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Sunday, May 20, 2018


Congratulations to Second Place Creative Nonfiction Winner, Aimee Carlson

We welcome Aimee Carlson to The Muffin today because she won 2nd place in the Quarter 2 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with her essay titled, "Inconceivable," which is about infertility. If you haven't read her essay yet, please see this page.

Aimee was born and raised in South Florida, but she moved to Indiana thirteen years ago where she currently lives with her husband and three dogs. She loves life and strives to live every day to the fullest. Her favorite type of writing involves taking a difficult situation and helping others to find the humor in it. Forever the adventurist, her hobbies vary widely, including everything from writing to ghost hunting. She’s always willing to try something new and never says no to a good time. This leads to many embarrassing stories, which you can read more about on her blog, "The Rant Farm". She has been a featured writer in The Mamalogues and has been a contributing writer on various websites. She is currently working on a new humor piece and is in the process of writing her first novel. Visit her blog at

WOW: Congratulations on winning 2nd place in the WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. Your essay, "Inconceivable", is about laughing at some of the absurdity that comes with infertility. What made you want to write this essay?

Aimee: Thank you! I wrote the essay to reach out to other women on the same journey who were feeling hopeless and defeated. I wanted them to know that they weren't alone.

WOW: Yes, because infertility is often such a heartbreaking and of course personal journey for each woman. How were you trying to reach out to other women through your essay? What is your universal message or theme?

Aimee: I want this to be a subject that is okay to talk about and to be open with. Infertility is a lonely and disheartening battle. Let's talk about it. Let's laugh about it. Let's support each other through it. A woman's greatest superpower is empathy and great things happen when we relate to each other and remember that we are not alone.

WOW: This is very true about so many subjects--including the recent #metoo movement. How did it feel when you found out you won 2nd place in this contest? What does that do for your belief in your writing?

Aimee: It felt amazing. The hardest thing for me to do has been to put myself out there and be vulnerable enough to let others read my writing. Knowing that others were able to relate to my story and connect is the most rewarding feeling that I could ask for. It gave me the confidence to keep writing.

WOW: We are so glad to hear that! You also have a blog, which we tell our readers about in your bio, but tell us a little more about it and what we can find on it.

Aimee: My blog is primarily humor-based. I write about everyday life and the ridiculous predicaments I tend to find myself in. You will find some serious essays on there as well about grief and healing.

WOW: It sounds like the perfect combination for many of our WOW! readers. So what project is next for you?

Aimee: I am currently working on my first novel. It is fantasy-based and stems from my love of Greek mythology. I'm excited about it and am enjoying the challenge that comes with writing something a bit different and longer than I'm used to. However, while I'm working on this project, I will continue to share my silly stories about navigating this crazy thing called life while having some fun and laughs along the way.

WOW: That sounds great, Aimee. Good luck with all your future projects! It sounds like you have the perfect attitude to get through this thing we call the writing life, too! 

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Saturday, May 19, 2018


Three Simple Steps for a Great Interview

Before you say "I don't interview people" and click onto the next article, I need to tell you this post isn't just for the person asking the questions. If you're a writer, it's safe to say you'll do an interview or two in your career. This post is just as important for the person answering the questions as it is for the one asking them.

Quick back story. I have the privilege of interviewing authors here at WOW! Some are authors who have asked me to help organize a book blog tour, others have won a flash fiction contest or essay contest, and others are assignments from my lovely boss and friend Angela. The first time I was asked to do an interview I froze. I sat at my keyboard not quite sure how I was going to pull it off. I agreed and still wasn't sure what to do. I decided the best way to tackle an interview was to treat it like a school assignment (homework first as my mama would say)! I thought about my favorite television interviews and watched a few of them with a notebook and pen in my lap. I read some interviews with my favorite authors and took notes about those as well. Based on that research, here's a helpful process regardless of which side of the interview you are on:

1) Do your homework. If you are being interviewed, find out a bit about the person, publication, or program. If you are interviewing someone, find out as much about them as possible. Style is important. IE: I have a 'coffee chat with Crystal' type of interview style and would be disappointed in an interviewee who gave me short answers with very little depth.

2) Get comfortable. When I am writing questions, I have the authors head shot, bio, and my notes in front of me at me desk, but in my mind, we are sitting in my kitchen sipping tea/coffee/lemonade with some soft music playing and the smell of cinnamon rolls wafting from the oven. I like to think those I interview also set the mood before writing their answers. This is clearly important for television interviews, but also for radio. Some authors have pulled off some great radio interviews while driving down the freeway or tending to children, but for the most part, finding a comfortable space with few distractions is important.

3) Show up. This is a no brainer for a live interview (television or radio), but when an interview is recorded and aired at a later date, or it's a print interview, showing up is optional, but it shouldn't be. Show up and comment on the interview, share it with your friends and family as well as your social media channels. If someone comments with a question, answer it. Engage the audience (whether you are asking the questions or answering them). If you don't show up, it leaves a not so sweet taste in the mouths of those reading, listening to, or watching the interview.

That's it! Three simple steps for a great interview!

Now it's your turn to answer some questions:

Who is your favorite interviewer? (television, radio, print, etc...) Why do you like this person more than others? What sets them apart?

Do you have a favorite author interview? What makes this interview a favorite?

What have you found helpful when interviewing or being interviewed? How do you prepare? What tips do you have?

Thanks as always for your time and your comments!


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 11, Andre 9, Breccan 4, Delphine 3, 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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Friday, May 18, 2018


Friday Speak Out!: Nine out of Ten

by Ashley E. Sweeney

I won’t ever climb Mt. Everest.

After reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” the account of the ill-fated 1996 Everest expedition that left more than a dozen experienced climbers for dead on the world’s largest mountain, I knew for certain that I’d never climb that monolith in this lifetime.

Not that I’ve been planning an imminent trip to Nepal. But like countless others before me, Everest looms as the ultimate goal that few have attained. Goal setting is a universal pursuit; we all make resolutions and promises to ourselves and to others, some of which are fulfilled and many of which are broken.

As a young person, I made a list of 10 lifetime goals, nine of which I’ve attained to some recognizable degree: graduate college, be a VISTA volunteer, have a family, own a home, get a Masters degree, travel the world, serve as a board member, learn to quilt, publish an award-winning novel (my debut novel, Eliza Waite, is the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award winner and finalist in four other literary contests).

The last goal on that long-ago list—to climb Mt. Rainier in Washington State—is now outside the realm of possibility. Time, physical limitations, and other constraints have precluded reaching this aim.

What to do with this?

I can live with gazing upon Mt. Rainier—and that one unmet goal—from afar.

