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Sunday, August 19, 2018


Interview with Joanne Lozar Glenn: 3rd Place Winner in Q3 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Joanne’s Bio:

Joanne Lozar Glenn is a freelance writer and editor, teaches writing in adult education programs, and leads destination writing retreats. Her books include Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More (co-author, Skyhorse Publishing, 2016); No One Path: Perspectives on Leadership from a Decade of Women in Technology Award Winners (editor-in-chief, Women in Technology, 2009); Applying Evidence-Based Laboratory Medicine: A Step-by-Step Guide (coauthor, AACC Press, 2009); 25 + 1: Communication Strategies for Business Education (co-author, NBEA, 2003); and Mentor Me: A Guide to Being Your Own Best Advocate in the Workplace (NBEA, 2003). Her poems and memoir essays have been published in Ayris, Brevity, Beautiful Things (River Teeth), Peregrine, Under the Gum Tree, and other print and online journals. She is currently working on a book-length memoir.

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

WOW: Congratulations on winning 3rd place in the Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece, and how did it and your writing process evolve as you wrote?

Joanne: "Apologies" is the fusion of two pieces I was working on that I couldn't get to work as individual essays. Each essay had started with a prompt. (I belong to a monthly neighborhood writing-to-prompts group founded by novelist Leslie Pietrzyk.) I've lost track of how many revisions I did on each of the essays. Then, I'm not sure why, I decided to explore combining them. I had read something during that time that led me to experiment with a different cadence, so I tried that and it felt like maybe, just maybe, it could work. At the time I was teaching a class on “writing memoir that matters,” which asked students to take risks in their writing to tell a story that was perhaps uncomfortable and pushed some boundaries but that was important to them. I wrote, too, and shared an early draft of this essay with them. I believe that we shouldn't ask anything of students we wouldn't ask of ourselves, and I wanted them to know that I was willing to take the same risks I was asking them to take. I kept working at the essay after the class ended, saw the notice for the WOW! contest, and took a chance.

WOW: And we—WOW and your readers—are glad you took that chance! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Joanne: I learned—again—to dig, to look at my own complicity even if it means telling a story I’m afraid to admit. And that it wouldn’t kill me. But I am a little nervous about how those who know me in other "more favorable" circumstances will feel about the "I" in this essay.

WOW: I admire your courage to create and publish a piece that makes you a little uncomfortable. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Joanne: So many! I love the essays in Brevity, such as Randon Billings Noble's “The Heart as a Torn Muscle"—the variety of forms and topics those essays explore are both an inspiration and a challenge. Writers Abigail Thomas, Rebecca McClanahan, Roxanne Gay, Maribeth Fischer, Terry Tempest Williams, and Dinty Moore inspire and challenge me to speak truth, and to “tell the story only you can tell in the way only you can tell it.” The voice in Dina Honour's "1001 Nights" (Hippocampus Magazine), the narrative persona in Adriana Páramo's "Let's Kill Your Grandfather Together" (WOW! Q2 CNF), and the poetry of Susan Wadd's "Once We Were Sad" (WOW! Q3 CNF) reinforce the importance of that lesson.

But I also take inspiration from fiction writers. The storytelling and craft in Leslie Pietrzyk's novel Silver Girl push me to be more disciplined, more attuned to elements such as setting and conflict, and more of a risk-taker. The lyricism and attention to detail in Susan Muaddi Durraj's short story collection A Curious Land inspire me to pay attention to every sentence, every word in every sentence, and the “intertwingling” of themes and images to create unity. The depth of Octavia Butler’s speculative fiction (Fledgling; Kindred; Bloodchild) is spurring me to explore connections between my memories and the socio-cultural context in which I lived, to see if I can write an “outward-facing” rather than “navel-gazing” memoir. (I’m not sure if I can, but I’m going to try.)

WOW: I love hearing about the number of way you challenge yourself through your writing. It’s very inspiring! Can you tell us more about the book-length memoir you’re writing?

Joanne: The memoir’s about growing up as the oldest daughter of a mother who’s chronically depressed and trying to piece light out of that darkness. Right now it’s a pile of papers and I’m doing my sixth revision (in baby steps). I want to say something smart here about revising, but the truth is that after I thought I was “done” (revision #5) I kept writing more pieces that made the original material feel “not yet good enough.” Now I’m revisiting all that content, waiting for the “click” inside me that says yes, this!

WOW: Good luck, and keep at it! If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Joanne: Get started, girl—you have a lot of lost time to make up for! Trust your instincts. Go in the door that is open. Always have something to look forward to. And if that door's not open yet, open it yourself. You can make a path where none yet exists.

WOW: Great advice from which many of us can benefit! Thank you for your wonderful writing and 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 sportswomen.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018


Let your characters work it out!

I recently read an article that featured elderly people advising others on living a happy life. Most pearls of wisdom dealt with how to love, while letting go of pain, trauma, and loss. Several spoke of telling and showing people how much you love them, and letting go of all the literal and figurative "stuff" in your life you can't control. Good advice for how to live, but bad advice for your characters.

If literary characters followed these ideas, then many great works of fiction would not exist. What if Dickens had "let go" of his childhood poverty? The line "Please sir, may I have another," might just be a question children ask their fathers when they want another cookie. What if the Old Man had "let go" of his drive for bringing in the great marlin, or if rom-com characters could just tell their secret crushes how they felt? What if Gatsby could have "let go" of his desire for Daisy, or Valdemort wasn't driven to destroy Harry Potter? The plot wouldn't move, that's what.

By letting go of the fixation, these stories would be over before they began. We would skip the internal and external conflict, and move right to the end. There's no hero's journey, and there's no story arc. Characters who deal with those experiences seem human and relatable. We see them solve the problems, and watch them grow as they navigate unfamiliar territory to succeed. We feel their pain. Well-adjusted people have happy lives, but well-adjusted characters without motivation to get the girl (or boy), get even, or get ahead, are boring.

Many writers describe putting their protagonists in sticky situations and then asking themselves, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" They present that worst-case scenario to see how they get out of it, which is a good strategy to draw out the conflict and tension in a story. And since we've all been in love, or dealt with problems beyond our control, we probably get some of our inspiration from life experiences. So, if you can't "let go," in your personal life, my advice is to pass it on to your characters and let them work it out!

Mary Horner earned the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, and teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.

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Marketing Your Work: Create a List to Sell All Your Books

Friday, I was fiddling around on Twitter. One of my favorite picture book authors, Peter H. Reynolds, had tweeted this image. It isn’t just a list of his books. It is an updated list. And it isn’t just informative. It looks good. I might be a wee bit jealous.

