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Friday, September 21, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Knitting Together of Creative Passions

by Barbara Stark-Nemon

Abbie Rose Stone, the main character in my forthcoming novel, Hard Cider, is a serious knitter. She knits to express her creativity. She knits to spend contemplative time sorting out her life. She knits in the companionship of other women who share her interest. Two different knit shops provide prominent settings in the book. What starts as a minor plot element in Hard Cider, ends up becoming more important throughout the novel. Knitting and writing have a creative connect for me.

Full disclosure— my personal creative time is spent not only in the written word, but also in various fiber arts- knitting, sewing, quilting, and embroidery. And so I imbue my characters with interest in these arts. In Hard Cider, the kinship among women who love to knit leads Abbie to connect with another character long before she understands the shocking reality that will connect them forever. Feeling that kinship to other fiber artists lends an important authenticity to this part of the story and a counterpoint to other plot threads.

And then there is the metaphor of the knitting… the stitching together. To me, the relatedness of fashioning a garment bears a strong creative resemblance to the writing process. It is most helpful to have a sense of where the project is going. Choosing a pattern, finding yarn and colors that work with the desired end product have their objective correlative in choosing a genre, a story structure, finding the right narrative voice, and developing characters. In both knitting and writing projects, there will be unanticipated changes as the piece emerges, discouraging mistakes, “ripping out,” and occasional wishes to abandon the project altogether. There are constant choices as to how perfect the project has to be, and worries as to how it will be received by the desired recipients. Most of all, each of these arts pulls something elemental, something important from inside me as a creative person and allows me to share the results with others— to give something of myself that I have made. The thrill is similar.

I consider myself first and foremost a writer when it comes to my own definition of “what I do.” But I deeply value my creative experience as a fiber artist. When I come across fiber art themes or even just a character who knits in a novel, I’m immediately drawn closer to that character or plot thread. I will never forget the sinister knitting scene at the beginning of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It still makes me shudder to imagine the stitches marking each guillotine execution. More akin to my own experience, in Kate Jacobs’ Friday Night Knitting Club, and Debbie Macomber’s The Shop on Blossom Street, the authors demonstrate the richness of women supporting each other through their gathering to create with their hands, regardless of the chaos going on elsewhere in their lives. I look forward to providing that little extra enjoyment to readers of Hard Cider.

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BARBARA STARK-NEMON is the author of the award-winning first novel, Even in Darkness. She lives, writes, cycles, swims, does fiber art, and gardens in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan. After earning her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Art History and a Masters in Speech-language Pathology from the University of Michigan, Barbara enjoyed a teaching and clinical career working with deaf children. Barbara writes novels, short stories, and essays. Visit her online http://www.barbarastarknemon.com/.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

 

Say Yes to Joy... and a Give-Away



Let's face it. Writing is hard work. Actually, I tell my students that writing crap is easy. Writing well is brutally hard.

With all the revising and critique and rejection, we have to carve out some fun during the process. I was reminded of the importance of letting go and saying "yes" to joy on my recent trip to Tulsa.

The trip was supposed to be filled with research, and it was. However, the museums and cultural centers were closed in the evenings. What wasn't closed on Thursday night was one of those paint and sip places. You know, the kind of spot where a room full of non-artists all work with the same model painting... while they drink wine.

My friend and I didn't want to go back to our hotel room and do nothing, and it was too early for dinner, so she and I decided to become artists for a couple of hours.

Me, I was driving, so I only drank water and still my painting ended up a hot mess. (I've cropped my picture so you can't see too many of the clouds that look exactly like floating blue turds. I am not exaggerating.)

For me, most of the joy of writing is the unpredictability of it. I'll give you some examples of joy that I've experienced while working on my WIP:

  • It's historical fiction. It focuses on a massacre. In the very beginning of my work, I had on rose-colored glasses. The family would do what they needed to do in order to survive. The community would be decimated, but the family would live on... in another city.
          But then a writing colleague asked, "Do they all make it?" It wasn't even something I
          considered. That simple question changed the whole direction of the story.
  • I had my ending decided a long time ago. The family was going to camp out in a park for a couple of weeks (which is what a lot of people did after this tragedy), and then relocate to another city. However, as I dug a bit deeper, I found a better interim place that will shelter the family--one that will add more complexity to the story.
          But I had to be open to the various options... and I had to be willing to scrap my ending so I
          could reconstruct a new one.
  • And just yesterday, another surprise. For more than a year, I've known what happened that made the family leave their home. It made sense. Sort of.
          However, as I learned more about my characters and the plot changed, I found an impetus that
          made better sense... and it gave me the chance to add more tension to my story. 

To grow with the characters... to experience the story as the characters dictate the story's direction... From my perspective, that is fun.

How about you? What has recently surprised you while writing? What do you consider the biggest source of joy as a writer?

The give-away? Oh, I almost forgot. Since Margo Dill recently edited my WIP's most recent draft, and since it's her fault it's becoming a new and improved version, I'm going to give away a copy of her YA novel, Caught Between Two Curses. Leave a comment, and two weeks after this post (9/20), I'll draw a name.





Sioux Roslawski considers the exhilaration of writing addicting. Currently, she's working on a manuscript and keeping her fingers crossed that when it's finished and polished up, there will be at least one publisher interested in it. If you'd like to read more of her musings, head to her blog.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

 

Opening Yourself to New Ideas

I had the amazing opportunity to spend the last four days in beautiful Napa Valley, California with seven of my college girlfriends. Wine. Laughter. Sunshine. More wine. The weekend was everything I could have asked for.

But what I haven’t mentioned yet are the stories. Yes, we’ve known one another for twenty-two years, but that doesn’t mean we’ve kept in touch the way we should. And this weekend gave us the opportunity to share copious stories. Some were funny. Some were sad. Some were poignant and some unbelievable. Some stories will stay in Napa because they can never come home.

At one point, however, my friend Ann suggested that I write a book about us. Not about us, exactly. But about the situation – seven friends who come together for a Napa weekend after twenty-something years of friendship and what they learn about themselves and each other.

Initially, I said no. I write young adult fiction – paranormal, fantasy, non-reality-based fiction. Still, the more I thought about it, the more the idea began to take shape. Maybe I COULD write a book about this. Maybe it’s the thing that’s been waiting in the back of my head, screaming to get out. The ideas are there – as soon as she mentioned it, they flowed. There’s certainly the emotion behind it. Maybe much of it will still be fiction, but isn’t most fiction based in reality anyway?

The idea of writing the unfamiliar is scary. We know what we’re good at, so it’s easy to stay in the same rut. Here’s the thing though - maybe we’d be great a writing something else. Maybe it’s time to branch out. Maybe it’s time to open ourselves to new ideas.