On a philosophical level, perhaps we can accept that we have not attained every goal on our youthful lists. In the end, it’s not how many goals we’ve attained, but how many we’ve attained well.

Which means I’m at nine out of 10. Back in my teaching days, that ratio equaled an A-. Not a bad report card of a life, considering. But who says life is over once you’ve conquered the list you created in your 20s? Why not start from scratch and create a new list?

In his retirement, my father, the novelist Gerald F. Sweeney, wrote a seven-book series titled The Columbiad, a loosely disguised autobiography that follows a bright young man through the 20th century. With one novel published, a second out on review, a third underway, and a fourth in the hopper, I’m on my dad’s tail to publish a slew of novels over the next 30 years.

Other new goals? Be the best grandmother in history. Live in the sun. Learn to do mosaic art. Make a difference every single day.

Give your dreams all you’ve got, and don’t give up easily. But this comes with a caveat: if the climb is too steep, or too treacherous, or costs you everything—perhaps even your life—it may be time to consider laying down your ice axe, your crampons, and your headlamp and realize that much of what you value is right where you are.

* * *
Ashley E Sweeney is the award-winning author of the novel, Eliza Waite. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. and splits her time between the Pacific Northwest and Desert Southwest. She has finished a second novel and is at work on a third. Learn more at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, May 17, 2018


The Writer Who Went Too Far

I like to think that most of us understand the importance of etiquette in the writing business world. Still, there are times, in our zeal to get published, that we push the boundaries of propriety. We use a different color for emphasis in our query (black is always the standard), or maybe we use a cleverly unique font that we think better illustrates our story (Times New Roman is always a good choice). We might even decide to write a query from the point of view of one of the characters which, though it sounds terribly creative, most often turns out terribly confusing.

I get how a writer just wants to have his or her manuscript noticed and read; in these days of super Internet, an agent or editor may receive hundreds of queries in a week. How in the world can one’s story stand out? It’s frustrating, but one must hang in there and keep one’s hold, however tenuous, on propriety or one might end up as an Object Lesson for the rest of us. Case in point: The Writer Who Went Too Far.

It was just a typical day for my agent friend. She was at home, and after a long afternoon working and running errands, she’d put on her jammies. So around five in the evening when someone knocked, thinking it was her neighbor, she threw on a sweater and opened the door. It was not her neighbor; it was a complete stranger holding an armload of books.

She immediately ascertained that this was a writer. He also stated, very helpfully, that he’d sent her a text 23 hours prior, and since he had not heard from her and was going to be in her “neighborhood” anyway, he decided to come by and drop off his self-published books to get her input.

All things considered, my agent friend took the situation pretty well. She did not call the police, or even rant and rave at him. In fact, she was more surprised than angry at the writer for his intrusive behavior, though she let him know in no uncertain terms that he should never seek out representation by going to an agent’s home. He should, instead, always read an agent’s website and follow the rules for submitting.

And she posted about the incident on social media because she wanted writers to know that sometimes you can go too far. Way too far. Interestingly, there were a few of her writer friends who felt like this overly ambitious author was just making a bold move, doing what he needed to do. There is never a bold move, said my agent friend, which includes invading someone’s privacy.

Ultimately, the Writer Who Went Too Far learned a lesson or two: if you want to be taken seriously and professionally in the writing world, respect the rules we all must follow. And don’t forget common sense; this writer was clearly in a residential, not business area, and yet never took a moment to ask if showing up on this agent’s porch was the right thing to do. Propriety, y’all, that’s all I’m saying.

Well, not all. Because when all was said and written about this episode, we learned a lesson as well, and I hope you will, too. That is, we live in a world where all kinds of personal information is easily available, so protect your privacy. The next boundary pusher may show up at your door!

Cathy C. Hall writes for children and adults. If you want to find out more, check out her website where she's mostly proper, most of the time.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018


Patience is a Virtue?

This is my manuscript.

So... the editor I hired has had my manuscript for a week. I even hand-delivered it (Margo was at a book signing) so I know exactly when she got it. This is what I expected * to happen:

  • On Sunday evening, after having my bulldog-clipped stack of papers for only 24 hours, I figured Margo would email me something like this: "Sioux, your story was so enthralling, I stayed up all night reading it. I could not put it down. DFS came to check on my daughter--I was hotlined--because I neglected my little girl completely--that's how compelling your manuscript was." This did not happen. However, she also didn't email me on Sunday to say it was a steaming pile of poop, that the stench was evident after only having my manuscript for a day, so I should be grateful.
  • After having my story for a week, I daydreamed that Margo would email me to say, "Sioux, this is such brilliant stuff, and incredibly, it needs absolutely no editing. It's perfect just the way you've written it. I have connections with several publishers. I am going to meet with them and insist that one of them offers you a publishing contract. Thank you so much. I feel privileged to have been able to read such brilliance." That didn't happen either. 
Lesson: Editing takes time. I've spent more than a year and a half on this story. After "giving birth" to this baby and then handing it over to someone else, I should be grateful that they're not just doing a cursory examination of my work. 

Thinking of how difficult it is to be a patient writer, I stumbled upon an article. It seems I'm not the only writer who's chewing on my fingernails while waiting for a response from an editor/a publisher/my writing critique group members--whoever is reading my stuff. I then found another article . In it, Blake Powell insists that if I don't have patience, I'd better develop it, and quickly.

My restlessness made me remember a submission I'd once sent as a prospective piece for an anthology. The editor wanted the pieces emailed. The next day, I got a response. It was a no. I forgot exactly what I said when I replied, but it was something along the lines of, "I have another piece I could submit." Another reply came back immediately.

"Please don't send anything else to us." Wow. I got the message. I'd wanted to hear soon, and I did, even though it wasn't the response I was looking for.

So... I'm wondering. How do you handle it when impatience starts creeping in? What kind of self-talk do you engage in while you're waiting

* This is what I expected in my daydream-y life... just like I expect that some day I will get Jodi Picoult's level of notoriety and money. Can't you see Don Quixote tilting at windmills, Ed Ames is singing "To Dream the Impossible Dream" and I dream?

Sioux Roslawski was not patient when she was a kid, either. She did everything like she was "killin' snakes" (which I guess comes from the fact that if someone is scared of a snake and is hacking at it with a hoe, it's done hurriedly). If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Interview with Sarah Lucas: 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Sarah’s Bio:

Sarah grew up in a big small city in Virginia where she enjoyed a diet of artistic culture and her dad’s Sicilian-American food. She makes a living as a French and Art History teacher at a local high school, but she thrives on her family, friends, and the food that she can make for them.

