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Sunday, December 16, 2018


Interview with Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri, Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction Runner Up

Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri is a Toronto-based translator and writer. In a previous life, she was a manager of EU projects in Tuscany. Before that, she was a sociologist in Norway. Back then she wrote poetry and erotica in Norwegian. She returned to writing in 2011, after a very, very long break. Her writing has since been longlisted for Prism International nonfiction prize and the Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, nominated fro a Journey prize, and published (or forthcoming) in J Journal, Saint Katherine Review, Monarch Review, Citron Review, Sycamore Review, subTerrain Magazine, Broken Pencil, Agnes and True, Forge Literary Magazine, Fjords Review, Grain Magazine, Typehouse Literary Review, The New Quarterly and elsewhere.

She is working on a novel—and looking for an agent.

If you haven't had the chance already, be sure to read Hege's winning entry A Kind of Bargain and then return to learn more about this talented and thoughtful writer!

----------interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: “A Kind of Bargain” is a very unique piece in the way that it is structured—it almost reads like a poem. How did you first come up with the idea for this essay and what types of revisions did it go through?

Hege: Thank you for noticing that. This essay actually started out as a single sentence that I kept humming and repeating to myself, so it could easily have ended up as a poem. It was more rhythm and feeling than plot for a long time. I wanted to convey some of the longing and waiting and hoping that is a part of adolescence.

WOW: I love that! It's amazing how creative you can get with creative nonfiction. Gone are the days of just a straight essay! In “ A Kind of Bargain” you paint a vivid picture of what you remember from watching Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ royal wedding. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you found out about her untimely death in a car accident? (She died on my birthday in 1997, so it's a day I will never forget).

Hege: I do remember. It was a Sunday It was the day before my birthday and I was 8 months pregnant with my youngest daughter. I'd been having some strange sensations and worried that something wasn't right. We were going out to an old-fashioned café for cake and coffee, my husband, my 4-year-old and I, as a kind of celebration in case my doctor decided to send me to hospital the next day. Right by that café in Trondheim, Norway, there was a newspaper stand and every newspaper had Princess Di in their headline. I can't remember if we ever ate cake. But I remember that feeling of being at loss for words and feeling a chapter of history ending.

WOW: I know It really was an unforgettable day. You are a prolific writer with a number of published essays and short stories in literary journals. Are there any particular topics in your writing you often find yourself revisiting?

Hege: Our relationship to nature is a recurring theme, as is climate change and human relationships connected to this. Somehow, there is almost always a great big tree making it into my stories. Plenty of mountains too, come to think of it. I guess growing up north of the Arctic Circle, I was always surrounded by nature, and I return to that in images and metaphors, even though I now live a very urban life in downtown Toronto.

WOW: We all have books we find ourselves revisiting over and over again as a source of comfort. Do you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction and who are some of your favorite writers?

Hege: I read both poetry, fiction and nonfiction, though probably 60 percent fiction and the rest split between nonfiction and poetry. A writer I return to time after time, is Per Petterson, whose body of work often is a cross-over between nonfiction and fiction. The simplicity of his language, and how he is able to use that to say very complicated things just blows my mind.

I'm also a great admirer of Alice Munro, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Linn Ullman (whose autobiographical novel, Unquiet, will be released in English the new year--I recommend it to everyone). As far as nonfiction/essays are concerned, I read everything from Roxanne Gay, Dinty W. Moore, Brenda Miller, Leslie Jamison, Katherine Haake, Zadie Smith, both to learn craft and to see the world from different perspectives.

WOW: You mention you are actively working on a novel and seeking an agent. Could you share with us the subject nature of your novel?

Hege: Yes, I'm on my second draft this novel that I think will be called "Siren Songs", which is a crime novel with a literary bent, set in the extreme north of Norway where I spent my childhood. It's thin on mass murderers, but rich in ethical dilemmas and doubts. As a joke I keep saying I'll use "Nordic Noir where nothing is lost in translation" as my tag line, but that may be overselling it a bit.

WOW: I love the term Nordic Noir! That novels sounds fascinating! Please keep us posted on your progress with it, and congratulations again on your award-winning essay!

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Saturday, December 15, 2018


Stop Feeling Down About 2018

I saw a great tweet yesterday while I was on WOW's Twitter feed, and it basically said that at the end of the year, everyone (not just authors, but authors especially) likes to list their accomplishments while looking back at the year. The tweeter went on to say that if we're reading these tweets and feeling down about our own year, stop. You will do great things in 2019.  I say: Yes! Yes! Yes! The Comparison Trap is the worst for women and maybe even more so for women who are artists. 

I've discussed on The Muffin before: what does success mean? Is it making six- or seven-figure salaries as a writer and getting on the bestseller lists? Is it publishing your novel after working on it for five years? Is it placing first in WOW!'s creative nonfiction contest? Or is it simply accomplishing at least one of those pesky goals you made for the year?

I don't have those answers for you. I know, I know--you're thinking: why am I wasting my time with what she has to say if she doesn't have the answer to this Most Important Question? I do know two things.  First, everyone's definition of success is different. And second, success and accomplishments matter very much to some people and not so much to others. I tend to fall in the second group of people, and I think it's very connected to the first statement about success.

My life tends to be a bit chaotic as a single mom in the sandwich generation (my daughter is 8, and my parents are 78 and 81) while working full time, freelancing, and desperately trying to finish a novel and start marketing my kids' books again. Plus dating and friends and all the stuff that goes with being the only adult in the home (bills, cleaning, trash day), I tend to think I'm successful if I manage to sell a book or two at a book signing or I continue to have Editor 911 clients or writers sign up for my WOW! classes.

So when I hear writers who are feeling down because they only sold 10 books at a signing or have traditionally published a series of books, but it's not on the bestseller list yet, I have trouble relating to these writers. I think: are those things really important? And then I tell myself: yes, it's important to them, and you need to support what is important to the people you care about. We are all in a different place--not just in our writing lives but in life.  Even more important, we all come from different backgrounds and have all traveled many miles in our own shoes. You know that saying: "Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes." (Apparently, that wise saying comes from poet Mary T. Lathrap in 1895.  )

My point is you look back at 2018, keep your eyes on your own paper. Don't look at what your critique partners did (celebrate with them, of course) or the debut novelist who climbed her way to the top of the Amazon sales rank or even someone who finished NaNo when you didn't. Listen to that tweeter I mentioned in the first paragraph. Stop feeling down. If you're not happy with where you are in your writing career, then create goals and routines to get there in 2019. Figure out what makes you feel positive and successful, and focus on that.