I know this weekend was incredibly inspiring. I learned about fashion, incredibly helpful apps, limo buses called True Elegance, and what it means to keep friendships for long periods of time. It also inspired me to write outside my comfort zone. And that is something that will stay with me forever.

So I challenge you to do the same. I feel more energized to write than I have in a long time. It’s all about having the right idea, and who cares if it’s what we’re comfortable with or not?



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

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

 

Interview with Jamie Destouet: 2018 Spring Flash Fiction Contest 3rd Place Winner

Jamie’s Bio:
Jamie Destouet is a writer/editor for a publishing company and a graduate of the University of Houston Downtown. Her writing allows her to create worlds and characters that embody her passions, fears and ambitions. This is her first submission to a writing competition. A native Houstonian, she lives with her sister and her own personal Dragon (though those without imagination just see a black cat). She aspires to be a novelist, but for now lives a simple life working on writing projects whenever time allows. Perpetually a lover of exceptional stories, she indulges in all things Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Christopher and Johnathan Nolan, Sherlock Holmes, Japanese graphic novels and story-driven video games. She was recently brought on to co-write a murder-mystery adventure game due for release in 2019.


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

WOW: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Spring Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? What excited you most about writing this story?

Jamie: I had no idea where it was headed. When I'm creating, I sometimes find myself as part observer. The story plays out in my head like a movie and I'm the only person in the theater on premiere night. These characters have minds of their own and I'm furiously attempting to keep up as my ideas take over. I was both excited and terrified to see the outcome of my creation, to follow the story to its conclusion. I don't always enjoy the finale, but I always accept it as truth, as honest.

WOW: I love that, too, when the characters come to life and act in ways I never imagined. Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Jamie: It wasn't so much a learning experience as a confirmation. I'm angry and terrified for the future. For too long, I have felt helpless as the world evolves into immense ugliness. I was born and raised leaning and watching progress in the world; and over the last couple of years, I've been forced to watch huge achievements undone and still more unraveling with every passing day. I used to think that my rights were safe, that 2018 would never look again like 1918 or 1818. It's a warning—that apathy will see progress buried in the ground.

WOW: That’s a terrifying realization, though it’s useful that you can call attention to this through your writing. Can you tell us more about what it’s like to co-write a murder-mystery adventure game?

Jamie: It's my first time writing for this platform and the process is amazingly complex. We decided, early on, that we wanted the game to feature true consequences for each action; in essence, every choice you make alters how people perceive you, your own sense of guilt or pride, who stays by your side and who abandons you. The character development continues to fluctuate and each scene must be individually tackled to reflect all the events that occurred before. It's copious hours of discussion, writing, editing, more discussion editing and writing ad infinitum...and my desire to work on a story-focused game realized.

WOW: That does sound like a very complex but also very rewarding process! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Jamie: I just finished reading a Korean Web comic (legally translated into English) called Dark Heaven by JUN. It's an absolutely fabulous story that follows the relationship of Simon and Connor. They dream of thriving together in their band, but their plans get turned upside down. A cult called WAF, a hate group with its tendrils in both the police and government, terrorizes immigrants, minorities, homosexuals, and anyone who is "different." It's gorgeously drawn and tackles many dark themes, including homophobia, mental illness, drug use, murder, suicide, self-harm, PTSD, domestic violence, rape, and more. Yet, through it all, there is love, humor, happiness, family, and friendship. It's brilliantly written and an incredibly inspiring read.

WOW: That does sound dark yet thrilling and important. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Jamie: Don't expect it to happen. I remember walking into a bookstore when I'd decided, very young, that I wanted to be a writer. I walked up and down all the aisles with my parents, looking up at the towering shelves and displays and seeing all the thousands of books that literally surrounded me. I imagined that if there were so many different books and authors that perhaps it might be easy to join them, to have my name on posters and banners, as well. Alas, I was young and my dreams just that. I continue to write and work very hard at my passion, but I would warn my younger self about managing expectations in an industry where so many seek recognition.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Jamie: I'd like to thank everyone at Women on Writing for putting together this contest and to all who gave their valuable time reading, critiquing, and judging. It's a real honor to have others take their valuable time to consider my writing. I'd also like to congratulate the 1st and 2nd place winners. After reading both their entries, I am truly honored to have placed among them. Writing truly means the world to me; it's my best way of communicating with people as it gives me the confidence that speaking usually does not. I'm thrilled I took this opportunity and I encourage everyone reading this to do the same.

WOW: Thank you for your wonderful writing and thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and happy writing!

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

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Monday, September 17, 2018

 

Mary Maurice launches her book blog tour of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe

...and giveaway! 

Susan Jordan awakens at her Santa Fe apartment, cloudy and disoriented. Her clothing is unfamiliar. Where has she been? Her nose crinkles as she smells his scent. Jack's back! Rubber filled legs brace against the stone cold tile floor as she reaches for the pile of mail haplessly setting on the table. Dozens of letters! Jack Monroe never stops. Susan wishes he would just leave, take his advice and go back to Detroit. He's gaining too much control! He's taking over!

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher:  Silver Leaf Books LLC (September 10, 2018)
Genre: Mystery
ISBN-10: 1609752376
ISBN-13: 978-1609752378
ASIN: B07FMX9HLH

The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe is available for purchase in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.    

Book Giveaway Contest!

To win a copy of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe by Mary Maurice, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on September 23rd  at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:  

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

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

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

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

Keep on bookin!

Connect with Mary online:

Website: www.marymaurice.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marymauriceauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MMauriceAuthor


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

WOW: Mary, Thank you so much for choosing WOW again to help promote yet another great book! Let's dig right in (and for those readers who missed our first interview and tour, they can find it here).  When did you start writing and who inspired you?

Mary: I started writing in the ninth grade, and am inspired by the craft of writing, and knowing that people enjoy my books. Plus, I feel like I'm helping to keep the art of writing alive.

WOW: Those are admirable reasons - thank you. You've had quite a few successes along your writing journey, so do tell: how do you celebrate your successes?

Mary: I celebrate my success by continuing to write and create novels.

WOW: We can't wait to watch The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe climb the charts! Early reviewers are saying fabulous things and we know you'll have plenty of success with this one!

What advice to you have for other writers when it comes to publishing, dealing with rejections, etc.?

Mary: Perseverance, hard work, and a little bit of luck, for me is the key to success. But the most important aspect is passion. If you don't have passion for the craft, then what's the point of writing?

WOW: You're right on about passion - you might as well be passionate about whatever it is you are doing.

What is one thing you'd like readers to take away after reading The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe ?

