (Remember:  whatever headway you make means you're a winner, writing-wise.) And having a self-imposed deadline looming over your head? When word count is all that matters, you go into "down draft" mode.
What's a "down draft," you ask? These three draft stages come from Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. With the first draft, the ultimate goal is get the story down. Lock that internal editor in a closet. Who cares if your writing is horrid? It's all horrid in the first draft...

The next draft is the "up draft." Now's the time to fix your story up. Look at the down-and-dirty word choices, and revise. If you've got big chunks of telling, transform it into showing. Pretty it up with some rich similes. Fiddle around with the rhythm.

The final one is the "dental draft." Just like your dentist checks every nook and cranny in your mouth to make sure your teeth, fillings and gums are all in perfect shape, you should now be checking the tiny details of your manuscript. Punctuation. Typos. Missing words. Tense changes. Take your time and be thorough.

So, if you didn't take the NaNoWriMo plunge, it's not too late. Pick a month, any month... and dive in.

Sioux Roslawski is a St. Louis dog rescuer with Love a Golden, a grandmother and a writing teacher of middle-schoolers and adults. This month she was a NaNoWriMo loser, getting only an anemic 22,018 words down as of today--far less than the required 50,000 to be considered a NaNo winner... yet she's loving this WIP and will continue to plug away at it. To find out more about Sioux and her writing, please visit her blog.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

 

Start a New Gift Giving Tradition

Did you know that the traditional Icelandic Christmas Eve gift is books? How cool is that? In Iceland, people give each other books on Christmas Eve and then read deep into the night.

We can’t all be Icelandic, but we can give books as Christmas gifts. I’ve already purchased my husband’s Christmas book. I can’t tell you what it is because he reads my blog posts. My son’s book has been selected but not ordered. I’m getting him the oldie but goodie, Motel of Mysteries by David Macaulay. It wasn’t hard to pick out either of these books because I know the two of them so well.

When I need help picking out a book, there are several lists I like to consult.  Here are some of the places I look for book-gifting ideas.

Top 100 Picture Books: Back in 2012, librarian Betsy Bird put together this list for School Library Journal. It’s a few years old now but it lists 100 top picture books, many of them classics. It’s a great place to look for ideas for your cousin’s toddler. After all, who doesn’t need a copy of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as well as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems?

SCBWI Winter Reading List: Have someone on your list who is sure to appreciate a children’s or teen book by a local author or maybe something that has come out in the last year? Check out this list produced by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. There are books from every juvenile genre, organized by region. You can download just the region your gift recipient lives in or check out the entire list. Margo Dill’s Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg is right there on page 36!

Top Ten Banned Books for 2015: Nothing thrills my 30 year-old niece more than a banned book. She read them when she was in high school and she still reads them today. Before I buy anything for her, I check out the top ten most frequently challenged books for the past year.

Whether you live in Iceland or the US, books make great gifts. Give them to the readers in your own life but don’t be surprised when everyone disappears into separate corners to get busy.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
She also teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins December 5, 2016.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

 

Dalai Lama or Drama Llama?

The first time my kiddos came home singing a song about a drama llama I thought they said Dalai Lama and I was impressed with how enlightened they were for being in early elementary school.

Turns out, they had no idea who the Dalai Lama is and they really weren't sure what a drama llama was either - but they know it rhymes with mama llama. I took the opportunity as a teaching moment and gave them a quick lecture about how the Dalai Lama stands for tolerance and peace and a drama llama makes a big deal out of small things. As women, we have opportunities every day. Opportunities in real life, on social media, in our writing, and in our self talk. Opportunities to be more drama llama or be more Dalai Lama.

With the holidays upon us as well as the post-election tension, I find myself in need of more Dalai Lama in my self talk as well as in real life. I did some role playing with my kiddos and then with my hubby (examples below), but most important I wanted to ask what situations you've come across where you have been too Drama Llama and not enough Dalai Lama. Be sure to share some ideas and examples on this post and thanks as always for reading!

Grandma: "oh, your cousin will be at Thanksgiving with her new girlfriend. Did you hear she's dating a girl now?"

Dalai Lama: "That's wonderful that they can make it; I can't wait to see her and meet her friend."


Woman at the grocery store: "Can you believe how long it's taking them to pave this parking lot?"

Dalai Lama: "I thought it was going quickly considering how large the space is and how much traffic there is all day long."


Writer Mama Friend: "I can't believe she self published; don't you think she took the easy way out?"

Dalai Lama: "I'm glad she got her story out there; how do I go about getting a copy?"


The children asked why we need to role play and the truth is, it's because I think of the right thing to say long after I've said the wrong thing. Tell me I'm not alone in this? Someone says something and I'm not quite sure what to say so I say the wrong thing or I stand there with a totally awful look on my face like I'm about to be struck down by a unicorn driving a school bus. I have to rehearse my come backs in advance...especially if I am to be tolerant and peaceful.

Not quite sure what I'm talking about? Thinking "oh Crystal, what could you have said that was so bad?"...let me tell you the worst. I was at a job interview to work with adults with special needs. I was VERY young and had never been interviewed by 8 people at once. I was a wreck (definitely NOT peaceful) and sweating profusely. The Interviewer asked: "tell me Crystal, what type of person do you think you'd have a hard time working with?"

I cannot even recall what was said, but I think I left sobbing because I had completely flubbed everything.

As you know, I didn't get the job. In fact, I'm fairly certain they shredded my resume. I don't even know what I was trying to say, but the garbage that I was saying had me feeling like a head spinning episode of Ally McBeal. Shortly after that interview I decided to either be prepared to say the right thing or say nothing at all. I wish I was more Dalai Lama all the time, but I'm not...sometimes I slip and I'm more Drama Llama.

What's the most embarrassing thing you've ever said? How did you recover?

Do you have a unique saying at your house to remind your family of how to do something better? (My mom always said "do it right the first time so you don't have to do it again" and of course, I'll ask my kiddos if they're being a drama llama or a Dalai Lama).

Please share your thoughts!! 

Here's the song the kiddos came home singing - enjoy! (but somehow my kids incorporated Barack Obama in the song too...hmmm)





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, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, 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/
'

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

 

Holiday Cheat Sheet

The trifecta of family gatherings has begun! Thanksgiving is barely finished...there are still leftovers
in my fridge...and I'm already looking forward to the daunting prospect of Christmas and then New Year's. If you're like me, you gather together with family to eat, exchange gifts or just visit. And we all love that, don't we? Don't we?!

Family is a wonderful thing for writers. They're that supportive community that encourages us, understands us and inspires us. After all, that's what every author writes about on their Acknowledgements page. Of course maybe those authors weren't telling the whole truth. So, as you look forward to countless social events with family members and friends my best advice is to prepare your answers beforehand. To help you, here's a cheat sheet for those fun questions writers are often asked.

