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Friday, February 15, 2019


Friday Speak Out!: Escape Artist

by Pamela Kenney

My first mistake was waking up.
My second was turning on the television.
I should know better by now.
No good can come from that.

But if you're anything like me, you hurry through breakfast and rush to your desk where you can find solace with your writing. We writers are lucky. We can escape any bad news of the day by retreating to the wonderful worlds we create, using only our imaginations.

You want to tell someone off? Put it in a story. You want your husband to say just the right thing at just the right moment? Put it in that romance novel you've always wanted to write. In-laws driving you crazy? Start that murder mystery now. And while you're at it, add in that guy who wrote you out a parking ticket He should get what's coming to him. Figuratively speaking, of course.

We writers are the ultimate escape artists. We can work through our own problems and solve ones for other people, who in real life just won't listen to us at all. Those silly people. Don't they know that writers have all the answers?

So hurry up, finish that last bit of cereal. You've got some escaping ... I mean writing to do!

* * *
Pamela Kenney likes to escape to her Buttercup books, set in a fictional small town, where adventure, humor and romance abounds (and the bad guys always get what's coming to them). Information about Pamela Kenney's books can be found on her website at: and on Twitter:
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, February 14, 2019


3 Tips For Women Writers on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a difficult day for so many people. I debated what to write about today--it seems as if our scheduled WOW blogging day is a holiday, we must have something profound to say! It is a lot of pressure. I thought about posting about my favorite Valentine's picture books or romance novels, but then I decided that although The Muffin is mostly about writing and books, it's also about being a woman writer. And with being a woman writer comes worrying about love and celebrating Valentine's Day.
A lot of lovely friends to be thankful for! 

I've had my share of lonely Valentine's Days and February fourteenths where I wasn't alone, but felt that way anyway. One could argue that writers often have trouble because we dramatize real life, with feeling things very deeply and being sensitive. But I also think writers, especially fiction writers, are very good with their imagination and with creative thinking. So the Valentine's Day "alone" problem can be solved somewhat with creativity and imagination. If you're finding yourself feeling sad, lonely, uncreative, or unmotivated on Valentine's Day, let's look at some things you can do--that I've done myself--that could make a difference today and many more days to come.

1. Look for the love that is in your life: Valentine's Day is about love--but not necessarily romantic love. You can celebrate the love between friends and family members or the love for your children. You can even focus on the love for a pet. Even better, how about the love you have for your writing time? If writing is your love and passion, then make sure to give yourself time to work on your writing today.

2. A Heart of Gratitude: More and more, I am learning that gratitude can change attitudes and make life bearable when it seems chaotic. Every night, thanks to some good advice I decided to follow, my daughter and I list three blessings for our day. Some days, my blessings include my house and electricity; and some days, I can be more specific about good things that happened to me, including writing and editing opportunities that I am grateful for. Often, my blessings are that I am spending time with my daughter and my dog.

Sometimes, I'm thankful for cupcakes! 

I want to introduce you to a terrific blog and resource about mindfulness and gratitude called We Bold Souls. I was lucky enough to hear Angela, who runs the company, give a presentation at my MOPS group, and then I signed up for her newsletter. At the presentation, she talked about the research that has been done on the positive effects of having a grateful attitude, and the evidence is overwhelming that gratefulness can change your life. If you aren't so weighed down with whatever troubles that are weighing you down, do you think your writing could improve? Or the energy for your writing? In my opinion, it's worth a shot. If nothing else, you can be grateful to live in a world where there are so many opportunities for women to share their opinions and allow their voices to be heard through publication.

3. Journaling: I believe in the power of journaling on a regular basis, even though my own journaling is often done as a sporadic practice. But anytime I've allowed myself to take one of Mari McCarthy's self-paced journaling courses or read a book with questions at the end of chapters, where I wrote the answers in a notebook, I have grown as a person. Just reading or thinking or talking is not as powerful for me or doesn't stick with me as long as actually writing down my feelings--I'm sure it's because I'm a writer. But if you're feeling sad and lonely on Valentine's Day, try journaling about it. No one has to read it. You can even tear it up when you are done. You never know where those written down thoughts might take you.

We at WOW! are a community of supportive women writers, but we also support each other as women. We try to timely respond to all comments and responses on our social media pages; so please, if you're feeling down, try one of these methods above or reach out to us on social media. And if you're celebrating love in your life today, then we hope it brings you great joy!

