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Thursday, November 23, 2017


Don't Forget To Thank Creativity

You read a lot of posts about being thankful at this time of year. You will often see a long list of the typical items: family, shelter, food, health, financial security, and so on. It's good to be grateful for the blessings we have and to look at life with an optimistic and grateful attitude.

Have you ever been thankful for your creativity? 

I feel like we should take a moment today and be thankful for our imaginations, for the gift that we have been given to use our right brains and make fantasies come alive whether its with words or paintings or music.

My creative one
I am thankful that I see my gift of creativity coming alive in my daughter. At 7, she has a notebook, where she writes lyrics to original songs. She has made several stapled books full of words and illustrations. She pretends to be characters from her favorite shows. I can often overhear her talking to her "YouTube Channel Fans" on her made-up Katie channel. Sometimes she even ends that creative play with, "Don't forget to leave a comment below on how you liked our video."

Because I am thankful for creativity, because I am a writer, because creativity is important and celebrated in our house, she is carrying on the tradition. I suppose I am responsible for molding another creative mind, and I couldn't be more thankful for this opportunity!

I am also thankful for the outlet my creativity provides for me to work through the tough times, to express myself through humor, to share what is important to me with the world.

So this Thanksgiving, while you fill your belly with turkey and stuffing and you give prayers of thanks for your many blessings, don't forget to also thank the powers that be for your gift of creativity and your freedom to express it. I certainly will be, and I might just be doing that on Katie's pretend YouTube channel, where I will ask her viewers to leave a comment below on what they are thankful for this year or how their creativity helps them. 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and mother living in St. Louis, MO. Don't let your creativity and progress on your novel stop during the holiday season. Consider taking her WOW! novel writing course, where you will be turning in sections of your novel every Friday for critique. Next class starts December 1. Sign up here.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Giving Thanks to a Writer

Ah, Thanksgiving. The day we shove food in our faces, drink that extra glass of wine, and plop ourselves down on the couch to watch football and catch up with family. We deserve that delicious food, that extra sip, and that glorious relaxation, of course, but we shouldn’t forget the purpose of the holiday, which is to give thanks for everything we have in life.

This Thanksgiving, I also propose we thank a writer. There are many ways to do this.

Review a Book

Publishers want to see reviews. Reviews make them happy. If a publisher isn’t happy, chances are the writer isn’t happy either. So, help them out this Thanksgiving and leave a book review on Amazon or Goodreads. It doesn’t take long, but is a lasting way to help a writer’s career.

Buy a Book

There is one thing better than leaving a review from an author, and that is purchasing their book. Sure, you could borrow it from the library, but buying the book helps the writer score bonus points with their publisher, and puts a little extra green in their pocket in time for the holiday season. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to support our book stores as well. With Borders already gone, they need us more than ever.


Until I published my first novel, I didn’t realize that promoting it would be harder than writing it. I’m so grateful for my friends and family who talked it up and shared it on social media. If you have a blog, invite a fellow writer to do a guest post, or do a spotlight piece. Hand out bookmarks at work. Even the littlest thing can help a writer get their name out there.

Read a Draft
We all have that amazing writing friend who reads our drafts and provides feedback. Why not take time to thank them this Thanksgiving by offering to read their latest manuscript? Writers thrive on feedback, and each revision is a step in the right direction.

“Book club” Their Book
I consider this the ultimate thank-you. Perhaps you’ve already read and reviewed their book, but want to take your level of gratitude one step further. Why not use the author’s book as a book club read? Not only are you increasing their readership, but you’re promoting their name and their sales. Better yet, ask your book club members to review the book when they have finished. The “thank you” that keeps on giving!

What do you say? Ready to give thanks to your fellow writers? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Fight the good fight

We've all heard stories about editors who "passed" on manuscripts that became best sellers. We wonder how they could have been so blind. We think we would never make such a terrible mistake. But to be honest, when faced with the unfamiliar, it's easy for anyone to "pass."

We may rationalize anything that doesn't make sense with a critical response. "It can't be me, so it must be you." However, the ones who persevere through negative responses are the true artists, those not swayed by others.

Artists and leaders are unique in that they offer their vision to the world with every word, melody, product, or system they create. Writers also are on the forefront of change. We may have a new or unique vision, and the critics may not be ready.

My advice is to be kind to the critics. Give them time to catch up to you. They may not know you, and may not be ready for what you have to say. There is no right time for creativity, and it may strike you in an unlikely place in an unlikely way. You need to be ready to defend your work, and explain or rewrite it in a way that makes it more relatable, and hopefully, marketable.

Critics also have not had time to keep up with the information in your head. Your idea may have been percolating for a long time, but most of it is beneath the surface inside your brain, like an iceberg. You've seen the part sticking out of the water and the huge foundation underneath, because you built it. But others may come upon it like the Titanic approached that other fateful iceberg. They weren't expecting it, and may need a time to figure out what's happening. Give them a minute to catch up. Help them readjust their thinking.

Fighting the good fight to get your ideas out in the world can take many different forms, like a book you've been writing for months, or the perfect essay that has been rewritten 15 times with help from your writer's group. It also may take the form of conquering rejections by sending out a manuscript immediately to someone else.

Artists consider rejection a challenge that comes with a decision. The choice is yours. Listen to the critics and take what you need, or ignore them altogether. You have to decide. It's your view, and that view may be different from every other view in the world, but it's up to you to defend, explain, or rewrite.

So fight the good fight, however you see fit.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mary Horner's short story Shirley and the Apricot Tree appeared in the latest edition of Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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Monday, November 20, 2017


An Attitude of Gratitude: 10 Reasons to Give Thanks

Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons so an attitude of gratitude is natural for me this time of the year.  Fortunately writers have a lot to be grateful for all year long. Here is my Top 10 in alphabetical order so I don’t have to prioritize them.

Family – Larger
My father’s family is from Mississippi and West Texas so I come from a long line of southern story tellers. I grew up listening to the men spin tales of the desert, ranching and the mountains. These tales weren’t 100% true, they were True, something I needed to understand to write fiction.