But I’m not so jealous that the wheels didn’t start turning. We authors do bookmarks. We make buttons. Items like those advertise one or two books, tops. But this list has 38 entries including 3 that aren’t out yet and 3 collections.

Maybe people who write for adults don’t think like this but children’s writers are trained. What can we produce that is inexpensive and can be handed out to every kid we see at a school visit? That could be anywhere from 30 to 300 kids. The answer – a book list.

Don’t ignore this idea if you don’t write for kids. Something like this could also be given out at a conference. Or posted on your website. Or tucked into copies of your book at a signing. The possibilities are endless.

But first you need the basic list. Easy peasy. Right?

The first thing that I learned is that this is harder than it looks. I know. I’m probably the only one who is surprised. Here is my attempt. I pulled this together in about 40 minutes and it looks like it. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to work on it until I get it right. I want to:

  • Find a better font. I want it to be interesting, but not distracting. And bold enough to grab attention but not too bold.
  • Fix the photo. I managed to turn a full color into something that looks like a black and white sketch which de-emphasized it, but it isn’t the look I want. I’d like a pen and ink line drawing.
  • Layout. More graphics. Make it more engaging.
  • Bold. I'm not sure why it looks so washed out, but that needs to be addressed.

A friend recently told me to just use a Word template. I’ll have to check them out but I don’t do so great with templates. I tend to get a vision. Yeah, I’m visual but not artistic. I did my version in Publisher. I’m sure Publisher has templates since it is by the same people as Word.

I definitely think it is a good idea to have an attractive list of all my books so I’ll keep working on it. I mean seriously. If a world famous picture book illustrator can do it, I’m sure I can too. I have a few ideas.


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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Friday, August 17, 2018


Friday Speak Out!: Algebra for Writers

by Lee Zacharias

I knew I wanted to be a writer from second grade, when I first put my hand up for show-and-tell and made up a story. I never knew what the story would be, but there was a certain logic to my tales. The longer I could draw out the suspense the less time we had for arithmetic.

So it might seem odd that when I got to high school I fell in love with algebra. To me the beauty of algebra was its system of logic. That my son never bought this argument when I was helping with his homework is beside the point. Writing is a process of posing problems and figuring out answers. There is a kind of algebra to writing a novel.

Some problems may be mundane: how to drain a lake, how to evacuate a ship? (Research helps there.) But the most pressing problems are more profound: why is this story being told, why now, what is the resolution, what does it mean? Sometimes you have to dig deep; it may take years to discover the answer. I was more than twenty drafts into my new novel, Across the Great Lake, before I knew who the ghost was. At some point in the first I knew why my narrator was telling her story, knew her secret, knew pretty much how the story would resolve, but I did not know who the ghost was. After all, the Great Lakes have a lot of ghosts. Why shouldn't any one of those spirits visit her?

But my narrator's ghost didn't come from Midwestern lore—I stole her from a night I once spent at the Island Inn on Ocracoke, nearly 1200 miles away from the Lake Michigan railroad car ferry where Fern's ghost visits her. I was at the edge of an ocean, not a Great Lake, but something about edges puts one between one world and another. Mrs. Godfrey—whose identity is fairly well documented, I've learned since—did to me what exactly what Fern's ghost does to her, grabbed my big toe and held on. (Is it a coincidence that the same toe later developed hallux rigidus and required a surgical implant?) She made for a restless night, but I might have convinced myself I'd imagined it or had a bad dream if the desk clerk hadn't taken one look at my face when I came downstairs the next morning and said, "Would you like to change rooms?" Yes, and Mrs. Godfrey never bothered me again. Why she chooses certain rooms over others I can't say. Ghosts keep their secrets. Perhaps that's why it took me so long to discover the identity of Fern's.

But a ghost in a novel can't be just any ghost you've read about in legends or even encountered yourself, unless you figure out why. A ghost needs a purpose, and once you realize that purpose you have found X, and it is that X that immeasurably deepens the meaning.

* * *
LEE ZACHARIAS is the author of a collection of short stories, Helping Muriel Make It Through the Night; three novels, Across the Great Lake, Lessons, and At Random; and a collection of personal essays, The Only Sounds We Make. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, North Carolina's Sir Walter Raleigh Award, Southern Humanities Review's Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award, Prairie Schooner's Glenna Luschei Award, and a Silver Medal in Creative Nonfiction from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (the IPPYs). Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and been recognized by The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Essay, which reprinted her essay "Buzzards" in its 2008 edition. She taught at the University Arkansas, Princeton University, and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she is Emerita Professor of English, as well as many conferences, most recently the Wildacres Writers Workshop. Find her online 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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Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Interview with Rena Olsen, Author of With You Always

Most people who know me know how much I love thrillers and psychological suspense novels (Gillian Flynn? Paula Hawkins? Lauren Oliver? I'm there!) So when I was offered the opportunity to interview author Rena Olsen, whose latest novel With You Always was released on Aug. 7, I didn't hesitate! It was a pleasure learning all about her writing journey up to this point and the inspiration behind the novel that I couldn't put down.

As a bonus, check back on Aug. 27 for a review of the book!

About the Book:
Rena Olsen's 2016 debut novel, The Girl Before, was named a Booklist top mystery debut, a BookPage Best Mystery of 2016, and one of Wall Street Journal's Killer Thrillers of 2016. Her latest novel, With You Always, is a picture-perfect love story gone terribly wrong.

Fresh out of a painful breakup and trying to prove herself at work, Julia is overwhelmed and unsure of which direction to turn, but that all changes when she meets Bryce Covington. A charming and successful lawyer with traditional values and a strong dedication to his family and faith, Bryce becomes a guiding light for Julia to find her place in the world again.

Romantic dinners, helicopter rides, and promises of a wonderful future together quickly win Julia over, despite the concerns of her sister and her best friend. Charmed by his caring nature and touched by his dedication to his church, she believes Bryce is "the one" and is quickly swept off her feet. Julia finds herself being pulled further and further away from her old life, slowly transformed into the ideal wife Bryce and the leaders of his church want her to be. Unfortunately, all is not as it seems, and Julia begins to wonder if her perfect life is actually a cage. Then one day everything changes . . . and Julia is faced with no choice but to find a way out.

About the Author:
Rena Olsen grew up moving around every few years, following her minister father from church to church, and her exposure to so many different people and environments sparked an interest in human nature. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy. A licensed therapist, she works in Des Moines, Iowa. Learn more at

Find Rena online:

Twitter: @originallyrena


Instagram: @rosmiles

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

WOW: Welcome, Rena, and congratulations on the publication of your latest novel! We know your agent is the fabulous Sharon Pelletier of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC. We'd love to hear what your process in finding her was like.