When are you going to get a "real job"?

For years I faced this question from a favorite relative. And for years I took it very personally since to me writing is a real job. Now I realize that the whole concept of freelance writing is foreign to him. He (and most people) work a certain number of hours a day and get paid every two weeks, even if it's a slow week at the office, store, classroom, construction site. Once they get hired, the search for work is over. They don't spend their days doing their job and constantly looking for another job...and another job, and another job.

KISS this one (Keep it super simple). "Writing is a real job." But know your audience. If they're the type who will want to start a debate about how writing isn't a "real job" just deliver your five word answer and then go help Aunt Martha in the kitchen for ten minutes before joining another conversation.

What are you writing?

If you haven't prepared for this question it can catch you like a deer in headlights. After all the phrase "more than one iron in the fire" was practically created with writers in mind. So, before any holiday gathering take a quick mental look at your career and pick a few "irons" that your family will enjoy or find interesting.

The rule of three works for this question. "I'm working on several things, including...1, 2 and 3."

When will it be published?

If you've had a few glasses of wine you may be tempted to reply, "Let me get out my crystal ball and I'll tell you." Resist this urge. Instead remind yourself that the world of writing and publishing is even more confusing for non-writers than it is for writers. Explain but be vague so your words don't come back to haunt you at some future gathering.

"After I complete it I can start shopping it around to agents and publishers." or "My deadline is coming up but after that it's really up to my editor."

What happened to....?

This is why I love vague answers. Because someone always remembers the WIP you started, bragged about at Thanksgiving last year and eventually abandoned or transformed into something completely different.

"I've set that aside to focus on Project B/teaching/finding an agent/meeting this deadline."

Why don't you just write...?

A vampire book. A book with lots of sex. A novel about Aunt Mary's drama-filled divorce. A children's book. A movie. I have heard it all. The key here is to silently tell yourself: They love me. They are trying to be helpful. Because they are. They're suggesting something that's on the bestseller list or something that seems easy/profitable.

This is another KISS. "That does sound interesting but I have a few things I'm working on already."

How much money do you make?

OK, they never actually come out and say that. Instead they hint around the edges, often by removing you from the question: How much do magazines pay for articles? Children's books are so short, do they make less money than books for adults? I read that Author X is also a teacher/editor/longshoreman.

Do not take the bait and get caught up in an attempt to prove that you can make a living as a writer. Because unless you are James Patterson (is he a billionaire yet?) you will not convince them. The non-answer will serve you well here.

"That depends/How interesting/I should find out at my next writer's conference." And my favorite, "Is that Aunt Martha calling me from the kitchen?"

Enjoy the holidays!

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. Her family includes two parents, one brother, a dozen aunts and uncles and more cousins than she can count (math never was her strongest subject). You can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

 

3 Ways to Support Small Business Saturday As a Writer

In the United States, we're now in the busy shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and today is Small Business Saturday. Not as popular or crazy as Black Friday, which has been around for decades, Small Business Saturday, a registered trademark of American Express, is six years old and focuses on shopping small and local.

In St. Louis, our wonderful local bookstore, Left Bank Books, is guest-hosting many authors and inviting people to come in and shop. Their email invitation made me think about three other ways, besides visiting local, independent bookstores, that writers could participate in Small Business Saturday.

1. Buy an independent or small press book from their websites. It's great if you buy a small press or self-published book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and often, you do this because you want to download it as an e-book. But often times, you can buy straight from the author on his or her website or from the small press's website. I know this because my novels are published with a small press, and I sell my novels from my website. Is there a book you've been wanting to purchase recently? How about some of our blog tour authors? Make Saturday the day you finally sit down and make your purchases.

2. Hire an editor, graphic designer, or audio book actor. So you've been wanting to publish your book or get it ready for submitting to an agent. Maybe you've been putting off hiring a graphic designer for your book cover, or you've finally decided to make your book available as an audio book. Today, contact that person and take the plunge or at least get the conversation going and show your interest in their services.

3. Take a WOW! class or enter our flash fiction contest. Yes, you can celebrate Small Business Saturday right here! WOW! Women on Writing is a small business designed to help writers--men and women--reach their goals and fulfill their dreams. We offer several online classes, currently listed on the WOW! classroom page and begin the first week of December through the first week of March. Some are offered every month; some are offered a couple times a year, so check that out here and sign up for a class on Saturday. Or enter our fall short story contest with a deadline of November 30. You can read the rules and submission information here.

However you decide to honor Small Business Saturday this year, may it help you reach your writing goals and bring you continued productivity and success into 2017.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, teacher, editor, and writing coach, living in St. Louis. She teaches a novel writing course for the WOW! classroom, which begins the first Friday of every month. To find out more about Margo and her books, please visit http://www.margoldill.com




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Friday, November 25, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Truth About Being a Writer


by Murees Dupé

So, you want to be a writer. After all, you’ve spent a considerable amount of time imagining what it would be like having millions rave about your book. You’ve even imagined what it would be like at a book signing, where people rush to have you sign their books and for a quick chat. Of course, don’t forget the popular idea that your book could be made into a movie. Exciting times, right?

Well, I think all who aspire to be a writer fall in love with the romantic side of it. The idea of sitting in solitude and churning out one good novel after another. Having written a good book after maybe two or three drafts. The idea of getting paid to do what you love and thus, being able to retire early and write full-time.

Unfortunately, nobody is ever honest and tells you how hard it is to make that romantic aspect of writing come to life. If you love writing and having the love for writing be the most important aspect for you, then no worries. You have a good chance to make writing a career. However, if you’re looking for quick success and to become a millionaire almost instantly, well, you might have to pursue another career. There is a lot of work involved with writing. You may spend months writing a piece and after finishing, decide that it’s not good enough and you start over. There might even be times when your inner voice is quiet and you have nothing to say/write.

Writing is not for the faint hearted, or the lazy. You have to believe in yourself and your work. You have to keep writing and creating even though your critique partners think what you’ve written is utter trash. When self-doubt and negativity come knocking at your door, you have to face them and battle on. Always remember that you love writing and nothing and no one is going to stop you from letting your ideas and creativity leap unto the page.

So, you want to be a writer. Good for you. But please, know that it takes a lot of determination, hard work and patience. Some might even think those words are synonymous with torture. But that is what it truly takes. You, sitting in a chair, writing. Writing even when you don’t feel like it. Creating even though you don’t have money in your bank account. Writing even when you feel like a wanne-be writer instead of the real thing.