Here's to you in 2019!

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, teacher, and writing coach in St. Louis, Missouri. She has two WOW! classes coming up in January: Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach and Individualized Marketing for Writers. She is also finishing her women's fiction novel. To find out more, visit her websites to read her blog and to learn about Editor 911 services. 

Photo above "Do What Makes You Happy"  by Arya Ziai on 

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Friday, December 14, 2018


Video: What If My Nonfiction Flash Has Some Imaginative Truth?

What if your nonfiction flash has some imaginative truth?  Does that change the piece from nonfiction to fiction? WOW instructor Gila Green answers these questions in the video below.

[Email subscribers: If you can't see the video, you can view it on YouTube.]

Gila Green is the author of Passport Control (S&H Publishing), and a novel-in-stories, White Zion (Cervena Barva Press, April 2019). Her first novel is King of the Class. She is working on an eco-young adult series for release September 2019 with an independent eco press in Australia. Gila has published dozens of short stories in literary magazines, and teaches writing workshops for WOW! Women On Writing. Visit her website at


Join one of Gila's upcoming WOW! Women on Writing classes: Writing Fiction: Setting and Description or Flash Fiction Workshop.  Both start on Monday, January 7, 2019 and run for four weeks.  Early registration is recommended!

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Thursday, December 13, 2018


The Way Back

Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”

Never has this quotation more resonated with me than right now. I’ve been on a bit of a writing hiatus lately, lacking motivation and wrestling with ambivalent feelings about the art of writing. So when I saw this quotation while scrolling through my Twitter feed, it gave me hope knowing I’m not alone. It also inspired me to think about why I’ve avoided writing and how to get back on track.

Dorothy Parker was spot-on in her observations. When I look back on what I’ve written, I’m usually very happy with it. I love that I've created characters and scenes which are poignant or happy or downright scary as hell. But first I have to find time - or make time. Then I have to get my head in the right place. Then I notice I haven’t done the dishes and I get up to clean so I can be ready to devote time to writing . . . and somehow never make it back to my laptop.

Other times, though, my avoidance is intentional. Writing is work. Writing takes time. Writing is hard. Until recently, I couldn’t come up with original ideas. I struggled to write even a paragraph. My creativity had stagnated.

But then, someone suggested I start writing in a journal to get my thoughts and feelings out. So I did. At first I had to force myself to do it, but as I journaled every day, I found a routine. There is less pressure. Sometimes I write a lot, and sometimes I don’t. I don’t concern myself with structure or grammar or quality, which is very freeing.

And in so doing, I’ve found my writing groove again. I may not be writing novels right now. It isn’t the type of writing I can publish, or share with anyone, really. But I am writing which, I believe, is the first step to falling in love with the writing process again.

So if you’ve lost your writing way, give journaling a try. It might help you find your way back.

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, December 12, 2018


A Christmas (Publishing) Miracle

This story begins over ten years ago when I met Sonia. We sang together in the choir, sat on the same row, and we knew each other in a “singing together” sort of way. One year, I decided to sell some of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books at a fall festival at our church, and I suppose it stuck in Sonia’s mind, me being a writer.

So time passed. But this October, our pastor grabbed me after church and said, “Sonia has written a book and she wanted me to tell you that she’ll be back in a week or so and she hopes you can help her.”

Sonia grew up in the Philippines and she goes back there for a couple of months at a time now that she’s retired. And I vaguely recalled her saying something about writing months ago. But Sonia has written a book?

“Sure, sure,” I stammered. “I’m happy to help.” I was thinking I’d just skim her book and give her some feedback. That was not what Sonia was thinking.

The next week, Sonia handed me this sheaf of pages. It was her book, a single-spaced manuscript, and immediately I could see that it needed major formatting. She asked me to read it and edit the pages for her, to get it ready to be published. Her plan was to find a religious publishing company and get her book out into the world. “But don’t worry, Cathy. The church will help me with the publishing side of it. I just need you to fix it!”

I glanced down at the page in front of me and began to read. The book was going to need formatting and a serious line edit. But I love Sonia and the book is about her journey after the death of her beloved husband, which of course speaks to me as well, and so I did as Sonia asked. I fixed it.

It was mid-November now and I wanted Sonia to proofread my edits, to make sure I stayed true to her voice. But Sonia does not have a laptop and so in a moment of divine inspiration, I realized I could get her “book” printed at one of those big box office stores. Sonia could read her book and I could make any changes and turn over the file to the church. The church would take it from there.

Except when we met with our pastor and the church people, they really couldn’t get involved in this business venture. I had recommended earlier that Sonia should probably go the self-publishing route anyway, and everyone thought that was a swell idea. And by the way, could I oversee that?

Uh-oh. I have read a fair amount of self-published books; I’m not sure that actually qualified me for managing and getting someone’s book published. But Sonia was so impassioned about her book and the proceeds would go to help the seminarians in the Philippines and at this point she was adamant about paying me for all the work. I just couldn’t say no. I’d figure out Kindle Direct Publishing and get ‘er done.

Oh! And one other thing. Could I get the book finished in time for Advent?


The first Sunday of Advent was December 2nd. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Lots of stuff happened in between, but by November 30th, I had submitted the final version of the book. Late that Saturday night, December 1st, Sonia’s book was online and available for purchase.

But my part in this story is not the point of this Christmas publishing miracle. During one of our many, many conversations, I told Sonia that she was relentless. Relentless. She was determined to get her book out there and despite my efforts along the way to be done with the book, Sonia would not let go of me or her dream.

Maybe it’s because Sonia will soon be eighty. Or perhaps it’s because she’s so deeply committed to growing the church in the Philippines. Whatever the reason, she believed in herself and this book. She cried when I handed her the proof copy and we had to go straight to our pastor so she could show him her miracle. “Can you believe it, Father? I’m a writer!”

I can indeed, Sonia. And now my message for you: Believe in yourself, friends. Be relentless. And you’ll find your miracle publishing story, too.

