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Sunday, July 22, 2018

 

Three Types of People to Watch Out For In Your Writing Life

When it's my turn to blog on The Muffin, I usually try to come up with something either funny, positive, inspirational, or instructional. But today, friends, I have a bone to pick with three types of people you could run into in your writing career; and this is a topic that needs to be brought out of the shadows and into the light. So this post comes with a big WARNING sign--maybe even DANGER AHEAD. When you're reading the descriptions below, if the name of someone in your writing life pops into your mind, then you will know to proceed with caution or run away screaming from him or her.
Watch out for these three! :) 

Type 1: The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer
We all know these people exist in our lives--people who won't do anything unless they see a benefit for themselves. It's not that people should be going around spending all their time doing selfless acts, and writing is a business, so you have to make wise decisions. But some writers are extremely self-centered, narcissistic, and un-generous. (I told you, this is not a positive post. SORRY!) Recently I heard a story about two writers who had the same publisher--we will call them Positive Polly and Selfish Sal. Positive Polly was looking for giveaways from writers while promoting her latest book, but also to give some of the other writers at her publishing house a chance to find new readers with free ebook giveaways (a tried and true marketing strategy, especially for series writers).

Selfish Sal jumped at the chance to promote himself, but then he quickly became difficult. He complained that he wasn't getting enough attention and that he never should have gifted anything to Positive Polly for a giveaway. He even went so far as to publicly call out Positive Polly--he said she wasn't doing enough for him when he graciously donated one ebook.

Do you think Positive Polly will ever work with Selfish Sal again? Of course not. She found several other writers who were more than happy to help her out, were easy to work with and considerate, and even thanked her for the opportunity to talk to Polly's readers. The What's-In-It-For-Me Writer will often spend hours complaining and writing some pretty awful emails instead of writing great books.

Type 2: The Harsh Critiquer/Editor
A critique group member or an editor has one job--to help the writer create the best manuscript possible. Yes, this can entail a lot of constructive criticism and suggestions for revisions and cuts. But this can be done WITHOUT insulting the writer or the work and squashing the dreams of a writer. It's a crime (or should be) that there are some editors and critique group members who are so cruel and critical that they make other writers doubt everything about themselves and their talent.

If you ever feel this way after receiving a critique, then get another one. I'm serious! I do a lot of editing and critiquing, and a good edit will be structured like a positive parent/teacher conference for the worst-behaved child in the class--the criticism of the child is sandwiched between positive traits, and it is worded in a way that is helpful to the student, not hurtful. Your manuscript, even the roughest draft, should be treated in this respected way.

Please don't let one harsh critique kill your dreams. Every one of us writers, even best-selling authors, can improve our craft and our storytelling, but there's always something positive in a manuscript to focus on first.

Type 3: The Breaker of Promises 
This person is someone who promises (over and over again) to do something: give you a review, critique your work, show up at your events, share your book on social media, etc, in exchange for you doing something for them also (such as critiquing each other's work or reviewing each other's books). Now, we are all busy, and I have been guilty of taking on too much and being very forgetful; but if someone is doing something for me (critiquing my novel, showing up at my book events, taking my classes), then I make it a priority to return the favor and/or write a heartfelt email of why I can't. (Sometimes, being a single mom creates barriers beyond my control, but then I really try not to make promises I can't keep--still a learning process.)

The worst breaker of promises is in the following example. Let's say, you exchange books with another writer to write reviews for each other (after reading them--real, honest reviews), and you do yours in a timely manner. You wait a good amount of time, because you understand that life is busy, and inquire nicely if the person has had a chance to read your book yet, and you get an answer like: Well, I'm busy.

Well, WHO ISN'T?

There's really nothing you can do about these types of situations except the following: don't trust him or her again!  "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." or "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

A More Positive View
Now I have to end on a positive note. I am a glass half-full kind of gal. There are so many incredibly wonderful, amazing, generous, thoughtful, professional writers, editors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers out in the world whom you will meet. But this writing path you chose is not easy; and if you feel like someone in your writing career is toxic or hurting you or making you doubt yourself, they probably are. If he or she is a friend, try talking to this person first and see if you can work something out. If not, just wish the writer well and move on. If you are looking for some warm people, look no further. WOW!  is full of them--on this blog and on our Facebook page.

Happy writing.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and WOW! instructor, as well as a writer and freelance editor. You can enroll in her novel writing coach that starts the first Friday of every month by going here. She is also offering  a marketing class starting this fall. Find out more about her at http://www.margoldill.com

Clay birds photo by JD Hancock on Flickr.com 

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Saturday, July 21, 2018

 

Why I Started Writing What I Enjoyed Instead of What I Knew

We all know the advice, "Write what you know." It isn't my favorite piece of advice, although recently I have learned to understand it better. I have learned that it's not just about writing about all those real life moments you have lived through, but it's also about emotions. We've all known sadness, fear, disappointment, love, and so many other emotions that inspire the characters we write and the stories we tell.

But for me lately, even that new level of understanding feels crippling. Whether I try to write what I know or what I feel, lately I just feel stuck. In the midst of an extremely stressful time, I prefer to escape into writing and frankly, writing from those raw places sometimes hurts.

I've started approaching my writing in a completely different way these days. Instead of writing what I know or what I feel, I'm writing what I enjoy.  I'm finally smiling as I write. I'm laughing to myself as I write out the scenes. This has made writing fun again. I feel like I'm a kid playing pretend all over again.

Will this story get published? Who knows. I'm not even thinking about it yet. Honestly, I'm just glad I'm enjoying writing again. Like, really enjoying it.

Have you ever felt stuck in your writing? Maybe you are beginning to hate that novel you are working on, or the article you are trying to piece together, or that short story that can't seem to get an ending. If that sounds like you, put that piece of writing aside. For now, write something you enjoy. You may not figure out what that is yet, but I encourage you to keep looking and trying out new ways to write. Try poetry. Try scriptwriting. Try a memoir. Try something you've never written before. Try something silly or something terrifying. Write what you enjoy. Write what you would want to read.

This approach may not result into a bestselling novel. In fact, it may not be read by anyone but you. Yet, I'm a strong believer that exercising that muscle of enjoying our creative work is just as important as exercising the muscle of discipline that sits us down in the chair. Both go together. Once I've begun to enjoy writing again, maybe I can finally figure out how to apply that age old advice of 'write what you know (or feel)." And who knows? Maybe that story I am enjoying will end up a bestseller after all.


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Friday, July 20, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: Easy Book Marketing for Authors Who Hate Marketing

by Linda Strader

I haven’t met an author yet who loves the marketing aspect of book promotion. Certainly I don’t. I’ve never been particularly outgoing, nor social. Not that I’m a recluse, but I’ve never been one to talk (which in my world means brag) about my accomplishments. Simple compliments throw me, to the point that I often pretend I didn’t hear them.