One thing I can assure you. Even if your back account is empty, if you love writing, you will feel happy and whole. There is a part of a writer that simply comes to life by putting words on a page. There is a freedom in writing that I’ve personally never experienced in life.

My advice? Become a writer if you dare. Good-luck.

* * *
Murees is a South African indie author and blogger. She released her debut novel, The Amaranthine (Thelum Series), in 2015. When she is not thinking up new stories, she is spending time with her family, playing with her four-legged kids, watching TV, or overindulging on desserts. 
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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, November 24, 2016

 

Book Review: Journal Magic for Writers 14 Day Writing Challenge by Mari L. McCarthy

Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you're reading this before any pre-meal time with friends and family or while you're letting that turkey and cranberry sauce digest, I'm here to help you as you begin to make your list of gifts to buy the writers in your lives.

Mari L. McCarthy, who recently toured with us for her book Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live, has number of e-books available in her online store, and Journal Magic is perfect for writers. See my thoughts below.


Review:
Having completed Mari McCarthy’s e-book 28 Days Weight Control Journaling Challenge and the exercises in her self-help memoir Journaling Power I wondered if journaling could also help me work through some feelings of writer’s block I’ve been having with a few of my fiction manuscripts. Browsing through Mari’s online store, Journal Magic for Writers jumped out at me and I downloaded it that same day.

Her e-books appeal to me because they are inexpensive but chock full of great information and exercises. Journal Magic for Writers is a 14-day challenge that gradually helps writers work through issues that may be keeping them from moving forward with their writing. The exercises Mari uses are ones that I normally wouldn’t think about including in my journal, such as finding the joy in play, acknowledging things I’m fearful of, experimenting with my writing voice, and concrete steps I can take to achieve my writing goals.

One of the things I was reminded of was how writing down notes in a journal can serve as a source of inspiration for writers of all genres—from memoir, to fiction, to writers hoping to break into a mainstream magazine with a human-interest story. Everyday observations that may seem insignificant at the time (a newspaper article, for example) can easily turn into a storyline in a book or topic for a news article.

After completing the challenge I felt invigorated and excited to be a writer again, as I had been in somewhat of a slump where I felt I didn’t know how to be creative anymore.




My journal is now also full of some great ideas for future articles and stories, so I encourage any of my writer friends to take the challenge or purchase this e-book as a gift for any writer friends.

Blessings to you all, my friends!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is addicted to the smell of old books and never met a secondhand bookstore she didn't love. Learn more about her at FinishedPages.com.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

 

Counting Your Blessings In a Word Cloud

So here it is, the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that many of you might be overwhelmed…the cooking, the cleaning, the stressing. You need a moment or two, just a little time to gather yourself so you can actually, you know, enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving. That’s where a word cloud comes in.

And for this exercise to work well, it’d be nice if you had a gratitude journal.

My gratitude journal is more of a gratitude list. I’m a big fan of lists. Lists are easy. Lists are quick. And so before I go to sleep every night, I list five things/people/intangibles for which I’m grateful. There’s something about counting my blessings that helps me dwell on the positives rather than the negatives of the day.

But if you don’t have a gratitude journal, you can just make a regular, old school list. Make it a long list, though; free write for maybe ten minutes, typing every little thing that pops into your head, and don’t worry if you write the same word over and over again. In fact, make it a point to add that bountiful blessing as often as you need it.

Now it’s time to go to a word cloud generator. These are cool applications that will take a whole bunch of words and make them into a graphic. It’s a great tool that allows you to “see” your writing which can be helpful in many ways. For example, you can plug in a manuscript and find out if your protagonist’s name shows up often…or if instead, the word “bologna” dominates your story. (If bologna is your protagonist, then you’re fine. But if your protagonist really likes bologna and you’re writing about a sandwich meat to the point of obsession, then you might want to make some changes in your manuscript.)

There are lots of word generators, like WordItOut, Tagul, TagCrowd and probably the best-known, Wordle (Note: if Chrome is your browser, you’re not going to be able to use Wordle). They’re free and very accessible. Seriously, if you can copy and paste, you can figure out how to create a word cloud. I went with WordItOut to make this graphic from my journal’s list of November blessings. The whole process—taking a break, listing your blessings, creating a word cloud, printing it out—will take maybe a half hour.

Just thirty minutes for you to see how truly blessed you are! You can even put your word graphic in a simple frame from a dollar store and make it the centerpiece for the holiday table, wherever that may find you.

So relax, y'all! I have a feeling that those lovely words might be the best dish you serve this Thanksgiving.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

 

Interview with Flash Fiction Runner Up, Erica Settino

Long-time yoga teacher, activist and writer, Erica Settino is the Founder/Executive Director of the yoga-based nonprofit organization, Karuna For Animals: Compassion In Action, Inc., as well as the Editor-At-Large of Creations Magazine. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing, and has been honored and blessed to have her writing appear in numerous print and online publications including,Creations Magazine, Tiny Buddha, The Legendary, Animal Sheltering Magazine and more.

In May of 2015, she and her husband welcomed their son, Sebastian Bodhi, whom immediately became Erica’s greatest teacher, inspiration and best friend. She and her family live on Long Island with their three four-legged and furry companions.

You can read more about Erica’s activism, her yoga and her writing at Karuna for Animals and her web site.

Be sure to read her story, The Things We Leave Behind, before you read the interview.

WOW: There’s so much emotion packed into this story that it didn’t feel like a short form at all. It was so “filling.” Can you share with our readers what inspired it?

Erica: My husband and I are vegans. We’ve worked with animals and around animals for years. And we’re raising our son as a vegan. This stems from watching animals in their natural habitat with humans interfering as little as possible. We’re co-existing.

We are lucky enough to live in an area where osprey live every year. They show up around St. Patrick’s Day. I didn’t know if I had ever seen an osprey before I moved to this hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island. They build their nests on area property and I became enthralled by them.

It was part of my evolution -- single woman, moving in with my husband here, getting married, having a child. It was all part of a process and as I changed I saw that the osprey say good bye to their children. It is very bittersweet. When I became pregnant I started writing about the osprey and thinking how challenging that would be to let go of a child, but it is all part of the process. The ospreys inspire me to fly and to allow my son to fly.

WOW: How did this piece evolve and grow from idea to finished story?

Erica: Initially it was not flash fiction. It was thousands and thousands of words. I wrote it and rewrote it several times before submitting it to an animal anthology that was about human-animal interaction and interdependence. My story wasn’t chosen but I’m friendly with the publisher and she gave me a little bit of feedback about the dialogue. After that I was able to see the piece through her lens. I stripped a lot of the dialogue away. That let the interaction with the bird and the interaction between the mother and the daughter stand on its own.