She has recently started sharing her talents for creative writing with others by enrolling in her first-ever writing class in the spring of 2017. Being published as a WOW! Contest finalist is her second national publication if you want to count the short story that she wrote at age 11. Her sixth grade teacher submitted it to Stone Soup magazine in 1984. Her writing has been somewhat dormant for 33 years. It cropped up mostly in family newsletters, Christmas cards, and on social media posts since then. She blames, however does not begrudge, her commitment to her teaching career, her amazing and very faithful husband and unruly, but passionate, children for taking her away from her prose.

She’s looking forward to finding a lot more to put down on paper from now on. If you haven’t done so already, check out Sarah’s award-winning story “The Thief” and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: What was the inspiration for this story?

Sarah: To start off, I feel this overwhelming need to clarify that this is fiction and not based on my actual life. I know my family was originally very concerned when they read it.
The premise started as a joke. My husband travels a lot (so much so that we had teased that he could have a whole separate family elsewhere.) And then we invented a fake second life for him.

But then I wandered about what that would really feel like-- to feel the pressing desire for attention, or care, etc. from someone who was unavailable. I remembered that a friend of mine had once confided in me a dalliance that she had had and how it started. With all of that in mind, the story took off. It made me cry a few times putting myself into the character’s shoes.

And ultimately I wanted the story to have an atypical ending. I didn’t want Pollyanna smiles or “happily ever after the divorce.” I wanted to see real struggle in the resolution. My real life is lived more like that anyway.

WOW: I think most of us have had to explain to friends or family – no, that isn’t you or me because I’m writing fiction. Even if the inspiration comes from life, you make changes. Speaking of changes, how did this story evolve during the rewrite process?

Sarah: My first version had too many unnecessary details. I had created backstory that was amusing to me, but not important to the plot or even to the character development.

I wrote the beginning of the story first, but then put in the middle, and then stuck it back in the beginning where it belongs. My friends in my writing class suggested that my main character was a little passionless and aloof, so I made that her tragic flaw.

The cleaner, better organized story that you read now is much more intriguing than the original.

WOW: Flash fiction is so compact that something has to be left out. How did you decide what details belonged in “The Thief” and which ones did not?

Sarah: Chopping was easy at first. I had written a lot of frivolous details into the exposition that I could shamelessly hack out. But then honing it to the last draft was more difficult. I examined each sentence and had to consciously decide which words to keep.

In her very popular book, Marie Kondo explains that in order to cull out the best things to keep in your house, you have to review everything and decide if it brings you joy. In nearly the same way, I analyzed each paragraph and decided which words and details brought the story “joy.”

WOW: That’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone using Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as a writing guide. Writing is incredibly personal. What bit of yourself can the reader find in this particular story?

Sarah: The woman at the reunion is definitely me at most dress-up functions. I have awkwardly changed shape since nursing my children. It’s appealing for my husband, but dressing up with an ample chest always makes me walk a fine line between alluring and X-rated. I know I’m too self-conscious.

The arguments are real. Any marriage (especially healthy ones) will have disagreements. My husband and I are not perfect and we get on each other’s nerves often. In our first years of marriage we were ruthless about “winning” an argument and we would air our grievances exhaustively. After nearly 20 years together, we’re much more efficient at getting to the heart of the matter and a lot less concerned about “winning.” And we still have make-up sex.

WOW: What advice do you have for anyone who is returning to writing after a prolonged absence?

Sarah: Don’t put it off any longer. Stop making excuses about it. Get back into it even if you haven’t written anything in years. I let everything else (though much of it was important) get in the way of a real passion of mine. I’m not lamenting the “lost” writing years, however, because that would further bring me down. I am looking forward to exploring the palate that my life has given me since I last wrote anything down.

WOW: What a bonus for your readers that you’ve come back into the writing world. And thank you for sharing your techniques and writing wisdom with all of us. We hope to see more of your work before too long.

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Monday, May 14, 2018


When is a hamburger not a hamburger?

I found the perfect spot for a pre-Mother's Day dinner through online reviews. One said the place was small and the wait might be long, but we were able to skip a long wait and push two tables together to dine al fresco on the small sidewalk out front in what can be described as perfect weather.

What made me select this particular restaurant? The description of the featured dish. One reviewer called it "haunting," as in, the flavor will haunt you until you go back and eat there again. How could anyone ignore that recommendation? I couldn't, and was not disappointed.

The dish was the perfect mixture of sweetness and spice combined in a range of textures that could only be described as pleasurable. Crunchy noodles and tender chicken were abundant in the creamy sauce that spoke to me in the secret language of my ancestors. While I ate, my entire world consisted of the few inches between a white bowl on a black, metal table, and my face above it. But that space contained everything I needed. More than once I had to ask someone to repeat a comment or a question because I had gone missing in a bowl of soup.

The world is explained through metaphors, comparisons and similes. I love figurative language, and have been paying special attention to the way it's used to describe what we eat, where we eat it, and who is eating it. As the food movement in the U.S. continues to expand, dining out (or in) has become an art form, and foodies have developed their own jargon.

Food can be a metaphor for communion because it nourishes the body and soul as people come together to partake. Food also is a metaphor for sex, by satisfying our desires. There are many idioms related to food, and for a fun list, click the following link for examples.

Food also can play a big role when you write a character. A couple of examples from my book, Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, show how a writer can use food to make someone likable or distasteful (pun intended!).

He devoured life like he devoured a great meal, with zest and gusto.

He had a hearty appetite.

He wolfed down his food like he hadn't eaten in days, dropping globs of mashed potatoes and gravy on his shirt and tie.

I also love a good restaurant description, which helps the reader visualize the room with phrases like: several oversized tables crammed together in a too-small space, faded curtains, and a greasy, laminated menu.

Finally, I'll show you how a hamburger is more than just a hamburger in Glenn Savan's 1987 best-seller, White Palace:

They taste like sin would taste, if you could eat it--don't you think?

That's one of the greatest similes of all time. How are you using food in your writing?

Mary Horner is the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges. She received the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, and is suddenly hungry for White Castle hamburgers.

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Sunday, May 13, 2018


Meet First Place Essay Contest Winner, Adriana Páramo

Adriana Páramo is a Latina cultural anthropologist, writer and women’s rights advocate. She is the author of Looking for Esperanza, and My Mother’s Funeral. Her essays have appeared in multiple literary magazines and been noted in The Best American Essays of 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she was named as one of the top ten Latino authors in the USA.

She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Fairfield University and is an alumna of the travel writing workshop of VONA—Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation—a community of writers of color.

She currently writes from Qatar, a place she considers home and where, oddly enough, she works as a yoga and zumba instructor.