Rena: She is fabulous, isn't she? I connected with Sharon after I had completed an R&R for another agent. I was in the waiting period and decided to throw my hat in the ring for the #pitmad event on Twitter. (If you haven't heard of these events, they're great for connecting with other writers, even if there's not much agent response.) I didn't know who Sharon was when she liked my tweet, but as soon as I did my research I was convinced she was the agent for me. She offered, I accepted, and I've never looked back.

WOW: Thanks for highlighting how important being active on social media as an author can be! With You Always is a psychological thriller, as was your debut novel, The Girl Before. Are thrillers something you've always gravitated toward in your writing, and do you also enjoy reading them by other authors?

Rena: The funny thing is that I never planned to write thrillers. I always considered myself a YA author, either contemporary or sci-fi. I have always loved reading thrillers and suspenseful novels, but it had never occurred to me to write one until I started putting The Girl Before on paper. Even then, I wasn't sure what it was until it was finished. I've enjoyed delving deeper into the world of thrillers though, and discovering authors I might never have picked up without stepping into the genre.

WOW: Where did the inspiration for With You Always come from?

Rena: As with most books, I would imagine, it was a variety of sources that inspired With You Always A few years ago, my cousin Dana told me she had an idea for a story about a woman in a bathtub, and she wanted me to write it. She let me take it where I wanted from there, but it's probably one of my favorite short stories I've ever written, due in large part to the twist at the end. When it came time to write another book, this story came back to mind, and I contemplated ways to expand it into a full-length novel. I'm clearly very interested in relationships and how perceptions can be twisted especially in the context of a relationship, so I decided on a reverse fairy tale approach, where all seems perfect, but it's not happily ever after. The story grew from there.

WOW: Oh, that bathtub scene is something else, too! I won't give anything else away so I don't spoil anything by accident! When writing, are you a planner or a pantser? Do you have any favorite resources on the writing craft you can share with our readers (books, blogs, webinars, writing classes, etc.)

I used to be a total pantser. I knew how a story started and usually some elements of how it ended (although the last line of The Girl Before was one of the first I wrote and never changed throughout the editing process), but the journey to get there was always a mystery, unfolding as I wrote it. As I've matured as a writer and especially in exploring the world of thrillers, I've done more planning to bring together complicated story elements. I now refer to myself as a "pantyliner." (I think I scandalized some older women during a library event when I said that!)

WOW: The pantyliner! That's hilarious! I hope those women weren't too traumatized, ha ha! Speaking of funny, you have a story in an anthology called A Pizza My Heart. Please tell us more!

Rena: From the brilliant mind of Jolene Haley, a pizza anthology was born. It was more a fun project than anything, a group of like-minded individuals writing stories about pizza. Mine was about teenage pizza assassins. The stories are a lot of fun, and I'm proud to be part of it. Maybe someday you'll see a full-length teenage pizza assassin novel. You know, after I finish my other twenty projects floating around my brain.

WOW: Can you describe some of the highs and lows of your publishing journey up to this point (we've all been there!)

Rena: For sure, every writer could talk for hours about highs and lows. Of course, signing with Sharon and then signing my first book deal were highs. And my second book deal! I do try to celebrate every achievement, every positive publication review, every gushy email I receive. It's important to celebrate those things to contend with the lows, the bad reviews, the glacial pace at which everything in publishing moves. My lowest low probably came when my publisher decided that the second book I'd written for my contract wasn't the right follow-up for The Girl Before. I cried for a day and then emailed my agent and editor the next morning with ideas for a different book. With You Always was among those ideas. It was tough, but an opportunity for growth, and I really learned what an incredibly supportive team I have at DG&B as well as at Putnam. I've been very blessed.

WOW: Good for you for jumping back in with new ideas after disappointment and not letting it discourage you. Obviously you had a winner with With You Always! What are some marketing tactics you've used to help generate publicity and buzz for your two novels, especially in places like social media?

Rena: Giveaways are always a great way to get things moving. Thankfully I get a nice supply of ARCs and copies of my book to allow me to do some giveaways fairly regularly. I try to keep them interesting. I also give my friends and family handfuls of bookmarks to hand out to coworkers, neighbors, and strangers in the grocery store. You never know where you might find a new reader!

WOW: That's right! I know we have plenty of readers who follow this blog who will be happy to check out your work as well! Working full-time as a school therapist, how do you prioritize time for your writing?

Rena: I'll let you know when I figure that out! I actually supervise our school-based therapy team, and it is definitely a struggle at times. For example, during release week, I have three radio interviews and two big book events among a few other smaller commitments (signing stock and the like), but for my day job we have ten new therapists starting that I need to help train and get going in their positions. Thankfully my job is very flexible and very supportive of my writing habit. I also take days off when deadlines are looming, and I have started spending weekends at a hotel in the area to get me away from distractions to get solid writing time in. I am definitely not able to write every day, sometimes because of time constraints, and sometimes because I am too mentally drained. It always works out though. Eventually :)

WOW: Rena, thank you again for this interview, and for letting me review an advance copy of With You Always. I can't wait to share my review with our readers on Aug. 27!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018


The Wellspring; Found Poetry

by Katherine McCord

One of the most fascinating things I ever read about craft was in Ernest Hemingway’s essay, “On Style.” That guy. I guess I didn’t trust him. He definitely doesn’t come from a woman’s perspective, and he definitely, to me, represents the canon where men dominate in publication and editorship, I’m sorry to say, given the backwards state of things. But we were assigned it in an undergraduate class I took. I had to read it being the good student I was. And I took away something that still rests with me. Well, two things:

1. There are no characters, only people.

In other words, we were to focus less on an intellectually preconceived plot where you want these people to do what you want in the story, because, since they are people, they are—and now Hemingway used a metaphor—they are icebergs.

2. People are icebergs.

In the story you just see a tip, the tip of the iceberg, but what’s in the ocean, the part you never see in the story or novel, has to be there. That person’s full life. What he or she has done and lived and likes to eat—all of it. Again, the stuff never mentioned in the story. But unless you know your “character”/person like that, there is no story. There can’t be. How to get there is the hard part. Some of you will just know this person inside because you carry her history, so that if a person asks you a question about her, you’ll be able to give an answer that isn’t intellectual, but just is. Or maybe some of you will explore the character, be the character, to know. Or maybe some of you will just write and that character’s whole history, her every thought will show itself, the life she’s lived by the way she is in the story.

"The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I think as writers we must study and be a long time to find those moments of grace and I think that’s why we write. Found Poetry is like that. There’s what’s underneath, except your art is a wellspring.