I did this final rewrite quickly. I saw that WOW was doing the contest, I had the story, and I believed in it. There is so much of my life in this story. My grandmother had breast cancer. My becoming a new mother. Hurricane Sandy is the storm I speak to in the story and so much of the wildlife was lost. We saw that. We lived that. When I cut the dialogue out and let the rest speak for itself it shone much brighter.

When you write something short like this, you give your reader the benefit of the doubt that painting the picture is enough. You don’t need to hold their hand and lead them through the story. One of the things that I stripped out is that a young couple and their children tried to escape in the darkness. This really happened where we live. They had the children in the car and a tree collapsed on the parents and the father died. Eventually the mother freed herself and got in the car and saved the children. It happened only 2 blocks from me. It was so hard to fathom and I tried to work through it in the original story. I had to let that horror go and trust that what was still there would speak to people -- that a storm like this was such a difficult thing to survive.

WOW: That would have made for a very different story. It must have been hard to take that part out. What advice can you give writers who are new to writing flash fiction but want to give this form a try?

Erica: It can be difficult not to give it all in the moment, and write it all out for the reader and say make the connections that I’ve made. Rewriting this taught me that the connection is even better when you leave it to the reader to make.

It can also be rewarding when other people take something else from the piece. The osprey can be so metaphorical to some readers when to me it is very literal. I like allowing for that too.

When I was stripping down the original piece, I said to my husband that writing flash fiction is so challenging because the finished piece still needs to be a story. There has to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. People mistake flash fiction for a form where things can be left out. In reality you are bringing those things into a smaller container. For me it was about limiting my language and letting the story be the action instead of trailing people along with dialogue and filling everything in.

WOW: How do your passions as an activist shape your flash fiction?

Erica: They shape just about everything. The writing gives me a container, a safe space to offer some perspective that some people may not already have. I can offer them some perspective into the lives of these other beings that I work so hard to advocate for. Showing an animal as an individual is useful to an activist.

My point here is that the osprey is no different from us. What they are doing is mirroring what I’m going through, what Ella and her mother are going through. My activism informs everything that I do because its kindness and compassion for all beings. The best I can do is to try to bring that to light in different ways.

What’s going on with Ella and her mother is as much as part of the natural world as what’s going on with the osprey. I want to say that we aren’t superior or inferior. We’re just doing the best we can. The natural world reminds me of that on a regular basis.

WOW: You lead a very full life in addition to being a writer. How do you work it all in? What advice do you have for our readers who may find it difficult to find time to write?

Erica: You make the time. Nobody has the time.

I used to have the time before I was a mother and now I realize how indulgent that was. I’m lucky to have the husband that I have and the support that I get from him in everything I do. He is an active father and we literally schedule time for me to do what I do.

Otherwise I’m at home giving my all to my son which is what I want to do. But I also want to write. I do my best writing before my husband leaves for work when I’m drinking a smoothie for breakfast.

Ask yourself, when do you feel most awake? Alert? Creative? Give yourself that time even if it is only 20 minutes. Sometimes my best writing comes on a Facebook post or in a newsletter. When that happens, I save that so that I can work with it again later. Any kind of writing is valuable to the craft and might become something more.

In yoga I was reminded by my teacher how important journaling is. When I journal it is just free form and it isn’t usually prompted. I just write whatever is there at the surface, and then the stuff that’s deeper starts to come up. I may jot something down when my son is sleeping and work on it more later.

I still have to schedule the time. Make a conscious decision to say this is important to me and I am going to do it. Sometimes it’s because I had a query accepted and I have to get that done. I do have specific things that I know I want to write about and then specific places where I want to get them published. Sometimes it’s just whatever I’m working on. I think it is more important to just write, see what comes up, and then work on it. Take that time each day.

If you’re having a hard time writing, you might not feel encouraged to take the time to work through that difficulty. But you need to take that time even if you just sit with a pen and a piece of paper. It is part of the process.

It benefits me to be in that space even if nothing of note comes of it. Give yourself time to write.

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards.  

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Monday, November 21, 2016

 

WOW Welcomes New Muffin Bloggers! Sioux Roslawski, Mary Horner, and Beth Harar

Earlier this month we put a call out for bloggers to join The Muffin’s team, and the response was incredible. So many talented writers applied for the position, but we could only choose three this round. We are pleased to welcome Sioux Roslawski, Mary Horner, and Beth Harar to the WOW! family and to The Muffin’s blogging team! We know they’ll provide fellow writers with unique insight into their specific areas of writing. Let me tell you a bit about them.

Sioux Roslawski has been contributing to The Muffin for years and is almost always the first one to comment on posts—which as a blogger, you know is paramount! She’s written several excellent posts for our Friday Speak Out program, and we can’t wait to see what she’ll write next. She says, “To be able to contribute something... to be able to reach out to fellow writers... well, that would be quite satisfying. It would also be a way of paying back what I've gotten from the blog over the years.”

Sioux belongs to two writing critique groups, is shopping around a children’s picture book, and just finished another manuscript. While working on larger projects, she continues to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul (she’s published in sixteen volumes!), and Sasee magazine. Her blog is Sioux’s Page, and she posts twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Sioux’s a retired third grade teacher who got rehired as a middle-school teacher because, she says, “I wasn't done teaching... not by a long shot.” Sioux also teaches a 6-graduate credit hour class each summer on writing to teachers, via the National Writing Project. “To be able to work with children during the school year and then adults during the summer is heaven, in my opinion,” she says, and adds, “I do dog rescue work all year-long, and I savor get-togethers with my kids and my granddaughter, and dream of living in France full-time (so I can stalk Johnny Depp and fill up on the best bread in the world).” (We hear that! Everyone needs a goal to strive for.)

Mary Horner has been a writer for many years; in fact, she wrote a helpful article for WOW in 2009 called, How to Research for the Non-Researcher. Currently, she teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community College, and works as a freelance writer. Over the summer, she wrote test questions for a textbook publisher, published an article on interpersonal communications for The Credit Professional magazine; and last year, she edited a podiatrist’s book on foot care and diabetes. She has a master’s degree in communications a certificate in writing from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and a writing and editing certification from the American Medical Writers Association. Her book, Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, was published in 2011 by High Hill Press.

Mary is currently working on a novel and says she’s “trying to connect more effectively with the writing community at large.” We think she’ll accomplish that here at The Muffin! She also writes for her own blog, writRteachR.