She tries to keep a travel blog at: Visit her website at:

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q2 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Adriana: Thank you, Marcia. This is not only a very personal story, but sadly, also a very universal experience. I wanted to make sure that the readers could empathize, genuinely and effortlessly, with Julie and her journey. I couldn't think of a more accepting/receptive/loving readership than WOW's followers.

WOW:  Thank you for your kind words about WOW. Your entry, “Let’s Kill Your Grandfather Together” is powerfully moving from the title all the way to the final sentences of the essay. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Adriana: The first time someone cried in my restorative yoga class, I thought I had done something wrong. I thought that my sequence of poses, or maybe even my words, had triggered an emotion that it was not for me to elicit. I knew that because the poses in this type of yoga nourish the parasympathetic nervous system, the students switch from their fight or flight reactive mode to a rest and release state. What I didn't know was that in that release state, in that safe place on the mat, the students crumble along with their fears, traumas, insecurities. Hence the tears. Suddenly, there are no walls to hide behind, nothing to fear, no one to fight off, and these feelings take some women aback, like Julie. Her tears in the studio, her revelations outside of it, her need to share her struggle with other women, and her blessing to have her story published inspired me to write it.

WOW: Your work often involves social activism and advocacy for women. What messages do you hope to impart with your writing and other efforts?

Adriana: What do I want the reader to walk away with after reading my accounts of other people’s lives? I want the reader to trust me, to come along on this journey and inhabit other peoples’ world for a few hours or days, but more than anything, as a social activist, I want to turn an ordinary reader into an “empathetic reader," one whose decision making in the world is affected by and more thoughtful as a result of reading my work.

Writing about social activism is my opportunity to subvert. I write what I write to instigate change, to be analytical, critical, loud and vocal. Conversely, I read what I read to allow myself to be swayed, to discover, to become aware of “the other” and imagine alternative scenarios, different points of view, possibilities and actions.The truth is reading and writing are in themselves subversive acts. What they subvert is the notion that the status quo can’t be changed, that we are alone, that no one has ever felt the way we have, that the voices from the margins have no place in mainstream literature, and that we belong to a powerless subculture.

WOW:  Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Adriana: Southern Indiana Review will be featuring some of my work in the next issue. It is part of a larger work: a memoir about Kuwait. Right now I'm working on a collections of essays about women, and off-and-on continue to work on a project about the cross-cultural symbolic value of the hymen.

WOW:  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Adriana! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Adriana: Yes. Submit to legitimate contests and for the right reason. Money awards are nice to win, but shouldn't be the only reason to submit Send your work where the main reward is to be read with loving kindness. Nothing tops that.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018


Why Writers Should Read You Are A Badass!

I love this book: You Are a Badass! by Jen Sincero. It's not a book geared toward writers specifically; but most writers, if not all, will gain something from this book. And that thing is...confidence! And desire! And determination! Do I have  you convinced yet?

The subtitle of this book is "How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life." I mean, how can we pass that up, right? How many of us doubt our greatness? How many of us doubt that we can finish writing that novel? How many of us doubt that anyone will like it? (I'm raising my hand. Are you?) The one thing that Jen does so well in this book is make you believe that whatever it is that you want out of your life, and in this case let's say your writing life, you can get it. It is within your grasp.

I'm sharing with you a paragraph from the introduction of the book that had me hooked from the moment I read it. I looked around the room and wondered if Jen had been spying on me because it described my life perfectly. Here it is:

"I always felt like, Come ON, this is the best I can do? Really? I'm going to make just enough to pay my rent this month? Again? And I'm going to spend another year dating a bunch of weirdoes, so I can be in all these wobbly, non-committal relationships and create even more drama? Really? And am I seriously going to question what my deeper purpose is and wallow in the misery of that quagmire for the millionth time?" 

Amen, Jen. 

I have taken several of the tips that Jen includes in her book to heart and have put them into practice. I'm not 100 percent there yet, but I have the belief that I will be behind me. That is something this book did for me. It is in my writing life, my personal life, and my professional life.

  • You have to change your thinking first and then the evidence appears. (For example, with my blog--I believed I could run a successful blog that people would read. I could share my honesty and people would appreciate it. I see this evidence now because people are starting to contact me to advertise and guest post!)
  • Surround yourself with people who think the way you want to think. (This includes my critique group members--so inspiring, my WOW! family, and my non-writing friends and family, too. I have no place for toxic people because they bring me down and squelch my creativity.)
  • You cut yourself off from the supply of awesomeness when you are not in a state of gratitude. (You are blessed--you have the talent and ability and desire to write. You may even have people reading your work and/or offering to publish it for you. Be grateful for all these opportunities!)
So if you're feeling stuck and you're looking for a summer read, then get this book. It's available just about everywhere. She has a bit of a potty-mouth (no kidding by the title, huh?), but she's real and authentic; and she is following her own advice. Just writing this post for you makes me excited about the material again, after being finished with this book for over a month. Maybe I need to do a blog series about it on my own blog for a while because I am a badass and I don't want to forget! 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and instructor .Check out her blog here, and her two classes in the WOW! classroom here

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Friday, May 11, 2018


Friday Speak Out!: Writers and Spring Planting

by Rhonda Eichman

I signed my name to my first traditional book contract a few weeks ago, marking the beginning of spring and a new beginning for me. Before retiring at the end of last year, I worked for over 48 years in offices doing clerical and bookkeeping and squeezing in writing time on breaks and lunch hours. I have written and published a few poems and even an article for a local magazine. They all had one theme, the Kansas prairie and how it looks, smells, and feels. I have lived on this prairie my whole life and love to explore it. It blossoms in the spring with wildflowers and dries up to brittle plants that crack under your feet my summer’s end. The area in the southwest where I live is suffering drought and has been for the last few years. We cherish each drop of rain. If you want to plant and nurture a garden, one must have an irrigation or sprinkler system for the garden plot. I plant each year and each year I have better results. The first time I planted, it died out half way through the season. Now as each year progresses through the seasons, I have harvested vegetables and collected flowers for bouquets for myself and others.

It works that way with writing too. You jot down a few seeds of ideas and then work with them to create a poem or an article and finally one finds a theme that begs for water and fertilizer to bloom into a book. I found one of my seeds from a short story I wrote that just did not want to end. My first historical fiction novel, Bargain on the Prairie, is coming out in October of this year from DWB Publishing. I am working on the second book, Horsethief Canyon, a sequel because the story will just not stop. Hopefully it will see the light of day also. My contract for the first novel has a right of first refusal for a sequel. I plan, or should I say, plant to harvest again. I am also nurturing seedlings on the window sill in preparation for the garden plot out on the farm which led me to my folder of poetry seeds. I water my seedlings on the window sill and sit down to edit and dust off enough of my poetry for a poetry collection that I hope will be of interest to an editor. This year will be the bounty of harvest for garden produce and for my writing.