However, I knew that if I wanted people to know about my book, which I did, I was going to have to get them interested long before it was published. How to do this? I had a Facebook account, but never used it. I didn’t have many friends, and certainly not on Facebook. I needed to meet people beyond the few friends I had. I mean, seriously, how much promotion could a few people help me with? I decided to explore further.

I discovered Facebook Groups. I’d no idea these existed. I decided to join a few that were focused on writing, as well as my other hobbies, including gardening and art. To my surprise, I found people quite sociable and friendly, to which I responded in kind. I never mentioned my book, but once in a while a post would come up that opened the door for me to talk about myself. And what do you know? People were interested to hear about me, my book, my life…which I reciprocated, because it was fun to share.

What I’ve discovered is this: if you want people to buy your book, you need to connect with them on a social level. Sending out a gazillion emails that essentially say “Buy my book!” will not work. Neither will the accumulation of hundreds of email addresses of people you don’t know in order to blast them with book release news. You wouldn’t stop a stranger on the street and whip out a copy of your book saying, “Hey, want to buy my book?” would you? That’s essentially what you are doing.

It took over a year, but I made not only new friends, but important connections that led to guest blog-posts, interviews: written, video, and audio, as well as speaking opportunities, and book signing events. All of these resulted in over 150 pre-orders for my book, and not just in the U.S. New friends and connections from all over the world wanted a copy—all by me simply connecting and being friendly with people I met online.

Never discount the importance of a connection. That one connection might not be interested in your book, but maybe they know of someone who would be. People “share” with others online, and your news is spread even farther. It’s all good. You can do this! I know you can.

* * *
Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage is her first book, released on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. She is currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

Blog address: https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/LindaStraderauthor
Twitter: @desertplantlove
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

 

Themes: Weave Them into a Compelling Story

Weave themes together to create a compelling story.
Recently I read an article about themes in literature. The author’s advice was to avoid the common and ho hum. Go instead, she said, for the unusual.

Wow. I have to disagree. Themes in and of themselves don’t have to be unique. They are the broad topics that summarize what your story is about. You create a unique story not with a single theme but in how you weave together themes (more than one) with plot and characters.

For example, you might write a book about the theme judgment, not to be confused with justice. Shakespeare wrote about judgment in Hamlet. Harper Lee’s story about judgment, To Kill a Mockingbird, moved the theme from a Danish castle to a Southern town. Pick up the pace and you can write about judgment by penning thrillers like those of Suzanne Brockmann, combining military maneuvers with crime.

Sound too weighty and grim? Not to worry. Women in business is one of the themes in Molly MacRae’s The Highland Bookshop Mystery Series, set in modern Scotland. Women in business is actually a common theme in the mystery genre with women managing bookstores, yarn shops and coffee houses while solving a wide variety of mysteries.

Very few books have only one theme and combining themes in unique ways is one way to make your story feel new. I just finished reading MacRae’s Plaid and Plagiarism. In addition to women in business, other themes include crime doesn’t pay and greed will lead to your downfall.

Take a look at this list of themes:

  • Beauty is only skin deep.
  • Circle of life.
  • Coming of age.
  • Corrupting influence of power.
  • Crime doesn’t pay.
  • Evils of ignorance.
  • Evils of racism.
  • Evils of science/technology.
  • Good vs evil.
  • Greed will lead to your downfall.
  • Heroism.
  • Judgment.
  • Justice.
  • Nature vs civilization.
  • Overcoming the odds.
  • The power of the natural world.
  • Simplicity is best.
  • Unrequited love.
  • Women in business.


Have I missed one of your favorites? Add it in a comment below.

If someone tells you that your theme is too ordinary, the problem probably isn’t the theme itself. Themes after all are what speak to us in a story. They help us know what to expect and frame how we think about it. In a romance, you know that one of the themes will likely be love lost. Most mysteries share the theme that crime doesn’t pay. In young adult novels, coming of age is a popular theme as teen readers struggle to make their way into the adult world. But a single theme isn’t all that a story is about.

The next time a story or novel feels slight, take a good hard look at your manuscript. Are the characters three dimensional? Do you toss complications into the plot? If you’ve done these things, take a look at this list of themes. Does one of them feature in a minor way? Can you make it stronger? Learn to weave together two or three themes to create a piece that is complex enough to hold reader interest.

--SueBE

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 September 10th, 2018.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

 

"They" can't stop you

Many of you know I'm a communications instructor as well as a writer. I recently heard another instructor say that early in his career he felt like he wasn't qualified to teach students just a few years younger than he was, and when he got older, he felt like he couldn't relate to them. Now, though, years later, when asked how he felt about those earlier theories and how he relates to his students, he said he doesn't care how they feel because he has something to offer. I love that response, because many writers feel the same way.

When we begin, we may feel like we aren't qualified to call ourselves writers, and after years of work, may feel disconnected from a younger audience. When writers pay attention to the latest blockbuster books and movies, feeling out of touch may be the norm. That probably isn't your audience anyway, and letting others dictate the type of writing you do is a mistake. You have something else to offer.

When you are 20, you worry about what other people think of you. When you are 40, you don't care what other people think of you, and when you are 60, you realize no one was thinking about you anyway. I'm closer to 60 than 40, so am happy to say that putting myself out there isn't as scary as it once was. I don't know if it's because many people I deal with are younger and seem less intimidating, or after having been a writer for so long feel a higher level of confidence. It's probably some of both.

Recently, I realized that in 100 years, the planet will be populated with an (almost) entirely different group of people. Most of us who are here now will not be here then. So, what are we worried about? Is it that "they" may not understand you? To be honest, "they" may not care if you succeed or not. My advice is to stop worrying, because "they" aren't permanent. And "they" shouldn't determine how you perceive your work.

In 100 years, you will have been a writer. And that won't change. You have something to offer. "They" can't stop you.


Mary Horner writes fiction and nonfiction, teaches communications, worries about getting older, but not as much about what others think of her writing.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

 

Meet Tina Tippett, Runner Up in the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tina Tippett makes her living as a legal assistant in a busy law firm just outside of Baltimore. She began jotting poetry in the margins of her schoolwork in elementary school and continued to do so through her career as an English major at the University of Maryland.

A single mom, writing often took a backseat to balancing work and home-schooling her two beautiful daughters. After losing her mother in 2001, she rediscovered the cathartic quality of writing and was able to complete her first novel, Dreams of Mother, the following year. A series of life-changing events brought on a writing hiatus which lasted until 2014. That year, she reached back and self-published Dreams of Mother.