Family – Smaller
I’m also profoundly grateful for my immediate family. These are the people who support me daily in my quest to write.  They also drag me out of my comfort zone which every introvert occasionally needs.

Knitting and Crochet
What do they have to do with writing?  It is a great way to occupy just enough of my brain so that I can sit and noodle a solution for some writing problem. Handwork is also how I recharge.

My library system has a huge collection of books, magazines, e-books, e-zines, DVDs and more. This is how I keep abreast of the latest developments in publishing. They are also a huge help as I research my nonfiction projects.

Monkey Mind
This is a yoga term for an unfocused mind. Mine has been referred to as a “barrel of monkeys mind.” With my scattered thoughts, I can generally find something that interests me when my editor asks if I want to write about a particular topic.

Yes, my computer. I started writing on a clunky electric typewriter at the kitchen table. It wasn’t long before my super supportive husband bought a computer for me so that I didn’t have to retype every draft. I am so grateful to write on a computer!

That’s the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It is the best organization around to help you network with fellow children’s writers. Writing for children really is a different beast. I’ve found the majority of my writing gigs, including WOW, through SCBWI contacts.

Again, this may not seem worthy of Top 10 status but I’m dyslexic. Spell check is my friend!  Grammar check is a close second since it catches some of my mistakes that spell check misses.
Treadmill Desk
Although I’m not coordinated enough to write on the treadmill, it is where I read e-mail, blog posts, contest manuscripts, magazines and books to review.  Because I’m working on a fair sized monitor I can enlarge things enough to read as I’m bobbling around while walking.

Last but not least, WOW and the Muffin are definitely on my list. Writing for children may be a specialized field but it’s important to be in touch with the industry as a whole. Ironically this is also where I met both Margot and Sioux. Margot writes for children. Sioux lives in the same county I do. And this really is a top community in terms of information exchange and support.

So, what are you grateful for as we head into Thanksgiving? 


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017


Using a Style Guide

Have you noticed more and more people using social media for a Q&A session? Group Administrators are having to remind members not to come to their groups seeking medical advice, technical advice, and the like. Similarly, writers may find peer or reader groups helpful when seeking feedback and ideas but when it comes to style guidance, let’s should turn to a reputable source. I personally feel the Chicago Manual of Style is the most comprehensive style guide, but depending on your purpose for writing, you may find others better suited to you.

If you are intimidated by the size of the print version of the Chicago, you may prefer the online version (some say the online version is easier to search as well). Regardless of which manual or version you choose, it’s a much safer source than the online community. For example, a friend recently inquired about the correct way to note time. Answers varied greatly from: I like 6AM, I like 6 I’m the morning, I’ve seen 6a.m. and the list goes on. Grabbing your style guide will get you the best answer the first time with no time wasted for debate.

Which guide do you use? Which version? What led you to use this particular guide? Do you have any funny stories about online advice? We love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.


Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering
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, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, five young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 4, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora, two dogs, 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 here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Thursday, November 16, 2017


I'm (Fabulously) a Failure for 5 Reasons

          Yes, I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'm also planning on failing at it. It's a 100% guarantee that I'll be a loser, and that's just fine with me.

        Why am I okay failing at this challenge? Well, I have several reasons.

1. This challenge gets me out of my comfort zone. Normally I write creative nonfiction. Short memoir stuff that averages 1,200 words. A book-length piece is not my usual. NaNo pushes me to become a long-distance runner instead of sprinter... at least for this month.

2. I get to write surrounded by my students--4th-8th graders--and as I tap away and stare off into space and delete lines, I'm modeling what a writer does. Most of them are sailing along and meeting their word count goal. They share their word count with me, and ask about mine. Even though I'm pathetically behind the almost-2,000 words per day I need to get down, I don't stop. I share my low numbers, and I keep on creeping along. (Young writers--lucky them--have a smaller word goal. They actually get to set their own goal.)

3. So far (at the moment this post was published) I have 14,099 words. If I hadn't started NaNo on November 1st, I'd have 0 words down on this project. 

4. At the end of October when I was trying to figure out what in the world I was going to write about, I struggled. I considered a couple of ideas. When November 1st rolled around, I began the story from a teacher's perspective. (It's historical fiction, a kind of fictional mash-up between 1955 and 2017.) 

It was all wrong. After a day of writing, I realized it. I scrapped what I wrote and started anew. Now I'm telling the story from one of my students' viewpoint, and it feels right. And that's what writers do, especially if they have a deadline. They stumble. They revise. They change directions. They "make it work" as Tim Gunn says.

5. If I "win" at NaNoWriMo, I'll get 50,000 words down on paper. However, I'm writing a book slated for middle-grade readers. Most of those books are 20,000-30,000 words in length, so I know by the time I get to the end of my manuscript, the 50,000-word finish line will still be too far ahead for me to see. That's fine. If I manage to finish the first draft in a month  in a couple of months by the twelfth of never, I'll be thrilled. Really.

       So, perhaps you're not doing NaNoWriMo. November's short, there's Thanksgiving, the word count goal is crazy-big--I get it. I understand. However, maybe you might come up with your own month-long (or summer-long, or year-long) challenge. Set it up. Make it your own. And make it public and post your progress. (Your writing friends can prod you along if they know about it.)

       Hi. I'm Sioux, and I'm a failure. And I'm totally cool with that...

Sioux is too busy working on her NaNoWriMo project right now to write a clever bio. If you're interested, check out her writer/dog rescue/teacher blog.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Going "There" With Your Writing

Because it’s National Novel Writing Month (no, not participating this year!) I’ve noticed all the writing trade magazines and websites are chock full of inspirational articles on how to write a great plot twist and craft a page-turning dilemma. One such piece of advice centered on writing what scares you—you know, dig into those deep, dark fears a la Stephen King It style. Here are a few examples:

Fear of Not Fitting In. The fear of not being liked by others can push people to do things they would never have imagined. When I was a teenager, I read the novel Killing Mr. Griffin by author Lois Duncan. One of the main characters is a young woman named Susan, the straight-A student who doesn’t cause her parents any trouble. But she’s lonely, and when the boy she’s always had a crush on starts to pay attention to her, and invites her to spend time with his social circle, she finds herself being pulled into a kidnapping plot that goes against her beliefs and ends in tragic consequences. If Susan hadn’t felt so isolated and invisible in the first place, she may never have been led astray and put it an impossible position.