Whatever you write, water it every day with your time and energy. The plant will produce for you, then you can decide how to use it. Whatever you do, do not leave it in a drawer where it will never see the light of day and will just whither and be tossed out when you finally clean out your desk. Give yourself the fertilizer of rest, healthy exercise, and clean foods so you can produce and flower with words that others will enjoy and find a useful place for in their lives. Offer all you have in every bouquet and do not be afraid to trim and edit your stems, so they are just the right height for a reader to enjoy.

* * *
I just finished writing my first novel, Bargain on the Prairie, with a release date of October of this year. The historical fiction is set in the 1800’s on the prairie, in the southwest corner of Kansas, where I live. I am now working on the sequel, Horsethief Canyon. As a history buff, I can relate our unique historical culture to create fiction that is entertaining and features life’s lessons through my character’s actions. I have one theme that runs through all I write and that is, the prairie. Please visit my website to read an excerpt from the book under ‘learn more.’
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, May 10, 2018


Finding Your Joy

An old college essay describing an anthology of poems I wrote many years ago. I still find joy in reading these typewritten pages.  
It’s no secret I’ve become a big fan of podcasts lately. I’m obsessed with finding new ones and bingeing them on my daily walks or runs or driving to work when I want to listen to something other than the pop songs that get repeated every 20 minutes or so on the radio.

A co-worker sent me a link to a podcast called Strangers awhile back, and I finally got around to listening to a few episodes this week. Now I’m hooked. The host, Lea Thau, has the type of smoky, soothing voice you might imagine hearing on NPR, or any other late night radio show. The podcast bills itself as “featuring true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that WE aren’t even who we thought we were.”

I’ve only listened to a few episodes, but they are all such unique stories (some haunting, some jaw-dropping) that make you think they can’t possibly be true. But they are. Some of the guests are going by aliases, like the woman who realized her father murdered her mother when she was still a toddler and has been instrumental in trying to get the case finally solved after 30 plus years. Or the woman who always sensed something was not quite right with her oldest child, but desperately wanted to be wrong. Until she wasn’t.

As I listen to these stories, I can’t help but admire the bravery of those willing to speak out. And I think about how we as writers have so many stories of our own that we’re afraid to tell. There are so many stories from my own childhood that I’ve only shared with those that are closest to me. And there really aren’t many I trust with my secrets. Like the fact that my childhood was filled with instability. Or the eating disorder that threatened to rob me of my mind in my 20s.

I’ve tried writing essays about some of these painful memories but they always seem to come out as self-indulgent and whiney. I don’t want to present myself that way. So I keep things inside too much. I write about them where I can.

But as I was listening to yet another of the "Strangers" episodes today, it struck me how so many of these people telling their stories managed to find their joy. Like the boy who grew up in the late 1970s/early 1980s with a hippie, free-spirited mother who thought it was find to sleep on the forest floor in the Pacific Northwest and not send her son to school. She also had very bad taste in men, and was almost killed by a man she married, right in front of her son. He persevered, became an attorney, and ended up taking a pro-bono case of a woman incarcerated for murdering her abusive husband in self-defense. He worked on that case for EIGHT years before helping her get freed. He experienced gratitude and joy as a result, and wrote about it in a memoir. Another episode featured a man incarcerated for more than 20 years for a crime he didn't commit. He went to prison at age 16 after a young witness placed him at the scene of a drive-by shooting, even though he was home with his family at the time. The jury deliberated for maybe two hours. Even after his release, he came across as one of the most positive and joyful people I've ever heard. He eventually ran for public office in the state of California. Wow.

So I believe it is important for us to write down these painful stories, even if we do nothing with them besides keep them tucked away in a journal. And we should also write down the stories from the other end of the spectrum. Like the teachers who knew I must have been struggling at home but nurtured me anyway, and believed in me. I may not be able to share every single thing I write, but simply being able to write (and make a little money doing it) is where I find my joy. Anyone who knows me can see that.

These stories are part of our existence for a reason. It’s up to us to do with them what we see fit.

What is it about writing that brings you joy? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also blogs at She not only finds joy in writing, but also being a mom to two gorgeous, intelligent, and insanely different children. 

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018


Reading and Writing without Walls

If you are a teacher or children’s writer, you may have heard of the Reading Without Walls challenge. In 2016 and 2017, Gene Luen Yang was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, chosen by the Library of Congress. For two years, he made appearances and interacted with teachers, librarians and young readers, promoting literacy. His challenged them to “Read without Walls,” to read beyond their comfort zone.

This can mean many things, but no matter which interpretation you take it has implications for writers as well as readers.

Read a book about a character who doesn’t look or live like you. For readers, this can be interpreted in many ways. Read a book about a character who lives in another culture. For someone who lives in a big city, it could mean reading about someone who lives in a rural setting. Religion, sexual orientation, geography, class and ability can all play a part in diversity. Recently I’ve read The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and Wait for Me by Caroline Leech. 

Each of these books took me someplace beyond my personal experience. As a writer, they make me think about my assumptions concerning what a reader will understand with little or no effort.

Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about. I interpret this as a plea to read nonfiction about a new topic. I just finished the audiobook The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone and I read Wooly by Ben Mezrick.

Bringing new topics into your writing can keep it fresh. In two years, I wrote three books about race. In spite of how different each book was, I had a sense of deja vu by book #3. Not that I’m leaving this topic behind, but I needed to shake things up. My next two books were STEM topics. I had to read background material before delving into the specifics but I found a new excitement as I found ways to make the topic accessible to my readers.

Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This is tough for me because I read so widely. I do not read e-books for fun because I use them in my research. But I listen to a lot of audiobooks and read print books for fun. 

Every now and again I push myself to read a graphic novel although it isn't a form I love. I really liked Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. Novels in verse are another good choice for me.

I have no clue how to go about writing a graphic novel. But I’m casually looking into it. I’ve also been working up to writing a novel for adults. No, not something racy but something for people who aren’t children or teens.

Take a couple of weeks and try reading and writing without walls. In addition to finding new books and authors to love, it can help enliven your work. You may also find yourself writing in a new area for which you have a special talent.