Cathy C. Hall writes stories for children and adults and now, it looks like she publishes, too. If you want to find out more details about Sonia's book, check out Cathy's website here. And however you celebrate the season, may it bring moments of joy and peace (and  publishing)!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018



I've recently begun writing a memoir. It's not official, because I'm not sure I have enough to say, but I've been working on it for a bit, and thinking about it more. At this point it's a very rough draft, and seems closer to a coming-of-age story than anything else. It also needs a lot of work.

The story begins in high school when my father was diagnosed with cancer. He died one month before I graduated. While my high school experience was different from that of my friends, I believe it's a story worth sharing. Part of it may serve as an apology for ignoring some important aspects of my life, and other parts may explain my less-than-stellar behavior and study habits.

I also consider it a healing journey. Outwardly, I handled the situation with grace. Inwardly, however, I was kind of a mess. When I began college I didn't do well, and it took a while for me to get back on track. Within that context, the word journey feels right.

I've figured out a lot of what I want to say, but came to a complete halt this past weekend when I heard one simple question: why? Why write a memoir? Why is this important, and why would people want to read it? After some soul-searching, I realized many people have a similar story to tell. I hear my own students talk about their own issues with family, and see comparisons. So why me? What do I have to say that others haven't already?

And then it hit me. Even though there are many stories like mine, maybe my story will help someone. That simple answer was enough to keep me going.

Mary Horner has begun a memoir that she hopes will help someone else dealing with a difficult situation.

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Monday, December 10, 2018


Cultivating a Garden of Bookworms

It is that time of year - the tree is decorated and glowing and the lists of wishes and dreams are growing. Not all of our children can write yet, but the elder children help the younger ones create lists of thoughtfully chosen gifts. Even the youngest now knows how to say "book" and there are several books on each child's list this year. The younger children enjoy looking at picture books and being read to, the older children enjoy reading independently and discussing books with one another or with the adults in their lives. Teachers and other parents often ask "how do you spark that love of reading in your children?". I certainly am not taking all the credit for their literary passions, but here are a few tips and tricks I think have led them down the path of becoming bookworms:

4K Reading Log
Read for Fun - Most schools send home a reading log (older children can complete on their own, and younger children count each book read to them and tally up the total each month) of one sort or another. We consider this required reading. When the log is filled, we still continue reading - just for fun! We don't want reading to be a 'Have To' - at our house it's a 'Want To'!

Christmas Wish List 2018
Keep Books Handy - We have books in the bathroom that can be read while in the tub. We have books in the car to read while we wait or on our way to different activities. We have books in the diaper bag to read in the waiting room at the Doctor/Dentist/Chiropractic Office. We have books in our bedrooms to read before bed or read before breakfast. We don't have much technology in the house, but it's safe to say there are books stashed in every nook and cranny.

Discuss the Books - You don't have to be part of a book club to discuss a book. You don't even have to have read the book - just be prepared to ask questions and listen to the answers. Once in a while I'll read a book one of the older children has recommended to me, but I usually just enjoy their enthusiasm as they tell me about the adventures of this character or that one. Likewise, they enjoy listening as I highlight a particular book I'm reading, or introduce them to a new author friend. In fact, I recently told them about Fiona Ingram's blog tour with WOW! and they were so excited they asked if they could put her books on their Christmas list.

A B & C visiting with Bev at LaDeDa Books 2017
Visit the Books - Some of my favorite childhood memories were had at the local libraries and bookstores. I want to pass that joy along to my children. We visit LaDeDa books and beans quite often and they agree it's the most magical bookstore in Manitowoc County. Some of our best friends own bookstores, work at the library, or meet us at the library for events and fun! That isn't to say we don't enjoy a good walk around the zoo or frolic at the park, but we absolutely adore our books and local booksellers!

I've also included my children in my love of book reviewing - they get really excited when they are asked to read and review a book that will appear on my blog. I understand that's not something everybody can do, but if you happen to have a blog, it's something to consider.

And now we need to discuss the downside to cultivating a garden of bookworms...

Bed Time

Delphine Reading in Bed
Bedtime with bookworms can be quite a challenge. If you turn out the lights, they'll find a flashlight, or lay in the doorway to catch the glow of the hallway light. A quick trip to the bathroom turns into an extra few chapters. There are no feet quite as quiet as that of a bookworm sneaking out of bed in search of a few more pages and more adventures! I laugh at the irony of it, but I've actually said some of the following out loud:

"If I catch you reading you'll have extra chores tomorrow"

"Absolutely no more reading today - hand over those books before you go to bed"

"There had better not be a book under those covers - if there is, you're grounded"

I keep a straight face with the children, but I laugh on the inside about punishing them for the very thing I'm guilty of doing. Once you bite into a great book, it's so hard to stop - says this mommy bookworm!

That begs the question(s):

--Who helped cultivate your love of reading?

--How have you inspired your children and family when it comes to reading?

--How do you get your littles to stop reading and go to bed on time?

--What's the name of your favorite local bookstore? (feel free to give them a shout out - or post a link to their website)

Thanks for being here today & always!

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children (Carmen 11, Andre 10, Breccan 5, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora who somehow turned 1 this fall), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Sunday, December 09, 2018


Interview with Monica Sackman, Runner Up in Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Monica Sackman is a high school remedial English and Math teacher assisting students in reaching their goal of graduating with their peers. She lives in a very rural part of central Washington state and loves her country lifestyle. Monica is a previous 2nd place winner in a WOW flash fiction contest and has had several of her short stories published in local magazines. She has also self-published a book, The Restless Hunter: How To Survive Life With The Avid Outdoorsman. She draws inspiration from the many unique individuals she meets in her work and travels through Montana and the Pacific Northwest. When she’s not writing or teaching, Monica enjoys reading, camping, fishing, gardening, and exploring historical places. Her current project is updating her blog. You can visit her there at:

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What inspired you to write your essay, “Embracing the Wait?”

Monica: I actually wrote this essay several years ago. It was much longer because it was such an emotional turning point in my life. Originally, I was writing on a different topic for this essay contest. But it was still too "fresh" and I wasn't ready to share it. So I looked back at some of the things I had previously written and decided to revise "Embracing the Wait." Partly because I once again made a major move, this time with my husband (the same man in the essay!). It was interesting to think back about the differences in the reasons and emotional feelings that were associated with each move. In the first move, I was a single woman in my early 40s. Many people thought it was a crazy, irresponsible risk to take. Women are not well supported in making such moves. Not at the time anyway. I think things are changing, slowly. Women should be encouraged to move out of their comfort zone, to challenge themselves, and reach for their dreams. And they should be allowed to fail and learn from experience if that should happen. The older you get, the more difficult it becomes. But it doesn't mean it can't be done. I was hoping this essay would help people realize that.