Mary: I'd like for people to understand the tormented mind of a suicidal person. To realize that they aren't just having a bad day, or that they're depressed because of their life, but that it stems from a deeper problem, ones that usually stay hidden until it's too late. Suicide is so taboo in our society that no one really wants to talk about it, even though it's becoming quite common. We need to be educated about the problem, and then maybe we'll understand and be able to help.

WOW: Thank you for your bravery in tackling this difficult and complicated subject. What's next for you?

Mary: My next novel is, The Dreams of Stellar Martin. A story about a woman who's hiking in the mountains, falls and can't recall who or where she is, and uses her dream journal to remember herself.

WOW: Sounds like a fascinating read! Thank you for spending time chatting with us today! 

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

Monday September 17th @ WOW! Women on Writing
Interview & Giveaway!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday, September 18th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole reviews The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe for readers at World of My Imagination. Don't miss this chance to learn more about Mary Maurice's latest work!
https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 19th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird reads and reviews Mary Maurice's latest work, The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe and shares her thoughts on this page turning novel!
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

Thursday, September 20th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Mary Maurice writes an intriguing guest post at Choices today. Don’t miss this post and opportunity to learn about The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe
http://madelinesharples.com/

Thursday, September 20th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews Mary Maurice about Maurice's latest novel The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe.
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 21st @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal reviews The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe as readers of Bring on Lemons learn more about this latest page turner by Mary Maurice!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 24th @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books
Don't miss today's interview with Mary Maurice and learn more about her latest book The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe.
https://www.sellingbooks.com/

Tuesday, September 25th @ Words from the Heart with Rev. Linda Neas
Linda reviews The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe for readers at Words from the Heart!
https://contemplativeed.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, September 26th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Wisconsin mother Michelle DelPonte reviews The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe for readers at Bring on Lemons - will this be a lemon or some tasty lemonade?
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 27th @ A Day in the Life of Mom
Ashley Bass reviews Mary Maurice's latest page turner, The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe. Don't miss her insight and thoughts on this exciting new book!
https://adayinthelifeofmom.com/

Monday, October 1st @ Strength 4 Spouses
Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog Strength 4 Spouses where she shares her thoughts about Mary Maurice's The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe.
www.strength4spouses.blog

Tuesday, October 2nd @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reads and reviews the unusual and intriguing new novel by Mary Maurice - you won't want to miss her thoughts about The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe.
https://coffeewithlacey.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, October 10th @Kathleen Pooler's Memoir Writer's Journey
Mary Maurice is today's author in the spotlight at Memoir Writer's Journey. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Maurice and learn more about her latest work - The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe.
https://krpooler.com/

Friday, October 12th @ Author Anthony Avina
Fellow author Anthony Avina reviews The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe by Mary Maurice!
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com


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


*****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

Enter to win a copy of The Suicide Letters of Jack Monroe by Mary Maurice! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway contest closes Sunday, September 23rd, at 12am. We will choose a winner the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

 

Cheryl Fines, Essay Runner-Up Winner, Discusses Depression and Critique Groups

Congratulations to Cheryl Fines, who was a runner-up in our 3rd Quarter Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with her essay, "The River," which you can read here, and focuses on the theme of depression.

Cheryl is a high school English teacher in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. She feels fortunate to share her love of writing and reading with her students. It is tremendously satisfying to foster in them a love of literature, or to encourage a young person to find their voice through creative writing.

She also takes part in a biweekly writer’s circle at her local public library. She appreciates the support and camaraderie of this group and would encourage other writers to find similar groups. Writing is a rewarding pastime that she will likely never give up. The trick (which she has yet to entirely solve) is in finding a balance between work, family, and other pursuits like writing. One of these years! Cheryl and her partner of 21 years have two amazing daughters. Aside from writing, she spends time with other creative pursuits, as well, such as spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting: all things wool!

WOW: Congrats, Cheryl, on your essay contest top 10 win! Your essay is haunting, realistic, important, and beautiful. The topic of depression has been on the news more than ever with the recent celebrity suicides. What made you compare your struggle with depression to a river?

Cheryl: Thank you. There was an image in my mind, from my childhood, that just kept resurfacing. It was of the river we used to swim in as kids: the current, the undertow. Right before the footings of the bridge, which was in spitting distance of the swimming area (how things have changed!), there was this legendary undertow. I marvelled, as a child, at how the river ran steadily, the movement of the water – except for this area of the undertow. There, the water seemed peaceful, still (except for that giveaway dimple) – it seemed to be the most serene part of the river; but if you went there, it would take hold of you and pull you under. When I had the experience that prompted this piece of writing, that image came to me. I knew that on the surface, things appeared fine. There were no “reasons” for me to feel like dying; work was good, family was great, I was living in a house I love, I had good friends. But regardless of those things that would indicate to anyone that life was good, underneath it all, I could barely force myself to stay. The two thoughts collided at some point, and this metaphor was born.

Aside from that, the power that water wields has always intrigued me: so essential to life, yet also so threatening and devastating at times. People drown, get washed downstream, or out to sea. Floods, tidal waves, undertows, rip tides, predators in the water – there are all kinds of ways in which water can be treacherous. It’s a fascinating force of nature.

WOW: Thank you for sharing with us so honestly. I think you described perfectly why people have such a hard time understanding depression. On the outside, everything seems fine; but that's not how it really is. The river metaphor fit that perfectly! Do you find it hard to have such personal feelings shared with a public audience in your writing?

Cheryl: Fine question! Yes. Absolutely. I wrote the piece for my own benefit to start, and thought I could not share it. It was an intensely personal experience, and sharing it widely like this left me feeling far too exposed. However, I kind of pushed myself into it, because I am always an advocate of destigmatizing mental health issues; yet, I wasn’t willing to go out on that limb myself? Hypocrisy 101. So, yes, it was difficult to share, but I think that many people will have to share many more stories to make progress on the destigmatizing front. A necessary evil, if you will.

There are many ways that people can actively work toward destigmatizing mental health issues. Using appropriate language (e.g., instead of “committing suicide,” one might say that someone has “died by suicide” or “ended her life.” I read an obit recently that referred to the cause of death as “losing a long battle with depression,” just as we do with other serious illnesses), speaking truthfully about our experiences, allowing others to share theirs. We have a long way to go, before mental health is treated like, and spoken about like, physical health; but in my lifetime, I’ve observed a lot of progress. I think we’re improving in a measurable way, year by year.

WOW: I totally agree, and I know I'm as guilty as the next at the language I use. But now because of this interview, I will pay more attention to how I talk about suicide, depression, and mental health in general. I suffer from anxiety, and I'm pretty open about it; but still, even typing that, I'm thinking: who will judge me? So, how does writing about your depression help you?