* * *

Want to learn more bout found poetry, and give it a try yourself? Join Katherine McCord's online class, FOUND POETRY: Erasure, Blackout, Cento, Cut-Up, Free Form and Craft Elements (Concreteness, Tone, Lineation, and Dramatic Shape), a six week course starting on Monday, September 3, 2018Early registration is recommended!

* * *

Katherine McCord has two books of poetry—Island and Living Room (prose poems)—a lyric essay memoir, My CIA; a poetry chapbook, Muse Annie; and a literary memoir, Run Scream Unbury Save, that was winner of the Autumn House Open Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. She has published widely in literary journals, such as American Poetry Review. Katherine has an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in Creative Writing. In 2011 and 2014, she won Maryland Individual Artist Awards (state grants in creative writing in poetry) and has won other awards or placed as a finalist, such as for the Frank McCourt Memoir Prize. You can find out more about her on

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Monday, August 13, 2018


Fiona Ingram Launches Her Blog Tour of The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper

...and giveaway!

A plane crash! Lost in the jungle! Hunted by their old enemy, will Adam, Justin, and Kim survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power? With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death and maybe survive. Will they emerge alive from the jungle? Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?

Print Length: 318 Pages
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Bublish, Incorporated (November 2017)
ISBN: 978-1946229465

While this is the third in the series, this can be read as a standalone book, however the author encourages readers to reader the first two books in The Chronicle of the Stone series as well: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab and The Search for the Stone of Excalibur.

The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper is now available to purchase on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest!

To win a copy of the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper by Fiona Ingram, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on August 19th at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Fiona Ingram

Fiona Ingram is a children’s author, but up until a few years ago, she was a journalist and editor. Something rather unexpected sparked her new career as an author—a family trip to Egypt with her mother and two young nephews. They had a great time and she thought she’d write them a short story as a different kind of souvenir…. Well, one book and a planned book series later, she had changed careers. She has now published Book 3 (The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper) in her middle grade adventure series Chronicles of the Stone, with many awards for the first book,The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and a few for Book 2, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, and one already for Book 3! She also teaches online novel writing for aspiring authors and she finds that very satisfying. Relaxation time finds her enjoying something creative or artistic, music, books, theatre or ballet. She loves doing research for her book series. Fiona loves animals and has written two animal rescue stories. She has two adorable (naughty) little dogs called Chloe and Pumpkin, and a beautiful black cat called Bertie.

You can find Fiona at –




Author Site:



-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, I'm so excited you are joining us again for another blog tour! What has changed for you since your last tour with us in 2015?

Fiona: I’m very excited to be back with WOW, since you hosted my very first book tour with Book 1: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. In the meantime, I have landed a Japanese and a Chinese publishing deal for all my books, even the ones I have yet to write, and all 3 books have won awards, and even more for Book 1, which seems to be an evergreen favourite. I have a great movie agent who also does international book deals and we’re working on getting the books into the Latin American market, especially as Book 3: The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper is set in Mexico. I am working on Book 4: The Cabal of the Ouroboros right now. It is set in the catacombs of Paris and the adventure theme is around the Knights Templar.

WOW: That is absolutely unbelievable! You are a true success story of self-publishing! What tips do you have for authors looking to self-publish their books?

Fiona: a) Never fall into the trap of thinking that your story is so great you can bypass the services of a professional editor and cover designer. Make sure your book meets the industry’s highest standards in editing, cover, and layout. Spend the money – it’ll be worth it.

b) Enter book awards. The more you win (even if it’s just a nomination), the better you look to the professionals. My Asian publishers were impressed by the books’ awards and nominations, and that’s why I got these deals.

c) Tell the world every day about your book/s. Marketing need not be expensive and word of mouth is the simplest and easiest way of getting your book out there.

d) Don’t give up. There’s fierce competition out there, but if your book is a worthy product, it will get noticed. (PS: I usually give up every day, around 4 p.m. but then after a good night’s sleep I start all over again!)

WOW: Ha, that is about the same time I give up everyday too, actually. Somehow though I always recover and start over! So, do you have any advice for writers seeking to write for a younger audience?

Fiona: My advice is to treat your young audience with respect. Don’t talk down to them. Kids are very clever. They read, they watch television, they know a lot. Don’t be afraid to use big words or complex ideas. Kids love learning new jawbreakers they can show off to their friends. Test your ideas on some kids of the right age, either your own, or those of friends/relatives. They’ll soon tell you if you’re on the right track. As an adult writer one can do the research required and structure a children’s story well. However, I think it is very important to remember how one felt at the age group one is writing for. I remember the magical middle grade years very, very well. That sense of adventure, jumping into anything exciting because who knew where it would end up. I hope I have conveyed that in my adventures when Adam and Justin hurtle headlong into an exciting quest.

“I remember the magical middle grade years very, very well. That sense of adventure, jumping into anything exciting because who knew where it would end up.”

WOW: Oh I recall that sense of adventure as well and it was so vivid in those middle grade years! Your books have a little bit of everything—history, geography, action, adventure—for the older child. What led you to write middle grade fiction? What inspired you to begin writing for children?

Fiona: I didn’t deliberately choose middle grade fiction; it sort of chose me. I also love the middle grade age group when kids are not quite teens looking towards adulthood, but still believe in the magical possibilities of adventure and excitement. When I was a child, all the technological gadgetry kids now have to entertain them was just a twinkle in some inventors’ eyes. We had to entertain ourselves. I started writing stories for my three younger brothers and their friends, and then we’d act out the tales (always dangerous and involving near death close shaves and usually a few monsters) for our very long suffering and patient parents – they were a very supportive and enthusiastic audience.

WOW: You know, your adventures as a kid sounds like the ones I enjoyed as a kid! Growing up in a pre-technology overload era is definitely something I'm grateful for! How much research went into writing this book? What were you surprised to learn?

Fiona: The amount of research for each book is phenomenal. Each book is based on the mythology, culture, legends and history of a new country. It’s important to choose the information that fits beautifully with the theme and the adventure. It’s also important not to burden the young reader with too much detail, just enough to get the heroes out of danger, or to help them work out a solution to a problem. But I love research, so I don’t see it as hard work. I always have a Young Readers’ Guide at the back of each book, with interesting details on some of the topics touched on in the story. On the books’ website,, I have included a Young Readers’ Companion, which is a downloadable nonfiction guide to the story with lots more detail. I was always interested in the Maya and the Aztecs, but just had a passing knowledge. This book really required in-depth research into a lot of mythology and legendary important figures in Mesoamerican culture. But it was fascinating!

WOW: That is awesome you include that type of information in your books! That's so valuable to young readers! In your books, there is a young girl that joins the two main characters in their adventures, who happens to be African. Did you base this character on your own adopted daughter?