We first met Beth Harar when she toured with WOW! Women On Writing for her novel, Voices of the Sea (WiDo Publishing, July 2014). Having gone through the publishing process, we feel she has a unique perspective to share with The Muffin’s audience. “It was a defining moment for my writing career,” she says, “which quickly fizzled into nothing more than a novelty. I realized that if I want to truly pursue a career in writing, I need to write more than just books. Blogging for The Muffin will keep me on task—it will serve both as a way to help my fellow writers through their (let’s face it) often tumultuous relationships with writing and authorship, and it will also work as a creative outlet for me. I’m allowed to be a little selfish, right?” (Yes, Beth! It’s a win-win!) Beth is currently working on another novel and plans to share her “in the trenches” experiences with Muffin readers.

Beth studied English at James Madison University, and eventually studied at Virginia Commonwealth University to acquire a Masters in Secondary English Education. She currently teaches high school English at her alma mater, doing her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and two children who are her biggest cheerleaders. Her website is www.bethanymasoneharar.com and she blogs at Beth’s Bemusings.

Now that you know a little bit about these ladies, we hope you’re as excited as we are to hear more from them. Let’s continue to inspire and learn from one another!

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

 

Writer’s Block vs NaNoWriMo

Back in early October I blogged about doing the prep work needed to take on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I had hope and ambition. I made plans. The universe laughed.

Little did I know that I was going to get a rewrite request right before Halloween. I got that done but I didn’t get the NaNoWriMo prep work done. I had my characters and settings. I even had some material culture. While I had a premise and a vague idea what would happen, I didn’t have anything approaching an outline. No worry! I could do this.

Toward the end of week one, I turned in my rewrite and jumped into writing. I would outline and draft simultaneously. This time the universe wasn’t just laughing. It was rolling on the floor, kicking its feet. Frankly, it was a little embarrassing.

For two days, I worked on my draft. How many pages did I accomplish? I managed to write two lackluster pages. Yes, I got a few more clues into what would happen in my story but I finally had to face reality. My outline wasn’t coming together and I couldn’t get the writing to flow. I was blocked. Maybe not entirely but if this was plumbing or an artery we’d be panicking. What to do?

Here are the steps that helped me.

Step 1. Acknowledge the block. After two days of beating my head on my keyboard, I finally faced facts. Block acknowledged.

Step 2. Look for possible causes. I was exhausted physically and mentally so it wasn’t hard to figure out. While working on my rewrite, my father had a health setback, two distant friends lost their mothers and my son’s scout master lost his wife. No quick fix here. I needed time and space.

Step 3. What can you do about it? I could recharge. I knitted cactus pin cushions. I started knitting a lace shawl. I read and read and read some more.

Step 4. Once you’re ready to get back into it, assess the progress you had made. Time to face reality. I needed an outline but whenever I tried to work on it, I felt adrift. I had to be missing something. The best planning tools that I know are The Plot Whisperer book and workbook. I’m now rereading these, working my way through the exercises and adding to the scrapbook about my story. I don’t have a full outline yet but I do have my main character’s emotional arc, the action arc and the thematic arc. Same for my bad guy.

I’ll start writing when I have a complete plan. Until then, I’ll work on other things and that’s really okay. I’ve submitted a piece of middle grade nonfiction to an agent. I’ve rewritten an early reader and sent it out to an ESL publisher.

Writer’s block isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a signal that you need to move forward on a different path.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
She also teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins December 5, 2016.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

 

Keep on Writing During the Holidays

As if being a writer isn't challenging enough, the holiday season is now upon us. You're now taking care of some or all of the following: shopping, wrapping, mailing gifts, traveling to see relatives, hosting meals, preparing for parties and more. The extra responsibilities can easily overtake your life, and the urge to abandon your writing goals during this time of year can be strong—but don't. You can write and it will make you feel better! Here are some suggestions for end-of-the-year writing:

*Intend to write. If you want to write despite and through the season's challenges, then first decide that's what you want to do. Intend to write in in December. Choose to make it happen. Your intention will guide you to the right action.

*Try new tricks. Writing during the last part of the year may require a different way of doing things. Maybe you don’t usually get up early to write, but for this one month or two, you'll need to. To accomplish writing goals by year end, get creative with your schedule and be willing to forgo some of your usual activities.

*Write as a stress reliever. Even doing a little bit of your regular writing can make you feel good. "Doing what you love will make you feel more energized for tackling your holiday chores," says writer Debbie Fox, in her blog. She suggests that you turn off the holiday music while you write, too. "You don’t need to be reminded of all you still have to do. Forget about your lists—they won’t grow any longer during the few minutes you write."

* Stay in touch. Your writer friends are facing the same challenges, so check in with them by phone or e-mail. Tell each other what you're working on and how it's going. Hearing about each other people's weekly goals and small successes can be very motivating.

*Push aside your excuses. During this hectic time, you'll need to move past your (often legitimate) excuses not to write. Creativity coach and author Eric Maisel suggests adding the phrase "but I will write anyway" to any writing obstacles. For example, "Yes, I am tired tonight, BUT I will write anyway." "Yes, it’s been a stressful day and my nerves are raw, BUT I will write anyway, at least for a few minutes."

*Ask for support. Are there some things that you can delegate to your spouse or kids to free up a little bit of writing time? Whether it's wrapping gifts or stamping envelopes, many hands make light work. Also, tell your partner what you're up against, and what kind of writing time you need. Your creative work is worth making time for.

*Commit to small sessions. Try writing in short, fifteen minute blocks of time—you can probably squeeze that in. Also, keep your notebook handy or computer document open, so that you can dive into your project whenever you have a chance. Even making daily notes or freewriting is important. If you keep the writing muscle active, and plant small seeds for future projects, you'll be ready to work when the New Year comes.

Good luck, and keep writing!

***

Marcia Peterson is the editor of WOW! Women on Writing's blog, The Muffin. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Writing With Love

by Jeanine DeHoney

Just when I was having one of those days when I was saying my husband didn't get me as a writer, you know, how he doesn't understand how it’s possible to sit in front of a computer for an hour and have one paragraph to show for it, he comes out with the most amazing, insightful words that make me fall in love with him all over again.

Let me explain. Lately it seems as if I haven't been enjoying writing as much as I used to. Sometimes I outright dreaded opening my eyes in the morning to see a dark computer screen waiting for me, sometimes seemingly taunting me knowing I had a laborious feat ahead.

I felt like I was writing on the edge all the time, ready to fall into an abyss that threatened to steal my passion and joy as a writer. Even when my words weren't playing a game of hide and go seek, when I was busy- recycling old stories, creating new stories, writing queries, editing my novel in progress -my mind wasn't connecting to my heart. I didn't love what I was doing.

I was concerned more about the end result than the process even as I wrote. I rushed to finish stories to produce quantity instead of taking my time, writing as if I was sipping a cup of tea on some Southern porch taking in the sights, sounds, and smells around me so it could add another layer to my stories. I wanted to relish in the sweet taste of being salable and successful as an author so I wrote with that in mind and it chipped away at my passion.