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 July 9th, 2018.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018


Interview with Rohana Chomick: 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Rohana’s Bio:

What can you say about a zigzag woman? Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Rohana was a teenage hippie poet in an upper middle class world, who then moved to Barbados to be with her family after traveling across Canada on a train. Next stop: St. Petersburg, Florida, where she wrote poetry while attending junior college. Life after that has been a wandering journey into a variety of “careers” as a salesclerk in a book store, a features writer for a local newspaper, a product description writer for the Home Shopping Network, a copywriter for an advertising agency, a resume writer for a company dedicated to helping displaced executives across the country find new employment, and now a librarian in the special collections department at the John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa. During this wild ride, Rohana has not lost her poet soul, although sometimes it seems it is buried pretty deep under the complexities of making a living, something she has to do so she can have a roof over her head and food in her belly (and in her cats’ bellies too). She has written a sci-fi novel currently in editing limbo, several flash fiction stories, and other things that are still waiting in computerland for a chance to escape. Rohana writes a blog about nothing in particular at

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

WOW: What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write it?

Rohana: I’m fascinated by post-apocalyptic stories. I was blown away by The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but the actual inspiration for my story was the movie Bokeh, filmed in Iceland. A young vacationing couple wakes up to a land where everyone has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

WOW: Post-apocalyptic stories fascinate me, too, because I wonder if or how I would be able to survive in one. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Rohana: I love the actual writing process, watching characters come alive on the page, creating worlds for them to live in. I hate the editing process; I currently have a sci-fi novel still stuck in the editing phase.

WOW: I think a lot of us can relate to feeling stuck with our writing. I hope you can wedge yourself out of that one—don’t give up on your novel! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Rohana: I’m reading two books: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. I’m reading both of these books because I loved Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and Backman’s Bear Town. Totally different stories by totally different writers, but, man, those two writers really know how to present a story with characters who are truly alive.

WOW: Wonderful! Thanks for the recommendations. In your bio you mention the “complexities of making a living.” I think a lot of writers can relate to that. Can you say more about it and how it has affected your creative writing?

Rohana: Going out into the world, commuting and working all day at a job designed by someone else, wears me out. I don’t have the courage or the stamina to go out on my own, and there is no one else in my life to rely upon to help with the responsibilities of daily living. I’m sad that the very fact of keeping a roof over my head and all that goes with that has thwarted my creative life. I manage to write in fits and starts, but mostly I’m just too tired to think, let alone create. Now, if only I could win the lottery . . .

WOW: Fingers crossed for winning the lottery! But I—and I’m sure plenty of other writers/artists—can understand that struggle of being too tired or too busy from day jobs, and yet somehow we wiggle time into our schedules. It would be interesting to know, though, how creatively productive we could be if we didn’t have to worry about making a living. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Rohana: Don’t be like me. Believe in your writing talent and go for it. I wish I had done that when I was in my 20s and people were telling me I was an amazing writer. I didn’t believe them, and so I wandered from this to that, never finding peace because I didn’t become the writer I should have been.

WOW: Thank you for that push. It’s never too late to write, and we hope to see more of your writing in the future. Anything else you’d like to add?

Rohana: I am so thankful that WOW gave me a chance to shine, a chance to showcase what I can do, a chance to write a story that let me be me.

WOW: You are welcome! And thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy Writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.

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Monday, May 07, 2018


David Myles Robinson launches his blog tour of The Pinochet Plot

...and giveaway!

Successful San Francisco attorney Will Muñoz has heard of the brutal former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, of course, but it's not until he receives his mother's suicide letter that he has any inkling Pinochet may have had his father, Chilean writer Ricardo Muñoz, assassinated thirty years earlier.

Her suspicions spur Will on to a quest to discover the truth about his father's death–and about the psychological forces that have driven his mother to her fatal decision. His journey takes him deep into unexpected darkness linking his current step-father, the CIA, drug-experimentation programs, and a conspiracy of domestic terrorism. The Pinochet Plot is not just a story of a man seeking inner peace; it is also a story of sinister history doomed to repeat itself.

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (May 1, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1938288203
ISBN-13: 978-1938288203

The Pinochet Plot  is available for purchase in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

About the Author:

David Myles Robinson grew up in Pasadena, CA. He holds degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco School of Law. After practicing law for thirty-eight years in Honolulu, Hawaii, he retired with his wife, former Honolulu judge Marcia Waldorf, to Taos, NM. Robinson is the author of three previous novels: legal thrillers Tropical Lies and Tropical Judgments, and Unplayable Lie, a golf-related suspense novel.

Find David Online:



Twitter: @DMRobinsonWrite


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

WOW:  Thank you so much for choosing WOW to help promote your writing. This is such an honor. So, do, husband, judge, author - let's talk about distractions. Where do you find the time and how do you focus on the task at hand? What aspects of your life work well together and which do not?

David: When I was practicing law in Honolulu, which I did for 38 years, it was hard to find the time to write a novel. My wife, whom I met in law school in San Francisco, had been appointed to the trial court by the Governor, and I was running my own law firm. Our lives were busy and often stressful. Once we were financially able to do so, we began to travel the world, which was our stress relief.

I did complete a novel about 20 years ago. It was a legal thriller premised on the true story which I ultimately used as the basis for my later novel, Tropical Lies. But the novel I wrote way back then was just awful. The writing was stilted from writing too many legal briefs and memoranda of law. I wrote it mostly in the middle of the night and on weekends. I was proud to have finished it, but then I dumped it and didn’t attempt to write another novel until after I retired, in 2010.

I’ve been pretty prolific since retirement. My first published novel, Unplayable Lie, was a true labor of love. It’s a golf-related suspense novel (I purposely stayed away from writing a legal novel). It was well received by those who read it and that gave me the confidence to keep writing. I now have four published novels and two completed novels which are scheduled to be published later this year.

WOW:  Sounds like writing has always played an important part of your life. What sparked this particular political incident?

David: I had written two Pancho McMartin legal thrillers in a row and I wanted to do something different. Obama was President and the political discourse as we moved into the 2016 elections was rapidly deteriorating. I thought about all the countries which don’t allow political dissent and in too many instances dissenters are jailed or even assassinated. Chile under Pinochet came to mind, although there are far too many candidates, including modern day Russia. Then I thought about America’s own attempts over the years to suppress voters and to oppress minority groups.

From those dark thoughts sprung the idea for a novel drawing from our own fully stocked smorgasbord of atrocities. That said, I hope I’ve made the story entertaining and less depressing than it may sound.

WOW: As someone who has read The Pinochet Plot, I can attest that it is very entertaining and not depressing. Now let's talk about passion.  One of your passions is travel - where is your favorite destination and why?

David: My wife and I have been to all seven continents, including twelve times to sub-Saharan Africa. My all time favorite was our first trip to Botswana. There were only five of us in the group with a guide, driver, and cook. We slept in two-person tents and carried our own sleeping bags. The animal life was abundant, and we didn’t see any other tourists for the entire ten days or so we were in the bush. Since then, our safaris have been much more civilized and, unfortunately, more structured. We still travel with two of the five people we met on that trip back in 1989.