WOW: You’ve also placed in one of our flash fiction contests, and have written fiction and nonfiction in various forms and lengths. Do you find one more challenging than the others? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?

Monica: Fiction is fun. I can play around with it. I never feel like it is something I have to share. When I'm writing nonfiction, especially essays, it always ends up being some kind of emotional learning experience. It's like having an "ah-ha" moment. I feel the need to share it with someone, but I usually need some wait time between the writing and sharing because it is so personal. The downside can be that I will want to soften it in some way. I think I did this on "Embracing the Wait." Trying to whittle it down to fit into the word limit was a challenge and I ended up cutting out pieces that were less humorous and more personal.

I don't think I am drawn to one form more than the other. One actually inspires the other. Many of my stories come from personal experiences--my own or something someone has shared with me. I do tend to write more short stories and flash fiction because of my hectic schedule. I did write an e-book. It was a great learning experience. I really enjoyed the research and organizing of the material. I would love to do more of that type of nonfiction writing.

WOW: With your job as a high school teacher, how do you make time to write? What works best for you?

Monica: Such a great question! It is very difficult to find time to write once school starts, especially the first quarter of the school year. I work with students with learning disabilities, behavior problems, and attention issues. At the beginning of the year, it is an endless round of meetings, paperwork, schedule changes, and reports. I get very little creative writing done this time of year. I do a lot of revising of my previous work, writing in my personal journal, and jotting down of ideas for future stories. I usually have a heap of sticky notes collected by Thanksgiving. I also have a mini recorder I carry with me. I talk my ideas or story notes into my recorder as I'm driving back and forth to school. Then I just have to type them up when I get home. I'm a morning person and by the time I get home from a busy day at school, my brain is mush so having the ideas recorded is a blessing for me. I get a little writing done on the weekends, but I'm most productive when I have a few days or weeks off from school. I am hoping to make this my last year of full-time teaching so I can dedicate more time to writing.

WOW:  Those are great ideas for anyone trying to fit writing into a busy life! Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Monica: I have a novel I have been working on for a couple of years. It hasn't been a priority, but it is something I hope to finish one day. I have several short stories I started over the summer. I would like to get them finished up and put together an e-book. I think about how busy my life is and how difficult it is to engage in reading just for the entertainment value. So I was thinking a collection of short stories for the busy person to escape into (when they have those rare free moments) would be a fun project and one I could manage with my busy schedule.

As I mentioned above, I plan on leaving the classroom at the end of this school year so I can devote more time to writing. After 30 years in the classroom, I am definitely feeling ready to move on. I've been working on my website/blog and learning how to get that going. I plan on doing some freelance writing, as well as creative writing. It's a continual learning experience. Sometimes it's frustrating, but it is always exciting when I see even the smallest bit of success.

WOW:  Best of luck to you with everything, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Monica! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Monica: A favorite tip or piece of advice? Hmmm...I hardly feel qualified to give either. But that may just be it. We often don't feel qualified or good enough to write something worth sharing. For years, I didn't share my writing with anyone. When I finally got enough guts to join a writing group, I discovered I wasn't the only one feeling this way. Once I started sharing my writing and opening myself up to constructive criticism, I realized how much more inspired I became. I am continually learning about writing and creating. I feel so much more supported which makes me more willing to share and take risks with my writing. I guess my advice would be to find a writing group (or start one!) and start sharing and learning together.


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

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Saturday, December 08, 2018


Serendipity: The Perfect Ingredient

I've been stuck for a couple of weeks. In case  you've missed my previous blathering chronicling the path my current WIP has taken me on, here are the high (and low) points:

1. In 2016 I did NaNoWriMo. I didn't finish writing it by the time November finished but by the time the school year ended, because of the prodding of a student, I did finish it.

It was real and it was spectacular (that's for you, Seinfeld fans)... or so I thought.

2. During the next year I daydreamed, wondering which publisher would snap up my manuscript. If Simon and Schuster was stupid enough to pass on it, perhaps a smaller publisher?

3. In 2018 and just to validate how incredibly perfect my manuscript was, I sent it to an editor--Margo Dill. I figured I would get a quick, five-word answer:

                                       It's perfect as it is.

It turns out I was half-right. Margo had a quick turn-around time, but her two solid pages of feedback involved more than five words... and nowhere did she say my writing was perfect, that it needed no work.

4. When I read (and reread... and reread) Margo's critique, I spent a day laughing--at myself. It was  laughable for me to even think that my 25,000-word WIP was even in the same neighborhood as perfect. No one had read it besides me (and a few curious middle-school students). I also found it  hilarious that I had managed to write about an event where 300 had been massacred... and tension/excitement was barely even hinted at in my story.

That takes loads of talent something to be able to do that. Loads.

5. I pretty much scrapped most of my 25,000 words. I put them into another file (which is what Margo told me to do, in case I need them later) and started telling my story. Again.

6. In early November of 2018, I was almost finished with the new draft. I just had a few holes to fill in. I went on a retreat and spent two days reading the story to myself, out loud but quietly. There were lots of red marked spots that needed to be fixed. I came home and spent the rest of the month fixing and hole-filling. There was only one small (but important) plot hole that needed to be filled in: there was a "mystery bag." I had come up with it, had a character grab it and take it with them, but I had no idea what was in the bag. By the time I got to the end of the story I still didn't know what was in the bag.

While I was still at the retreat I emailed Margo and told her I wanted to hire her to critique my manuscript again. It was almost finished. I'd send it to her. At the end of November or early December.

It was December 6. I still didn't know everything that was in that pesky bag.

7. On December 3 my daughter had called. "Mom, do you have any of Grammy's recipe boxes?" and I did. I have two metal boxes crammed with 3 x 5 cards. Some are handwritten. Some are cut out of magazines and newspapers and are taped to the index cards with yellowed tape. All of them are precious because they belonged to my mother and my maternal grandmother...

8. ... And then serendipity smacked me upside my head. You know serendipity, right? The phenomenon of finding valuable things not sought after. One of the pointy things that's in the bag is a recipe box.