When I voiced my feelings about this uncomfortable place I was in with my writing to my husband one evening, his words suddenly shifted me, probably because this was the season I needed to hear them.

“You have to stop writing from that place of anxiousness,” he said. “You always used to complain about not having the time to write, now that you do, write because you love writing and tell the stories you want to tell.”

He was so right. Even though it hadn't come as I expected it would come, I got a chance to write full time. But through the years, especially of lately, there were loose threads I unintentionally kept tugging at that began to unravel the passion and love I had for my muse. The only way it could be mended, stitched together to close the looming hole threatening to ruin my garment, was to rekindle the tinder, find that spark I once had and relight it.

Relighting that spark meant writing with a renewed voice those stories I yearned to write, stories about the dynamics of families as I sifted through the beauty and the ashes of my own. It meant writing fearlessly, without the need to conform and write stories that were deemed more marketable, but ones that didn't show the depth of who I or my characters were. It meant having faith as small as a mustard seed and a belief that when I did what I loved, all of my cards would align perfectly and success as I knew it, which wasn't in monetary terms but in how it inspired others,would follow.

At a time when our country is so openly divided, when children are crying wondering about their future, we all should be an example of living a life doing what we love so our inner light won't dim.

Our world could use more love; love of self, love of our neighbors and love of our muse especially as writers whose distinctive voices can fill the crevices of a hurting world and spread healing. So today I choose to fall in love with writing again. And I thank my husband for showing me the way.

* * *
Jeanine DeHoney, wife, mom and grandmother "extraordinaire" has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines and blogs including "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul," The Mom Egg, Literary Mama, Mused Bella online, Writing For Dollars, True Stories Well Told, Underwater New York, Mutha Magazine, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby and ScaryMommy.com. She was a 2013 finalist in the Brooklyn Art and Film Festivals Nonfiction Contest and the winner of that contest in 2014. 
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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, November 17, 2016

 

Authentic Blogging Doesn't Require Perfection

Years ago I read a fabulous article about blogging and perfection. I don't recall who wrote it, but it stuck with me. The gist of it is that a blog (unlike a book) doesn't have to be perfect. Typos are allowed and in fact they are encouraged! Encouraged? Wait, What? Yes, you read that correctly. In a day and age where being your authentic self is the key, making mistakes is the name of the game. For years I've had as part of my bio "failing forward" because that's what my road looks like. I've stumbled, I've fallen, I've been fired, I've been hated, I've been admired, and I'm still here. I'm still moving forward. I'm sure there are people who would tell you to sugar coat the failing part, but that's not truthful. People gravitate toward people they relate to. None of us relate to perfection. If you only publish a blog post that's perfect, you'll have a very empty blog and a frustrated following. It's ok to post a photo with a messy kitchen in the background. It's okay to write about things that are painful and you may just find that your writing is choppy and there's lots of spelling errors in your posts most filled with emotion. Guess what? People will love those posts even more, because we can all relate to feeling like a hot mess. We've all had those moments when we felt nothing we did was good enough. Sharing those messy moments makes you human. It converts you from words on a screen to a friend. If you include videos on your blog or in your social media, the same holds true...don't wait for the perfect moment. Being authentic means just getting your story out there, regardless of your messy hair, noisy children, or interruptions.

It's important to read and re-read what you're writing. You don't want to be completely sloppy or hap-hazard with your writing. Similarly, you wouldn't want to post a picture that will haunt you (or a member of your family) for years to come and you want to put some thought into your video before hitting the record button. What you don't want to do is overthink every little part of your message. It's the imperfection that helps make your voice unique and draws people to you. If you haven't heard of Glennon Doyle Melton, you should really look her up. She's an author with over a 1/2 million followers and she's far from perfect. She struggled with bulimia and addiction, her marriage endured adultery and she is currently separated from her husband and just this week announced (via Facebook) she is in love with two time Olympic God Medalist Abby Wambach. Glennon is a Christian mom blogger who has openly admitted to falling in love with another woman. Talk about being authentic and far from perfect. Her post about Abby is beautiful. There are sentence fragments. It doesn't matter. Love and beauty aren't perfect. Authenticity isn't perfect. The imperfect message, from the imperfect blogger...now that's perfection!

The next time you sit down and write your heart out and talk yourself out of publishing the message, I want you to think about this post. What you are doing is negative self talk. You are telling yourself that your message isn't good enough. That you aren't good enough. If you wait for the perfect moment, you are not only cheating yourself, but you are cheating your readers and your potential readers. Type through the tears and the mess and just get the message out there. Authentic blogging doesn't require perfection.

What's been holding you back? What does your self talk sound like? Are you fearful of doing a video on your Facebook page because you feel awkward? We want to hear from you. More important - those of you who aren't being held back, how did you push through those fears? What advice would you give others? How do you feel about imperfections in blogging?

Share you thoughts and ideas in the comments of this post - we love to hear from you!

PS - just for fun, let me know of any imperfections you can find in the above picture of my little fix it man! There are lots!

Hugs,
~Crystal

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, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 8, Breccan 3, 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/






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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

 

Interview with Elizabeth Pagel Hogan, Spring 2016 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan is a writing mom on the run. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA where things come in threes, like rivers, kids and sports like triathlons. She writes fiction and non-fiction for adults but her favorite readers are children. Her stories and articles have appeared in Highlights for Children, AppleSeeds, Odyssey and Faces. She is the 2016-2017 Fellow for Pen Parentis and a 2015 “Promising Writer” in the Western PA SCBWI chapter. Her self-published books, My Food Notebook & The Bumpy, Grumpy Road, are available on Amazon. She is actively submitting her first middle grade novel to agents and working on her second. When she’s not training for triathlons or testing her fears, she hosts school and community workshops. Chat about writing with her on Twitter @OneSweetWriter, Facebook or her blog Just Desserts. Keep up with her training on Instagram or her family adventures on her blog Try It and You May.


Read her entry Sargassum and then come back here to learn more about how Elizabeth juggles writing with athletic training, motherhood, travel, and much more.

WOW: Elizabeth, welcome! I loved reading your story with its beautiful imagery and can't wait to learn more about you and where your ideas come from. Could you tell us the story behind the first piece of writing you ever had published as an adult?

Elizabeth: My first non-fiction published piece as an adult was an essay for FamilyFun magazine about my secret tips for managing a grumpy kid. My tip centered around - of course- telling my son a story about him being in the driver’s seat of his actions and feelings. After the essay, I self-published this story as a children’s book. My first fiction piece of published writing as an adult was a sci-fi retelling of Jane Eyre called “Jane D.O.E.” where Jane is actually a robotic governess with a fatal flaw.