Me and a special guy! 
Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, writing coach and instructor, living in St. Louis with her daughter and her boxer dog. Find out more about her on her website, Look to the Western Sky, or in the WOW! classroom.  

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019


What Makes a Great Writing Retreat?

In less than ten days, I will be heading to a writing retreat. Not only will I be participating in it, I will be leading it.

Leading is a misleading term, in this case. It will be a completely loose weekend. There won't be any let's-all-gather-together-and-write-to-the-same-prompt times. There won't be any guest speakers. We'll eat. We'll write. We'll eat. We'll meet with our response group partners a couple of times over the two-day span. We'll write some more until, reluctantly, we have to go home.

I've taken part in many writing retreats, and I always try to distill the experience down to its very essence as I analyze what worked and what didn't. Thinking about it, what I need in a retreat is hopefully the same as what others need...

In my opinion, this is what makes a great writing retreat:

Things to nibble on--I know that doesn't sound crucial, but for me, the chance to get up occasionally to get a handful of pistachio nuts ensures I occasionally get off my rear end. When I roam over to the snack table, I get some think-time. (The pistachios are still in their shell, which adds to the think-time. I drink lots of water for the same reason. When I have to get up and go frequently, that helps move along my writing process.) Taking the focus off my writing for a moment means I can focus onto it in a different way.

Something to stare at--This place (we've had our retreats there for several years) has lots of glass. When I need to, I can gaze out at the landscape outside. There's stained glass surrounding us, which can also give me a momentary break as I stare. However, it's also easy to ignore as I'm hunched over my laptop when the words are flowing like floodwater.

Time--Of course, this is the best thing about the writing retreats I love. Having large expanses of time to write and read over my writing is a luxury I don't get to enjoy very often. When I have all morning to write, or all afternoon or all evening, that means that when I get into a groove, I can keep the momentum going. There's nothing tmy progress to a screeching halt.

The icing on the top: I'll probably take a nap that will most certainly involve drooling and snoring. Thankfully, I have a room to myself, so no other humans will be harmed by my napping.

How about you? What would be the components in your dream writing retreat?

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher by day and (judging by this week) a drooler on the couch by night. She rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue and is working on her manuscript not-consistently-enough. If you're intrigued (and not horrified, by this point), check out her blog.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Interview with Ruby Norman Curran: Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Ruby’s Bio:
Ruby is an award-winning copywriter and storyteller from Oxford, England. In 2015 she won The Moth StorySLAM in London, and this year her copy has been recognized by the Lovie Awards and The Drum Awards for advertising. This is her first foray into flash fiction.

She studied English at Exeter University, and credits Kerry Ryan’s outstanding ‘Write like a grrrl’ course in London for giving her confidence in her own voice (and the advice, “Ladies, next time someone asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. You know every man who’s ever even thought about doing a podcast calls himself a writer. Why can’t you?”)

Her greatest ambition is to find, and forcibly befriend Stevie Nicks.

It’s important to have goals.

If you’ve haven’t read it already, follow the link to Ruby’s award-winning story “Half Sure.” Then return here for a chat so that you can learn about Ruby’s writing process.

WOW: In Half Sure you’ve created a character and a situation that feel immediate and real. What was the inspiration behind this story? What made it the one you had to work on next?

Ruby: It all started with the café. Cafes in books and films tend to be romantic places, and I wanted to show one that reflected the kind of cafes I’ve always known – the slightly rubbish, hippy ones that someone probably started up from their living room way before it was cool to be vegan. I was in the process of moving jobs when I wrote “Half Sure,” a lot of clandestine café meetings were involved, so I was being consistently reminded of the almost ritualistic importance of food and drink as a catalyst for social interaction, and from that starting place the themes of food, and control, sort of spilled out organically.

In my first draft the characters had no redeeming features. My boyfriend read it and said “Babe, maybe give people something to root for…?” which I’m not sure I took very graciously at the time, but he was right. I completely rewrote the story after that. I explored their motivations more.

The weird thing about writing is how your characters start becoming their own people. They start saying things you wouldn’t expect or acting in a way you yourself never would. They surprise you. They’re alive, and once characters are alive you tend to think of them differently – you yourself also want to know what they’ll do. That’s when you know it’s the piece that you’re going to finish next. You want to get to the end as much as everyone else.