Cheryl: Life is a constant journey toward deeper understanding – of oneself, of others, of the world, of how people, things, and situations interact – and I personally find it cathartic to move beyond just thinking things through, to committing those thoughts to paper. Just as some people find it immensely helpful to talk through their problems, I find it beneficial to work things out on paper.

WOW: I'm sure many writers agree with you! Your bio states that you have a great critique group. I find mine invaluable. But how did you know you had a good one? What are some of the characteristics other writers should look for?

Cheryl: I am part of a writers’ circle at the local public library. I discovered it via a local published writer, posting about it on social media. I’m grateful for the group for a number of reasons. Of course, I enjoy getting feedback from others about my own writing – it’s interesting and helpful to see how others interpret your work, what they like, and what they feel needs improvement. But I also enjoy reading the other writers’ work – we all have such different styles of writing, which I find highly engaging. The librarian who runs the group has a lovely way about her – she’s very knowledgeable, which is helpful; but also, she models respectful ways of giving feedback, so that the writers never feel deflated from receiving feedback. I really appreciate that this group is available to me.

WOW: That's fantastic, and I agree--so important. Critique should be a partnership between letting the author know what's working and what needs to be revised, so the reader can have the best experience with the text. What's next for your writing career?

Cheryl: I have a couple of large projects on the go. Both are young adult novels; one dystopic, set in our world, but after a devastating ecological catastrophe, and the other is general fiction, focusing on a couple, whose story unfolds in a series of flashbacks.

Meanwhile, I think I am going to run a poetry group at my school in the fall. (I’m a secondary school English teacher.) I appreciate any opportunity to share my love of writing with others, and I think this might be a great chance to do just that. So I guess I see a lot of poetry writing in my future!

WOW: Good luck with all your projects! I'm sure high school students will enjoy having the chance to express themselves in a safe environment. Thank you for your time and congratulations again on winning and writing this crucial essay.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

 

An Update on 500 Words a Day: Does it Work?

On July 12, I posted about writing 500 words a day on my current WIP (work-in-progress). Although I haven't managed to write 500 words every single day, I'm happy to report that I currently have over 60,000 words on a women's fiction novel. This is the longest manuscript I've ever written, and I can see the end in sight! I know where the novel is going, and I really BELIEVE that all the pieces will fit together for a satisfying ending (okay, after much revision, but still, I BELIEVE!).

This accomplishment is especially satisfying because I went for so long without writing creatively after getting three books for kids published...because life got in the way.

However, by setting a goal to regularly work on my novel and adding it to my to-do list every day, not only am I making progress on my creative writing, but I also have learned three things through this experience.

1. When you set a goal, even if you don't meet it exactly, it works out.
I'm writing three to four times a week (so it's working out to be every other day); and when I write, I usually get out between 1000 to 2000 words. You don't have to be a math major to figure out that I'm producing about the same amount of words every week, as if I was typing 500 words a day.

Also for the first time, I'm plunging ahead, even if I forgot a character's name or know my prose needs work. That's what revision is for. Just get to the end, I tell myself, and then I can go back and fix it. I like to call that the NaNoWriMo method.

2. Writing on a regular basis really is easier, when working on a novel, because you don't forget what's going on in your own manuscript, and therefore you save a lot of time. I used to think I needed at least an hour to write, and I did. I was constantly re-reading what I'd already written and fixing it and/or just reminding myself where I was in the plot. I don't have to do that any more because the characters and plot are fresh in my mind.

Plus, as I've mentioned before in a previous post, I make a note of what I need to write next, so that when I sit down to the computer, I can read that note and remember what I wanted to work on. Another thing I do differently this time--if I think of something I need to add earlier in the manuscript, then I make a comment in the sidebar, instead of going back and adding it right then. I will read those comments and get to them during revision.

3. If you read something that inspires you (I read You Are a Badass!), you need reminders of this inspiration to keep you motivated. Okay, maybe you don't need reminders, but I do. I've mentioned before how the book You are a Badass! inspired me, and I think it's one of the reasons why I made a pledge to finish this novel, to stop letting fear and stress rule my life; but it's so easy to slip back into our old habits and way of thinking. So I bought a daily calendar with quotes from the badass book. Every day I flip to a new date, and a new piece of Jen Sincero's book is on there, reminding me: I got this. I can do this. Nothing can stop me. 

What motivates you to work on  your novel? How do you make time for it? Do you feel like you're fighting yourself to accomplish your goals and dreams? 

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 (on September 26). Find out more about her at http://www.margoldill.com

Typewriter photo above by alexkerhead on Flickr.com


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Friday, September 14, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: Turn Your Writing Career from Hopeless to Hopeful

by Savannah Hendricks

Anyone who has been in the writing game for as long as I have will tell you it can be a wild rollercoaster. But, there is a way to take those hopeless times and make them better. And guess what? It involves more writing, more research, and more of you!

When I first started submitting my manuscripts I would sit around and ponder what to do next. Other than stalk my mailman of course. Yes, back when I started submitting, most were done through snail mail. I soon learned that having other manuscripts in the works is one key way to lessen the hopeless feeling. Yet, even with that, I still felt lost with my writing.

When rejections started to come in, it made my entire writing career feel utterly hopeless. It’s hard to keep writing a new story when you are collecting rejections like rocks on the shore.

For a while, I didn’t have an answer of what to do.

Then, I did.

Outside of new book length manuscripts, I started writing poetry and short stories. I did everything from children’s literature to adult horror to non-fiction pieces. I started submitting to magazines, online and in print, paying and non-paying. I needed someone to accept my writing. I needed to have hope return.

Once I started submitting the pieces the acceptances started to roll in. Wow, I could sell my work! Yes, I still got rejections, but when you have a story coming out in a month with a magazine, that rejection stings a little less.

Not only did my writing feel validated, but I was able to work on my craft. Writing for magazines is different than writing a middle grade book. Writing a non-fiction piece is different than writing a picture book. I went through edits with editors and added more tools to my wheelhouse of knowledge.

Bonus, my articles and stories were published in a rather quick turnaround time, adding to an instant acknowledgement. I had pieces to add to my bio sheet. And the best thing of all, it opened up doors that I didn’t expect….

I had been submitting to an online children’s magazine and received two acceptances. Those stories ended up in a print anthology (which was not the original plan from the publisher) and lead to an additional surprise. THAT connection helped me seek out other writing projects to submit to the non-fiction side of the publication and landed me a contract for a three book series of early childhood education activities.

