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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

 

The Surprising Writing and Earth Day Connection

So I was checking out my calendar, thinking about Earth Day, when I started tossing ideas around for this post. And I know what you’re thinking: she’s going to talk about recycling.

Nope! (Though recycling is super important and I sure hope that you do your best to recycle!) I went with the calendar.

The calendar, you ask? What’s the calendar got to do with writing? So glad you asked!

When it comes to writing, whether it’s articles or books, there are certain dates on the calendar when editors and/or publishers are looking for very specific topics. Nearly every month has its special holiday and if you are the creative writer who can put a unique spin on those tired topics around Christmas, Halloween, or 4th of July, you will make a sale, I guarantee it. But you have to be on top of the editorial calendar or you’ll miss your window of opportunity.

The editorial calendar is the golden ticket for the freelancer; with it, you have all the information and dates you need to submit. Sometimes, it’s easy to find the submission guidelines and calendar. Here at WOW, for example, you can find all kinds of info on the Contact Us page. Make every effort to find the submission information and/or calendar before you submit because the freelancer who sends out stuff willy-nilly is the freelancer who doesn’t get the job.

An editorial calendar may require a seasonal submission months (and months) ahead of publication. So what’s the writer to do when that great Labor Day query isn’t accepted and Labor Day is right around the corner?

You have two choices when your seasonal queries go bust: you can wait a whole year or you can revise the article into an evergreen piece. (An evergreen topic is one that will fit either year-round or year after year.)

Granted, not every topic can be converted into something broader and evergreen. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer might work in an article about reindeer but you’ll still probably be limited to a winter theme. However, if you’ve come up with a few ideas for a craft article on how to recycle odds and ends into Christmas ornaments, then maybe that article becomes ornaments for a tree in your yard when you celebrate Earth Day. Wheee!

And one more thing about the calendar and writing: don’t overlook the lesser known celebrations when you’re looking for topics. Editors get swamped with queries about Earth Day on April 22nd, but did you know that April 6th was National Tartan Day? (Which makes me wonder if there’s a National Plaid Day…) Or that tomorrow is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day? Here’s a great site to give you all kinds of holidays and observances in the United States which will also give you information to get started on your research. And P.S. Here’s a fun site with world-wide calendars.

So I think I’ve made my Earth Day point about the simple yet amazing calendar. (But it’d also be swell if you recycle!)

~Cathy C. Hall (Writer and Recycler)


Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels


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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

 

Interview with Lisa Bodenheim: 2018 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Lisa’s Bio:
Lisa Bodenheim, a native of Minnesota, always thought she'd be a romance writer. But after a 10-day study journey to Chiapas, Mexico, her first book was Disturbing Complacency: Preparing for Christmas, published by Wild Goose Publications. Over the past few years, she has studied the craft of writing through blogs, has entered several 100-word flash fiction contests (snagging a few mentions but no wins), and in 2018, attended a weekend workshop at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She is now at work on a novel, searching for plot holes and getting to know the characters more in depth. Learn more at her website www.lisabodenheim.com.

If you haven't done so already, check out Lisa's award-winning story "The Oak and the Boomerang Daughter" and then return here for a chat with the author.

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

Lisa: I enjoyed juxtaposing my interest (and research) about oak savannas and fire ecology—and using an oak tree point-of-view—with the reality of the millennial generation—the boomerang daughter with a huge college debt, who lives with her mama, the two of them forging a new adult relationship.

WOW: Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Lisa: I entered this story in another contest with a different agency a few years ago and saved that version. When I brought it up again to work on it for WOW, I cringed a bit at some of my grammar. For example, the story was abundantly filled with ing verbs. Patience and time, reading published stories and having critique partners is definitely helpful to get fresh eyes on my writing projects so I can tell the story better.

WOW: I love to hear that you persisted and didn’t give up on your story! Can you tell us more about the novel you’re writing? What method(s) do you use to get to know your characters in more depth?

Lisa: It’s a braided story with two protagonists—a young millennial woman whose extended family polarizes over the censor on her cousin who was attacked and an East Prussian woman caring for her teen brother and baby niece on the eve of WWII. The focus is on the effect of violence, particularly in the form of societal censors, and how silencing voices can fragment families and communities.

Through my critique partners, I’ve learned that I’m not good at getting emotional reactions of my characters on the page of my first drafts.

Somewhere in my studies on the craft of writing, I read about Motivation Reaction Units. To study MRUs, I’ve used Randy Ingermanson’s (the Snowflake Guy) blog, Advanced Fiction Writer, and KM Weiland’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors. Hopefully, using this method to burrow into my characters' heads will help me bring out more emotions and subtext.

WOW: Intriguing summary and great resources! Thank you for sharing those with us. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Lisa: Well-Read Black Girl, edited by Glory Edim, founder of the organization by the same name. I’m a white woman who grew up in a small all-white community. Yet now I work and live in communities with diverse people of color. There's so much I need to learn because I don’t know what it means to walk in the shoes of a black person. I can only guess and intellectualize and empathize. I want to depict diverse cultures in my stories without harmful stereotypes, doing my small part to envision communities of hope and laughter, joy and justice.