WOW: That’s so true about getting to know your living characters. Let’s focus now on flash fiction. So much of writing flash fiction is choosing what to include and what to omit. What informed these decisions for you?

Ruby: I had a whole other part of the story that I cut in the end. I realized that if I was canny, I could tell both stories, through the actions of the characters. The words told one story the actions another. A theme I’ve noticed in my own life.

When I was younger I had a boyfriend who said the right things, but started sleeping with his back to me. It felt wrong. But I couldn’t say “Your sleeping position is making me feel weird” without sounding quite mad, so I ignored the instinct. When I found out he’d been seeing other people behind my back the action came back to me. Another language. I was reading it, but passing it up for what was being overtly said. What he said and what he did - the stories didn’t match. It gave him away.

And that has always fascinated me; the way people deceive, self-deceive, and reveal. I guess elements of that ended up in the story.

I also ended up writing my ending about half way through – if a line didn’t take me towards that conclusion in some way it was cut.

WOW: Now you’ve got my wondering about my own work-in-progress. How long will it be if I cut using that rule? You are also a copywriter. How do your skills in writing copy come into play when you right fiction?

Ruby: I spend a significant amount of my day editing my own writing. In copywriting it’s usually about cutting something down to its purest form, making it snappy and an instant get – like, how can I get an idea across in a three-word slogan? It’s very disciplined, which probably isn’t who I am naturally. Doing it every day keeps me sharp, and helps when it comes to editing my own fiction.

It also teaches you how to deal with rejection. I write pieces that get rejected every day in work. It’s just part of the job. When you write fiction it’s like giving a slice of your real self away. It’s very uncomfortable. But working in an industry that consumes creativity allows you to see it as a piece of work, not a bit of you.

WOW: Good point. In your bio, you talk about finding your voice. What advice do you have for readers who are still trying to find their voice?

Ruby: The first hurdle is starting. Just start.

If you end up sounding like someone else, try and listen to how the people around you speak. Then try and learn to write in other people’s voices, it’ll make you very suddenly aware of your own.

I also think learning to edit your own work is important. Write something you quite like. Edit. Edit again. Let people read it. Try not to throw up as they give you feedback. Edit again. Accept it will never be perfect. Send it anyway. Get rejected. Fuck them they wouldn’t know good writing if it hit them in the – drink a gin and tonic. Do some research and send it to people who are more likely to publish your stuff. Send it again. Don’t stop.

So much of art is personal taste. If your piece isn’t accepted straight away, it doesn’t mean it was bad. It just means it wasn’t to one person’s taste.

Which brings me on to advice - listen to all of it, but don’t take all of it. It’s easy to assume that someone else who is more experienced is inherently ‘right’ about your work. But it’s your work. Take heed or totally ignore as you see fit. And you happen to be a London based lady who wants to write check out Kerry
Ryan’s unparalleled ‘Write like a grrl’ (not a typo. Like Riot Grrl). It taught me good habits and is hands down the best course out there.

WOW: What are your long term writing goals? Where can Muffin readers look for your work in the future?

Ruby: I have a website where some of my writing can be seen, it’s inventively called and contains a few of my creative endeavours.

At the beginning of the year (so close to the beginning I was still drunk from NYE) I made a rash promise on Viktor Wynd’s Instagram to write a novel in 2019. I’m not sure it’s a promise I can keep, but hey. Everyone starts somewhere.

WOW: Thank you, Ruby! Your advice is going to help move so many of us forward as well as encouraging us to try new things.

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Monday, February 11, 2019


If you don't ask...

Greetings for Wisconsin where it was 40 below and 3 days later raining, and today there's a thick blanket of snow everywhere. It's a great day for a lovely book, a warm cup of coffee, and some writing. Enjoy some deep thoughts!

I had a lovely employer who said "If you don't ask, you don't get" and in context, we were discussing everything from vacation, a pay raise, payments from customers, and better catering for company meetings. I think about this saying quite often as both a mother and a writer. As a mother, if you don't ask your children to do chores around the house, they're not just going to notice things need to be done and do them (sometimes our spouses are the same, but since Valentine's Day is this week, I won't discuss my husband's ability to walk right past a dirty sock and not pick it up...).

Now let's talk about asking in the writing world.

Do you want people to read your work 
and brainstorm ideas to make it better? 
Of course you do, so just ask. 