I encourage you to search your stories and find something you can submit, be it a blog, a magazine, an anthology, or other publication. You might have a story you started, but didn’t really get a chance to develop. See if you can turn that into a short story and submit it. In most cases, submissions cost you nothing since you no longer need to mail them. You have NOTHING to lose, and HOPE to gain.

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Savannah is the author of Winston Versus the Snow (releasing in 2019 - Brother Mockingbird Publishing) and Nonnie and I (Xist Pub., 2014) available in English, Spanish & bilingual editions. She has been a member of the SCBWI since 2006. You can learn more, including a list of publications by visiting her blog at http://theseashellsoflife.wordpress.com/ And you can follow her on Twitter @AuthorSavannah
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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, September 13, 2018

 

Writing Fiction: Three Things to Avoid

Read, read, read, read. Write, write, write, write. My writing year has been pretty busy. In addition to the nonfiction writing I do for pay, I’ve also been roughing out a mystery. Fiction isn’t something I have much experience writing so I’ve been educating myself by reading as much as possible. Some of what I’ve learned has been what not to do when writing fiction in general, mysteries in particular.

‘If it bleeds it leads’ does not work in fiction. Unfortunately, many of us have heard the advice that we need to start with action. Something exciting has to happen right away to pull readers in. I was guilty of that when I outlined my mystery.

But the reader wants to care about your characters before things get gory. Otherwise, the blood is gratuitous. That’s why cozy mysteries spend several chapters acquainting the reader with everyday life in whatever corner of the world the story takes place. Only when the reader has a feel for the world and genuine affection for the main character does the writer bump someone off.

Description needs to be about more than how the character looks. I know that. Really I do. So I know not to have the character studying her reflection in a mirror or a shop window, unless she’s worried that her make up isn’t hiding her black eye.

See how I slipped that in there. You know that the character has a black eye which means that something happened and maybe, just maybe, you’re a little concerned about her.

Angela Ackerman, co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus and other how-to books, recently wrote a blog post, “Describing Your Character: How to Make Each Detail Count.” In this post, she shows how description can give the reader information about the character’s personality, emotion, and motivation as well as escalate the tension in a story.

Learn the rules for your genre instead of making assumptions. Ninety-nine percent of my writing time is spent creating educational nonfiction for young readers. I know that for a 15,000 word title, each chapter has to be about 1,670 words or my editor will ask for a rewrite. So I assumed that mystery chapters had the same limitations – all of the chapters in a book had to be approximately the same length. Fortunately the ladies in my WOW accountability group set me straight.

Whether you are writing horror, fantasy or a mystery, there are rules that you will have to follow. To learn these rules, read how-tos, top-notch examples of the genre in question, and blogs. Talk to your fellow writers.

Writing a new type of book has definitely been a learning experience. Fingers crossed that the lessons keep coming in a timely matter. At only 6,650 words, I suspect I still have a lot to learn.

--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 November 12th, 2018.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

 

Blocking writer's block

Most of us have suffered from writer's block, but there are ways to alleviate the pain caused by the frustration of staring at a blank page. One trick I've used when faced with an overwhelming amount of information was to try to determine the main idea of the article or story. I would literally ask myself, "What do I want to say about this?" The first answer that popped into my head was usually the best. Then, I would create the overall theme or main idea, and list several topics or plot points I wanted to cover. Sounds simple, and it is.

Another way to overcome writers block is to write a letter to your protagonist, antagonist, or muse. Writing a letter lets you think out loud, and may help solve your problem.

Dear Mrs. Edelman, (my muse)

I hope this letter finds you well, and your vacation to Tahiti is everything you ever dreamed it would be. However, a hasty return to your duties as my muse would be welcomed, as I have taken to binge-watching reality TV and eating unhealthy snacks in quantities that are most unladylike.

As you can see, I am in dire need of your services. I've abandoned my protagonist, Charles, in a precarious situation, while the love of his life, Lady Judith, believes he may never return.

Do you know what it's like to be woken in the middle of the night from Lady Judith's sobs? It's awful. As a favor to me, gentle soul, please force yourself to stand up, brush off the sand, and come back to those who need you. I will forever be in your debt.

Sincerely,
Your writer

If that doesn't work, try writing a letter to your protagonist, or have one character write to another.

Dear Charles,

I hope this letter finds you well (or just finds you) so I can ask, "What were you thinking by going to a country known for its rogues and scoundrels?" I know you are following your heart for a cause you truly believe in, but those of us left behind are concerned for your safety. Have you been kidnapped and tied up by an evil Boy Scout Troop earning its knot-knowledge badge? Or are you trapped in an abandoned building with venomous snakes? My thoughts are filled with images of your demise, and I pray for your safe return.

Sincerely,
Lady Judith

If writing to each other doesn't work, try having the protagonist write a love letter, a letter to Santa Claus, or a grocery list. Be as silly or crazy as possible to let your mind wander into new territory where you may find the answer you need to finish the story.

Oh, and thanks to Mrs. Edelman, Charles returned to his true love, Lady Judith, and they lived happily ever after.


Mary Horner is a writer and teacher who occasionally suffers from writer's block.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

 

Interview with Sinead Creedon, 2nd Place Winner in Spring 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Sinéad Creedon is a recent graduate of English Literature studies from Trinity College Dublin. She is known for reading horror and writing sad things. Sinéad is a vegetarian and a feminist and relates to Bridget Jones. Also published in Ireland’s Zine and The Attic and currently at work on her debut novel, Sinéad is soon to take over the world. But most importantly, Sinéad is from Cork, Ireland. For more literary musings, contact her at Facebook, Instagram, and/or follow her blog at www.sonderful.wordpress.com.

You don't want to miss out on Sinéad's prize-winning story, "Ssh," which you can read here.

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

WOW: Sinéad, welcome! We are so excited to learn more about you today. You mention one of your favorite genres to read is horror. What do you think makes a good horror story and who are some of your favorite authors in that category?

Sinéad: For me, a good horror story is one that delves into the individual's psyche. People are a lot scarier than fantastical monsters in my opinion! So I love getting into the nitty gritty of why different people act in certain ways. So I guess I should specify that I love gothic horror more so than slasher gore. Slow-paced, realistic, and controversial stories leave the most unsettling of tastes in my mouth, which I believe is the true intention of a good horror story. In this regard, the horror writers I stand by the most are Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Ira Levin.

WOW: Yes, I love the exploration of human nature found in gothic horror, too! "Ssh" is a very powerful story that slowly builds tension before revealing a heartbreaking truth at the end. How did you get the idea for the story and what was the writing and revision process for it like?