WOW: Not an easy task, but a very worthy goal. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Lisa: Persist. Write down your ideas. There are stories all around us.

WOW: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Lisa: Thank you for this opportunity to polish my short story and enter WOW’s contest! The ability to get feedback and reading through the winner’s lists have been great.

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, April 22, 2019

 

Writing Prompts - Forge On

Writing prompts can sometimes assist us with moving forward or overcoming writers block. A recent
piece of middle school homework came home with the following definition of a writing prompt:

"The purpose of a writing prompt is to invite students to think about, develop a perspective about and write about a topic. A writing prompt introduces and focuses the writing topic. If also provides clear information or instructions about the essay writing task."

When I am blocked with my writing or feel my writing is blocked, sometimes it's because I have so many ideas and I can't choose which one. I feel my head is spinning. Other times I have a feeling but cannot put it to words. In either scenario, using a writing prompt can help me refocus and forge on.

Writing prompts can also help when I'm working on a large project and need a short break. Using a writing prompt to put together a short flash fiction piece allows me a vacation while still working on my craft. Similarly, if I'm having a bad day and I don't want to write much in my journal, I start with a writing prompt and go from there. There's many short (never published) essays in each of my journals - they can be very therapeutic as well. (adult coloring books offer the same vacation mentality, but that's another article)

I've also heard that some large published works once began as a short writing prompt. I've never experienced this personally, but some authors suggest writing prompts may provide the inspiration for larger works.

Where do you find the best writing prompts? How have writing prompts helped you in your craft? What ideas and suggestions do you have for others?

We love to hear from you!

Hugs,
~Crystal

Crystal  lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children (Carmen 12, Andre 10, Breccan 5, Delphine 4, and baby Eudora who somehow turned 1 not long ago), 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, April 21, 2019

 

Writing Nonfiction: 5 Tips to Help Readers Enter Your Nonfiction World

Each time I turn in a nonfiction project, I think I’ve nailed it. Certainly after 20 books, I should have tiny clue. But still I find myself working through the rewrite using my editor’s comments to clarify and smooth the way for my reader. Helping them enter the nonfiction world I’ve chosen to recreate is always tricky.

Here are 5 tips to help make the task a bit easier:

1. Set the Hook. Whether I am writing about The Ancient Maya or The Evolution of Reptiles, I have to hook my reader and hook them fast. The young adults who read my books have way too many demands on their time to read 30 pages before they decide if they are willing to keep reading. I have to hook them and hook them fast which I often do with the help of a creative nonfiction scene. The Ancient Maya opens with a game on a ball court and The Evolution of Reptiles with the discovery of a vital fossil.
2. Bring The Reader Up to Speed. Once I’ve hooked my reader, I need to bring them up to speed. What information do they need to understand the topic? The creative nonfiction scene may be my hook but I have to follow this with the details readers need to comprehend the topic. In The Ancient Maya I wrote about their rise from farming villages to city states. In The Evolution of Reptiles I wrote about evolution, what exactly a reptile is and taxonomic classifications. But I still have to be certain that I gradually dole the information out…
3. Bite by Bite. Too much information too fast will overwhelm my readers. If I do that, they’ll give up on the book and move on to something less confusing. To prevent this, I need to give them new information a bit at a time. This is true whether the information takes the form of dates, names, or terms.
4. Acknowledge Your Expertise. To introduce information bite by bite, I have to understand just how much of this is familiar to me but new to my reader. Not surprisingly, when my editor sends me a list of potential topics, I generally pick things that interest me. I’ve been interested in ancient people and all kinds of animals since before I could read. This means that things that I consider common knowledge probably aren’t. Last but not least, I need to look for ways to make connections when I . . .
5. Wrap It Up. This is one of the hardest parts of the job for me. I have to reiterate for my reader why the topic is important. This can be tough when it is a topic that fascinated me. After all, just say Inca, Aztec or Maya and you have my attention. My readers? Some of them probably share my fascination, but most will need a reason to care. Recent research shows that Mayan civilization may have collapsed due to climate change.

Writing nonfiction means making a variety of real places and times accessible to your reader. These tips will help you make your nonfiction world real, easy to enter, and meaningful to your reader.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins May 20th, 2019.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

 

Once in a Blue Moon Writing Comes Easily


It's rare, but on occasion, I will write something that clicks in such a way, I'll wonder why I'm not able to recreate the experience every time I write. This happened to me recently thanks to a writing prompt and I can probably count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me.

The other time that I can remember I was on the bus going home from work and a poem came to me. It came from such an honest and raw place that when I was done, it felt so complete and finished. I knew deep down little would need to be changed in the editing process. Unfortunately, that poem lives in a cell phone that I accidentally dunked in water and is no longer accessible. I still think about that poem though.

Why is it that our acts of writing feel beautifully easy in some moments and back-breaking work other times? Am I the only one that feels that contrast? Sometimes I feel like the dazzling experience of writing with ease happens as a result of one simple thing - practice. It comes from the discipline of sitting down to write when it's unbelievably painful. It comes through returning to the revising process even when you've come to hate the sight of that piece of writing. It comes through submitting your writing despite the self-doubt ringing in your ear. These intentional acts of discipline produce those moments where everything clicks and writing is as easy as riding a bike.