WOW: In your bio you mention that you train for triathlons. I know how time-consuming a training schedule can be when added to everything else going on in an athlete's life. Do you have any tips on how your juggle it all--the training, the writing, your kids' and family activities, etc.?

Elizabeth: Multi-tasking is the key to juggling it all. I do a lot of pre-writing in my head during workouts. I’ll plan out scenes, write dialogue, sketch outlines and setting. I’m also incredibly lucky that my kids love to read, because I use them as free labor during revision! My oldest prefers to check punctuation and grammar while my youngest checks for plot holes and emotional engagement. He tells me a story is good when he forgets he’s reading. The youngest is my go-to audience when I want to inject some laughter.

WOW: I love that you kids help your stories. I use mine as beta readers but you've given me some ideas here. You also speak of "testing your fears." We'd love to hear more about that if you're willing to share!

Elizabeth: This is inspired by my middle grade novel “Dare Club,” a story about three middle schoolers who learn what it means to be brave. Being brave doesn’t mean not being scared, it means doing things even when you’re scared. That could be sending your novel to an agent and risking rejection. It could mean doing an open water swim when you can’t stop picturing the lake monster coming to get you. It could mean trying a new restaurant where their arancini appetizer is served with a cricket and mealworm crust. I learn so much about myself when I’m doing something that scares me or worries me or freaks me out. I learn how to talk myself through tough situations, how to find humor when I’m most worried, and I learn how tough I am. This isn’t just for me, I also hope my kids realize they can do the things they dream of, even if they are scared.

WOW: You travel extensively with your family and have been to 31 out of the 50 states. What are five states you think every family should visit at least once and why?

Elizabeth: Maryland, my home state for the history and the seafood. Washington DC isn’t a state, but I feel it’s a must-visit again because of history and the present. Hawaii, for the beauty and multiculturalism. New York for sheer variety of experience from upstate to Manhattan. And I’ll never forget seeing the rough beauty of Idaho for the first time. It’s worth the effort.

WOW: Also, more congratulations is in order! You received the 2016-2017 Fellow for Pen Parentis with the story "Cernunnos and Me.” What is the piece about?

Elizabeth: Thank you. I was so honored to be named Fellow by Pen Parentis. “Cernunnos and Me” is a short piece of fiction about a young man who learns to live with his new roommate, the prehistoric deity Cernunnos, also known as the Horned God.

WOW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We can't wait to see where your writing takes you.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

 

Advice for Writers: Keep Moving Forward

This statement, "Keep moving forward," has been appearing a lot in my life lately, and I think it's the perfect topic for a Monday morning inspirational post. After being completely stressed out in October, I finally had a meltdown of epic proportions about the craziness and busy-ness of my life; my friend said to me, "Just keep moving forward. You can't do anything about the past. But every day, you can take a step forward to where you want to be in your life."

How did he get so smart?

But he's right, and this is true for all of us--whether you're talking about your personal, professional, or writing life. You have to take a step every day to move toward where you want to be. Looking behind too long keeps you stuck.

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to serve as a mentor for the ShowMe Writers Masterclass Conference in Columbia, MO at the University of Missouri, and one of the speakers was Chuck Sambuchino from Writer's Digest. I've heard him speak before, and he is very engaging. Don't miss an opportunity to learn from him if you get the chance. Anyway, he was enlightening the audience about 10 ways to be a professional writer. He started his speech by acknowledging that there were so many things beyond our control as writers; and therefore, we have to focus on the things we can control, such as the quality of our writing and our brand/platform.

Then one of his points was also--you guessed it--"Keep moving forward." Take a rejection, for example; a rejection is beyond your control as long as you did your best job and followed the directions. You can keep moving forward by sending it to someone else, or if it's received several rejections, looking objectively at the piece and revising it. You aren't stuck. You aren't putting the manuscript in a drawer and refusing to write. You are moving forward because you sent it back out.

As I wrote last time, my YA book is out of print. But I am moving forward by planning to self-publish it, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I also heard Jay Asher, a YA author of Thirteen Reasons Why (soon to be a Netflix series), speak at a library in St. Charles at the end of October. He has a new book out, What Light, and this is his first book on his own after all the success he had with Thirteen Reasons Why ten years before. He talked about how difficult it was to write another book after all the success of the first one, but he kept moving forward. He said he works on a few projects at a time, so that if he gets stuck on one, he can switch to another. That might not work for some people, but it does for him--because he is moving forward on the projects instead of being stuck in writer's block.

So, how do you move forward in your writing career? If you are stuck, what could you do to get unstuck?

Margo L. Dill is a writer, published children's author, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. To find out more, please visit http://www.margoldill.com

photo above by Josh James on Flickr.com 

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

 

Why I Need Creative Outlets Besides Writing

Cooking allows me to express myself through a variety of foods.

I enjoy creative writing. That’s no secret. But over the years I’ve discovered it’s also a good idea for writers to have other creative outlets besides reading and writing. They can help you decompress, mentally work through stresses and issues you may be grappling with, use different areas of your brain, and, in some cases, work their way into your writing projects.

Exercise has always been something I’ve tried to keep up with, but in the past year, I’ve also taken up two new hobbies that are letting me be creative in ways I never imagined.

The first one is cooking. A few years ago, I started following a local blogger who ended up writing a cookbook that ended up as a New York Times bestseller. Her recipes focused on cooking with whole foods so I felt good about the dishes I was making. The editor in me couldn’t quite leave the recipes “as is” and you’ll find Post-it notes stuck to various pages with notes like “add more salt,” or “cut the chili power in half,” or “double this recipe so you’ll have leftovers.” Lately, I’ve gotten even more creative with the foods I make, probably thanks to me discovering “Chopped” and “Chopped Junior” on the Food Network this past summer and binge watching episodes on Netflix. I especially favor Mexican-inspired dishes (my homemade guacamole finally convinced my husband he liked avocados) and Italian meals. Now I throw around phrases like “flavor profile,” “composed dish,” and drop hints to my family that things a glass salad dressing bottle would make a great stocking stuffer.

I also joined the chancel choir at my church a few months ago. I’ve always loved to sing, but never found many ways to practice it in between writing, editing, cooking, and driving my kids back and forth to their activities. Now it makes me feel good to have choir practice once a week (something just for me) and learn choral pieces I’ve never heard before. It gets me out of my head and my house (sometimes I need a little nudge in that area) and forces me to work with others to create a cohesive program.

It dawned on me today that these two activities work well for me because each time I do them, there is a clear start and finish. Once you begin cooking a baked good or dish, you pretty much have to follow through to the end. The same thing goes for singing in a performance in front of an audience. This may be why other outlets don’t work so well for me—things such as sketching, coloring, or crafting. It’s too easy for me to set them aside (not unlike my short stories and novels) and never finish them.