Sinéad: This question is hard for me to answer, as I usually don't think too much before I start to write. I sit down, I open my laptop, and words come out. Obviously, the Me Too movement is very current, and was on my mind when I sat down to write this story. While I agree that the Me Too movement is necessary, it annoyed and still annoys me that it concentrates largely on show business. It is fantastic and powerful that celebrities are coming forward and endorsing feminism, but the lives of everyday working women (most women) have not been given as much attention. We live in a world where it is not strange to be slapped on the bum or whistled at on the street. We live in a world where I can't go dancing with my girl friends without forming a shield of protection around us. We live in a world where "no, thanks," isn't always enough. Simply wearing black is not enough to stop sexism. Opening up conversations and sharing personal stories is how we move towards change, however mundane these stories may be. Which is why I wanted to write about a normal working woman in 2018 who doesn't find it so easy to say "me, too."

WOW: That's such a great way to look at it, and important to note it happens everywhere, and not just in the entertainment industry. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Sinéad: My dad was obsessed with computers, and he took me into PCWorld when I was about 5 years old. I had a browse through the games, saw one where I could create my own picture books, and I was hooked. Simple as!

WOW: Love it! Obviously you excel at flash fiction. Are there other types of writing you enjoy as well and if so, what are they?

Sinéad: I write poetry from time to time, but my main passion is story telling whether in the form of flash fiction or something a little longer. I am currently at work on a novel about how the individual comes to terms with life and death with a little eery twist to it.

WOW: That sounds fascinating. We'd love to hear a little more about your published work. Could you tell us a bit more about the pieces you've had published in The Attic and Ireland's Zine?

Sinéad: When I write poetry, I get caught up in the themes of home and nostalgia, so (surprise surprise), both submissions are about my home life in Cork, Ireland. My poem in The Attic, is about my dad's favourite song, "Harvest Moon," and how hearing that song moves me back in time. My piece in Ireland's Zine is more of a memory or eulogy to home and the piece of childhood that I can't get back. Writing poetry and writing prose for me are worlds apart from each other. Poetry is my way of expressing personal emotions that I'm experiencing, while prose is my way of escaping exactly that!

WOW: Thank you again for sharing some snippets of your writing life with us. Best of luck in all your creative endeavors!

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Monday, September 10, 2018

 

Stretch Your Writing through Classes

canva.com

Because I work full-time and continue to freelance and write on the side, I don’t invest a lot of time in taking classes, especially ones where I have to have a physical presence. My time is stretched a little too much as it is. But, as I’ve been on a quest for personal development in a lot of different areas in my life this past year, I decided to take advantage of WOW’s impressive list of online classes and move right on out of my comfort zone recently. At the beginning of August, I signed up for “Ashes, Ashes: Writing Personal Narratives about Childhood” with instructor Melissa Grunow. I felt like I had some lingering memories and issues from my childhood that might benefit from a little writing therapy. And boy, was I right. It was the best investment I’ve made in myself in a long time.

I’ve always considered essays to be one of the weakest areas of my writing. After reading so many of the fantastic entries in the WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest over the past year, I became more interested in trying my hand at tackling the tough topics. Because as it turns out, I had plenty of them!

The classes at WOW! are small, giving them a more intimate feel. Each week we were provided with a hard copy of the lecture, along with examples of essays that represented the theme of the week. We also exchanged e-introductions at the beginning of the course, allowing our instructor the chance to tailor the different weeks of the course to our specific interests.

To go along with each lecture, we had an essay assignment with a maximum word count. Our instructor provided us each with a full critique of each piece, and we also received critiques from two other classmates. Plus, we also had to read and critique two other writers’ work. This alone was worth the roughly $30 per week the class cost. Reading the different comments and questions on each of my essays gave me feedback that I know will make each piece even stronger and more well rounded.

I had to dig deep for the material. One week I wrote about possibly breaking my nose in an accident at age 10 and not being taken to the hospital. Other essays centered around a childhood friendship, surviving an attack by some neighbors’ dogs, and a family secret that was never resolved. The writing process was so cathartic for me that I broke down crying over the last essay. It was also interesting to read the responses of my peers. There were times they said things like “this probably wasn’t so and so’s fault,” making me realize I was holding onto a lot of unnecessary anger.

In the end, I came away from the class with four solid creative non-fiction pieces to continue to polish and shape and make my own. Whether or not I will do anything with them remains to be seen. But it was nice to challenge myself, connect with other writers, and realize I still have a lot to learn about creative writing.

Have you taken any writing classes or workshops recently? What were they about and how did they work for you?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who enjoys writing suspense/thriller and young adult fiction. In another life she should have worked as a criminal profiler for the F.B.I. She also works as a marketing director for a non-profit theatre company so there is plenty of drama in her life! Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.



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Sunday, September 09, 2018

 

Interview with Linn Wilder, Runner Up in Q3 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest


Lin Wilder has been writing since high school, but only recently began sharing her writing with others. She won 3rd place in the Fall 2014 WOW Flash Fiction Contest, her first placement in a writing contest, and is thrilled to once again be in the top 10 of a WOW contest! While her career in public health, her family (one husband, three teenagers, too many pets) and her love of outdoor adventure often preclude time for writing, the written word keeps demanding to be part of her life. She sometimes writes things in her head while commuting to work on her bike because it’s the only time she can find.

Lin is also a certified Spellbinder oral storyteller and often tells children stories from her life. She has published several adventure travel essays, and is working on writing a collection of stories about growing up poor in rural Maine with a remarkable mother whose mental illness was both a daunting force and an inspiration. Lin lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Visit her webpage and links to other published writing at http://wilderwomn.wixsite.com/wilderweb. Lin’s photography pages can be found at http://wilderwomn.wixsite.com/photography or look for @wilderwomn on Instagram.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Lin: I had entered and won 3rd place in a WOW contest before (Flash Fiction) but was excited to see that you have an essay contest open because I write more essays than fiction. I love reading WOW entries so it was another opportunity to be part of that.

WOW:  Your entry, “Nostalgia” is something many will relate to. What inspired you to write this essay?

Lin: I was in Maine for my older sister’s memorial and the whole trip was, understandably, full of emotion. It was like every emotional nerve ending in my body and soul was vibrating at a very high level – I was so very present in the moment and just feeling everything at an exaggerated level – grief, nostalgia, joy…everything. I had to do something with that energy and those emotions. Writing, for me, is often the best therapy. So I sat down at the kitchen table of my friend’s house while she went to work and it just all poured out of me. All of that emotion went onto the page, and I was left so full of peace and gratitude and connectedness when I was done – truly therapeutic. It was only afterwards when I re-read the essay that I realized that my relationship with Maine and my relationship with my sister had many parallels over the years – both were complicated and both found me being more closed off for a long time because of fear and hurt. So this coming to a place of joy and gratitude and acceptance was something very new and this essay was what cemented that into something palpable and real.