Do you want to know at what point 
in the story the reader got "hooked"?
Of course you do, so just ask.

Do you want to know which part of the 
story slowed down a bit? 
Do you want to know the first time 
the reader set the book down 
to get a cup of tea or take 
a bathroom break?
Of course you do, so just ask.

Do you want to know how someone 
felt after reading your book?
Of course you do, so just ask.

...the list goes on - you get the drift!

We can ask for early readers, reviewers, critique partners, etc...but if we don't specifically ask what it is we want to know, we may never get the answers we seek. When I am reading an absolutely fabulous book, I ignore my bladder, my dry throat, the laundry that needs folding, the toys on the floor, and I just read. I don't refill my water, I forget to drink my coffee, and I can't imagine moving from my seat. I've been known to read from cover to cover as if the book were all that matters in the world. That's when you know the author has talent! I've also been known to feel so connected to a character that I get to the 2nd last chapter and I put the book down because I don't want my relationship with the character to end; I want to drag out our parting as long as possible and my desire for connection can quiet my drive to find out how things ended. As an author, you should know those specifics, shouldn't you? Wouldn't you want to know that after the 3rd chapter I just couldn't go on? There are books so weighed down with inconsequential details and back story that I'm falling asleep...or so poorly edited I want to grab a red pen and send the book right back to be fixed. If you don't ask me about your book, I'm likely not going to give you this type of feedback. As a reader, you have most surely felt the same way? You've probably sat in silence not wanting to provide specific feedback.

As a reader - What if you were specifically asked? Would you provide those details about when the writing was best, when it was a bit boring, etc...?

As an author - What if you asked specific questions? Would you want to know when you're writing really pulled the reader in? When they became disengaged? When they wanted more?

If you don't ask, you don't get! 

Don't just ask for reviews! Reviews are important for selling books, but asking for specific feedback is important for improving your craft which will help with writing the next book - and the next - and the one after that!

What is your goal? What specific questions can you ask to help improve your writing?

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother and auntie, 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 already), 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 making it extraordinary, blogging, reading, reviewing, and baking here and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Sunday, February 10, 2019


What's in a Name? Thoughts on Naming Characters

Can you believe almost a year ago today I wrote a post featuring tips on naming characters? You'd figure one year later I would have mastered the art, but of course, I sit here today admitting to you my weakness - I hate naming characters.

In my defense though, while my character names may not be the best, there ARE people with the names I give my characters. I mean, can you imagine someone going up to a parent and them asking the name of the child, and this person saying in response, "Wow, you named your kid that? It's so cliche." I mean, that person would have to run after saying that, because those are fighting words.

The thing about naming characters is that it's more than just finding a name, it's finding a name that fits. So, even though finding the right name can feel as mysterious as finding the right story idea, there are a few tips to consider when naming your character.

1) Know your character.

I find the closer I am to a character, the easier it is to name them. This could be why naming characters in my first draft are never easy. While it's easy to pore over lists of names to pick and choose random ones, if we don't know who our characters are, how can we name them? When I begin to imagine my character and really get to know them, a real person takes shape. Then I can name them.

2) Names evoke feelings.

Think of that person in middle school that picked on you relentlessly. Did you name a character after them? Maybe that character befell a tragic death or public humiliation. Or how about the first person you fell in love with? Maybe the relationship worked out after all in the story you wrote. Names evoke feelings. Sometimes the feelings come from us - the author - and maybe we shape and name our characters after someone from our distant past. But sometimes the feelings come from the character. Maybe this character's parents were hippies and that inspired their name. Maybe the character named themselves after they transformed into a new identity. Maybe they are named after a family member they never knew but heard about all their lives. Maybe their name is relatively ordinary, but spelled differently. Maybe they hate their name. Maybe they love their name. Yet, whether it's a long story or a short one, we all have a story attached to our name in some way. Think about the story of your character's name when you think about what to name them.

3) A rose wouldn't be the same named anything else.

Would Ishmael from Moby Dick be the same if he wasn't named Ishmael? What about James Bond? What about Bridget Jones? And what about Norman Bates? When you imagine these characters, a certain realness just pops off the page, doesn't it? Sure, Norman Bates doesn't exist, but isn't he so incredibly real to all of us? Make a list of your favorite characters from movies or books and research where these names come from or what inspired them and figure out the root origins of the first and last names. You'll be surprised how much these names shape who these characters are.