Fiona: The year I went to Egypt with my two nephews, I fostered an underprivileged African child. Mabel came to live with me as a foster child and then later I adopted her. She and my youngest nephew bonded and since the books are based on my nephews, it seemed almost inevitable that Mabel enter the series. She chose her character’s name, Kim, and I included in her backstory a lot of what Mabel had experienced with learning difficulties, and issues raised by a black child living with a white person. It was quite a learning experience for both of us and a lot of this is included in the second book, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur. Kim’s entry into the series was very fortuitous because including a girl in a boys’ adventure certainly made the whole dynamic much more interesting, especially as the boys are quite annoyed that she has such good ideas!

WOW: What a rewarding experience that is for both of you! Ha, and I love the idea of the boys being annoyed at her good ideas! So, I love the story of how you came to write this series. Can you share that with our readers?

Fiona: In one of those serendipitous events that change lives, I went to Egypt with my mom and my two young nephews (aged 10 and 12 at the time). We had the most incredible and fascinating time, and when we got back home I thought I’d write a short story for the boys, with them as the heroes, as a different kind of memento. The short story turned into a multi award-winning book; the book turned in a 7-adventure book series! The young cousins, Adam and Justin, are based almost entirely on my nephews and some of the lines of dialogue come straight from them. Their enthusiasm and excitement at being in Egypt rubbed off on me and really inspired me.

WOWThank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and best of luck to you and your books! 

--- Blog Tour Dates

August 13 @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning with coffee than a muffin? Grab your cup of morning brew and join us today when we celebrate the launch of Fiona Ingram's book, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.  You can read our interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

August 14th @ Write Like Crazy
Make sure you stop by Mary Jo's blog Write Like Crazy where Fiona Ingram talks about why your child doesn't like reading and how to fix this. Also, you can enter to win a copy of the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

August 15th @ Girl Zombie Authors
Come by Christine's blog where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on writing about different places for kids.

August 16th @ Jessica Samuel's Blog
Come by Jessica's blog today where Fiona Ingram talks about how to transform your non-reader into a reader.

August 19th @ Madeline Sharples' Blog
Stop by Madeline's blog today where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts with young writers on writing and creating characters.

August 20th @ Mari's #JournalingPower Blog
Stop by Mari's blog where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on developing characters that children will relate to.

August 20th @ Bairn's Bard
Stop by Rebecca's blog Bairn's Bard today where you can read a post by Fiona Ingram's daughter and also you can read about Rebecca's thoughts on the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

August 21st @ Cover2Cover Blog
Stop by Steph's Cover2Cover where you can read Fiona Ingram's blog post about choosing books for your kids.

August 22nd @ Look to the Western Sky
Come by Margo Dill's blog Look to the Western Sky where Fiona Ingram writes about her experiences fostering (and later adopting) an illiterate African child who is now a lovely young woman who loves reading.

August 22nd @ A New Look on Books
Come by Rae's blog where Fiona Ingram writes about the joy of writing for children.

August 26th @ Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi
Come by Karen's blog where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on how to encourage your kids to start writing.

August 27th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??
Stop by Ashley's blog where Fiona Ingram talks about helping kids read better with homeschooling. A must read as school is about to start!

August 27th @ Rebecca Whitman's Blog
Come by Rebecca's blog where you can read Fiona Ingram's post about using computers to improve reading skills.

August 28th @ Jennifer's Deals
Stop by Jennifer's blog where she shares what she her thoughts about Fiona Ingram's incredible middle grade adventure book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

August 29th @ Jill Sheets Blog
Stop by Jill's blog where she reviews The Temple of the  Crystal Timekeeper and shares what she thinks about the book.

August 30th @ Story Teller Alley
Visit Veronica's blog and check out her thoughts on the book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

August 31st @ Mommy Daze: Say What??
Make sure you stop by Ashley's blog again where she shares her thoughts on Fiona Ingram's book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

August 31st @ Rebecca Whitman's Blog
Stop by Rebecca's blog again where you can read Fiona Ingram's post about writing a children series.

September 1st @ Cathy C. Hall's Blog
Visit Cathy's blog today where Fiona Ingram shares the top ten things you never knew about Mexico!

September 2nd @ Break Even Books
Come by Erik's blog Break Even Books where Fiona Ingram talks about how to make your books both enjoyable and educational.

September 3rd @ Beverly A. Baird's Blog
Join us over at Beverley A. Barid's blog where author Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on developing a children's series.

September 4th @ Cathy C. Hall's Blog
Make sure to come by Cathy's blog again where she shares her thoughts on Fiona Ingram's book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 4th @ Carpinello's Writing Pages
Stop by Cheryl's blog and make sure you catch her review of Fiona Ingram's book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 5th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Come by Jill's blog today where Fiona Ingram shares her thoughts on writing for children.

September 5th @ Ali's Bookshelf
Stop by Ali's blog where Fiona Ingram talks about whether books can help children cope with life.

September 7th @ Beverly A. Baird's Blog
Join us at Beverly's blog again for her thoughts on Fiona Ingram's adventurous book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 7th @ Anthony Avina's Blog
Stop by Anthony's Blog where you can read Fiona Ingram's post about why a book series is so good for non-readers.

September 9th @ Anthony Avina's Blog
Make sure to check out Anthony's blog again where you can read his thoughts on Fiona Ingram's book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 10th @ Misadventures with Andi
Come by Andi's blog where you can read Fiona Ingram's post about why children love reading about other countries and cultures.

September 10th @ Whitman's Academics
Stop by Rebecca's blog where Fiona Ingram's talks about turning a non-reader into a reader.

September 12th@ Coffee with Lacey
Stop by Lacey's blog where she reviews Fiona Ingram's book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 13th @ Coffee With Lacey
Be sure to stop by again when Lacey interviews author Fiona Ingram and chats about her newest book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 14th @ World of My Imagination
Come by Nicole's blog where she shares her opinion about Fiona Ingram's middle grade fiction book The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

September 15th @ Story Teller Alley
Stop by Veronica's blog Story Teller Alley to read Fiona Ingram's post on how she came about to write the series The Chronicles of the Stone.


Enter the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win a print copy of The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper! The giveaway ends on August 19th at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, August 12, 2018


Humor Writer Jackie Pick, 3rd Quarter Creative Nonfiction Winner

We are so lucky to have this interview with Jackie Pick today. She has won our writing contests a few times now, so you may recognize her name! She is a former teacher who only recently embraced her true calling as a word monkey. Jackie is a contributing author to both Multiples Illuminated anthologies, as well as Here in the Middle and So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. Her essays have been in the literary magazines The Sun and Selfish, as well as various online sites, including Mamalode, The Herstories Project, and Scary Mommy. Jackie is also co-writer and executive producer of the award-winning short film Fixed Up and a proud member of the 2017 Chicago cast of Listen To Your Mother. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern, Jackie lives in the Chicago area with her husband and her three children. You can follow Jackie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, where she mostly just apologizes for not updating her blog.