This weekend I can indeed finish my manuscript. I had decided earlier on two of the bag's contents. Now the bag is filled.

Sigh. Serendipity. It's a good thing. (That one was for you Martha Stewart fans.)

Sioux is a teacher, a consultant with the Gateway Writing Project, a dog rescuer, a wife, mother and grandmother. She is hoping to (someday) have a book that is 100% hers. If you'd like to read more of her writing, check out her blog.

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Friday, December 07, 2018


Video: What is the Difference between Non Fiction Flash and Essay Writing?

It's a common misconception that essays under 1,000 words are flash nonfiction, but what are the differences?  WOW instructor Gila Green answers that question in the video below. You'll get the information you need to know in this super quick message!

[For email subscribers: If you can't see the video above, you can view it on YouTube.]

Gila Green is the author of Passport Control (S&H Publishing), and a novel-in-stories, White Zion (Cervena Barva Press, April 2019). Her first novel is King of the Class. She is working on an eco-young adult series for release September 2019 with an independent eco press in Australia. Gila has published dozens of short stories in literary magazines, and teaches writing workshops for WOW! Women On Writing. Visit her website at


Join one of Gila's upcoming WOW! Women on Writing classes: Writing Fiction: Setting and Description or Flash Fiction Workshop.  Both start on Monday, January 7, 2019 and run for four weeks.  Early registration is recommended!

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Thursday, December 06, 2018


A Rough Draft: Five Ways to Blast through Draft #1

I’ll admit it. When I saw Renee’s post “Take An Annual Inventory of Your Writing Accomplishments and Goals,” I cringed.  

My WOW accountability group knows that I set one goal for myself in 2018. Finish a draft of my cozy mystery. Sure, I have 13,200 words but I’m nowhere near a completed draft. I haven’t even bumped off the victim yet.

But then I read Janice Hardy’s post, "A Faster Way to Write a First Draft."  She made me think about how I can do it faster, because I’ve been developing secondary characters, detailing my setting, and everything else all in this draft. How can I blast through it instead?

#1 Focus on the mystery plot. As I started to work on my cozy, I realized that there are several plot lines going on in this type of mystery. There’s the Murder Plot. There’s the Main Character’s Personal Life Plot. There’s the What’s Going on in the Neighborhood Plot. And, last but not least, there’s the What’s Going on Where My Character Works Plot, be it a bookstore, knitting shop or café. I’ve been developing all four plot lines simultaneously. To get from the beginning to the end fast, I need to focus on the mystery.

#2 Flesh out the setting in a later draft. Yes, I need to know where things are and how things look because I need to eventually build a life-like setting for my audience. But the key is eventually. It doesn’t all have to be magazine spread perfect in the first draft.

#3 Secondary characters can also come later. I’m used to writing for kids. My first fiction sale had three characters. Most fiction for adults takes a larger cast than I’m used to directing and I’ve realized that they don’t all need to be wonderfully unique in draft #1. Once I figure out how many people I absolutely have to have present, I can give each of these characters goals, backstory and personality.

#4 If I don’t know it already, research can wait. I’m a nonfiction writer. On a bad day, I can get mired down in research as I try to find just the right detail. On a good day? It is a delightful rabbit hole down which I willingly leap. Research can come later.

#5 Do not rewrite. As things come up in my story, I’m tempted to go back and set things up. “If this character is going to be a suspect, I need a conflict!” I’ve done it a time or two but I need to let that wait until later too.

If I follow these guidelines, I may still make it through draft #1. It won’t be pretty. In fact it’s going to be spare and more than a little barebones. But it will also be a first draft. The best part of a first draft is that once you get it down, you have something available to flesh out and improve, but first you need to get it done.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins January 14th, 2019.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2018


Take An Annual Inventory of Your Writing Accomplishments and Goals

I’ve had a rough past week. After being at my current job for a little over a year, I’ve heard whisperings that my performance is not quite up to speed yet. There are reasons for that beyond my control, and things I can definitely do to make the work better, so I’ve put a plan into place. I decided to try and focus on some of the things I HAVE accomplished this past year outside of that job to cheer myself up in the meantime.

Accomplished in 2018

• My short story, “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women,” received an Honorable Mention in the Women’s National Book Association Annual Writers Contest. 

• I’ve written three new short stories (ranging from 500-4,000 words) and all three are currently under submission for various writing contests.

• I completed line editing on my first young adult novel, Between, and have submitted queries to six agents, with four rejections. 

• I’ve written numerous blog posts for WOW!, and interviewed more talented fiction and creative nonfiction writers than I can keep track of. 

• I also lost 18 pounds in 2018, and have managed to keep it off for the past eight months. Not writing related, but I’m proud of it.

Goals for 2019
  • Find an agent for my first young adult novel. I’m working on this, but need to move faster. I already got one rejection that I’m putting a star beside, because I can tell the agent is open to receiving another query from me in the future, so that’s positive.
  • Finish revising my second young adult novel. This is the novel I completed in 2014 NaNoWriMo, and I took a break the past few months on revising it. I’d like to get back to that and implement some changes I’ve decided on in my outline.
  • Break out of my introverted self a little more and go to more professional/writing/networking events. I joined a local writers' club recently so I could get a discount on a contest entry, now I just have to make some plans to attend a few meetings or workshops! These are affordable or free experiences so I have no excuse not to make that happen.
  • Try something creative in a different medium. I already know what this will be. I’ve never been good at the visual arts, but I love broadcasting. Our local public radio station is having a contest to find the next great podcast. There are some awesome prizes being offered (such as cold hard cash, mentoring by station producers, podcasters, etc., as well as software and assorted podcasting equipment). The final winner will get a development deal, and the chance to help produce the podcast. This is something I’ve been mulling over for a while now, so I will work on putting together a great pitch, including a requested audio clip. With all the hours I spend listening to podcasts, I’m sure I can come up with something interesting! The deadline is at the end of January.

Name some of your accomplishments for the past year. I'd also love to hear your goals moving forward!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company, where there's never any shortage of drama! Learn more at

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018


Find the Value of What You're Selling

Recently, I was lucky enough to take a profitable freelance writing course from a former WOW! student, Arfa Saira Iqbal, who has been supporting herself and her two children with a copywriting business for the last seven years. She needed reviews, and so I was able to take the class for free! I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity; but what I really loved about the class was how I could apply the lessons to my businesses and improve them. Those businesses would be Editor 911 and the children's books that I am once again marketing (after a sabbatical during a divorce). Arfa had amazing tips and how-tos, but the one message that really came out in almost every single webinar and module was...