Empty-nested within the last year, she’s discovering the conflicting distress and freedom that come with the territory, and with encouragement from her fiancé, she’s spending some of that extra time reconnecting with her muses. She is enjoying re-honing her skills on flash fiction, short stories and writing lyrics with fiancé David, a bluegrass musician.

She remains very close to her two daughters, one of whom is married and pursuing a degree in early childhood education and the other who has a passion for creative writing as well. She currently resides in Eldersburg, Maryland with her fiancé and their senior citizen cat, Max.

Tina is an avid reader of what she wants to write—women’s mainstream literature. She is working on her second novel, and planning her October wedding to her best friend, David.

One of her most treasured material items is the hard copy of Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, which he autographed to her during a speaking engagement in 2014. The inscription reads, “All the best to a fellow scribe. Enjoy the journey.” Placing in the top ten in her first flash fiction contest has bolstered her confidence—she is taking Mr. Lamb’s advice.

If her name sounds familiar it's because Tina also placed in the Fall 2017 WOW! Flash Fiction Contest! Read Tina's latest award-winning story, Because I Had No Shoes, and then return here to learn more about the writer.

WOW: Welcome, Tina, and congratulations once again! "Because I Had No Shoes" is such a unique and heartwarming story. Where did you first get the idea to write this?

Tina: My mother was quite the quoter of clichés and old adages, one of which was “I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.” If you Google the origins of that saying, you’ll come up with a dozen different sources, so I honestly have no idea of its origin. But for me, it was my mother’s way of reminding us never to feel sorry for ourselves. I thought of this saying in conjunction with some women’s adoration for shoes (my own daughters fall into that category). The two ideas together morphed into a story of a young woman’s resilience to adversity. It wasn’t until I was midway that I realized I wanted to portray it from the father’s viewpoint, as I can identify myself more as a parent than I can a “girly girl” like the one in the story.

WOW: I love the way it turned out. Glad you listened to your instincts! You self-published your first novel "Dreams of Mother" a few years ago. What advice would you other writers looking to self-publish their own work?

Tina: Definitely do your research. And most importantly, don’t rush because you are excited to get your work out. I read long ago that if you are going to be a successful writer, there is one writer you can never get tired of reading: yourself. Edit, re-edit. Let it sit for a while and re-read again. Ask others to read and give feedback. There are no successful first or second drafts.

WOW: That's for sure! If you could describe your writing journey in five words, what would those be?

Tina: Dreams have no expiration date.

WOW: Very wise, and something we should all tack up on our mirrors to remind us every day. Moving forward, what is a bucket list item on your writing list and how will you achieve it?

Tina: My ultimate goal is to have a novel published with some relative success. I stopped writing for several years, and when I picked it back up a few years ago, I had to “regroup” – decide that I couldn’t just jump into being a novelist. I started with an on-line writing group, tried my hand at flash fiction. I have since joined a real-time writing group. I am currently working on short stories. This way, my skills can grow with the length of fiction I’m working on. I also try to set weekly goals as to how much time I want to dedicate to writing.

WOW: As you've been working on juggling a full-time job with a budding writing career, your writing time is precious. Have you ever had to walk away from a story or character that just wasn't working? What was that like?

Tina: I’ve had to do that several times. It makes me feel briefly like I’m failing myself or even the characters. There are some stories that have sat unfinished for a long while, but I do keep them and revisit to see if a new direction pops up later. (The short I’m working on now is just such an incident). In the end, though, I feel like abandoning a story that just isn’t working is the smartest thing to do. It frees up time for ideas that flow more easily or make me more excited to write. Challenging myself with prompts or contests is healthy for my writing, but at some point, it just wastes precious time.

WOW: Tina, thank you so much for chatting with us today, and for all your sound words of wisdom and encouragement. Happy writing, and I'm sure we'll see more of you in the future!

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Monday, July 16, 2018

 

'Till the Cows Come Home

Growing up, my parents would say things like "that girl won't quit talking 'til the cows come home" or "she's a slow learner - those cows will be home before her knees are healed" and so much as I'd like to think they were talking about someone else, I'm an only child. An only child who never stopped talking, dreaming, climbing trees, and playing football. I can't say I've done much tree climbing or football as of late, but the talking and dreaming has served me well. However, let's go back to that colloquial phrase: 'Till the Cows Come Home. It'm not quite sure of the exact origin of the phrase, and some say claim John Fletcher's 1616 The Scornful Lady, I digress...in the here and now, I live on a dairy farm and our cows come to the barn twice a day to be milked, so I found myself perplexed since I thought the cows coming home was similar to pigs flying. Apparently in the Scottish Highlands, the cattle (they aren't actually cows, but steers) spend months grazing on the common grass until autumn when they come home to feed. All in all, it just means: for a very long time.

Now that we've completely over thought that entire thing, let's move onto the point. Here's where I say something completely profound:

WRITE 'TIL THE COWS COME HOME!

No matter how little you believe in yourself or how many naysayers there are, if it's in your heart to write, you just keep writing 'til those cows come home - then write some more! Use your journal, use social media, use your blog, start your novel, submit to those contests, etc... Just keep writing. I started writing as a child. A group of us put together a newspaper just for our block. We drew pictures, wrote short stories, jotted down poems, and made copies for our subscribers (who were mainly our own parents). I took great pride in writing essays and articles during school and university, and then as a professional I wrote training manuals and marketing materials. I never would have dreamed I'd be here - working on a book, writing blog posts, helping promote authors, etc...but those cows aren't home yet, so I'm just going to keep writing!

Now, back to you. How are you doing on your writing? I want to encourage you to keep writing, and if you don't have anything lengthy enough for a novel just yet, how about submitting to one of our dynamite contests? Write something short, submit it, get some feedback, win some prizes, get some encouragement from others! Sounds like a great idea all the way around!

What are you working on? What are your writing goals? Can you commit to writing 'til the cows come home?

While you ponder those questions - check out the winners of our recent Essay Contest! 


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 10, 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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Sunday, July 15, 2018

 

Interview with Ashley Memory, Essay Contest Runner Up

WOW! recently announced the winners of our   Essay Contest and we are proud to announce Ashley Memory from Asheboro, North Carolina  as one of the runners up with I know What She's Thinking. 

About Ashley:

When she’s not marveling at the antics of the lizards on her apricot tree, Ashley Memory is either making raspberry jam or writing poetry, essays, or fiction. While she does occasionally pinch a juicy magazine from a waiting room, she returns them eventually and frequently donates her own.