If you haven't had a chance to read her award-winning essay titled "Winter Concert" yet, then you have to do so right here. Every parent who has ever gone to a Winter/Christmas concert will appreciate the humor in this!

WOW: Congratulations on winning 2nd place in this essay contest! Your essay about the elementary Christmas concert really rang true for me, although I’ve only got one 7-yr-old daughter! Tell us how you took such a stressful time and turned it into a hysterical essay!

Jackie: Aw, you still have the recorder years ahead of you. Hang on to your hat! Literally. Pull it down over your ears and hold tight.

I have a very narrow skill set, but smack dab in the middle of it is a remarkable ability to make any ridiculous moment even more so, or to walk into an entirely worse moment. This leads to profound gobsmackedness (er...gobsmack? state of being gobsmacked?). Things I unwittingly do and the profoundly inappropriate reactions I have often are universal enough (or bonkers enough) to write about. I draft from that “what on Earth/woe is me/let’s see if I can fix this/nope, that’s worse” space.
For example, I shall now stress moderately about using “gobsmackedness” in the above paragraph, then – poof – my roof will start leaking, and I’ll need a root canal. It will all somehow be tied together and end up with me losing a toenail, and everyone else involved enjoying pastries. BAM! Essay! And a visit to the foot doctor.

WOW: Ha! Ha! Reminds me of the time my daughter had a fever and my washing machine overflowed and I couldn't find my tools. So my 80-year-old dad had to come over with his, and this was right when I had put some lunch in the oven, which of course I forgot about!  Parenthood. Humor is a lot about timing, exaggeration, and surprise. And it’s not easy to do. Can you give us a couple humor essay tips?

Jackie: Humor is so subjective, and the written word is a fraught humor delivery system. In other forms of humor (performance, comics, etc.), visual and auditory cues carry some of the load. In an essay or story, each word has to pull its weight and then some. Word choice and pacing are crucial.
You have to be willing to punish your characters. And if it’s a personal essay, self-flagellation is the way I go.

As far as technique – I first tell the whole story into a voice-to-text program. I read every subsequent draft aloud. This helps with rhythm and word choice. Then I let it sit. Time clarifies where the unfunny parts are. I remove those then I sharpen language.

Read and analyze pieces by authors who make you laugh, and know that humor is always going to have harsher critics than other genres. We can appreciate a serious piece even if we don’t particularly enjoy it. I am not a fan of Moby Dick, but I recognize Melville’s genius. But a humor piece (or a comedian, or a funny show, etc.) is supposed to invoke an involuntary response (something on the amusement-to-laughter scale). If a humor piece doesn’t make us laugh, we don’t tend to appreciate it on any other level either. I’m sure someone out there reads my humor pieces and says, “That’s terrible.”

That’s liberating, though. I write what I find funny, knowing that there are people who just don’t share my take on things.

Fortunately, I am finding an audience for my humor, so it’s a nice, silly, giggly bubble for all of us. On days when I feel great, I might admit that there are things I write that are funny to at least 50.000000001% of people. (*gets hit by a bus*).

WOW: Great tips--I like the idea of doing voice to text first. Your ending for "Winter Concert", with the recorder announcement—perfect! I remember those from when I was in elementary school and the torture they caused for parents and teachers. It’s like me hiding the whistle my daughter got one time as a party favor! What was that parent thinking? How did you decide on your ending for this holiday essay?

Jackie: Oof. Whistles, kazoos, drum sets. We hide ours, the garbage. I wish I could say there was some aha! moment, but I always felt this was the ending. It was the only part of the piece that stayed in every draft. It just struck me as funny and hit that awful/sweet spot for me that I like. I like to get out of some essays in a way that starts with “aw, that’s great” and ends with a final twist of the knife. It goes back to my ability to get into ridiculous, often lousy situations, only to walk into worse ones (or make them worse all by myself). I think ending with just heart is fine, but I personally struggle to make that kind of ending funny.

WOW: Your bio is quite impressive! What amazing things you’ve already accomplished. So what are some future writing goals you have?

Jackie: Thank you, that’s very kind. I’m proud of having cannonballed into this career later in life and, so far, having had a good experience – acceptances and rejections alike. I like the work, so doing the work feels like a privilege. Until it doesn’t. Then doing laundry feels like a privilege.

I have some bucket list items that most humorists have: McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, making my husband laugh. He’s a tough audience.

When the kids go back to school this fall, I will begin a book, which now that I say that publicly, I’ve set some pretty high stakes for myself. That's motivating, I think.

I want to keep writing essays as well, and also hope to make more short films. I have the most wonderful writing partner for film projects, and working with her is like breathing.

Lots going on, but I find that keeps my writing fresh and keeps me from getting aggravated with one project. I just set it aside and do something else.

WOW: Yes, that is a great strategy that many writers use. Good luck with your husband. Personally, I think I'm hysterical, but my daughter is the tough audience in this house. (smiles) So I have to ask since your essay is about a school event and you used to be a teacher, what did you teach? What drew you to writing instead?

Jackie: I mainly taught middle school students language arts and social studies, although I worked at the high school level a bit. I was also the coordinator of the school musical, which is probably a book in and of itself, and probably my favorite part of the job. I loved my students, I loved teaching, but I left after twelve years of it, grateful for the experiences and very, very tired.

I always enjoyed writing but didn’t pursue it.

When my daughter was born, I wrote a piece to her on the occasion of her 8th day, and with the encouragement of some friends, sent it to a popular parenting site many months later. It got accepted and then, once I celebrated, I had to figure out what the heck I was doing if I was going to continue.
I’ve been at this now for about three years, and I feel I’ve come so far, and have so much to learn. Like Hamilton, I’m writing “like I’m running out of time” because I feel in some ways I’m twenty years behind, but also that my children will keep asking me for snacks until I lose the will to type.

WOW: Exactly! Maybe in my spare time I will invent the snack machine. Want to help me? Congrats again on your essay win, and thank you for taking the time to chat with us!

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Saturday, August 11, 2018


On Doing Less and Doing More

It was incredible timing for Sioux to write a post about being bored. I had been faced with the fact that I needed to start doing less and stop taking on more recently. I needed to let myself get bored.

I'm the type to always have things I'm working on and have to do lists. However, I find that my creativity suffers in the long run and so does my energy. How do we "do" better? How do we unplug and find ways to restore our energy? How do we really make better use of our time?