What value are you offering your clients/readers?

What was it that Oprah used to call the moments when everything became clear, and we started ourselves on a new path? Aha moments! During Arfa's class, I had a few aha moments, and I thought to myself: this is the key to marketing--whatever it is you are marketing, the key is for your customers to understand what value they will be getting from your product.

Think about any purchases you may have made on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday. Did you buy anything that doesn't have value to you? I purchased a Blu-Ray player for my daughter and me (an extremely unbelievable deal from Target) because that has value to me--currently, we watch Redbox movies on my laptop because we have no working DVD/Blu-Ray player. This product was a well-known brand, and it came with a 2-year extra warranty for only $6.50. That is value for me. But someone else, with three of these players, would not think this deal had value. I really am going somewhere with this...stay tuned!

What I think we do as authors and writing service professionals (editing, graphic design, proofreaders, copywriters)  is TRY to make our books and products valuable to everyone. But they just aren't. It's impossible. Hopefully, what you're selling does have value to a large audience, but you have to take time to figure out who that audience is and what value your books/products provide for them.

If you write romance, for example, your audience is generally female, usually married, and often a parent, too. The value your books are providing is escape from the monotony of life, enjoyment during "free time", and a healthy way to stimulate the mind. Now, I'm not suggesting this is the slogan or tagline on your books or website, but your underlying message needs to show people the value of your books. "Spend $5 with me, and you will take a trip to Elizabethan England for a love story greater than Romeo and Juliet."

If you are an editor, how are you helping your clients? Are you helping them prepare a manuscript for publishing when they can't do it themselves? Are you proofreading for self-publishing so the author doesn't get bad reviews on Amazon?

Arfa says to let your website visitors and people you meet know your value. Don't brag! But let them know how you can help them. In order to do this, you have to sit down on a quiet winter night and answer these questions:

1. Who is my audience/client?
2. What value does my product or service bring to these people?
3. Now...where do I find them?

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. You can find out more about her and her books on her website here. If you want to make your own Individualized Marketing Plan this winter (everyone needs one!), then you can sign up for her class ,which is currently on special for only $99!

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Monday, December 03, 2018


All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine - blog tour and giveaway

In All Eyes on Alexandra, young Alexandra Crane is terrible at following her family in their flying Vee. She can’t help it that the world is so full of interesting distracting sights! When it's time for the Cranes to migrate to Israel's Hula Valley for the winter, Alexandra is excited but her family is worried. Will Alexandra stay with the group, and what happens if a dangerous situation should arise? Might Alexandra—and the rest of the flock—discover that a bad follower can sometimes make a great leader?

Based on the true story of Israel’s annual crane migration.

Print Length: 32 Pages
Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Kar-Ben Pub
ISBN-10: 1512444391
ISBN-13: 978-1512444391

All Eyes on Alexandra is available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, TargetThrift Books, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest!

To win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine, with illustrations by Chiara Pasqualotto, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on December 10th at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Anna Levine

Anna Levine is an award-winning children’s book author. Like Alexandra Crane, the character in her latest picture book, she loves to explore new worlds. Born in Canada, Anna has lived in the US and Europe.  She now lives in Israel, where she writes and teaches.

You can find Anna Levine online at:

Author website:

Twitter: @LevineAnna

Instagram: @booksfromanna

About the Illustrator, Chiara Pasqualotto

Chiara Pasqualotto was born in Padua, in northern Italy, currently teaches illustration and drawing classes to children and adults, in particular in Padua during the summer at the Scuola Internazionale di Comics and in Rome. Since 2008 she's been living in Rome and working with illustration professionally: her first picture book, Mine, All Mine! was published in 2009 by Boxer Books (UK), since then she published with Oxford University Press, Giunti, Terranuova and some American publishers (Paraclete Press, Tyndale, LearningAZ, Kar-Ben Publisher).

You can find Chiara Pasqualotto online at:

Artist website:



----- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book All Eyes on Alexandra. In an interview with The Whole Megillah, I loved reading about how you came upon the idea for All Eyes on Alexandra. Can you tell our readers about that experience that inspired this book?

Anna: Sometimes I get so caught up in life’s routine, that I stop seeing the world I live in. When that happens, I realize it’s time to get away, to see, paraphrasing Marcel Proust, ‘the familiar with new eyes.’ There’s a bed and breakfast in the port of Acre (where Napoleon was defeated in 1799) owned by Evan Fallenberg, a writer and a friend. The first evening he invited all the guests up to the roof to join him for a spectacle he promised would impress us. At 6:00 in the evening I climbed up on the roof of the hostel with Evan, his son, two translators from Germany, a writer and her husband, a couple from Paris with two rambunctious young children and a friend of mine who’d come to visit. As the Muezzin sounded over the loudspeakers, calling the religious to prayer, the birds on their way south began to gather above. At first there was only a handful. Gradually, the cloudless evening sky filled, in what can only be described as a Hitchcock-like flock of thousands of beating wings circling above, turning the sky into a dark thrashing cloud. The swallows landed on electricity wires strewn haphazardly between the closely crowded buildings. We watched as they perched, settling in for the night, nudging the ones beside them to move and make room, hinting at an unknown hierarchy of who had rank to the better spot, as they nudged off fledglings to stake their claim. It was while watching these birds that I first imagined Alexandra, a bird who was part of a flock who at the same time wanted to assert her individuality.

The next day, I was reluctant to leave Evan’s artist haven, a tribute to what can be achieved when a dream is pursued with the right balance of love and respect to the world it inhabits. His deference to his neighbors, their acceptance and regard for him and his enclave, is a living example of what co-existence can look like. The experience took root in my imagination. Our motley crew on the roof, were like the birds from all over who flock together and live, albeit noisily, but in harmony.

WOW: What an incredible scene you've described! So, what type of research did you do for this book? Was there anything you were surprised to learn?