WOW:  You’ve also placed in one of our flash fiction contests, so you’ve done well with both fiction and nonfiction. Do you find one type of writing more challenging than the other? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?

Lin: I tend to find fiction more challenging to write. Real life is so fascinating and so full that I want to bring that alive for others. I love the ability that essays have to elucidate real life and connect with others on universal themes like love, loss, and overcoming challenges to name a few.

WOW:  Your bio indicates that you are a certified Spellbinder oral storyteller. Can you tell us about that?

Lin: Yes, I am trained as an oral storyteller, which is a wonderful complement to writing stories. I think that one of the things that make us human is our propensity to tell stories, and to love to hear or read or watch stories.

When you tell a story rather than read it aloud, you must really focus on making it come alive for the audience. You have to paint the picture and invite them to walk into it. We do this in writing too, with descriptive words about the setting and characters but you do it differently in oral storytelling. You are more of an actor, and you use your facial expressions and your body to tell much of the story. And you must use your interaction with your audience to reel people in.

The thing I love the most about telling stories to children is that they all want to tell their stories too. So I tell them, “Every single person in this room is a storyteller.” They look at me quizzically, and I tell them that everyone has a story to tell, and they should tell those stories to each other. They might not be earth shattering, or intense (they don’t have to be like what you see on TV). But they can share a moment of sadness, or a moment of glee with another person. It could be the funny story about what your cat did this morning, or the story about how you thought a rope was a snake and screamed so loud you woke the neighbor.

Along the lines of whether I prefer writing fiction or non-fiction essays, one thing I have noticed is that audiences almost always react more intensely to the real-life personal stories I tell than to the myths and legends and tall tales. They love them both, but it’s the personal stories that stick with them and that they are most likely to remember when they see me in the grocery store and recognize me as the storyteller.

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

Lin: My advice to people about entering writing contests is “do it!” Its wonderful to get feedback on your writing even if you don’t place or win. It motivates you to work on your writing to polish it or to respond to a prompt that you might not have written about before. And while winning or placing is very exciting, the anticipation of the wait to learn how you did is a lot of fun in and of itself!

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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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Saturday, September 08, 2018

 

Our Words Matter

Not long ago, I was watching a news show. One of the spots focused on a family who had a wall around their house painted like a Van Gogh painting.



The city where they lived was prepared to fine them: $250 a day until it reached the value of their home. They were told, "The wall must match the house."

You guessed it. The family did exactly what they were told to do. Instead of painting the wall to match the traditional (white) house, they painted the house, transforming it into a huge Van Gogh canvas.

Now, the house and wall is a tourist attraction. It inspires people to the point that when the family was still battling their city council, a little girl offered her allowance to help pay the fine. You can see the whole piece here.

 As writers, we search for the perfect words. The perfect word combination. The perfect rhythm of strung-together words. This story made me think of how often I go back and tweak my writing by changing a word here or a phrase there. But why? Why do I read what I wrote the day before and delete, as I look up at the ceiling and ponder what I should replace it with?

I search for the right words for a few reasons:

  • The thoughts/words are out of character. It's said that if you know your character well, if you want your reader to know your character well, as an author you should know what they have in their pocket/pocketbook. Likewise, you should know what words would come out of their mouth and what thoughts are in their head.
          I'm currently tweaking  reworking  rewriting  slogging through a major revision of my WIP. It's
          historical fiction. And the narrator is a 12-year old boy.

          Often, I reread what I've written and wonder. Is this what a young man would say? What would
          a kid worry about at this point? What understandings is a 12-year old capable of?

          The right words make a difference.
  • The story's gotten down and dirty. When I'm just getting the story down and not worried about how it's worded and not concerned about the lack of imagery, I consider that "down and dirty." There are rare times when my brain is working more furiously than my fingers on the keyboard, and I need to get down the plot before it evaporates, before it's forgotten. Later, I need to revise because I'm worried about the wording. Then, I can try to make the words sing.
          The right words can paint a picture.
  • The story needs to make an impact. I recently submitted a personal essay to The Sun. It focuses on a friend whose daughter suffered from postpartum psychosis. It was a famous case in our city. She bought a gun and a couple of days later, she killed her husband, her baby girl and then herself.
          Before I even considered submitting it, I shared it with my friend. After reading it, she gave 
          a few suggestions, along with her blessing. Over a cup of coffee, one of the first things she said
          was, "You began it in a strange way, but it works. It lured me right into the story."

           I began the story the way I was drawn into the story. I smelled a particular odor--one that I 
           immediately identified with--and that was the only beginning I ever considered. 

           The right combination of words can heal. Did reading my essay heal my friend and completely
           erase the unimaginable sorrow she's experiencing? Certainly not. However, if when my friend
           tells her family's story and it helps another new mother... If my story's published and can make
           families more knowledgeable when it comes to postpartum depression... Well, that would be a 
           powerful and satisfying impact, in my opinion.

As a writer of words, as a tinkerer of phrases, continue to be vigilant. Keep watch over your words. The right words can make a difference.
       



Sioux Roslawski is a teacher, a mom, a grammy (the best title she's ever had), a dog rescuer and a freelance writer. She retired from public school teaching but couldn't give up teaching and was immediately drawn back into the classroom. She's currently working on a middle grades manuscript (34,000 words Baby!) and is a slacker blogger on Sioux's Page.

Friday, September 07, 2018

 

Friday Speak Out!: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

by Jeanine DeHoney

I remember as a child my father, who was an aspiring jazz musician, choosing a record that wasn’t his usual jazz line up to play on our French provincial stereo console record player while we did our Saturday morning chores. He played Aretha Franklin’s record, “Respect.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find out what it means to me, R-E-S-P-E-C-T…”

After I did a halfhearted job of dusting the furniture, I got out of doing the remainder of my chores by settling on our sofa in our Livingroom. My plan was perfectly timed for when my father got ready to wax our floors. Once he started, pouring the liquid wax on the floor and rubbing small perimeters with one of his old t-shirts on his hands and knees, I knew I’d be stuck there for a while. But I didn’t mind. I was prepared to sit there with my notebook, a pen and my imagination until the floor dried to a shiny sheen and I could walk on it.

As the music filled our house I wrote and bobbed my head to Aretha’s powerful and soulful voice. Back then I didn’t know how much the lyrics to, “Respect,” would resonate with me as a little black girl living in Brooklyn who wanted to share her stories with the world.