So, what's in a name? A lot actually.

How do you name your characters?

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Saturday, February 09, 2019


Hello! Making Sure People Can Find You Online

If I Googled your name, what would I find for you as an author? I’m not talking vacation pics with your kids or the cobbler recipe you got from Aunt Ona Mae.

When I write how-to’s on writing, I frequently interview other authors. How do you research your historic fiction? What steps do you take to assure that your secondary characters are three-dimensional?

But I’m surprised at how many authors I can’t find. I Google their name and get . . . nothing. No website. No Facebook page. No Twitter.

You may think that because you don’t have a book yet, this is no big deal. But I’m not the only one looking for you. I’ve had editors tell me that I made a sale or got the job because they Googled me and found my on-line presence. 

For published authors an online presence is important in a different way. If a librarian, teacher or professor can’t find you, they can’t invite you to speak. A reader? They can’t find out more about you and your work.

If a website feels too intimidating, don’t start there. Start where you already are on social media. 

I set up my Facebook author page in about 30 minutes. All you need are a profile photo (my headshot), a cover photo (a book cover), and a first post. Your description can include your e-mail addy so right away people know where to find you. Post once a week and soon you’ll have several screens of content. 

I also had my Twitter account ready to go in about 30 minutes. Actually, if someone more proficient like my son does it, it takes less time. But in 30 minutes you or I can have a Twitter listing up that identifies you as an author. 

Follow your favorite authors and illustrators. Interested in breaking into a specific publisher or signing with an agent? Follow their Twitter feed. I've found work this way. And when someone looks for you on Twitter, they’ll see what you are checking out and see that it is professional content. 

Retweet and like other people's Tweets once or twice a week. Tweet something original every now and again. Like Facebook, it doesn’t take much time for Tweet and Retweets to add up. Soon you’ll have an online presence and people can message you through Twitter. You can be found!

A blog or a site is great but they can be a big time commitment that not everyone is prepared to make. That’s understandable. Your focus should be on your writing. But if people can’t find you, you may not be making the connections that you need to get your work in front of the right person.


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 March 18th, 2019.

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Thursday, February 07, 2019


Simple is good

Let's just say my grades as an undergrad were less than stellar. When I enrolled again after having dropped out for a few semesters, I was required to take Spanish III. I hadn't taken Spanish II in more than a year, and I wasn't looking forward to trying to catch up with my more-fluent classmates.

Our biggest assignment was to present a 5-minute speech in Spanish. The goal was to communicate effectively, which meant keeping it simple enough for everyone to understand. I chose to do a speech on Pablo Picasso, and used hand gestures and other nonverbal communication to help explain my words.

Effective communication means the message sent is the message received. This is a problem for me when I write fiction. My critique group has been incredibly helpful by pointing out my scenes that don't work. I confuse readers with my habit of jumping around in different character's heads, and skip over details that help convey the message.

Nonfiction, on the other hand, is my strength. My work in journalism and public relations helped sharpen my skills. I worked as a typesetter at a weekly newspaper before I began writing articles. One of the best lessons for journalists is learning how to edit unnecessary information to clarify the message. And I probably edited more than a thousand press releases before I was able to apply those skills as a writer. It paid off.

It's amazing how much information we don't need. Getting rid of the excess made the important information stand out. "Keep it simple" was the idea I kept in mind while striking through line after line of copy that didn't do anything except muddy the message. And that's the idea I also kept in mind while working on my speech for Spanish III.

My speech was simple and easy to follow. I spoke slowly and clearly. My hand gestures helped the audience understand some of the words they may not have been familiar with. When I finished, I believe everyone in the room understood what I had said.

My straight-"A"-student friend who sat next to me did her speech on bullfighting. At least I think that's what it was. Her speech was longer and used unfamiliar language that I didn't always understand. And, from the looks of the people around me, they didn't understand either. Her grasp of Spanish was the highest in the class, but instead of adapting to the audience to make it clear to us, she sent a message that had little meaning because we didn't know a lot of the words she used.

This was the only time I earned a higher grade than my friend. If the message sent isn't the message received, then the communication has failed, just like I did on the midterm exam (but I passed the class, thanks to my speech!)