Anna: Reading and interviewing specialists in the field is always how I approach researching the topics I write about. But for me, the most important part is the hands-on experience. A few miles from my house is the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. I reached out to the researchers who explained the global network that exists between ornithologists all over the world. As birds stop by the observatory (which is a little urban refuge safe from predators and the craziness of city life) the researchers weigh, examine and tag the birds before releasing them back into nature. Ornithologists across the world share the information as they follow these birds-without-borders who visit different countries without regard for political or geographical boundaries. Speaking with the researchers and watching them work was an integral part of the process.

Hula Valley, where millions of birds stop to rest and refuel before continuing on to Africa, is about a three hour drive from where I live. I drove up to the park and got a little cabin on the mountain which overlooks the Hula Valley Lake. Sunrise and sunset are the best time to see the birds in action. Though I knew what to look for, I was astounded by what I heard. The noise! The birds are a honking, hollering, hooting flock! Rock concert fans are a quiet bunch beside these millions of birds who all want to have a say. It is a cacophony of sound and sight that is truly mind-boggling.

WOW: I can just imagine how noisy those birds must be! I loved the artwork of this picture book. Were you involved at all in the process or work with the artist in any way?

Anna: I remember how surprised I was when I started writing picture books to learn that editors do not encourage communication between writers and illustrators. I realized though, that the illustrators need to imagine the text without being told what’s in the writer’s mind. When I saw Chiara Pasqualott’s illustrations, my heart soared. Her talent breathes life into the text giving the birds human traits while staying true to their natural characteristics.

It was important for Chiara to keep the birds as lifelike as possible. The challenge then, was how to single out Alexandra from the other cranes. Chiara chose to tie a string around Alexandra’s neck. A red string. Unbeknownst to Chiara, there is a Jewish folk custom often associated with followers of Kabbalah, who tie a red string, a kind of talisman, around their wrist as a way to protect against the evil eye. This experience made me believe that the writer needs to trust the artist’s vision.

WOW: I love how that worked out with you and your illustrator! You seemed to share the same vision for the book. So, this is obviously not your first book. You have quite the collection of books you have published for young readers. Do you have any advice for writers interested in publishing books for a young audience?

Anna: I love writing children’s books. For my series on a young girl who dreams of being an archaeologist, I pulled on my boots, jeans, old t-shirt, sunhat and joined a group of diggers. For my first YA book, Running on Eggs, I hit the paths that looped and wound around the fields where I was living at the time. For Freefall – okay, I didn’t jump from a plane, but I did drive out to greet the jumpers as they landed. There is something about children’s literature which challenges the writer to translate experiences in a way that captures it through all the senses. My advice is probably already instinctively sensed by any author who chooses to write for children: find the enthusiasm for seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Get down on your knees, wiggle through a cave, lay on your back or stare up at the clouds. Tap into your inner child. Have a blast!

"Find the enthusiasm for seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Get down on your knees, wiggle through a cave, lay on your back or stare up at the clouds. Tap into your inner child."

WOW: That is an excellent tip! What do you hope young readers take away from reading this book?

Anna: In my ideal vision, I see the child and their reader curled up and sharing a moment of closeness. While I would love for the child to take away the importance of being a ‘family’ (in the many different interpretations of the word), and having people who care for him or her, at the same time I’d like the child to recognize of his or her unique spirit. Understanding that being different is special and that there is someone out there who will encourage and appreciate their creativity.

WOW: I love that message you hope children take away from this book! What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Anna: It really depends where I am in the process and what I’m working on. If I’m working on a new picture book, I start my writing day the night before reading poetry (Billy Collins is one of my favorites). Poetry gets my mind thinking in images with a greater sensitivity to rhythms and rhyme. If I’m working on a longer project, and if my house is full, I have to run away. I have a favorite café where I work that was actually once a cowshed but has since been renovated. The chatter of people at a café, the sound of coffee being ground and prepared is the perfect background noise for me (where no one needs me to prepare lunch, or asks where I’ve put something). Sometimes I bring my computer, but as I get close to the end I like to work off a hard copy. My eye catches errors on paper that I seem to gloss over when working off a screen. When I’m starting on a longer novel, I give myself a daily word count (somewhere between 1,000-2,000 words). My writing day is not over until I’ve reached my goal.

WOW: That cafe sounds amazing! What does your writing space look like? What surrounds you as you write?

Anna: When I’m not at the café, I work in my small office. It’s a bit crowded. A piano takes up all of one wall. During winter, I have to store my bike inside so it’s there too. Poetry books, fiction, non-fiction, dictionaries and a few different thesauri. When I first started writing, I published quite a bit in children’s magazines. To encourage myself, or remind myself (because rejection letters are part of the process but can get discouraging) I bought small glass frames and every time a story came out I would frame the cover page and put it up on my wall. So along the walls of my office are many of my early published pieces. I’ve also bought some of the original pieces from the illustrators who created the art for my stories. Am still deciding which piece I’d like from All Eyes on Alexandra, they’re all so beautiful it’s hard to choose.

"To encourage myself, or remind myself (because rejection letters are part of the process but can get discouraging) I bought small glass frames and every time a story came out I would frame the cover page and put it up on my wall."

WOW: Oh I love that you surround yourself with original pieces! So, what are you working on now? What is next for you?

Anna: This month, a middle-grade novel I wrote based on the Scouts, just came out with a new press, PJ Ourway (Scouts Honor and the Cave of Courage). I’m hoping that the young readers will enjoy it and if so I have a sequel in the making. I love reading series. I was a Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Babysitters Club fan as a kid and now as an adult, if I start the first book in a series, I have to read them all. Presently, I have an adult cozy that’s in submission. Of course, I’ve already started plotting the next one in the series.

WOW: Thank you so much for chatting with us today! Best of luck to your future projects and best of luck on your tour!

-- Blog Tour Dates

December 3rd @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you visit WOW's blog today and read an interview with the author and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 5th @ Cassandra's Writing World
Visit Cassandra's blog where she shares her thoughts about Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 6th @ Break Even Books
Visit Erik's blog where you can read Anna Levine's guest post about how to jog your inspiration.

December 7th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab some coffee and visit Lacey's blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 8th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog today where he joins in the fun of celebrating and shares information about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 8th @ Christy's Cozy Corners
Visit Christy's blog and cozy up while you read her review of Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 9th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's guest post about designing your ideal writing spot.

December 9th @ Christy's Cozy Corners
Visit Christy's blog where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about how she decided to use crane's in her story.