Fear of Being Watched. I had a stalking experience in college that sticks with me to this day. It was made worse because it was someone I knew—someone I had classes with and who often hung out in my circle of friends. Before I realized what was going on, I told him about an apartment that came up for rent across the hall from mine when he mentioned he was looking for a place. For the next nine months, he showed up everywhere I went. He knocked on my apartment door all hours of the day, and it got so bad that I would literally come home from work, tiptoe up the stairs with my key poised, and try to slip into my apartment as quietly as possible. He would knock on my door seconds later. It took me years to get over that experience and I still look over my shoulder everywhere I go. When I decided to write a young adult novel for NaNoWriMo a few years ago, I honed in on the paranoia one feels after an experience like that, especially when you’re a teenage girl already in a vulnerable state. Toss in that the stalking is coming from the most popular boy in high school and you’ve got something to work with.

Fear of a Place That Caused You Heartache. Have you ever been to place where you had such a bad experience it made you never want to visit there again? For Jenny in the novel Forrest Gump it was her family home where she was abused by her father. In Elin Hilderbrand’s novel The Matchmaker, it was the main character Dabney, who had a pathological fear of leaving Nantucket. It stemmed from an experience she had as a child, where her mother took her for an outing in Boston and left in her in a hotel with someone from the maid service after she decided she didn’t want to be a mother any longer. Dabney’s refusal to leave the island of Nantucket causes a strain on the relationships in her life—her high school boyfriend leaves to become a foreign correspondent and she won’t travel with him, she marries a professor at Harvard University but is content with him living and teaching at the campus throughout the weak, and (slight spoiler here) but it keeps her from taking care of herself properly and traveling outside of the island for medical care. Fear of places can overtake our lives, and it is yet another area that is ripe for exploration in our writing.

Have you ever explored a deep, dark fear in your writing, or read a book where someone else executed it beautifully? I’d love to hear about it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works in marketing and development at a nonprofit theatre company, where she hears many stories that would make for plays within themselves. Visit her blog at

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Paying It Forward the Write Way

In 2008, I won three how-to books on writing for children by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock.

I liked them so much, I pitched an interview to WOW when the theme was children’s writing. So in 2009, a 20 Questions article appeared and Eve garnered a fair amount of promotion.

Flash forward to 2016, when I received an email from Eve; she’d just published a book on self-publishing for the picture book writer. Would I be interested in giving her new book a read in exchange for a review? And because her book was not only informative but easy-to-follow, I was happy to write a review and I pitched that review to a magazine in the children’s publishing world. And Eve enjoyed more promotion.

All those reviews—paying it forward the write way—because of one little giveaway almost ten years ago!

It’s just one example, I know. I also know how easy it is to get discouraged with book promotion, to wonder if it’s worth all the time and trouble. Giving away books, searching for readers in exchange for a review, following up later with emails or tweets or messages, and on and on and on. But here’s my point: even if only one reader out of a handful works out, then at least you know you have a dedicated reader. And that dedicated reader—readers like me—are golden.

When you have a new book—or if you’d like to promote a book during a special season—then contact your golden readers first. Make it a personal request; I know from experience that I’m more likely to respond positively to a personal email rather than a generic one. And yes, it might take a little more time, but your golden readers like you and your books, and more importantly, they’re willing to put in a little work for you. They’re much more likely to read and review for you, to spread the word for you on social media, to talk to friends and family about your book.

But what if you don’t have a book coming out? Then it’s your turn. ‘Tis the season to say thanks, to let those who’ve helped you out in all kinds of ways know how much you appreciate their time and trouble.

So that’s it. All that’s left is for you to get out there and do the write thing. (Was this last pun too much? Or just write? Oh, ugh. Sorry!)

Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer and occasional book reviewer. She's also a sucker for a good pun (or a bad pun, as the case may be.) And she'd like to send a big thanks to all y'all who read her posts here and here! You're truly golden in her book!

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Monday, November 13, 2017


Mary Maurice launches her blog tour for Burtrum Lee - A Scientific Mystery

...and giveaway!

Coated with a life of lies and deceit, Burtrum Lee Conner is sick to her stomach. Dozens of times throughout her life the feeling of not being who she is has tormented her. But she kept it to herself, believing that maybe it’s just a chemical imbalance of some kind considering she is one of the first artificially-inseminated babies of the 1960s. Now, there’s more though, something much deeper, much more maniacal than she could have ever imagined. She’s not the first test tube baby at all, but the first…

Burtrum Lee Conner, born into a world of scientific mystery, discovers that the life she’s been leading for the past forty years, is the wrong one. Her parents, Jed and Jane Conner, stealing her as an infant, brought Lee up as their own. Even her devoted grandmother, Clair Conner, kept this secret close to her chest until they were found out. And now, Lee Conner’s biological mother, Katie Lee, wants her back, but not before the diabolical Dr. Stone has his say.

Paperback: 219 pages
Genre: Scientific Mystery
Publisher: Silver Leaf Books LLC (November 13, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1609751973
ISBN-13: 978-1609751975

Burtrum Lee is available in ebook and in print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of Burtrum Lee please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, November 19th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About Mary Maurice:

When I was a child growing up in the Detroit area, I thought I wanted to be a painter, and then as a teenager the idea of being a musician intrigued me, then as a young adult, I realized that I’m a writer.

After attending Western Michigan University for two party filled years, I decided to leave academia and explore the real world to learn what life is truly about. For fifteen years I’ve traveled the country working in restaurants, writing and doing readings wherever I was welcome.

While living in Minneapolis during my twenties, I was fortunate enough to be tutored by Dr. Jonis Agee, who was at the time head of the creative writing department at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul. Her lessons were imprinted in me for all of these years, and have influenced my writing ever since.