Mary Horner received the Writing Certificate from UM-St. Louis, where she also took Spanish III. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community College, and writes articles and press releases for various clients.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019


Just Quit

                   “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”

I’m not sure who originated that quote but my mother wore it out. Whether it was sports, school, or even chores, Mom threw it down whenever I wanted to give up. And so I would keep on trying, and more often than not, I’d achieve my goal. That sentiment, those words, are in the core of my character; it’s probably infused into my DNA.

So quitting—unless it’s like gobbling up a party-size bag of chips—is not an option for me. And yet, I recently tried quitting and I feel pretty darn good.

But okay, I didn’t just up and quit. Didn’t you just read what I wrote about that quote? It was a process, y’all. And the process went something like this:

1. (September) This manuscript needs further revision but I shall defer any work until my trusted beta readers give feedback.

2. (October/November) Trusted beta readers are busy writers. Best not to bother them because mostly, a (nice, long) break would be a good thing.

3. (Mid-November) Eventually notes from beta readers arrive. But it was almost Thanksgiving. Who can work when there’s a holiday to plan?

4. (December) See above excuse. (Note: The holiday season is always a perfectly good excuse to defer revising—or any work.)

5. (January) No one works in January. One must get one’s priorities for the whole year in order. It’s a time for thinking not doing the work of revising.

January is such a quiet month, at least where I live. It’s cold but not so cold that it’s a crisis situation; just cold enough that I don’t go out much. So I had plenty of time for pondering but I also had plenty of quiet to listen. And between listening to my heart and thinking about the Signs of the past few months (and the above list is just the tip of the Signs Iceberg), my hands started to sweat. My heart pounded out a rhumba. By the third week of January, I heard the message and it was plenty scary:


I knew that my heart was not in the writing anymore; I couldn’t even muster enough spirit for a relatively simple revision. And so I made the decision to quit working on that manuscript. Or any manuscript. I would keep up with my other writing responsibilities and then I would do…well, something. I wasn’t sure what.

And within a week, the most amazing thing happened: An idea that had rumbled round my brain off and on for years came back to me. Combined with what I needed to write about now, I had a project for a novel. And I was itching to write!

It’s funny. I had to quit on my old dreams and goals to make room for the new dreams and goals that I didn’t even know were waiting patiently for me. Now my heart’s pounding out a rhumba again but in a good way. So I’m sorry, Mom, but sometimes a quitter does win.

What about you? Is there something in your writing that you keep putting off? Can you find a hundred excuses not to do the writing you think you want to do? Do you feel as if you’re banging your head against a closed writing door? It can be scary to quit, I know. But sometimes we have to quit to find the freedom to move forward. And guess what? I have a quote for that, too:

                        “When one door closes, another door opens…”
                                                            ~ Alexander Graham Bell

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019


Interview with Bonnie West: Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Bonnie’s Bio: Bonnie West’s stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Minetta Review, The Talking Stick, Woman’s Day, Redbook Magazine, The Austin Chronicle, and the anthologies, Still Going Strong and The Ultimate Dog Lover. She has four mini-mysteries for children published by Carol Rhoda Press and a bilingual Japanese/English book, Hideki and Kenji Save the Day, published in collaboration with Diane Carter. She lives with her husband in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Bonnie: This story was written for a writing class in which we were to take our storyline from one of several suggested methods, a postcard or photo, a conversation we'd overheard or something we'd read in a magazine or newspaper. The next day I read an article, only a few lines, about an operation wherein the incorrect kidney had been removed and knew I had a story. The newspaper did not say who it was or which hospital was involved or how on earth it happened. But I became obsessed. I had no idea the real situation of the story but I knew in my story the doctor had to be a man. (What woman makes such a mistake?!) I also wanted it to feed into the doctor/father/god syndrome so her reaction (had to be a young woman patient) would seem realistic. And as for his childhood story I'd had that scene in my head for years and years and was delighted to find a home for it.

WOW: What a good combination of ideas to create this story! Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Bonnie: I learned, and was surprised to find with this story, once I began I wouldn’t stop until I had finished it. Usually I get going after a long drought and write for hours and hours but eventually I come to a stand-still and put the story away for months or years because I’m stuck, most often by the plot line or lack thereof. So in this case, having essentially been given a plot I was able to work on revising the story which happily is my favorite aspect of writing. With every rewrite I would think, No need for this! No need for that! So the short, short form is ideal. I absolutely loved trying to figure out what this doctor could possibly say to his patient and if and how he would possibly be redeemed.