Ashley is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a two-time winner of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize sponsored by the N.C. Writer’s Network. Her first novel, Naked and Hungry, was named a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Fellowship Competition and was published by Ingalls Publishing Group in 2011. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Thomas Wolfe Review, Wildlife in North Carolina, Romantic Homes, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and most recently in The Gyroscope Review, The Hardball Times, and The Collection: Flash Fiction for Flash Memory. Her story “Party Etiquette for Insects Recently Transformed into People,” earned honorable mention in the WOW Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest.

Since taking early retirement from her marketing job with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is a part-time instructor for Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C.

For more information, please follow Ashley on her blog.

----------interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW:  It's such a pleasure to have you here today Ashley- thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and chat! I enjoyed your essay as well as the opportunity to learn more about you. 

I understand you are now retired (but still working part time) – so I have to ask: how do you juggle a busy career and your passion and love of writing? What advice do you give others who may struggle with time management?

Ashley: My husband Johnpaul and I are actually building our house – literally, from driving the nails to doing the wiring – so I’m busy in quite another way these days. Oddly, I find the act of doing something like pushing a wheelbarrow to be compatible with writing. In fact, I’ve worked out several plot lines while engaged in physical labor. It occupies my active mind so my unconscious mind is free to do its magic.

Being retired from a paying job, I know that other people are far busier than I am! If, however, I have any advice to offer, I would encourage other writers to take advantage of the brief kind of moments everybody has. Instead of waiting for a large chunk of time to suddenly appear, use the time in the doctor’s waiting room or the five minutes in a staff meeting where you’re waiting for your boss to show up, to jot down a new metaphor or a snippet of random conversation. It will pay off later! If my co-workers ever peeked inside the folder I carried around with me to meetings, I think they’d be surprised at what they found.

WOW: How exciting and what a great opportunity for you and your husband - it's like the ultimate team building experience!

Tell us about Naked and Hungry – since it was your first novel, may I ask what you wish you had done differently? What did you do that you absolutely would NOT change when it comes to publishing?

Ashley: It was very exciting when one of the 18 publishers I sent the manuscript to accepted it for publication. The company was very small but they did have a whip-smart editor who helped me tremendously during the final revisions. However, because it was a small press, I agreed to handle much of the promotion myself. This work, while working full-time and launching a cooking website, nearly killed me. It was my own fault but what was I thinking?

Because the book was written from a male point of view and inspired by my father, we ended up spending a lot of time together. I could not have written it without his encouragement and guidance, and the time we spent together was very special to me. I wouldn’t give up that for the world. Also, although Naked and Hungry had a primary point of view, I made the decision to include a few chapters from the mindset of minor characters. This work, while challenging at times, proved invaluable when it came to weaving together the strings of an intricate plot. The work of a writer is ultimately solitary, but surrounded by all those quirky characters, I never felt lonely.

WOW: Sounds like an enlightening process and I have a feeling there will be more to come?  What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?

Ashley: Be the best writer I can be. It’s as simple as that. If I continue to strengthen my writing, I’m betting that project goals – whether it’s to write an essay, poem, short story, whatever – will sort themselves out. I consider myself a perpetual student of life and need to learn in order to continue to grow. So this year, I’ll be continuing to read the best work out there (new authors as well as re-reading the classics) and to take classes. I’m actually taking a WOW! nonfiction class led by Chelsey Clammer right now and loving it.

WOW: There will be no moss growing as you may be retired, yet you are quite the rolling stone. I enjoyed your bio and have to say: I am also very interested in cooking/baking and making all things delicious, so please tell us how you came to make your own raspberry jam and share your recipe if you are willing?

Ashley: One of the reasons I married my husband is because he asked: “Have you ever wanted to make jam?” Yes and yes! Yes to jam and yes, months later, when he asked me to marry him. I have always loved cooking and fresh fruit so it was a natural fit. Raspberry jam is one of the easiest and most delicious jams to make.

Add two cups of sugar to about 4 cups of fresh raspberries with the juice of one lemon in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil, and skim off any foam that collects around the edges of the pan. Let it boil for about 5 more minutes. Next, drop a dollop on a frozen saucer and see if the mixture gels. If it does, you’re ready to ladle the mixture into your canning jars and seal them according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions. If not, let it continue to cook for a few more minutes. Quick hint: If you’re going to use the jam right away, or within the next three months, you can just store it in your refrigerator in a plain jar, no processing necessary. Also, because I love the fresh flavor of the fruit, I try not to cook it for longer than necessary, knowing that the thickness of the jam will sometimes vary.

What’s great about having homemade jam on hand is that you can use it for things other than spreading it on toast. Try filling your Danishes with it, spreading it on a layer cake, or sandwich it in between butter cookies. Yum.

WOW: Sounds fabulous and I can't wait to give your recipe a whirl!

Was it difficult coming up with a title for your essay? How did I Know What She’s Thinking come about?

Ashley: I shared this essay with my friend Ruth first and I’ll never forget what she said: “Sometimes, Ashley, life just gives you these little gifts.” And the crazy experience that inspired that essay was just one of those gifts. As for the title, it came from the character’s own mouth. I didn’t have to do any work for that at all. But the truth is that we don’t really have to wait for an extraordinary experience. They happen to us every day. We just have to be willing to stop, look and listen.



Thank you for this delightful interview (and delicious recipe) and congratulations again as one of the runners up in the WOW! Women on Writing Essay Contest!


Check out the latest Contests:


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Saturday, July 14, 2018

 

Listen to ME-OW

Angela (a fellow WOW writer) commented on a post, saying, "There can't be too many cat posts," and that got me thinking about the cats in my life... and my writing.

Cats and dogs are so different. Dogs are loyal to a fault. It's the reason why there are so many abused dogs. If they're in an awful home, in spite of being horribly treated, dogs keep coming back--hoping this time, they'll get the love they want and need.

Cats? Cats won't put up with anything. If they're mistreated, they find ways to get revenge. A peed-on coat that's been draped across a couch. (Do you know how distinctive of an odor feline urine is and how difficult it is to get rid of?) Clawed-up drapes. Cats hold a grudge and they don't ever forget.



I read an article about how cats and novels are alike, and again, I was lost in thought. (I know. Sioux using her brain twice in the span of a couple of minutes? The chick is twisted.) Colleen M. Story (what an incredible name for a writer) claims that cats and novels are alike in three ways... and I can think of a fourth. Here they are:

1. Cats don't need us... and neither does a fleshed-out character. If we're doing our work well, our characters stand on their own. They're interacting with each other, and they don't need our meddling. We're a conduit. Like the Ides of March song goes:

I'm your vehicle, baby
I'll take you anywhere you want to go.

If we've done a good job of creating our characters, we're just the vehicle. The characters dictate to us where they're headed... and usually cats dictate to us when they want affection. Otherwise, stay away.