Do you have any other creative outlets you enjoy? What are they and how do you feel they help you?


Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who has recently discovered a love of cooking and unearthing quick and healthy recipes. You can get an idea of some of her culinary adventures by following her on Instagram at @rlroberson.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

 

Let's Talk Turkey About Writing!

See those turkeys? Bet they're talking about writing, what with it being smack dab in the middle of November and National Novel Writing Month. How about we join them? And in the spirit of giving, what with November also being about Turkey Day, I’ll share some of my favorite insider writing tips, websites, and info and you can share yours. Wheee!

I’m always looking for great quality photos to go along with a blog post and if I can find free ones at an easily navigable site, even better! My new favorite place to search for free photos is called Pexels. I almost always find what I need, and if I use more than one picture from a photographer, I might even leave a little tip.

Next, it seems like I always have a story, poem, or essay or two or 345 that didn’t sell at the original market where I submitted. So I go to my favorite market resource: Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers (from ICL, the Institute of Children’s Literature). One of my favorite features with this resource is the listing of freelance potential; I like to know my chances of getting accepted. The Writer’s Digest market books are excellent, too, with lots of great take-away info. And here’s the great insider tip I’m passing along: get the current year’s book in the fall when it goes on sale. You can pick up these books for a fraction of what you’d pay in just a few months when the new book comes out, and honestly, the information about the markets doesn’t change that much. Besides, you know to always go online and double check a market before submitting, right?

And finally, one of the most important things I do to support my writing is reading. I read a lot of books. Not necessarily books about writing—though I have bookshelves sagging from all those books and someday, really, I’m going to read ‘em—but books in the genre in which I write. I like to stay on top of the best books in kidlit, especially the books the kids are gobbling up. And I find those books over at Goodreads on all of their great lists. But I particularly love when, once a year, the Goodreads community votes to come up with the “Best of…” lists; that reading keeps me busy for the rest of the year!

Now it’s your turn to give, writers. Have a special writing tip? A favorite go-to writer website? Insider writer information? Share in the comments and I promise, we’ll all be very thankful!

(Well, maybe not the turkeys. It just occurred to me that they may not be talking about writing...)

~Cathy C. Hall




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Friday, November 11, 2016

 

Friday Speak Out!: Which Dude has the 'Strongest Female Voice?'


By K. Alan Leitch

The community here at WOW, who could be forgiven if they chose to exclude me, have instead been the most supportive I have found toward my fledgling efforts as a writer. The problem I have fitting in, you see--here, and in most contemporary writing groups--is that I am from the very gender that may have caused the need for this organization. That's right: I am a man.

Before you resent the many unfair advantages my gender admittedly brings me, however, take five minutes to browse through the wish-lists of any random sampling of agents. If you parsed them for the most common phrase that occurs, I would place a bet on that phrase being what agents describe as, 'Strong Female Voices.' As a die-hard fan of Die Hard, I think you can understand how the expectation to write these might intimidate me.

So... what's a boy to do?

Setting aside for a moment the many interpretations of what constitutes 'Voice,' I'd like, instead, to consider what distinguishes female voice from male. Is it sensitivity? Empathy? Uncertainty? Surely not, as these are all stereotypes, and as such imply weakness rather than strength. Is the answer, then, to invert these: to conjure female voices that are distant, or have trouble expressing feelings? I think anyone, of any gender, would have to agree that is not 'strength,' either.

After raising so many questions, I can't help but shrug at the agents, and ask them what it is that they think makes a female voice strong. The agents, sadly, generally answer this question with a form-letter rejection. I'm not sure they know the answer.

I do know that I have more work to do than simply featuring female protagonists and narrators. My voice has been male for so long--longer than I care to admit--that the narrator of Labels is likely to whine too much about some sniffles while she copes with her glimpses of wrongdoings in the gazes of others; the protagonist of Death Imitates Art risks being too focused on her painting to notice the murders going on around her; and Olivia of Olympus might just be a little bit too harshly critical of the bumbling Greek gods she is trying to defeat. Perhaps a female voice needs to rise above these typical areas of male weakness... perhaps it needs to be stronger in every way than the male voices around it.

Or, perhaps, every voice is just a voice, carrying with it all the persistence and frailty endemic to this species that women share with men.

Maybe 'Strong Female Voices' are simply those that seem the most... human.

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K. Alan Leitch is an unpublished novelist in search of an agent, and the author of award-winning short fiction. You can check in on his writing, along with more of his whingeings and ramblings, at kalanleitchauthor.wordpress.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, November 10, 2016

 

Genre Blends: When Your Manuscript Isn’t One Thing Or Another

Even if I never use the term when communicating with an editor or agent, I like to know what to call things in my head. Not that I walk around talking to myself, except when I’m working on dialogue, but it just helps me to know what something is.

I knew that a book that isn’t quite one genre or another but seems to blend both was not called a crossover. No, a crossover crosses over age levels. A book that appeals to teens and tweens? Crossover. A book that both young adults and new adults want to read? Still a crossover.

But that didn’t help me know what to call these two genre books. Then I stumbled across the correct term for these books that cross, or blend, genre. They are called genre blends or cross genre novels. Yep. I went from zero terms to two but I like genre-blend better.

Although it wasn’t a term that I was familiar with, it isn’t a new idea. Some writers consider Williams Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell a genre blend because it combines poetry and prose. Blake’s book was first published in 1794 so blending more than one type of book is hardly a new idea.

If you aren’t a Blake fan and aren’t sure you’ve ever read a genre blend, you probably have especially if you like science fiction or fantasy. Two of my favorites are Coraline and The Grave Yard Book by Neil Gaiman. Both combine fantasy and horror. The magic is just as important as the things that go bump in the night.

I also love science fantasy that blend science and magic. One of the first science fantasy series was Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars which made its magazine debut in 1912. I also remember diving into Andre Norton’s Witch World books. Some people also consider steampunk a type of science fantasy which seems logical. I’m currently reading Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage which combines steam science and urban grit with vampires and werewolves.

Another possibility is comic fantasy such as Robert Aspirin’s MythAdventures. I also remember that Piers Anthony's Xanth books as a combination humor and fantasy.  I find myself wondering if you could classify Rick Riordan’s books in this genre blend. Mythic elements (Greek gods and Norse gods) run strong but the comedy is also a huge part of the draw for young readers.

These aren’t all of the possible genre blends but hopefully it is enough to make you think. Could you’re your current WIP were to cross genre and could it become something more?

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
She also teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins December 5, 2016.

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