WOW: Sounds like a positive process for you this time, almost like a game. We’re glad you persisted with your revisions! In your bio you mentioned that you wrote a bilingual English/Japanese book Hideki and Kenji Save the Day. Could you tell us more about your collaboration on that project?

Bonnie: Hideki and Kenji Save the Day was written for a Japanese friend whose family survived the Tsunami and subsequent earthquakes several years ago. She told me her boys were frightened and had trouble sleeping at night after the incident. I cavalierly said I would write them a book and her response was so grateful that of course I had to follow through. I collaborated with a friend who was studying Japanese with me and together we wrote the story of two little boys who befriend an earthquake-causing baby dinosaur. We attempted to find a publisher but the necessity of it being bilingual and immediate made it impossible so we self-published. The process turned out to be interesting and worked well, although we should have titled it something a bit easier to search for online. (A tip to you self-publishers out there!)

WOW: I love hearing the stories behind the story! Thank you for sharing that with us. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Bonnie: Right now I am re-reading Robin Black’s wonderful collection of short stories If I Loved You I Would Tell You This and trying to figure out how she does it!

WOW: Great! I hope you learn something new and useful. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Bonnie: No doubt like many other writers I would say: Believe in yourself. But I would add: Perhaps you should consider actually sitting down from time to time and writing just a teeny bit more. (I need to give that same advice to my older self today.)

WOW: I could benefit from that advice lately, too! Anything else you’d like to add?

Bonnie: Absolutely. I want to thank you for these questions and WOW for this opportunity.

WOW: You are very welcome! Thank you again for sharing your stories and for your other 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, February 04, 2019


A Podcast and a Dream

If you hang around The Muffin regularly, you probably know I discovered podcasts in the past year and have become completely obsessed. I’ve known about them for years, but never realized how many podcasts that I would be interested in exist. I know, late to the party.

I think part of the reason podcasts have become such a fascination of mine is because I’ve always been interested in broadcasting. Even though I’m an introvert, I enjoy public speaking. It makes me really nervous, but once I get started I can find my groove, especially if it’s a topic I’m passionate about. I always believed I would study broadcast journalism in school. But, plans changed, as they often do, and the college I attended didn’t have a strong broadcasting department so I found my place in print journalism.

When I heard that a local public radio station was having a contest to find their next great podcast, my heart stopped for a minute. Could this be my chance? I read over the rules and requirements and cleared that hurdle. Then I had to write up a pitch (all those years writing query letters came in handy), telling what my podcast would be about, what the format would be, why I would be qualified to run it, etc. etc. I checked each box, and then wrote up a script and recorded it for my audio entry:

Hi, my name is Renee Roberson and I’m freelance writer and editor based in Davidson, N.C. I’ve been fascinated by true crime and missing persons cases for as long as I can remember. My favorite television show is “Disappeared” on the Investigation Discovery Channel, and I listen to true crime podcasts religiously. There are a number of missing persons cases right here in the Queen City’s backyard, and some have received more media attention than others. If you’re like me, you would like to know what happened to people like Kyle Fleischmann, who disappeared from the Buckhead Saloon on a cold winter night in 2007, or Asha Degree, who was last seen walking down a rural highway in the middle of the night in Shelby almost 19 years ago. These are the stories that tug at our heartstrings, make us pray it never happens to anyone in our families, and wonder if there is still any way to find closure for these missing persons and their loved ones. Missing in Our Backyard will explore these stories and feature interviews with law enforcement agencies and the family members who knew the missing the best, along with theories as to what may have happened in each case.

I’m happy to say my podcast idea was selected to move onto the voting round for the competition. Voting, which, as luck would happen, starts today and lasts through Feb. 17. If you’re so inclined and have a Facebook account, I’d appreciate any votes you could throw my way. The top five finalists get to move onto the next round and make a live pitch in front of a panel of judges.

Get out there and chase your dreams, people.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. WFAE's #QueenCityPodQuest received hundreds of podcast ideas from the #Charlotte community (including hers)! She’d love for you to vote favorite for “Missing in Our Backyard” once per day until February 17 here.

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Sunday, February 03, 2019


Writing Contests - Good for Your Soul!