2. Cats go 90-miles-an-hour crazy sometimes... and so does our writing. When I got married, my parents cat-sat for us. My father was never much of a cat person. Unfortunately, our then-cat was still a kitten, and kittens think they are flying squirrels. That crazy kitty would tear around our apartment, and then take a flying leap and land on my father's shoulder.

Sometimes our writing flows out at lightning speed. We can't explain why, but it sure is nice when it happens.

3. Cats are extremely particular... and so is our writing.  While writing a novel, sometimes we try to cram something ill-fitting into our story. A plot event that we think is necessary, but seems out of place once we read it a second time. A well-crafted story with fleshed-out characters have finicky tastes... just like our cats that turn their nose up when some cheap tuna is being offered.


4. Cats can be comforting... and writing a novel is, too.  When I had Elmo and Maya and Buttons, I loved cuddling with them. Curling up with a warm kitty--there's nothing like it. Writing can be a source of comfort and satisfaction, too. When we're able to tell a story that needs to be told (memoir or historical fiction), when we're able to craft a novel that keeps the reader engaged and entertained--that brings us a warm feeling... just like a purring cat.

Can you think of another way cats and novel-writing are like? Please share. And Angela, here's one more glimpse of a kitty. 


 



Since it's the summer, Sioux Roslawski is reading and vegging out, when she's not working on her WIP.  From mid-August to the end of June, her days are spent teaching (along with spoiling her granddaughter and rescuing golden retrievers). If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.

Friday, July 13, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: How to Love a Writer

by Laura Thompson

When I was first offered the chance to edit dissertations, I realized it was an ideal opportunity as working from home would give me more time to write. I set up a small desk in our unused third bedroom, and while my writing space is small, it does have everything I need, a computer, printer, shredder, and most importantly, solitude.

My husband, unused to me being home all the time navigated these uncharted waters uneasily unsure what the guidelines were for a wife who worked from home. Would I still answer the phone/door or did I want him to do it? Why did I get so cranky when he yelled up the stairs to ask a question about dinner which was still five hours in the future? Gee, he didn’t mean to play the music quite so loudly, and yes, he had heard of headphones. To keep the peace and foster love in other relationships where one party is a writer, I put together a few warnings, disclaimers, and talking points:

 The writer can be a strange and difficult creature.

 Often introverted, moody, and even morose, the writer may snap and not apologize for hours or even days.

 The writer thrives on a large percentage of alone time, time to write, time to reflect, and time to watch the dust motes float on a sunbeam filtering through the blinds.

 Don't be alarmed should your writer appear withdrawn or suddenly seem uninterested in conversation. This sudden retreat has very little to do with her personal feelings for you and everything to do with her need to focus on a pending murder, lovers’ quarrel, reading of a will, or drug bust about to go down.

 Yelling from another room or up the stairs is never effective as we are not deaf, merely involved.

 Deprived of a keyboard for long periods of time tends to make the writer anxious.

 In the case of writer’s block, gently and persuasively luring your writer away from her desk with the promise of a lovely meal and a good bottle of wine is the best and most supportive action.

 Writers require energy to work, so the occasional treat such as a cupcake or chocolate is always good for a kiss and a smile.

The writer can be a warm and loving companion when not existing in the nether world of creating, and loving your writer can be a rewarding experience. Sure, it was alarming to find a Google search for “death by poisoning” open on your writer’s laptop when you went looking for tax documents, but there’s no call for concern.

After all, she loves you. It’s that lying, low-life scum-sucking, cheating bastard, Jim, who needs to die. How and in which chapter remains to be seen, but he’s definitely gonna get it!

* * *
Laura Thompson an editor, storyteller, word nerd, and proofreader of her own text messages. She writes about travel, her obsession with food, education, and other random thought bubbles. Her passion for traveling the world is second only to her passion for writing. Laura is currently writing a book about college admissions.

Please connect with her at:
Pages and Stories: www.pagesandstories.com
Instagram: @laura_is_writing

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, July 12, 2018

 

My 500-Words a Day Pledge and How It's Going

By the title of this post, you can pretty much tell (hopefully!) what this content is going to contain. So backstory...I wasn't working on my novel. It was so infrequent that when I did sit down to work on it, about once a month when I needed something for critique group, I couldn't remember the characters or what I wrote last. One day, I thought: How hard would it be to write 500 words a day?

I'm a pretty fast writer, and if I'm not editing myself while writing, then maybe I could actually accomplish this. So on my blog, in public, and broadcasted on social media, I made this pledge, which you can read here: I will write 500 words a day. I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you how it's going and what I'm learning.

Right away, I will confess I'm not writing 500 words a day. (Bows head in shame) BUT, I am writing much more than I was, and am currently almost to 28,000 words as of this post writing. I love my story. I'm excited to work on my book, and I'm writing things I never even dreamed of. The story and the characters are taking over, and the book is exploring themes and characters who I think readers will relate to. (Let's hope!)

What I've been able to do since making the pledge is write somewhere between 1000 and 3000 words a week. That's close to 500 words a day, and some weeks, like this one when I had a writing retreat with my critique group and a light week at my day job, I have really been able to make good progress.

Before reading a lot about productivity and writing for busy moms, I thought writers really did have to have hours a day to dedicate to writing novels. But many of us WOW! readers and writers, and also many writers and bloggers around the Internet, swear that setting an easy goal (500 words a day, 20 minutes a day, etc) can get the job done. And I agree.

Consistency is the key here. Because I'm finally writing often and regularly, I don't have to reread my entire story or even what I wrote the session before when I sit down to work because it is all fresh in my mind. Another thing I'm doing is before I stop a writing session for the day, I write a short paragraph about what I'm going to conquer next in the plot before I stop for the day. This works great because when I open the document to continue writing, I instantly remember where I was going with the book and what I had planned to work on that next session.

If you're finding yourself not writing this summer because of kids being home, vacations, visiting relatives, or late nights out, then try this method. It doesn't have to be 500 words--maybe it's only 300 or 10 minutes, but I really believe that if you set a small goal to work on your WIP, you will do it, and  you will feel accomplished.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and WOW! instructor, as well as a writer and freelance editor. You can enroll in her novel writing coach that starts the first Friday of every month by going here. She is also offering  a marketing class starting this fall. Find out more about her at http://www.margoldill.com

Typewriter photo above by alexkerhead on Flickr.com

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

 

Review: Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More

I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing a memoir for a few years. I have several book ideas based on time periods of my life; but when I sit down to map one out, it’s intimidating. I write creative nonfiction essays where I’m able to write an essay in one sitting, revise it, and be done with it. Writing a mostly chronological story for the span of 90,000 words is overwhelming to me.