My adventures landed me in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and Oregon, finally leading me to the Land of Enchantment where I’ve resided since 1994. Living in Santa Fe, and the beauty and isolation that surrounds me, has inspire my creative muse in ways that no other place has. While still working in the hospitality industry, my passion for the craft of writing has never been stronger. And I know with each sentence I write, and every paragraph I compose, my ultimate goal is to find the perfect word.

Keep on bookin!

Connect with Mary online:




-----Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW:  Thank you so much Mary – thank you for sharing your writing with the world, choosing WOW to help with your book promotion, and for being here for today’s interview. 

Let’s get started: Imagining your life as a complete lie - what an interesting concept. Where did you get the idea for Burtrum Lee? How did it go from an idea to something you decided to pursue publishing?

Mary: I started with the title, and then the ideas came to me as I sat down and wrote. After finishing multiple drafts, I knew it was time to pursue publishing when my heart jumped as I read Burtrum Lee.

WOW:  What an awesome feeling – I’m sure readers will feel the same tug at their heart as they also experience the magic of Burtum Lee. When did you start writing and what or who inspired you?

Mary: The fire started when I wrote my first poem in the ninth grade, and the flames haven’t stopped burning. Throughout my life I’ve had great support from people who’ve read my books, attended my readings, and it is this support that inspires me to keep on writing. Also, the writing in itself keeps my desires alive.

WOW:  Those flames of desire – such a great way to describe writing with passion. Passion and compassion are so important for drawing readers in. Now, speaking of reading, do you have a favorite book, author, or genre? What drew you to them?

Mary: My favorite book of all time is Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The novel is one of the most compassionate books that I’ve ever read. My favorite author is Stephen King. His format and engaging style has influenced my writing greatly. I’m drawn to his work because it teaches me, and the more I learn about writing, the better I become.

WOW: Stephen King – talk about success! How will you be celebrating your successes? What advice do you have regarding rejection? What lessons have you learned about publishing? What might you do differently next time?

Mary: I’ll celebrate my success, of course, by first going to Disneyland, and then, I’ll write more books. As for rejection, I’ve never had a problem with it. I figure, it’s all a part of the game, but perseverance and determination are the real winners. And as for, what would I do differently the next time, nothing, because what I did worked.

WOW: Good for you – both celebrating the success and recognizing your achievement. What's next for you?

Mary: I’ll just keep writing and doing readings, and continue to get the word out. That’s my life purpose, and I plan on fulfilling it.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing your time and talent with the WOW readers today Mary – this is going to be such a fun tour (we are absolutely kicking it off on the right foot with this exciting interview)!

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

Monday November 13th (today) @ WOW! Women on Writing
Interview & Giveaway!

Tuesday, November 14th @ Create Write Now
Mary Maurice is today's guest author at Mari McCarthy's Create Write Now Blog - don't miss this intriguing guest post titled "Moving Beyond Writer's Block " and learn more about Maurice's scientific mystery, Burtrum Lee.

Wednesday, November 15th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird reads and reviews Mary Maurice's scientific mystery, Burtrum Lee and shares her thoughts on this page turning novel!

Thursday, November 16th @ CMash Loves to Read
Today's guest blogger at CMash Loves to Read is none other than Mary Maurice. Hear from her on the topic of "Finding My Muse." and learn more about her scientific mystery, Burtrum Lee.

Friday, November 17th @ Bring on Lemons
Crystal Otto reviews Mary Maurice's Scientific Mystery, Burtrum Lee!  – don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about Mary Maurice and find out more about this page turning novel Burtrum Lee.

Monday, November 20th @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews Mary Maurice about her scientific mystery, Burtrum Lee.

Tuesday, November 21st @ Margo Dill
Mary Maurice visits the blog of fellow author Margo Dill. Hear from Mary on the topic of: "What's So Hard About Being Nice?" and learn more about Mary's scientific mystery, Burtrum Lee.

Wednesday, November 22nd @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews Burtrum Lee - the Scientific Mystery by Mary Maurice.

Thursday, November 23rd @ Writers Pay it Forward
"Who Left the Skunk on the Side of the Road" is today's topic at Writers Pay it Forward as Mary Maurice pens today's guest post and discusses her book, Burtrum Lee - A Scientific Mystery.

Tuesday, November 28th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Mary Maurice writes an intriguing guest post at Choices today. She talks about "Keeping Readers Engaged". Don’t miss this post and opportunity to learn about Burtrum Lee - A Scientific Mystery.

Thursday, November 30th @ Women of Wonder
Ginny at Women of Wonder reviews Burtrum Lee - A Scientific Mystery by Mary Maurice and shares her thoughts with readers. Don't miss this exciting blog stop!


Enter to win a copy of Burtrum Lee by Mary Maurice! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget on Sunday, November 19th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, November 12, 2017


The Benefits of Judging a Writing Contest

If you have the opportunity to be a judge for a writing contest, whether or not you get paid, I highly suggest you do it. I don't usually suggest working for free (or for mere pennies), but I'm going to make a strong statement here...

Being a contest judge will improve your writing as much as, or even more than, taking a writing class.

Which, by the way, you usually have to pay for!

Why do I think this? How do I know? I have judged a lot of contests, including the first round of entries for some WOW! contests. Through these experiences, I have learned:

  • Some subjects are completely overdone. I hate to tell someone NOT to write about a topic that is personal and close to them; but if you are going to write about a common topic, such as surviving cancer or aging parents, then you need a fresh and unique spin or a flawless voice. 
  • Humor almost always succeeds. Humor is difficult; and if you are clever and witty, then you will find your voice in the literary world. 
  • You or your characters should not boast or play the victim. In conversation, no one likes to hear someone else go on and on about themselves--either bragging OR saying how horrible things are for them. However, readers want to read heartbreaking and emotional stories. You really do have to show these emotions, but definitely don't tell them to the reader.
  • The beginning line and paragraph are really as important as everyone says they are.
  • A good edit is worth every penny and every minute.
I have been judging contests for so long that I can almost tell from the opening paragraph how well I am going to like the story or essay, even though I read them all to the end (of course). This totally challenges me to make my own writing better, to come up with a unique subject or angle, and to model my writing after the many entries I have read and thought: Holy cow! That was so amazing. 