That song from this icon of a woman fittingly crowned, the “Queen of Soul,” became my empowerment anthem, my battle hymn. It helped me remember that no matter what my skin color was, no matter what others thought about me, I counted and I deserved to be respected.

As an adult those affirmative feelings carried over into my stories. Whether fiction or nonfiction, I wanted the people I wrote about, especially women and women of color like myself, and minorities to show their courage and their strength at the end of their journey. I wanted them to impart a lesson to my readers through their dialogue or actions that they mattered and would no longer be marginalized, devalued or disrespected.

When I listened to Aretha Franklin sing, "Respect,” the words regard and reverence come to mind. This song and her activism as a Black woman who was revered worldwide and by all races, encourages me to live and write from a place that speaks to the injustices in the world. That song encourages me to speak up and speak out for all those who faced repercussions when they did or those who need courage to do it now I will be the vessel to tell their stories line by line, verse by verse.

Music, good music, the kind where the melody or lyrics roll off your tongue even when the song stops playing, the music Aretha Franklin sang, can fuel your creativity and shape your platform. Aretha Franklin’s music did that for me, one song in particular. I am forever grateful to her for that and more. May she rest in Queenly peace.

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Jeanine DeHoney has had her work published on several blogs, in magazines and anthologies. Among others her writing has been published in Essence, The Children's Ark, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby, The Write Place At the Write Time, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, True Stories Well Told, Parent. Co., Brain Child Magazine, Jerry Jazz Magazine, Today's Caregiver Magazine, and Rigorous Literary Magazine. She is an essayist in the anthologies "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul,” "Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from The Ones Sandwiched in Between," “Theories of HER-an experimental anthology, in the anthology, "In Celebration of Sisters," and in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Anthology, The Power Of Yes.
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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, September 06, 2018

 

A Toast

Tonight my son had a baseball game. He just made the majors, so I don’t know the other moms on the team. While I sat by myself (they were cliquey) I heard three of them (who had already established themselves as stay-at-home-moms) complaining about how they only had forty minutes to get their children fed and dressed before getting them out the door in time for practice. One was annoyed she had to cut her yoga session short.

Let me tell you how my day went. I left the house at 7:30 to get my daughter to an early club, so was at work by 8:00. At 4:15, which is the earliest I can leave work, I dashed over to get my son from school. He’d been waiting around for forty-five minutes because middle school ends before high school but there was no way I could get home and get him to the game on time. He jumped in the car, buckled up, and wiggled out of his school clothes and into his baseball uniform. We made it to warm-up five minutes late. I raced back to Chick-fil-a to get dinner. He ate in-between innings.

But this post isn’t about baseball. What I’m really leading up to is a toast to the mothers who work full-time and still make writing part of their life.

Here’s to you, working mother. I see you stumbling around in the morning, corralling your children, barely squeaking out the door on time, often with coffee or spit-up on your shirt.

I see you jotting down book ideas in-between work meetings and writing during your lunch break to capture that one idea you had during a boring conference.

I applaud your massive to-do lists, where writing is at the bottom – or maybe even the top – but it only gets crossed-off sometimes.

I sympathize with the big sigh you emit when you get home and see the mess your children have left; still, you muster up the strength to not only cook dinner, but to clean it up afterwards.

I’m so grateful that you still find some time to spend with your children – to read to them, help them with homework, and listen to them talk about their day.

And I admire that, when your children are in bed, or watching television, you boot up that laptop, hunker down, and find even a little time to write.

Working full-time isn’t easy. Neither is being a mom. And it certainly isn’t easy being a writer.

So here’s to you, my full-time working moms. I raise my glass and wish you the best life has to offer. And I urge you not to give up writing. The book world needs people like you.



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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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

 

This Post Brought To You By the Letter C

The Unreal Conditional

The following is a real conversation I had with one of the Junior Halls. (Whose name shall not be divulged to protect the innocent.)

JH: If I was the President—

Me: Were

JH: (Continuing as if I hadn’t spoken) If I was the Presi—

Me: Were

JH: IF I WAS THE P—

Me: WERE. It’s were, were, were! (Followed by a somewhat boring, possibly lengthy explanation of why it’s were.)

However, I have several topics to cover here and I suspect that like my Junior Hall, you don’t really want the whole boring, possibly lengthy explanation of the conditional when dealing with the unreal or hypothetical. (That right there is a mouthful, isn’t it?)

Suffice it to say that I hear this construction used incorrectly often. People (besides the Junior Halls) want to use “was” when there are times when “were” is correct. So here is my short and delightful way to know whether to use “was” or “were” in the conditional:

Think of the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. In If I Were a Rich Man, Tevye rushes to finish back-breaking chores before the Sabbath begins. He sings of the day when he doesn’t have to work so hard, when he has one staircase leading up and another staircase leading down and still another leading nowhere. It’s a funny and yet poignant song because Tevye…well, Tevye is never going to be a rich man but a fellow can dream, right? So, if you are about to start a sentence (or clause) with “if” and you are going down a hypothetical or unreal path, think of Tevye and use were, please.


The Joy of Correspondence

Speaking of Junior Halls, I’m cleaning up around here because now, I mostly work in what was Mister Man’s office, and thinking I would paint, I took down all kinds of stuff from the walls in the upstairs office I once used. But the stuff that caught my eye—that I stopped to read once again—were the cards, the notes, the letters written by Mister Man, the Junior Halls, and friends.

Sometimes, I laughed out loud, because honestly, the Junior Halls are very funny. But I also teared up, because honestly, those Junior Halls, and Mister Man, and many of my friends, write the sweetest, spirit-lifting things. And here’s my point here: I am so glad that all these people that I love took the time to write.

Sure, it’s lovely to have a call, and a text is nice, too. But letters, notes, cards…oh, my goodness, what joy that brings to the recipient! So send a note. Add your heartfelt words to a card. Write a letter to someone you love. I promise you, that someone will save and treasure those words long after you’ve forgotten writing them.


The Importance of Continuance

No, I’m not talking about the legal continuance; I mean the quality of enduring.

Along with taking stuff from the walls (see above), I also cleaned out a few folders of writing stuff, notes I’d taken from websites and writers and such that obviously were important enough to save.

Oh. My. Word. Time and time again, I found these sites were defunct, that somewhere along the line in the last ten years (ten years!), it had all sort of…just…disappeared. So if you are a writer who has stuck with it, if you are still standing ten years on, I salute you! Because I am sure you have achieved goals beyond your wildest writing dreams, even if it doesn’t feel that way to you.

If I were the President, I’d give you a special Medal of Continuance. Because you deserve it! (And if you have a C-word-of-writing-wisdom, please share!)


~Cathy C. Hall (Who always spells her name with a C, thank you very much.)





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