I decided to put together a few tips to help you figure out where you are putting your time and energy and what to do about it.

1) Ask yourself where you are putting your energy. And I mean, really ask.

About a year ago I realized I needed to remove my Facebook app from my phone. Also, those games on my computer had to go recently too. It was kind of tough because in my head I told myself this stuff gave me a mental break. Yet, I also had to recognize that I spent way too much time there and way too much emotional energy as well. If I'm being honest, I'd rather spend an hour writing a blog post and reading blogs than scrolling through my Facebook feed. Blog posts inspire me, Facebook sends me down a black hole.

Maybe you aren't putting a lot of your energy in distractions like me, but really take a look at where your energy goes and ask yourself if you can cut back or cut down. Once I started cutting back, I saw an immediate boost in my creative energy.

2) Prioritize projects.

When I'm doing a project, whether it's an article for someone or something more extensive, I tend to not like to piecemeal the activity. However, I recently took on the approach of doing piece by piece. I broke down the project and gave myself deadlines along the way. Not only was I able to get the small parts done more efficiently with better quality, it ended up maintaining my sanity.

3) Giving yourself a break. A real one.

I do enjoy reading books to review for people, but a couple of months ago, I realized I wasn't reading anything that I chose on my own to read. Reading is a way for me to escape and it gives me a mental break. Lately, I've started to give myself a break and read more of what I'm choosing to read. I've noticed a significant difference in my own mental energy by doing that.

But I'm not just reading. I'm also journaling more. Staring more. Just like Sioux said earlier in the week, I'm giving myself the chance to be bored.

Once you start cutting back on what you are doing, whether it's distractions or simply by starting to say no to extra projects, you will find that the time you are giving to your work, whether it's writing or something else, you have far more energy for it. It isn't an overnight process, but bit by bit, you will notice a change in your creative energy.

Where do you need to cut back? How do you give yourself a real break?

Visit Nicole Pyles on her blog, The World of My Imagination, to find out more about her writing journey. 

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Friday, August 10, 2018


Friday Speak Out!: Sacred Material

by Laura Yeager

We all have material that we are holding on to. It’s sacred material.

When I was 19, I lost my virginity to a neighbor boy. I want to write about this, but, at 55, I’m still not ready. I hold on to the material, processing it, needing it.

I am also keeping private the story of my father’s suicide.

Just think of all the material you’re retaining. Just when is something ready to be written about?

Most of the time, we write about dicey material when we’re good and ready to write about it. This means that we’ve let the significant amount of time pass so that we “heal” about certain material. But sometimes, events prompt us to compose, perhaps, sooner.

We might write about something when we feel we can’t keep it secret another minute longer.

Perhaps, we meet someone who needs one of our stories we have to tell. We may write a story for him or her, sharing that material that is so dear to us for the good of a friend.

Perhaps, in the spirit of the times, people have started to write about, let’s say, sexual harassment. And let’s say you have a sexual harassment story. You may feel that it’s finally time to write this down.

Maybe, we feel we’re finally ready to tackle something. Maybe now that I have a son, I’ll better understand my father and his story.

Been to therapy? Perhaps, you’ve talked a story out with a psychologist or counselor and feel that you better understand the material. What better time to write about it?

Maybe you’re living in a painful present. Maybe going back into the past is easier.

Perhaps, a key reason we process dear material is because we finally have the time to sit down and think about it.

Whatever the reason that leads us to write about those delicate, fragile stories that we hold dearest to our hearts, it’s good when we finally write about them. This material is, again, sacred. It might produce some of our best work.

When You Shouldn’t Let the Material Go

When you don’t fully understand the scenario.

When you’re fearful about revealing what you’re about to reveal.

When you can’t be honest about what happened.

When, in the final analysis, maximum self-exposure will kill you.

What happens when we’re not ready to use the material, and we use it anyway

Vagueness. We may hint at what happened, but not really fully disclose the incident to the reader. This makes for weak, uninteresting, colorless writing.

Euphemisms. We may sugar coat the experience, wording it in false language.

Noticeable gaps in the manuscript. The manuscript might lose a “wholeness” it could possess.

Lies. We may lie about the truth.

Sacred material. We all have it. It’s the stuff that makes us who we are--the events that define us.

There is a right time and a wrong time to write about this material. It takes judgment and intuition to know when you are ready.

How to make yourself ready to confront dicey material in your past

Meditate on the events.

Talk about them.

Read books and watch movies that relate to the sacred material to see how others have handled the issues.

Try writing about the material and see what happens.

By giving our stories away, we claim them as ours.

I wish you luck in having the will to confront the sacred issues of your life.

You’ll be better for it.

* * *
Currently, Laura Yeager is writing regularly for, a leading cancer website, and Laura teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and at Kent State University. She is looking for an agent for her book The Prodigal Daughter, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction about bipolar illness.
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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Wednesday, August 08, 2018


Bored... and Brilliant?

Until recently, I thought I could do several things at once. It was easy--and productive--for me to watch listen to something semi-silly on television while I worked on a WIP and occasionally checked my email/blog... or so I thought. I thought I was making efficient use of my time. I mean, I could destress  veg out a bit and get something done at the same time and stay connected, which was all good, right?

But then I heard a couple of tidbits this summer--both about our brains--that got me 1) amazed and 2) reflective.

The amazed part first. Everyone's had the experience of trying to remember an author's name, the title of a movie you saw decades ago, the name of a former neighbor. You can't retrieve it right away, so you set it aside, knowing that at some point the information will just appear. Sometimes it happens in the middle of another conversation with a different person, hours later. The name/title suddenly blasts into your brain, and you can't help yourself: you blurt it out immediately because you're so surprised.

Well, what I didn't know (Did you?) is even though we discontinue searching the recesses of our brain for the information, our brain doesn't stop. All the while that we're doing other things, no longer concerned with trying to remember what that Viggo Mortensen movie was called, our brain continues to try and solve the puzzle. Behind the scenes, it's working the whole time.

Which works for writing, too. There are occasions when I have a plot/organization problem with a writing project, and it suddenly bursts forth into my consciousness.

Amazing, right?

And now, the tidbit that made me reflective. This summer I heard about a TED talk/challenge/book about being bored. The premise is we're always checking our email/Facebook/Insta-twitter-chat-whatever. Our phones/tablets/screens are attached to us via a regrown umbilical cord. We're checking them so often, we aren't being creative.

To be truly creative or problem-solving, we need the quiet and inactivity that boredom affords us.

For me, it's definitely not the phone but I do check my blog more often than I should, along with my email. (I don't really do Facebook or anything else social-media.) And I watch too much TV as I'm simultaneously working on a writing project... or so I try and convince myself.