What I am suggesting here is not any different than the advice Stephen King gives in his memoir/how to book, On Writing. He tells writers that the most important thing they can do is to read. I'm just going one step further and saying, Judging really causes you to think about what makes a story/essay/poem great and what makes it mediocre; and how can you take your writing to a great level? 

If you don't know anyone who needs a contest judged and you belong to a writing group, you can certainly make your own contest. You can open it up to other writers or just keep it in your group or both. Writers LOVE contests, so you will probably find yourself full of entries to judge if you have a reasonable entry fee and nice prizes. 

Have you ever judged a writing contest? Did you find the experience invaluable? 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. To take her novel writing course, which starts the first Friday in December, please see the details here. To find out more about her, please see her website:

balloon photo by alibree (

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Saturday, November 11, 2017


Say Yes to Opportunity

Build a platform. Specialize. We’re told to do this so we can build an audience and carve out a niche for ourselves in the world of publishing. And it isn’t bad advice.

But I’d like to suggest that you try something new. Say yes to opportunity. You might just surprise yourself and make a sale. After all, it’s how I built my writing career.

Although I started off writing picture books, it didn’t take me very long to start writing nonfiction. A writing buddy signed on as a magazine editor. She needed writers. I needed credits. I could drop her a note and she’d tell me what she needed. Then I’d bounce a few ideas off her and she’d say yes or no. Before long, I had built a short resume.

Then I saw a market update from READ magazine. The editor needed nonfiction so I pitched an article on distance swimmer Gertrude Ederle. “Can you write it as reader’s theater?” I could have said, “No, I don’t know anything about reader’s theater.” But that’s not how I operate. I said, “Sure!” Then I had to learn how to script a piece of reader’s theater. I studied how many parts there are for students, stage directions, and more. It sold and I had a new market to add to my resume.

The moral of the story: When an editor asks you to make a big change, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

A few years ago my friend’s editor needed writers. “You’re good at nonfiction. You should give it a try.” The problem was that this was a book editor. I’d never written anything that long. This time my “yes” was a bit more reluctant. But their instructions were clear and I got to put my degrees to work. My first assignment came out in 2015 and I have ten more books in print.

The moral of the story: When someone with an in offers to help you out, give it a try. You might surprise yourself.

Most recently, I was asked to help organize a series of workshops in 2017. I very reluctantly said yes even though the first one was on the poetry in picture book writing. Poetry! Help! I wanted to have a clue what I was getting into so I read through several issues of Highlights Hello! which always features children's poetry. Reading on the treadmill, I got a feel for the rhythm of these super-short poems. By the time I was done rowing, I had an idea for a humorous piece called “Tiger Cat.” It sold this spring to none other than Highlights Hello!

The moral of the story: Don’t write off a form of writing you’ve never done. You might surprise yourself.

I’m not saying that every attempt is going to be met with success. But if you are still struggling to find a place for yourself in the world of publishing, try saying yes. Otherwise, you might miss the niche that's a perfect fit. 

Of course, my husband has made a suggestion. “What about trying a block buster series?”


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 8th, 2017.

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Friday, November 10, 2017


Friday Speak Out!: On Persistence

by Jan English Leary

It’s not sexy, it doesn’t call attention to itself, it’s not included in talks on craft, but I think that persistence is one of the most important tools a writer can develop. I’m not the fastest, the most talented, or the most confident writer in the room, but I am more persistent than most. All the talent in the world means nothing without persistence. How many writers give up after a few rejections, shoving the story into the real or virtual drawer, deciding not to try anymore? In many cases, the story needs one more draft or one more journal. Part of persistence of course involves a critical eye, the drive to keep polishing and learning, to see the story through more revision. Without that, persistence is just premature and presumptuous. But once the story has reached that point, the next challenge occurs.

When I started submitting stories for publication, it was before the Internet, before Submittable and Submissions Managers. These were the days of hard copies, SASEs, manila envelopes and stamps. I picked up copies of The Writer’s Market and I scoured bookstores for journals that interested me. It was time-consuming and costly. I waited for the mail every day, and often I would receive the first page of my story with a scrap of paper and a printed-out rejection. I lived for the ones with a tiny bit of encouragement: the editor’s initials, a quick note “Came close”, “We admire your talent”, “Keep us in mind.” Those words kept me going. I sent out stories like paper bombs, a bit everywhere. I slowly began to receive acceptances although my rejections continue to outweigh my acceptances by a wide margin. One of my stories was rejected 95 times before it was accepted, but I was very happy with that acceptance. Another journal gave me no encouragement for eight submissions and accepted the ninth one. What if I’d given up on that journal?

I’m not sure what need compels me to ask for acceptance in the face of so much rejection. I believe in my work, I want it to be chosen and read, I want to be part of the world of writers, but I hate asking for favors in person, hate putting people out, hate being on the line this way. As a child, when charged with going door to door to sell candy for school, I failed miserably, and I begged my parents to buy a few boxes so I wouldn’t show up with nothing. It’s not in me to do this in person. But electronically, I am fearless.

It’s low stakes, submitting from the safety and quiet of my home. Sitting in bed, wearing slippers. No one can see me. I’ve tried to develop a one-in/two-out policy. For every rejection during the regular submissions season, I send out two stories. Life is short; reporting time is long. And nothing is gained without persistence.