My wife’s favorite trip was to Antarctica, which comes in second on my list.

WOW: I'm laughing about Antarctica since my mother would threaten to send me there if I didn't do my childhood chores, so it clearly has never crossed my mind as a travel destination. Thank you for making me see it in a new light.

You are clearly very busy personally and professionally. How do you find time for writing? What advice would you give other writers struggling with balance?

David: I’m not busy professionally any more as I am fully retired. Nowadays, I don’t find time for writing – the writing finds time for me. Once I’m hot into a novel I can go almost non-stop, pushing all the other fun distractions aside. When I’m not in the middle of something, I will often toy around with poetry or my website blog, but I don’t stress over whether I’ve written so many words on any given day.

I wouldn’t be so bold as to give advice to other writers. If you love to write, then write. When I was working I’d get up at two in the morning and write for a couple hours. Then I’d go back to bed and get up at 6:30 to go to work. I did that because I had to write. I’m not saying what I wrote at 2am was good, but it was writing, which is what I wanted to do.

WOW: I think it's worth repeating "I don't find time for writing - the writing finds time for me" - that's perfectly stated! Thank you for sharing.

How did you map out The Pinochet Plot? Did you do an outline before hand? What is your writing process and can you explain why it works well for you?

David: Part of the fun of writing, for me, is to not work with an outline. I love to write the scenes I have mapped out in my head, usually while lying in bed the night before, and then, as I come to the end of those scenes, I’d ask myself “what if this happened?” I’d let my imagination run wild with alternative scenarios. On many occasions I’ve written myself into corners from which there was no escape other than to go back and start over. I think I spent too many years while I was practicing law being precise and fastidious in terms of presenting a case. When I’d write a brief, I’d have all my case law lined up and I’d know exactly how the brief would start and finish. Boooring. Now I’m free to let my creativity fly.

WOW: Speaking of conversations that we have with ourselves,  what advice would you give to your younger self or what advice would the younger you be giving to your current self?

David: I think I’ve lived my life as well as I could ever have imagined it. I did make a vow to myself many years back when I was working long hours and was quite stressed: do at least one thing that is fun every single day.

WOW: Great advice - who doesn't love to have fun?

Who has been most supportive in your writing and publishing journey and how so?

David: My wife, Marcia Waldorf, has been my best friend since we met in law school and won’t throw any punches if she reads something of mine that doesn’t work. But when she likes something of mine, she’s my biggest cheerleader. Also, as a retired criminal judge, Marcia is my resource for criminal procedure in my legal thrillers.

WOW: What's next for you - personally and/or professionally?

David: Keep writing and keep having fun.

WOW: Speaking of fun, you know how much we love reading here at WOW, so I must ask, what is your favorite book and why? Or if you prefer - favorite author and why?

David: My favorite book of all time is Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. I’m a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, and The Pinochet Plot is, in my own way, a tribute to Vonnegut. It’s unabashedly political and I’ve borrowed a technique I remember him using wherein he would interrupt the story to talk directly to the reader. I think Dostoyevsky knew more about the human psyche than most authors, and I keep meaning to go back and read The Brothers Karamozov again. Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible is one of my all-time favorites as well. And, of course, I grew up reading everything Hemingway ever published.

WOW: Thank you ever so much for your fun and thoughtful interview responses. This is going to be a delightful tour; it's a pleasure working with you David! 

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

Monday, May 7th @ The Muffin
Author Interview and Giveaway

Tuesday, May 8th @ Word Nerd Media
Today, Elizabeth at Word Nerd Media reviews The Pinochet Plot by David Myles Robinson and interviews Robinson about his latest novel.

Wednesday, May 9th @ The Page Turner
Kayla at The Page Turner reviews the latest novel by David Myles Robinson. Don't miss her thoughts on the fast paced mystery The Pinochet Plot.

Thursday, May 10th @ The Nerdy Bookcase
Molly delights readers at The Nerdy Bookcase as she reviews The Pinochet Plot - the latest novel by David Myles Robinson.

Monday, May 14th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Crystal from WOW! shares her thoughts about the thrilling new novel by David Myles Robinson. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about The Pinochet Plot.

Tuesday, May 15th @ Bella Donnas Books with Dawn Thomas
Dawn Thomas reviews The Pinochet Plot for readers at Bella Donnas Books.

Friday, May 18th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews The Pinochet Plot by David Myles Robinson

Friday, May 18th @ To Write or Not to Write
Sreevarsha Sreejith reviews The Pinochet Plot.  Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Sreevarsha and visit To Write or Not to Write.

Tuesday, May 22nd @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews David Myles Robinson about his latest mystery The Pinochet Plot.

Monday, May 28th @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reviews the latest thriller by David Myles Robinson - readers will be at the edge of their seat with The Pinochet Plot.

Tuesday, May 29th @ Writings By Renee
Fellow author Renee Sanchez reviews the latest novel by David Myles Robinson. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about The Pinochet Plot.

Wednesday, May 30th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Contino
Bring on Lemons welcomes guest blogger Cathy Contino as she reviews The Pinochet Plot - the latest best selling novel by David Myles Robinson.

Thursday, May 31st @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Fellow author Madeline Sharples reviews David Myles Robinson's latest novel The Pinochet Plot.

Keep up with the latest stops by following us on twitter @WOWBlogTour.


Enter to win a copy of The Pinochet Plot by David Myles Robinson! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway contest closes Sunday, May 13th, at 12am. We will choose a winner the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, May 06, 2018


This is Writing

This week, I had my writing center students complete an assignment based off the essay series called “This is Childhood.” In the series, bloggers for the Huffington Post reflect on what the various ages of childhood look like to them. This series inspired another blog, where author Emily Mendell muses about being 45 years old.

I have yet to see my students’ finished products, but it got me thinking about what my age says about me and, more specifically, where I am in life as a writer. It's long, but it's worth it.  So here it is:

This is writing for ten years.

Writing for ten years is remembering the delight of crafting your first novel. Each word - each page - was a step towards greatness. Your enthusiasm was at an epic height. You envisioned the literary agent of your dreams, a Random House publishing contract, and a billion-dollar movie deal. Writing wasn’t work, then.

Writing for ten years is accepting that the “first novel” magic is gone. You left it behind - perhaps on the same thumb drive where your novel now makes its sweet repose. You never access that file anymore. It’s a reminder of your “youth” when adverbs and dialogue dominated your writing. It’s cringing at the word count of your first novel - above 120,000 words - which is a major faux pas in the writing world. It’s regretting the name of your main character, because its a name you’d like to use in a different book, but it seems cruel to rip it away from your first “baby.”