This Ted Talk by Manoush Zomorodi is entertaining and fascinating and educational. I've tried to make this post as succinct as possible, so you'll be willing to take the time to watch it... and consider getting bored on a regular basis.

How about you? Are you willing to curtail your phone/Facebook/email/blog checking to just once or twice a day for a week? You just might find your creativity explodes in the vacuum created by boredom...

Sioux Roslawski is going to stop watching reruns of her favorite shows. She's also going to limit her blog and email-checking to twice a day... so she can make some genuine headway on her WIP/manuscript/gonna-be-a-book-someday project. If you'd like to read more of her stuff (seriously, are you a glutton for punishment?) check out her blog.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Interview with Terry Cobb, Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Today, we are chatting with Terry Cobb, one of the runner’s up in the Winter 2018 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven’t had the chance to yet, be sure to check out her moving story, “Afternoon Tea with Jacqueline Kennedy” then come back and read her interview below.

Terry’s Bio:

Terry Cobb is a former radiology supervisor who resides with her husband on a farm in north central Missouri where she writes short stories, devotionals, and novels. Her flash fiction has been published in The Binnacle and in anthologies published by The Saturday Writers and The Columbia Writers Guild. It has won awards from The Pike’s Peak Branch of American Pen Women, the Green River Writers, Springfield Missouri Writers Guild, and the Dr. Doris Mueller Prose Contest. Her devotionals have been printed in The Upper Room and The Secret Place. She posts photos of flowers and wildlife on her blog and writes about the challenges of gardening, at

WOW: Thank you so much for chatting with us today! So, I loved your flash fiction story Afternoon Tea with Jacqueline Kennedy. What inspired this story?

Terry: In their later years, my parents had many health issues which naturally took a toll on their spirits. Mom used to tell me how she wished she could run away from all their troubles. The problem was that she didn’t have any place to run and she only wanted to escape for a little while. Although this story was written long after my mother’s death, this is a temporary escape I have created just for her.

WOW: What a touching way to honor your mom! So, what’s next for you? What are you currently working on?

Terry: I’m primarily working on a novel that I began a few years ago. I can’t remember if I’m on its tenth or twentieth draft. Since I believe in the story too much to quit, I’ll keep plugging away on it until I’m satisfied enough to send it off to an agent. I’m also writing another short story and a devotional. As you can tell, I’m easily distracted, but that’s because I find all types of writing fun. When I get an idea, I like to go ahead and get it on paper.

WOW: I’m exactly the same way with writing! I tend to bounce around a lot, but I feel like it makes it more fun that way. That leads me to my next question – what does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Terry: I’m an early bird. My biological clock wakes me up between 4:30 and 5 am. With a cup of coffee in hand, I meditate and journal for a couple of hours. Journaling is where I get my devotional and short story ideas. I often try to steal more time after lunch to write again for an hour or so, although I’m not consistently successful.

WOW: As a night owl, who is not at all an early bird, I’m impressed you wake up so early to write. What a way to start your day! So, do you have any tips you can share about entering contests? What works for you best?

Terry: Entering writing contests have been an excellent way for me to receive feedback on my writing by either signing up for an additional critique or by seeing if I can place in the contest itself. Many contests publish the winning stories which is extremely helpful in seeing what the judges are looking for and how my story stacks up to them. I also triple check the submission guidelines. I don’t want my story thrown out before it’s even read just because I didn’t format it according to the contest guidelines. I always let my work sit for a few days before submitting. That gives me a chance to read it one more time for grammatical errors and missed words.  

WOW: That is great advice! So, I couldn’t help but notice in your profile you said you liked to garden. How does your garden inspire your writing?

Terry: The garden is my world of miracles. I marvel at how the tiny seeds in my hand produce baskets of tomatoes and bouquets of flowers. It’s especially terrific for providing metaphors and story ideas for my devotional writing. Oddly enough, pulling weeds seems to slow the wheels churning in my brain. A story idea will often come to me when I’m “in the zone” and not trying so hard to come up with something.

WOW: I understand that completely! Usually when I’m not focusing so much on writing is when the best ideas come about.

Thank you so much for chatting with us today Terry and sharing your beautiful story!

Be sure to find Terry over at her blog

Interview by Nicole Pyles

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Monday, August 06, 2018


The Perfect Playlist

A few months ago, after discussing surrealism in art and literature, I had my students write poems to a fictional character using as many illogical juxtapositions as possible to give the poem a real, surrealist flavor.

I can save surrealist literature for another blog post, but the real point here is that they were struggling to harness their inner abstract. For inspiration, I found some surrealist music and played it for them. The room went quiet. Some of their faces became serious; others found themselves lost in thought. A few immediately got to work, and a few others told me they were creeped out (if you've never heard surrealist music before, give it a try and you'll understand why).  But they were all impacted by this music. It put them in the right mood.

For me, music is a crucial element in my writing. Sometimes it's a new song.  Other times it's an old favorite.  Either way, the intensity sparks creativity within me, be it a new idea, a new character, or an unexpected plot twist. I can feel the music inside the same way I feel my characters – ingrained, deep within.

I create a playlist for each of my books, . There’s a common theme among my choices, and it’s in keeping with the mood and tone of my novel. Sometimes I link a song to an event in the book, and I will listen to it over and over again while I write that portion of the novel. Other times, the song fits universally with my work in progress, so it enters the general playlist. But the music keeps me in line – it creates the proper mood that I’m going for – and listening to the music sets me in the right place when I pick up where I left off.

I’ll go ahead a provide a shameless plug for Pandora (they are NOT paying me to do this). I put in a song which has inspired me to write my current work in progress and, inevitably, more songs will pop up on the playlist that continue to influence my writing. Music incites emotion within me, which positively impacts my writing. A sad scene requires sad music. Exciting scenes need something more emotional. But believe me when I tell you – it works.  Having a common theme is key.  Currently, I'm obsessed with Amber Run Radio on Pandora.  If you're writing a book where your characters are struggling to make a life in the woods, it's a perfect fit.

My current novel is set in a grim future, where my heroine is fighting for survival. The playlist is below. Feel free to let these songs spark inspiration in your writing as well.

Blackbird Song by Lee DeWyze
Where’s My Love by SYML
The Yawning Grave by Lord Huron
The Lament of Eustace Scrubb by The Oh Hellos
I Gave It All by Aquilo
Circles by EDEN
Dear Wormwood by The Oh Hellos
Strange and Beautiful by Aqualung
Evolve by Phoria
The Moth by Manchester Orchestra

And, of course, I’d love to hear which songs are inspiring you. Please share your favorites in the comments!

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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