* * *
photo credit John Leary
Jan English Leary's short fiction has appeared in
Pleiades, The Literary Review, The Minnesota Review, Carve Magazine, Long Story, Short Literary Journal and other publications. She has received three Illinois Arts Council Awards and taught fiction writing at Francis W. Parker School and Northwestern University. Her first novel, Thicker Than Blood, was released by Fomite in 2015. Skating on the Vertical, just released by Fomite, is her first collection of short stories. She lives in Chicago with her husband, John, an artist and former teacher. More information

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 09, 2017


Exercising Your Mind AND Your Body

Tell me if this seems familiar:

You drag yourself out of bed in the morning – still mostly asleep. A cup of coffee helps a bit, but you must force a smile for your family, and you’d rather be anywhere than on your feet. You have a long list for the day. Writing is at the top, of course. As the day progresses, your stress level rises. Maybe you’re curt with a coworker. Maybe you get home and take the stress of the day out on one of your kids. You sit down to write and barely enjoy it. Something is missing.

Believe it or not, it’s probably exercise.

We give our minds a work-out every single day. But how often do we give our bodies the relief they need?

I just pulled myself out of a funk. In addition to the building stress and constant exhaustion, I didn’t even want to look in the mirror for fear of what I'd see. I wasn’t writing as often as I wanted because I couldn’t muster the energy, and my motivation was at an all-time-low.

Luckily, a little exercise fixed all that. It’s hard to start. You’re already tired, so forcing yourself to go for a run – a jog – heck, even a walk – was near to impossible. But one day I did it and came home feeling exhilarated. A simple 35-minute power-walk gave me more energy then I'd had in weeks.  Excited by the change, I cranked out another chapter of my book that night.

Still on the high from the exercise the day before, I danced along to You Tube Zumba videos in my basement the next day (I realize this may seem pathetic, but we moved 8 months ago, and I miss my Zumba classes. If you live in Fairfax, Virginia, get thee to Kaliente Dance Fitness Studio - stat). Instead of feeling tired at the end of the workout, I had energy. The result? Another productive writing day.

You may not know how much your body craves exercise until you try it. Working-out provides a high – the kind of high that’s good for your mind and for your body.  Something as simple as taking the dog for an extra-long walk can make a positive difference in your life, which means great things for your writing career.

Do you have a favorite way of slipping exercise into your day? Share it!

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Interview with Delaine Smith, Runner-Up in the WOW! Spring 2017 Flash Fiction Contest

Delaine Smith is a classically trained singer and a lifetime writer with a collection of unusual day jobs. Her publishing credits include poetry, a gothic romance novel, and a song cycle for children’s chorus recently performed at the Voices of Canada 150 concert series. In her volunteer work and her writing, women and girls are always the focus. According to her niece, Delaine’s favorite phrase is, “Don’t panic, we can figure this out.”

If you haven’t read Delaine’s story, “The Safety of Eve,” check it out before you read her interview about writing this timely piece of fiction.

WOW: What was the inspiration for this particular story? It is so timely!

Delaine: The inspiration is my niece, who is now thirteen years old. The world being what it is, I feel a great anxiety that she will have the coming-of-age experience that so many women and girls share of being objectified and harassed on public transit.

It is so difficult for a young girl, just beginning to be a woman, to speak up for herself in a bad situation, since we have been trained from birth to be polite all the time. I find that women are sometimes reluctant to ask for help even in the worst situations, because we've been taught that our bodies and our feelings are taboo. It silences us in every way when we should be able to speak. Society has come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

WOW: Most stories change as we work on them. How did this story change and grow as you rewrote it?

Delaine: The story changed as I worked on it because at first, I was determined to have Eve solve the problem, in effect, to rescue herself by herself. But it just didn't work in the story. It felt fake. And I began to realize that the public nature of the setting almost demanded that another character be involved on Eve's side of the equation.

WOW: That would be tough because you’re breaking one of the oft-quoted rules of writing. “The POV character needs to overcome her own problem.” How did you empower her while allowing her to accept male assistance?

Delaine: This leads to the next problem, which is how to expose the villain's behavior without vilifying men in general? Enter the supportive male.

But how to have him be helpful without making the story about him?

And how to get Eve to realize that it's okay to admit that you need help without making her artificially needy or reducing her to a caricature? Her fear is justifiable - but so is her natural anger in a society that silences female anger. This story was a minefield. I was actually going to call it The Minefield. That was my working title for a long time.

WOW: You’ve done a great job in working around so many potential problems in this short form. What advice do you have for readers who are tempted to try flash fiction but are intimidated by the low word? What do you wish you had known before you started writing flash fiction?

Delaine: As to the brief length of the story, it was a challenge. I had to focus on the characters. I needed a clear line to express good and evil without making too much of the evil. It was a personal choice, but I didn't want the story to be about the bad guy, for want of a better term. He is simply the physical expression of everything that scares me in our society.

Just because the word count is low, a person just starting to write flash fiction should not make the mistake of thinking that a story can be hammered out in a day. I worked on this story over a period of two months before I could read through it and feel like it was true to the characters. It demanded a piece of my heart in edits.

WOW: You’ve written poetry, a romance novel and a chorus. How many writing projects do you have going at any one time? How do you keep them all straight?

Delaine: At any given time, I have two or three projects that I am seriously working on, as well as a large artist's notebook bulging with ideas scrawled on napkins and scraps of paper. I love to feel the creativity flowing. I keep every tiny scrap with the full understanding that not every idea will become something more. Sometimes the idea on that tiny paper is just a stepping stone on the long road to the next problem I absolutely must talk about.

I don't think I have kept things straight in my mind at all times, but some overlap of ideas is okay with me as long as I don't repeat myself. And since certain genres have their own built-in framework, like sonnets in poetry, similar ideas can be explored and expressed differently.

WOW: Thank you to Delaine for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. Good luck with your current projects. We will definitely have our eyes open, looking for more of your writing.

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Monday, November 06, 2017


Dr. Leona Stucky launches her book blog tour of her memoir The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God

...and giveaway!

After the trauma of a savage attack, a farm girl recovers physically, but her identity, faith, and relationships are shattered.

This is the true story of Leona Stucky’s childhood on a Kansas farm, surrounded by a loving family and the simple tenets of her Mennonite community. Violence enters her world in the guise of a young man who seems normal to everyone else but who Leona knows to be deranged in his obsession with her.