If you’re anything like me, someone who is interested in telling her stories and recording her family history but wants to explore other options besides writing an entire memoir, Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016) is for you. This full-color, glossy coffee-table book not only explores different forms of memoir but also contains some of the BEST MEMOIR WRITING ADVICE I’ve ever read in a condensed format.

Let’s start with that. Chapter 2: Five Simple Steps to Telling a True Story by Joanne Lozar Glenn is my favorite chapter because her memoir writing advice is specific and inspiring. It dissolved all the overwhelming feelings I previously had about writing a memoir. “Once you start creating your memoir, what do you do with all the memories that come flooding in? The answer is be selective, and tell the truest story you can.” Joanne tells you to choose a moment, keeping the focus small, and then walks you through the steps of crafting that moment step-by-step. You see the progression of her work from one sentence to writing it into a scene, revising it, and finally shaping it like Play-Doh into the perfect format. It’s the best example I’ve seen. She also answers common questions about how to deal with holes in memory, how to incorporate facts, deal with dialogue, questions about family secrets, and more.

The Memoir Roundtable—a group of six writers, crafters, and workshop leader—authors this book, each author writing her own chapter or two.

Another favorite is Chapter 3: Around the Table: Food and Cookbook Memoirs by Dianne Hennessy King, public TV producer, cookbook editor, and cultural anthropologist. Dianne shows you how to create a food memoir as a cookbook, an essay, a cooking video, a CD, a quilt, an oral history, and a blog. The part that gave me several ah-ha moments was where she poses questions to trigger your food memories. “Can you remember a ‘first time’ for tasting a specific food or dish that seemed exotic or strange to you?” When I read this question and its examples, I immediately thought back to when I was five-years-old sitting cross-legged on a tatami floor in Okinawa eating grilled sea snails. It may sound gross, but they were actually delicious! Back home in California, I told my four-year-old neighbor about my snail-eating experience and watched her pluck a snail from an ice plant beside her and pop it in her mouth. I screamed, “Nooooo!!” and snatched it out of her mouth before she could crunch down on its shell. I hadn’t remembered that until I read this book. And that’s what this book does, spark amazing memories! Imagine taking those two sentences I just wrote about eating snails and expanding them into a scene; a scene that could be part of a food memoir about my Japanese heritage and my travels to Okinawa.

If you’d rather make something than write something, Chapter 4: Reinvent Your Scrapbook by Katherine Nutt provides a new twist on a traditional scrapbook that combines visual appeal with storytelling. In one section she suggests scrapbooking an emotional memory for healing. I’ve been looking for a way to write about my cat Noodle, who was sixteen when she died from a brain tumor. The veterinarian was so touched by our love for Noodle that the Cat Care Clinic donated $15,000 to brain tumor research in Noodle’s name. I still have the letter. I also have x-rays, documents, and of course, tons of photos. I never thought about creating a scrapbook to commemorate her until I read this book.

Chapter 5: Create Your Graphic Novel by Natasha Peterson provides you with the basic elements you need to create your graphic memoir. And she writes it in comic form! The thing that she said that stuck with me the most is that there are no rules. Combining your memories with illustrations is a powerful and captivating way to tell a story. I’ve created comics before and even received grants for them, so I’m thinking about turning some of my personal essays into graphic memoir pieces.

The idea of making a quilt as a family heirloom has always fascinated me. In Chapter 6: Memory Quilts: A Way to Celebrate Lives, Linda Pool shares ideas for story quilts like celebrations, weddings, pets, hobbies, a college quilt, a sports quilt, travels, and more. Imagine making a quilt out of pockets or dad’s favorite shirts, or even including report cards or old love letters. This is the longest chapter in the book and has practical tips for layouts, printing photos, transferring handwritten words, and so much more. I can’t think of a better gift!

If you are a parent or teacher or auntie or mentor to a child, Chapter 7: Nurturing the Young Storyteller by Nadine Majette James explores memoirs from a younger writer’s point of view, as well as how crafting a memoir can preserve childhood’s most precious times. I especially appreciated the sample projects and activities as well as the questions appropriate for young interviewers. I remember interviewing my mom when I was ten-years-old with an old cassette tape recorder in the bathroom because I thought it had the best sound. I wish I still had that tape; then I’d still be able to hear her voice. These types of projects are so important to preserve history and can help kids build skills and self-esteem.

There is also a chapter on researching your heritage—where to start, where to look, genealogy, and what questions to ask. And finally, another one of my favorite sections is “Appendix A: Getting Over Your Fear of Writing” by Joanne Lozar Glenn. She shares a number of writing prompts including lists, maps, objects, and photographs to get your pen moving!



Writing a memoir does not have to be tedious or overwhelming!

Memoir Your Way is one of the most inspiring writing books I’ve read in a while. It explores the art of memoir in many different formats and gives you the tools to jump right in. Each format has examples, resources, and takeaway. It makes memoir fun, not tedious or overwhelming! “Don’t worry about whether it would win an award. Its value lies in creating it in the first place.” I don’t need to stress out about writing a formal memoir. Instead, I’ll focus on creating. The book is written in a fun, friendly tone, and packed with ah-ha moments. It would make a great gift for the crafty person in your life. I can’t recommend it enough!

Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Though Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More is available in ebook and print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Check out their page on Facebook, connect with the authors on Twitter @MemoirYourWay, and visit their Pinterest board.

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Angela Mackintosh is working on a series of creative nonfiction essays with accompanying illustrations and photo collages. Sort of like a graphic memoir, but totally unique because she's doing it her way.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

 

Meet Tara Lynne Groth, Runner Up in the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Tara Lynne Groth is a writer in North Carolina. She writes short fiction and poetry. She was accepted to the fiction workshop at the 2018 Looking Glass Rock Writers Conference. Tara Lynne placed second in the WOW! Women On Writing Summer 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, received honorable mention in the 2015 Carolina WomanWriting Contest, and was a semifinalist for the 2015 and 2016 James Applewhite Poetry Prize. She is an alumnus of the Southampton Writers Conference. In 2017 she published Magazine Queries That Worked, a guide for freelance journalists that features all of her successful query letters and the stories behind each article. She blogs at Write Naked and tweets at @WriteNaked. Visit her website at www.taralynnegroth.com.

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WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Winter 2018 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Tara Lynne: Thanks! I've entered WOW contests before. A few years ago another one of my stories placed second. I took a break from submitting to contests and journals, and when I started submitting again I decided to send one of my recent pieces to WOW. I like that WOW partners with literary agents for their final judging process.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Ribbon?"

Tara Lynne: I've been doing family history research the past few years and I'm using the details of my ancestors' lives for plot development in a series of interconnected short stories. "Ribbon" is based on what I've learned about my relatives three generations back.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Tara Lynne: I love having a twist at the end of the story, but it needs to be supported by subtle hints throughout the story.