December 10th @ Thoughts in Progress
Visit Pamela's blog where you can read Anna Levine's guest post about how authors use anthropomorphic animals.

December 11th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.
Make sure you visit Jeanie's blog today and read her thoughts about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog where he interviews Anna Levine, author of All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 13th @ Read. Write. Sparkle. Coffee.
Make sure you visit Jeanie's blog today and read Anna Levine's guest post about building a theme day around a picture book.

December 13th @ Oh for the Hook of a Book
Visit Erin's blog where she shares her thoughts on Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 14th @ Growing with Science Blog
Be sure to visit Roberta's blog and read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra as well as read Anna's guest post about five fun bird-themed activities.

December 14th @ Wrapped in Foil
Visit Roberta's blog today where Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra gets featured on the weekly STEM Friday post (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math books!).

December 15th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog where she features Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra in a spotlight post.

December 17th @ World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole's blog today where you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 18th @ Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Visit Erin's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post featuring activities for young children to explore their world.

December 19th @ Cassandra's Writing World
Visit Cassandra's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about naming your characters.

December 19th @ Linda's Blog
Make sure you visit Linda's blog today where you can read her thoughts about Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 20th @ Word Magic: All About Books 
Visit Fiona's blog where you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 21st @ Bring on Lemons
Make sure you grab some lemonade and stop by Crystal's blog today where she reviews Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 27th @ Linda's Blog
Visit Linda's blog again where you can read her interview with author Anna Levine.

December 28th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog today you can read her review of Anna Levine's book All Eyes on Alexandra.

December 31st @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog and read Anna Levine's guest post on learning about families and different cultures.

January 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit author Anthony Avina's blog where he shares his thoughts about Anna Levine's picture book All Eyes on Alexandra.

January 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about getting into the head of your middle-grade characters.

January 4th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit author Anthony Avina's blog again where you can read Anna Levine's blog post about using fiction to write non-fiction.

January 7th @ Strength 4 Spouses Blog
Visit Wendi's blog again where you can read her thoughts about the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine.

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

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of the book All Eyes on Alexandra by Anna Levine, with illustrations by Chiara Pasqualotto, please enter via Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends on December 10th at 12AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, December 02, 2018


Interview with Harriet Parke: Q4 Creative Nonfiction Runner Up

Congratulations to runner up Harriet Parke and everyone who participated in our WOW! Women on Writing Q4 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!

Harriet's Bio:
Harriet Parke is a registered nurse who specialized in emergency nursing and Emergency Department management. She authored two novels (Agenda 21 and Agenda 21 Into the Shadows) which were published in cooperation with Glenn Beck and Simon and Schuster. In addition, she has been published in My Dad Is My Hero anthology, several Voices from the Attic anthologies (published by Carlow University, Pittsburgh, Pa.), the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh Magazine. She has received a Certificate of Merit from an Atlantic Monthly student short fiction writing contest, first place in a Pennwriter’s creative non-fiction contest, and second place in a Pennwriter’s short fiction contest. She is a member of The Madwomen, a Carlow University writing group, and has been a member of Pennwriters.

She lives in southwestern Pennsylvania and loves the tree covered gentle hills of the area. In the past, a wild peacock roosted on her deck anytime he chose. He has gone missing, and she misses him greatly.

If you haven't done so already, check out Harriet's moving story  Angels Catching Frogs and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW:  Congratulations again Harriet and thank you for taking time to chat with us today! Let's dig right in: Is there a place in your writing and healing journey for journaling? 

Harriet: I don't journal and my biggest regret is that I haven't journal-ed. Perhaps I specialize in procrastination. Everybody should specialize in something.

WOW: I never would have guessed you specialize in procrastination and maybe this candid conversation will spur you into a bit of journaling. Where does your writing take place? Tell us about your creative space.

Harriet: I write in a spare bedroom on a very old laptop on a desk my father made some 50 years ago. Behind me is an old brass bed (a family antique) covered with an Amish quilt (I met Amish women while doing an outreach mammogram program and the quilt is a memory from that experience). Against the wall is a cupboard rescued from a kitchen in a house that was being torn down; I wonder about the woman who kept her cups and saucers in that cupboard. Was she still alive when the house was destroyed? Was she sad, lonely, sick? I will never know but I love that old cupboard with is peeling green paint. There are piles of paper, stacks of books, and scraps of paper with passwords scribbled on them. I can never find a password when I need it! My dog sits by my feet when I write.

WOW: The password struggle is real...and I think many of us can relate to your sentimental thoughts about the cupboard. Thank you for sharing.

How has your writing been therapeutic? What advice would you give to others? 

Harriet: Therapeutic? Yes, absolutely. I was in a writer's block state of mind for several months for no apparent reason. But the night my son died I turned to my laptop and word fell off my fingertips onto my keyboard. I was grieving with memories and writing them down gave me peace.

Advice: Writing is a solitary process but, paradoxically, writing improves when you belong to an active and supportive writing group. I belong to Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. I write alone in the cluttered space I have described but then take my pieces to the group. They encourage, support, and gently critique. For that, I am grateful.

WOW: Support is so important; I'm grateful you have this tribe as well!

Who is your favorite author and why? 

Harriet: I have so many favorite authors!! Annie Lamont, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Camus, Shirley Jackson, Janet Frame, Erma Bombeck . . . It is safe to say, I love to read. When all else fails, I read the cereal box.

WOW: I find cereal boxes aren't as exciting as they used to be, but that's a topic for another day.

What advice would you give to others who might be considering participation in a writing contest? 

Harriet: Purchase the critique! This piece, Angels Catching Frogs, was submitted twice. The first time it was submitted, it did not place but I studied the excellent critique from Women on Writing and followed that advice. The critique was spot on and the result was the honorable mention for the second submission.

WOW: Sounds like great advice and I'm glad you found us! 

One last question: Do you think the peacock mentioned in your bio was representative of someone or something? Tell us more? 

Harriet: The peacock came into my life as a surprise but then, life is always full of surprises, isn't it? Surprises and coincidences that are God's way of remaining anonymous. I mentioned the peacock in another bio for another publication and was contacted by a wonderful neighbor who lived about a mile away. I had never met him but he read my bio and realized his missing peacock was living on my deck! We are now friends. Sadly, the peacock passed away but the friendship didn't.

WOW Thank you again Harriet - such a lovely chat and very moving story. We hope to hear more from you in the future!

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:

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