Writing for ten years is understanding you’re no longer a fledgling but are far from accomplished. You’re an average, everyday sort of writer. You think about writing all the time, but put it off for your children’s after-school activities. For cooking and cleaning. For trips to the grocery store and Target and the doctor’s office. For grading papers and planning lessons. For family obligations. For calming down a hormonal teenager who is having her fourth minor crisis of the day and for the rare time you can go for a 30 minute run outside. You put it off for ten, quiet minutes on the couch without someone calling your name or needing something.

Writing for ten years means having a list of story ideas on your phone. You probably don’t understand half of them anymore, because they were written in the middle of the night or after that third glass of wine. It’s listening to a song on the radio and picturing a vivid scene for your book. It’s replaying that same song ad nauseum until the scene is solidified in your mind because you’re driving, and you don’t have the capability of writing it down.

Writing for ten years means finding that precious hour to work on your current novel, only to spend that hour going back and re-reading in an attempt to rediscover your intended path. You fix problem after problem along the way. Sometimes you discover an excellent scene and congratulate yourself. At the end of the hour, you’ve written, perhaps, for ten minutes, before you are called away on another errand.

Writing for ten years means letting go of the strict grammar conventions of high school and recognizing that style, complex characters, and rich settings are of paramount importance. It’s okay to break the rules, because it creates depth.

After writing for ten years, you cling to the hope that your writing is worthy of an agent. You’ve sent out over one hundred query letters. You also recognize - with painful acquiescence - you may never land one.

It’s finally getting published by a small press and loving every minute of the publishing process. It’s jumping up and down when you receive the acceptance email. It’s spending grueling hours in front of a computer screen making all of your verbs active and removing the word “look” from your manuscript 300 times. It’s delighting in the cover art and sharing your accomplishments with anyone who will listen.

Writing for ten years is realizing, a year after you’ve been published, that book promotion is the most difficult part of the publishing process. It’s getting royalty statements with “0” next to “books sold.” It’s fighting the urge to give up.

After writing for ten years, you are aware of your responsibilities as a writer. You write as much for your audience - for that one person who might connect with your work - as you do for yourself.

Writing for ten years means embracing the joys and the rejection that come with writing. You acknowledge that you will not be the next Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. You accept that you will, most likely, never be able to quit your day job.

Writing for ten years means you love the craft. That never goes away. You know you will always be a writer. Especially because your license plate says "WR1TE."

This is writing for ten years. This is me.

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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Saturday, May 05, 2018


Book Review of The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra

About the Book:

In the heart of the California wine country, secrets seem to grow on the vines that Uriel Macon’s family have tended for generations.

Uriel, the winery’s young widower, steers clear of complicated relationships. He prefers the lonely comfort of his vineyard and his horses, until he is reminded of his love affair with Amanda Scanlon; a relationship that ended when she abruptly left the country years ago under a cloud of mystery.

When Amanda returns to Sonoma because of a family crisis, she tries to mend the broken relationships she left behind. In addition, she seeks the truth about her parents’ complicated history and her own parentage.

But Amanda’s unveiling of the past has devastating consequences. In the midst of California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley, the Scanlon family struggles to overcome harsh realities with dignity and grace.

Both Amanda and Uriel stretch to take care of their families, which are facing immigration issues, marital crises, and loss. While navigating these challenges, the couple must decide if they trust themselves to love again, or to finally let each other go.

A Sonoma local, author Joanell Serra’s debut novel is captivating, poignant, and uplifting, demonstrating how seeds planted long ago continue to grow. Sometimes into a strangling weed, sometimes offering a bountiful harvest.

Paperback: 288 pages
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Publisher: WiDO (May 8th 2018)
ISBN-10: 1947966022
ISBN-13: 978-1947966024

The Vines We Planted is available for purchase in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

There is still a book giveaway and contest happening for another day or so:
To win a copy of the print version of The Vines We Planted, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of the launch day post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, May 6th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Joanell Serra, MFT lives with her growing children, husband and dogs in the lovely Sonoma Valley.

After years of publishing short stories, essays and plays, The Vines We Planted is her debut novel. She can be found polishing her second novel at a coffee shop, sipping a perfect Cabernet in a Sonoma winery or at her website:

Find Joanell Online:

-----5 Star Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

There are so many things to love about The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra. I will try to hit the high points but definitely recommend everyone grab their own copy. This is an easy read you will devour in one or two sittings; most definitely a book you won't want to put down!

The characters in The Vines We Planted are deep and very well written. Any time I read about human emotion, trials, love, etc... it is very important the author connect me as a reader with the characters I am reading about. Serra did this beautifully. As I was reading I didn't find myself wishing the author had included a few more details, better dialogue, etc... I can say without hesitation I wouldn't change anything with how well each character is depicted. In fact, I was very surprised when I learned this was Serra's debut novel, she writes like a seasoned author with several novels under her belt. One of my favorite lines turned out to be this one:

"Sheila's eyes flapped wide open, like painted butterfly wings"

I have heard many comparisons, but never eyes to painted butterfly wings. This line stuck with me like so many other  visuals in this beautiful book.

I have never traveled to California's beautiful Sonoma Valley, but somehow I feel I now have. Reading The Vines We Planted transported me as a reader; only a skilled author can manage such a feat. The imagery is impressive and particularly moving - and the gorgeous book cover doesn't hurt either!

This is a quick read. I didn't want to stop until the very end and I'm hoping Serra will be writing more about the Sonoma Valley and the Scanlon family. The Vines We Planted is an intricately woven tale I would absolutely recommend to a friend.

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

Monday, May 7th @ Beverley Baird
Beverley Baird reviews Joanell Serra's latest work The Vines We Planted and shares her thoughts with readers at Beverley A Baird.

Tuesday, May 8th @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews Joanell Serra about her writing and her latest novel The Vines We Planted. Don't miss today's informative and encouraging author interview!

Wednesday, May 9th @ The Constant Story
Fellow author David Berner reviews The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra. Readers at The Constant Story will delight in learning about this beautifully written novel published by Wido Publishing.

Thursday, May 10th @ Coffee with Lacey
Readers at Coffee With Lacey learn more about the beautiful The Vines We Planted as Lacey reviews Joanell Serra's latest novel.

Monday, May 14th @ Choices
Joanell Serra is today's guest blogger at Choices. Her article about Mental health is one you won't want to miss. Learn about this and find out about Serra's novel The Vines We Planted.

Thursday, May 24th @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Joanell Serra pens today's guest post with Kathleen Pooler - don't miss Serra's insight about mother/daughter relationships and find out more about her new book The Vines We Planted.

Friday, May 25th @ BookWorm
Anjanette Potter reviews Joanell Serra's The Vines We Planted and shares her thoughts with readers at BookWorm!

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