His unrelenting abuses take root, and Leona must deal with them utterly alone. Her pacifist father cannot avenge or protect her, nor can a callous justice system. Even God is impotent.

Leona is cast into a bewildering life of disgrace and poverty—with a baby, a violent husband, and battered faith. Through a series of page-turning events, she hacks through the bones of her naïveté to confront harsh realities and to probe the veracity of religious claims.

The Fog of Faith is a suspenseful and morally unflinching drama of shame and survival, as well as usable and unusual wisdom.

This edition includes thoughtful questions for readers and groups to further explore their own stories.


The voice of this woman’s spirit and courage rings clearly as she faces the personal challenges of her faith—when the adversity in life tests the veracity of her beliefs against the reality of terror. This book is an important, insightful book that I highly recommend.
– Michael Paymar, author of Violent No More: Helping Men End Domestic Abuse

Naked with fear, aflame with rage, at once heart-pounding and heart-breaking, this true tale climbs from the wheat fields of Kansas to the promised Heaven above—and down again.
– Robert Mayer, author of The Origin of Sorrow, The Dreams of Ada, Superfolks, and other books

Paperback: 340 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Prairie World Press (May 25, 2017)
ISBN-10: 099864742X
ISBN-13: 978-0998647425

The Fog of Faith is available in ebook and in print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of The Fog of Faith please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, November 12th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

The Reverend Doctor Leona Stucky, the author of The Fog of Faith, resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. When not working, she enjoys New Mexico landscapes, walking and driving in the open expanse, and exploring nature here and around the world with friends and family. Being a grandmother is one of the highlights of her life; she adores playing with the little ones and watching their relational capacities unfold. She revels in their joy and treasures moments together as they grow.

Dr. Stucky first received a degree in psychology and philosophy from Boston College, graduating summa cum laude, before plunging into seminary, first at Andover Newton Theological School and then at Eden Theological Seminary. She earned a doctorate from Southern Methodist University with honors, and a Diplomate certificate from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors—their highest credential—for teaching, supervising, and offering therapy services. She currently has standing as a Unitarian Universalist community minister. She values the UU principles that affirm loving engagement without requiring members to believe in God or bend to religious creeds.

After completing her formal education, she helped develop a post-graduate training center, The Southwest Institute for Religion and Psychotherapy. Her understanding of psychodynamic theory as well as other therapeutic approaches continued to blossom as she taught them to others. She has led workshops for clinicians in a number of states and several countries.

She is a creative thinker and a life-long learner. She enjoys sharing insights with clients, students, friends, family, and fellow professionals—and now with you.

After 30 years as a professional psychotherapist, Dr. Leona Stucky narrates her unflinching faith-and-violence dilemma in a riveting memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God, which spares neither God nor violence against women and has been recommended by MS Magazine.



-----Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: What prompted you to not only write your story but also to share it? Was there a defining moment when you said "this story deserves to be told"?

Leona: From my 30s on, I realized I had a story to tell, and nowhere to tell it. It couldn’t be told in ordinary conversation and I had too much shame around it to tell those who didn’t know me well. Those who did, didn’t know what to make of it. I didn’t want blame or pity, so I just avoided the subject altogether.

I tried to write theological and social justice papers that would introduce the subjects that hounded me, but it sounded just like any other foggy believer or non-believer trying to ask questions. I knew my story made my experience of faith far more intense than any theological discussion could handle, so I stopped trying to tell it that way. From that vantage point, I couldn’t reconcile myself with myself.

I did publish a theological/psychological/feminist critique in a pastoral counseling journal in '93, which of course, few people read, and fewer still grasped what I really meant.

I decided that to communicate so that the average person could understand, I’d have to write the whole story the way it happened. I tried several versions and failed. Without formal writing training, I realized I was too busy with family and my psychotherapy career to gain writing competence.

Finally, as I have aged, I’ve taken some writing workshops and classes and though I didn’t want to take this project on, it wouldn’t budge from number one on my bucket list. So, I gave in and wrote my heart and soul out for 12 years. The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God is the result.

WOW: It's an amazing accomplishment! I love that you said that it was number one on your bucket list, and twelve years shows your dedication to the craft of writing.

How do you balance writing and the busy-ness of day to day life? What advice can you share with other writers?

Leona: No true balance for me. My friends tried to maintain contact and I with them, but they knew and I knew that most occasions would fall by the wayside in the interest of writing while I was still working full time. It still took forever and I’d say to others – just be patient. It will be what it will be. Follow your process and table whatever can be tabled.

WOW: That's great advice. What has been most challenging in regards to writing your story, sharing it, publishing, etc.; what advice to you give others who may want to share their story?

Leona: As a psychotherapist I’ve heard many stories, and maybe that gave me some courage to tell my own. Facing one’s own reality honestly can be therapeutic. I decided to understand my shame and allow it to be known by others. That takes tremendous courage and fortunately I have that.

WOW: Fortunate, indeed! Sharing our truths takes tremendous courage, and I like to read books, like yours, that do that. What is your favorite book and why? or Who is your favorite author may be a better question?

Leona: I love Fyodor Dostoevsky and William Faulkner as classical authors. Crime and Punishment, The Brother’s Karamazov, and As I Lay Dying are three of my favorite books, although it has been years since I’ve read them. Alice Walker, Robert Wright, Ayaan Hirisi Ali, and Robert Mayer are some of my modern favorites, but there are far too many to name.

WOW: Are you part of a writer's group?

Leona: No. I felt it would take up too much of my time to be reviewing others work. But I have taken lessons/classes from Robert Mayer. He is brilliant and a marvelous teacher for me. His book, The Origin of Sorrow, is one of my all-time favorites.

WOW: What advice would you give if you had an opportunity to speak to a younger version of yourself?

Leona: I would say, hang in there with it. You know more than you think you know. Be forever patient with yourself. Stop judging if your work is good enough. That, you don’t know.

WOW: If there were a song to go along with your book, what song would it be and why?