WOW: You were accepted to the fiction workshop at the 2018 Looking Glass Rock Writers Conference, which sounds exciting. What was that experience like?

Tara Lynne: The organizers of the writers conference run a great event. The mornings are reserved for time with the visiting speakers and the afternoons are free time to explore the quaint town of Brevard or nearby hiking trails in the Pisgah National Forest. The school has a phenomenal on-campus catering service. The organizers really take care of every need so that all the writers can focus on their work and the insight of the speakers. I would definitely go again!

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

Tara Lynne: Find or make a good system for tracking your submissions. It can get confusing when you have several stories under consideration at different contests. I not only like to track the date of submission and the contest deadline, but I also track the date the contest announces winners (if/when that date is provided). That way if the story didn't place I can submit it elsewhere right away.

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

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Monday, July 09, 2018

 

Moving Forward After Disappointment

Pexels.com
It’s time to fess up here. I have a bad habit of trying to bury my head in the sand when the going gets tough. If I’m having issues with a friend or family member, I go quiet, figuring if I avoid the problem it will go away. And when I have a setback in my writing, I do the exact same thing.

A few weeks ago I sent off the first part of a YA novel I’ve been working on to an editing service. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I felt like I was finally onto something I had been revising off and on since NaNoWriMo 2014. I knew the feedback wouldn’t be pages and pages of how brilliantly I write—that’s not the point. But in previous experiences I’ve had a balance of what is working and what isn’t.

That wasn’t the case here. The 50 pages I turned in were returned back to me in 24 hours, and there really wasn’t a positive note in the comments. Here were a few issues the editor highlighted: too much “filtering,” i.e. using words like he saw, she heard, he felt, etc. With my background as a reporter, I could see this. I also need to outline some long and short-term goals for the character. Although for me, this is difficult because you can’t just come out and say “Cassidy wanted to learn how to live comfortably in world full of landmines due to her sensory processing disorder.” It has to be more organic than that. I presented an intriguing hook in the first two pages and then flipped backwards in the story, which was a letdown.

Basically, after reading the e-mail with comments, I felt like I sucked as a writer. Big time. I wondered if it was even worth moving forward, because I couldn’t find any positive comments in the notes, besides, “You have an intriguing start to a story here.” After having success with a few short stories this past year, I wondered why I can’t seem to pull off the opening pages of a novel.

So I allowed myself to wallow. I tinkered around with another short story I’ve been working on. I read a novel for pleasure I’ve been saving for vacation. And I finally decided I’m moving forward. Because as a recent podcaster said, “Failure is a jumping off point for your dreams.”

I believe in my story. I do see the flaws. But I also see the beauty in it. It deserves my devotion and attention. And in the meantime, I’m listening to the little voice in my head telling me to send out queries for another YA novel I wrote a few years ago that I allowed to languish for too long. I will not allow my writing to go stagnant. And you shouldn’t, either.

Have you ever let a negative experience make you doubt yourself as a writer? How did you get through it?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works in marketing and publicity for a nonprofit theatre company. Her short story, “The Polaroid,” won first place in the Thriller Category of the 2017 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. She also received an Honorable Mention in the 2018 Women’s National Book Association Writing Contest for her young adult story “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women.”

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Sunday, July 08, 2018

 

Interview with Q2 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner-Up Opal Gayle

Opal Gayle grew up in rural Jamaica. She earned a B.A in Spanish and Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a M.A in Spanish Literature from Saint Louis University in Madrid, Spain. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she teaches Spanish and French. Her essay has appeared in the Write Angles Journal. She is currently working on a memoir.

Revisit lessons learned during Opal's childhood in her essay Fighting Woman and then return here for an interview with the author.

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Hi, Opal. Thank you for joining us today and welcome! This piece focused on on an integral part of your adolescence and the family dynamics you were living with. Did you have any surprising revelations about yourself or family members while writing Fighting Woman?

Opal: Thank you very much for the opportunity to share my story with WOW! It is quite an honor to make it into the top ten.

Writing this essay made me admit and accept that I was being deliberately defiant. I don’t think that I knew at the beginning of the piece how it was going to end. I thought I was just recalling fond memories of an adolescent spent sharing and reading “love books.” I think my friends and I spent a lot of time hiding them from parents or adults whose opinions we valued. Writing "Fighting Woman" made me really reflect on adults’ reactions, and why they reacted the way they did. I understand their fears – many of them were very religious so, I imagine they would be more pleased if we were reading the Bible instead. And some had genuine concerns that the books would lead us astray, and we’d end up getting pregnant. And some of them thought it wasn’t the most practical use of our time because by their standards, it was idle work.

WOW: From the opening dialogue of this piece, readers are painted a vivid picture of your step-mother. What are some key elements you think are necessary for writing an award-winning creative non-fiction piece?

Opal: I think this is a question for the winner. Haha! But, seriously, I guess I’ll just go with what I look for when I read. I choose to write about events and episodes that still rub me or that have been part of my formative consciousness. You know, the ones you can’t seem to completely shake despite time and distance. And, I think many of these are quite universal or relatable somehow.

For me a good piece of writing is one that entertain, educate, and pulls the reader in from the first line. It should:

1. Make me think or look at something in a way that that I haven’t before.
2. Teach me something new, or make me examine something from a difference perspective.
3. Entertain, and engage. It should make me laugh or enjoy it, and fully engage with it in other ways.

WOW: What are some of the main themes in the memoir you are working on?

Opal: I think my memoir is a story about stories. It is a coming-of-age story. It touches on everything from family, identity, religion, suffering, sexuality, misogyny, love, to even a bit of madness, and ultimately, transformation.

WOW: You mention in the essay that you and your friends sometimes attempted to write your own romance stories. Do you remember the premises of any of those that you could share with us? And . . . do you still enjoy reading romance novels today?

Opal: Oh boy, there were so many! Well, first, I will say that I am still a sucker for a good love story.  I have just graduated to the ones that are not so formulaic, and have more “sophisticated” storylines and backdrops.

The one story I remember us writing is “After the Rain." It was about a beautiful woman out on a walk when it started raining. And, of course, a handsome stranger pulled up on his motorbike and offered her shelter in his nearby mansion. Days passed, and it is still raining, and she’s walking around his house quite comfortable in his shirt. I don’t remember all the details but as the novels were very formulaic, I’m sure we followed the pattern of conflict, separation, and finally a happy ending.

WOW: Ah, yes. I passed around many a Danielle Steel and V.C. Andrews novel (although those were kind of a gothic romance I would guess) with my own friends back in the day! Describe to us your favorite place to write and why.