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Heyduk
Greetings from Wisconsin where it is currently colder than Antarctica! Schools and businesses have been closed the last few days and we've been doing all we can to keep the cows warm and the children from killing one another!

I've been working in my home office which has been keeping my fingers warm, and thanks to WOW! Women on Writing, I've been spending the last few days working on interviews with those who have placed in our various writing contests. I love my job at WOW! but particularly look forward to these interviews. When I send my questions, I tailor them to the specific contest, story, and author, but there's one question I try to include in each interview and that is:

What advice would you give to others who may be 
considering participating in a writing contest?

I also include 8-10 questions with instructions that the contestant can pick and choose and needs to answer just 5 of the questions. Each person I've interviewed has always responded to the question above. Here's a "best of" compilation of those responses:

WOW is the greatest site for writers I’ve found, with valuable classes and services, and they do a contest that works to promote the writers. ~ Mary Ellen Wall (

Submitting to WOW was one of the best choices I have made as a writer, and the option of purchasing a critique is great for those struggling with confidence, as I was. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. ~ Tina Tippett (

Move outside your comfort zone!!! It’s fun. This was the first time I entered a writing contest, and for me it felt very much like submitting your work to a literary journal or magazine. ~Sue Ganno (

If you've never submitted your work to a writing contest, I suggest you take some of the advice from above and check out our latest contests: Whether you win or not, writing contests are good for your soul. It's encouraging to get feedback and helps move all of us forward. It's alright to be nervous about entering, but I guarantee you'll be glad you did! I also like to think we have a little something for everyone! WOW! Women On Writing now hosts two quarterly contests: one for fiction writers and one for nonfiction writers. We’ve hosted the flash fiction contest since 2006, and over the years, writers have asked us to open up an essay contest. So we are happy to add the essay contest to our offerings. We look forward to reading your work!

Click on the links below to jump to:

Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest

Quarterly Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother and auntie, 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 already), 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 making it extraordinary, blogging, reading, reviewing, and baking here and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Saturday, February 02, 2019


So I've Decided To Write a Blog Series

I read motivational and self-help books. I love Jen Sincero's Badass books, and I'm currently reading Rachel Hollis's Girl, Wash Your Face, about the lies we tell ourselves and how to stop. The one thing these books emphasize is how the only one who is really getting in the way of our dreams and our progress is the person looking in the mirror. Yep, ourselves. Myself!

This is so true for me. I always feel like I'm on the brink of doing something great. I feel like I have a pretty good brain, a desire to be successful, the will to work on my craft and improve my writing to a professional level, and enough ideas to last me until I'm dead. But there's this inner voice that constantly nags at me:

You can't do it.
That's a stupid idea.
You don't have time.

Etc., etc., etc.

But lately, thanks to the Badass books and just trying to stick to my word of the year, GROW, I've decided that I'm starting something on my Editor-911 site on Sunday or Monday that I've been kicking around for years--a series of blog posts (that might become a book) titled something like:

How NOT to Become a Famous Author


How to Stay Unknown and Make No Money as a Published Author


How to Be Unsuccessful as a Published Author

Now this might sound crazy to you. But I often wonder about the DUMMIES idea guy and how he went to his publisher and said something like, "I suggest we publish books with DUMMIES in the title, which is actually calling the readers, DUMMIES. These books will become household items. We'll have all sorts of titles."

I'm sure he was laughed out of a couple of offices. But...well, I'm sure you've seen the yellow and black books. It was a success. People loved it. These books are funny and useful and make you feel smart, actually.

So in my career as a published author, I feel like I've done just about everything wrong that you could. So although I hope my idea is funny and makes people laugh, it will also have some real lessons for writers to learn and to help writers get published and market their books successfully. These posts will be like: here are all the mistakes I made. Now, don't do this, and you will be successful.

Why am I writing about this on The Muffin if I haven't started yet? Because I want to make myself do it. If I write this promise on here, I will, I swear, I will start this series, and am REALLY trying to write one post a week. Because I'm a badass, and I'm done lying to myself that I can't do things that other writers successfully do, such as blog a book and follow through on good ideas.

So...what have you been putting off and not doing because you didn't believe in yourself? Let us know in the comments below, so we can encourage you to stop putting yourself down and start living your dream.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO, with her 8-year-old daughter. She has three published books for kids and teens and teaches writing and marketing classes for WOW! Check out more about Margo here.

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