Leona: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no. 2. It rolls into movement, the highs and lows, and creates suspense, action and incredible tensions that can’t be answered but must be lived through. It often makes me cry and yet I love it. Life does that to me too. It often makes me cry because love settles into its bones and yet I run with it, laugh and alternate between living it fully in one moment and getting some distance to breathe in another.

WOW: Thank you, Leona, for chatting with us today! We look forward to your tour!

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

Monday November 6th (today) @ WOW! Women on Writing
Interview & Giveaway

Tuesday, November 7th @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews Dr. Leona Stucky about her moving memoir "The Fog of Faith"

Wednesday, November 8th @ CMash Loves to Read
Today's guest blogger at CMash Loves to Read is none other than Dr. Leona Stucky. Hear from her on the topic of "Growing up Mennonite" and learn more about her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.

Thursday, November 9th @ Writers Pay it Forward
"Our Hatred of Helplessness" is today's topic at Writers Pay it Forward as author Dr. Leona Stucky discuss this as well as her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.

Monday, November 13th @ Reviews by Deb
Deborah Blanchard reviews and shares her thoughts after reading The Fog of Faith by Dr. Leona Stucky. Don't miss this insightful blog stop.

Tuesday, November 14th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Linda Appleman Shapiro reviews Dr. Leona Stucky’s memoir, The Fog of Faith, and shares her insight and thoughts with readers at her blog!

Wednesday, November 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Sarah Pickel
Wisconsin mother, avid reader, and medial professional Sarah Pickel reviews The Fog of Faith by Dr. Leona Stucky. Don't miss this insightful review.

Thursday, November 16th @ Jerry Waxler
Jerry Waxler reads and reviews Dr. Leona Stucky's memoir The Fog of Faith. Don't miss this insightful book blog stop on another great WOW! Women on Writing tour.

Friday, November 17th @ Janese Dixon
Don't miss today's author spotlight at Janese Dixon's blog - the author is none other than Dr. Leona Stucky. Readers can learn more about Dr. Stucky and her moving journey: The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God.

Friday, November 17th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Wisconsin mother, avid reader, and autism advocate Michelle DelPonte reviews The Fog of Faith by Dr. Leona Stucky. Don't miss this insightful review.

Tuesday, November 21st @ Bring on Lemons
Today’s guest blogger at Bring on Lemons is Dr. Leona Stucky sharing her thoughts about “The Direction of Destruction – Winning” – don’t miss this opportunity to learn from Dr. Stucky and find out more about her memoir, The Fog of Faith; Surviving My Impotent God.

Wednesday, November 22nd @ BookWorm
Dr. Leona Stucky stops by Anjanette Potter's Bookworm blog with a moving and inspirational guest post about "Recognizing Evil - an Underbelly Job" - readers won't want to miss this opportunity to hear from Dr. Stucky and learn about her memoir, The Fog of Faith; Surviving My Impotent God.

Thursday, November 23rd @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Kathleen Pooler hosts Dr. Leona Stucky at Memoir Writer's Journey - read Stucky's guest post "Shame - How Culture and Religion are Internalized" and learn more about Dr. Stucky's memoir: The Fog of Faith; Surviving My Impotent God.

Monday, November 27th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Leona Stucky is today's guest author at Choices with Madeline Sharples. Her guest post is titled "Public Denial of Violence Against Women" - learn about this as well as her book, The Fog of Faith.

Keep up with the latest book tour info by following @WOWBlogTour on Twitter.


Enter to win a copy of The Fog of Faith by Dr. Leona Stucky! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget on Sunday, November 12th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, November 05, 2017


Make it work!

On a rebroadcast NPR show from last December, I heard Tim Gunn, host of Project Runway, talk about his catchphrase "Make it work." Something he said resonated with me when he explained why the phrase was so useful.

I am paraphrasing when he said he uses it because it teaches students to analyze the situation/project, figure out what's wrong, and then fix it. He said he has seen many students realize what they have isn't working the way they wanted it to, in that the vision does not match the reality, and then abandon projects and start over. He said starting over teaches us nothing. He recommends that the students sit down and analyze what does works, what the problem is, and how to fix it. In this "throw away" culture, we may lose the ability to examine everything with the eye of a critical thinker, and when it's something so close to us, it becomes even more difficult.

Analyzing a problem is something that many groups/companies/writers aren't comfortable with. We get to a spot, realize there's a problem, and then abandon the not-perfect work in order to go in another direction. Sound familiar?

I am having this problem with both of my flawed novels. I have been thinking about them for several years, but this year I've taken a couple of chapters to my wonderful critique group for help. They are honest and familiar with the problems we all face, and have come up with ideas I wouldn't have thought of.

I know there's something in these novels that is readable and worthwhile, and tell a decent story. But dang it if I haven't fallen into the same traps as many others when getting to a point where I want to give up and start over. This is a lot of work, and I have to decide if my stories really need to be told.

In addition, I must figure out if I am passionate enough about them that I will take the time to analyze the problem so I can fix it. It's a tough question, but decided the answer is yes, so here's what I am doing to guide myself through the process. Hopefully these five steps may help someone else, as well.

Step one - Print out chapters and read hard copies. I did this with my first book "Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing." It may not be a step that is necessary for others, but it worked for me. I am a visual learner.

Step two - Summarize each chapter in a paragraph or on a notecard, and then read them together in order to see if the story flows or makes sense. I've already done this in a separate file, but will edit any changes I want to make, etc.

Step three - Ensure that the journey of the plot/character makes sense.

Step four - Fix any storyline flaws. I know where one problem lies, and need to address it. Part of this involves doing some research into plot development, which may involve reading or watching movies in the same genre to see how these stories evolve.

Step five - Read it again from start to finish making any copyediting changes to ensure that where I changed the plot, I also remembered to change tenses, character POV, etc. (I have a problem with this!)

Just like designers, the vision in a writer's head may not show up on the page as planned, so we may need to adjust the vision, or tie together the vision and the reality, or abandon the original vision for a new vision based on the new reality. Don't delete, modify!

Thanks, Tim Gunn, for the reminder that there is always something worth saving!

Mary Horner's short story Shirley and the Apricot Tree was recently published in Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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