Opal: I don’t have a special writing routine. I do most of my writing at home in the evenings and at nights. I am a full-time teacher so that is what is most practical for me right now. I cant’ be in a library because it’s too quiet – too sterile, and a café is too noisy so, I fare better at home where I can write with instrumentals, wordless music – Yanni, Coltrane, etc, playing in the background.

WOW: You have to do what works best for you, that's for sure. Thank you so much for being here today and we look forward to checking out that memoir one day! 

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Saturday, July 07, 2018

 

Girl Versus World

I just got back from the vacation of a lifetime. Thanks to my generous mother, I was able to visit Israel and Jordan, and the trip was as incredible as it sounds. Being a writer, I found it impossible not to do “writer” type things while I was there. I people-watched and took notes on their mannerisms. I spoke to as many people as possible to draw inspiration from their lives. I took an obscene number of pictures to use as backdrops and settings. And, of course, I casually mentioned that I was a writer to anyone who seemed interested.

But the most important thing I took away as a writer was something I didn’t expect. Jordan and Israel were like different worlds to me. Amidst wealth, there was poverty. Among beauty, desolation. Next to freedom was oppression. And where there was camaraderie and understanding – intolerance. I witnessed these juxtapositions in both countries and struggled with them, even as I admired places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the ruins of Masada, the devotions at The Western Wall, and the magnificence of Petra.

I ate in a Bedouin tent. I rode a camel in Wadi Rum. I saw the birthplace of Jesus Christ. I braved my fear and took a cable car up a cliff. I floated in the Dead Sea. These memories are ones I’ll cherish all my life. But I can’t forget the stark contrast of these countries to my own. I know that my writing will be influenced by these differences. They made me so grateful to be an American, but also made me ashamed of my ignorance. Perhaps ignorance isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s a willingness to ignore those things which are uncomfortable. Either way, the realization lies deep within me and struggles for a voice.

It’s easy for anyone – not only writers – to stay within their comfort zone. If anyone told me last year that I’d spend two weeks in the Middle East, I might have scoffed at the notion. When the opportunity presented itself, however, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m so very, very grateful I didn’t.

I hope these experiences will positively influence my writing. I hope they will help me make an impression on others of the many worlds that exist outside our own. I hope I do them justice.

I encourage you, dear writers, to do the same.



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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Thursday, July 05, 2018

 

Why It's Time to Finally Call Yourself a Writer

Recently, I was browsing through Facebook (aka not writing) and came across a post from someone that started with four familiar words, 'I'm an aspiring writer..." I wondered what makes us say we're "aspiring" when we refer to ourselves as writers. I decided then to deliver an important announcement to all of those aspiring writers out there. Now, if everyone who refers to themselves as aspiring, would you please have a seat.

Whether or not you are published, whether you type out your novels, stories, and articles on a MacBook Pro or a paper napkin, whether you write at night while everyone is asleep or at your day job during down time, whether you write about dragons or gardening, if you are writing, you are a writer.

I know for a long time I thought of myself as merely aspiring because I hadn't been officially published. Several years ago, I made an announcement on my personal writing blog that yes, I am a writer. It was a tough acceptance initially. All of that self doubt rushed forward. Those questions came up from the anti-muse, "Am I really a writer though? Just like, sort of right? Not REALLY a writer, but a little bit of one?" No, I told myself, I am a writer. Real life writer.

If you've ever muttered the words aspiring when referring yourself as a writer, today I challenge you to call yourself a writer. No longer an aspiring one. A real writer. Because you are. Say it to the lady who works at the cleaners. Say it to your coworker while you both eat lunch in the break room. Say it to the teenager bagging your groceries. Say it to your family when you are all sitting down for dinner. Say it to the bus driver. Most importantly, say it to yourself. Go to the mirror (or nearest reflection) and say it out loud. Go ahead, do it. It'll feel a bit weird at first, I promise you. You'll be in denial even as you say it.  But say it again. One more time until you really mean it.

Now, when you sit down to write next time, you'll know it's for real. You are a writer. Why? It isn't because you are on the bestsellers list. It isn't because you got that article finally published in Vogue or New York Times. It's because you are writing. And it's time you finally accept it.

Follow Nicole Pyles at her writing and book blog The World of My Imagination or on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

 

4 For the 4th!

Happy 4th of July, y’all! I thought I’d give you four different topics, and in the spirit of the day, feel free to choose one and let me know what you think:

Get a Kick Out of You

I’ll bet when you first started out in your writing journey, you Googled your name regularly. I know I did; I got a kick out of seeing my byline out there on the interwebs, and it seemed important to check what was being said about me. But then the novelty wore off, and now? I run a search on my name mostly when I’m trying to find something I wrote once upon a time.

Which is why I happened to find a couple of surprising gems in a search recently…an author page on Goodreads for an anthology I’m in, a long-forgotten story that I could sell again, a lovely comment someone made about me. So Google your name every once in a while and get a kick out of you!

The Author Page

So you’ve decided to separate your personal page from your Author self on Facebook. There was a time when I thought that was a good idea. But now, not so much.

If you’re writing kidlit or memoirs, historical fiction or romance, you want your friends to read these books, right? You already have that support network in place, and I’m guessing you’re still miles away from that 5,000 friend limit. So rather than ask, nudge, or outright beg your friends to like your Author page, just promote your writing achievements on your own page. But that brings me to managing your personal page…

How To Get People To Ignore You

If you’ve gone overboard on one subject on your favorite social media platform, whether it be politics, food, feel-goods, or felines, please consider dialing it back and throwing a little variety out there. Because if you’re always posting about, say, cats, and I’m not really a cat person (I’m just using the cat thing as an example; I’m not saying anything against cats, so calm down), then the day comes when I’ve had enough. And what happens when your book or article or poem comes out? Yeah, I don’t see it because as I might’ve mentioned, I’m pretty much ignoring you (and the cats).

When Passion Gets Offensive

So you’re passionate about what’s going on in the country, or the world, or the universe, and you are taking a stand, sharing thoughts and articles and whatever on social media. But then one day, you go and say something like, “If you don’t see how this is right/wrong, then unfriend me right now!”

Hmmm…You might’ve just crossed the tolerance line. Because what you are saying is, “I only want friends who think and believe exactly what I think and believe.” And if you engage in argumentative and critically demeaning behavior, you have crossed the line, too. And crossing these lines of respect can cost you friends, friends that were readers and perhaps your biggest supporters!

So take a few minutes to think before your passion makes you post something you’ll regret. Have a hot dog, watch the fireworks, and step back for a moment. Take a day to enjoy a little freedom and happy 4 on the 4th, y’all!

~Cathy C. Hall


Photo by Aaron Schwartz from Pexels


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