The next time writing is painful, keep at it. Because every so often, you'll have an experience where you no longer bleed at the keyboard but soar.


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Friday, April 19, 2019

 

Friday Speak Out!: Overcoming New Notebook Anxiety

by Diane DeMasi Johnson

I crack open a new special notebook. It’s large and its pages are smooth. It’s beautiful, it inspires me to write, but I can’t write just any notion, wayward thought, filler fluff, or other banality.

I can write only deep, meaningful, magnificent, literary stories, memories, and life-altering insights. And I must not make one mistake or use anything but my best penmanship.

Could I ever fill a notebook of this size with only glorious writing and impactful thoughts? How long would that take: A year, two years, or a lifetime? What if I couldn’t even fill it in a lifetime?

So I slip the notebook on a shelf reserved for all the beautiful journals that bring me joy and I stare at them, waiting for inspiration so powerful that it’s worthy to grace the pages.

Instead of overwhelming inspiration, I get a hefty dose of guilt. I spent good money; I shouldn’t let it go to waste. And failure – clearly I have no thoughts worthy enough for these pages and I don’t have enough talent to bubble up a conviction that will be remembered forever.

I pull out the cheap composition notebooks bought during back-to-school sales. I scrawl all the mundane tasks running through my brain: Eat breakfast, shower, oh good-grief – clean the shower. I write about nothing. Truly, nothing: I have nothing to say, but I need to finish this page, what thoughts do I have? Nothing. I have nothing, nada, zilch, zip, zero. I am nothing.

And then I reach for the beautiful notebook, in the perfect size, with the perfect leather cover, and the smooth, fountain pen-friendly pages and I scratch, scribble, and scrawl about nothing. I feel better. I feel joy. I feel like a writer whose nothing is worth something. My scribbles and scrawls unburden my soul and release the seeds that produce articles, essays, blogs, short stories and more. And that unburdening is worth gracing the finest of all notebook pages.

* * *
Diane DeMasi Johnson challenges herself by trying her hand at any and all writing styles from web content to business catalog copy, from short stories to novels, from essays to informative articles, and more. She's been published in Sacramento Parent, S.I. Parent, North State Parent, AllYou Magazine, Shape, PIF Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul Dreams and Premonitions, and more. 
You can find her at https://DianeDeMasi.com

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

 

Podcasts Are Saving My Life Right Now

art by Wesley Fryer (Flickr.com)
The title of this post may seem a little extreme for some of you, unless you're a big fan of Jen Hatmaker's podcast, For the Love, like I am. She asks every guest on her weekly podcast at the end of the interview: "What is saving your life right now?" (Answers can range from serious, such as therapy, to silly, such as coffee or Netflix binging.) This question is from a Barbara Brown Taylor book, a memoir titled Leaving Church

So when I was thinking about this post, this question and answer popped up in my mind: "Podcasting is saving my life right now." And then I dug deeper to ask myself: why?

Working from home, sometimes doing menial tasks for my day job, and driving in the car, sometimes long distances, are the perfect reasons to listen to podcasts--along with walking, mowing the grass, and cleaning the bathroom. With my iPhone, podcast app, and earphones, it's so easy to have a funny podcast episode or information-packed episode entertaining me in seconds. I can't seem to listen to music and feel entertained in the same way, and watching TV while trying to do these tasks is just distracting and/or impossible. So podcasts save me from the absolute boredom that some of these tasks bring. It is the perfect solution. Plus, I'm learning so much from listening to them!

Besides the Jen Hatmaker podcast (which you should definitely check out the season that is titled, "For the Love of Books" if you don't check out every single episode, just like her number one fan--me--does), I also love Writing Excuses. This is a podcast with authors Dan Wells (horror/sci-fi), Brandon Sanderson (fantasy/sci-fi), Mary Robinette Kowal (fantasy/sci-fi/historical), and web cartoonist Howard Tayler. Their tagline is: "Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart." 

You can tell just from that tagline--there's humor involved. These guys and this gal are in the author trenches and want to help all writers--beginners to advanced--navigate every part of a writing career from the actual crafting of fiction (characters, plotting, tension) to marketing and building a platform. I recently found this wonderful program, so I've only listened to a handful. But I've enjoyed them and take notes when at home (not driving or mowing the lawn). My marketing class students will be so thrilled to hear that I'm adding listening to this podcast to my syllabus. (BTW, you don't need a smartphone to listen to a podcast. You can go straight to the website, where all smart podcasters have their episodes downloadable from the web.)

The other "writing" program I'm currently listening to is the Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast. This features Chris Syme (faith-based writer and award-winning marketer) whose mission is to help authors sell more books with less marketing. (Insert the heart-eyes emoji here!) She co-hosts this podcast with her daughter (SO COOL!) R. L. Syme (Becca) who is an indie author of cozy mysteries and historical romance, and who runs "Write Better Faster" .  The episode I started was the one titled: "Should You Start a Podcast?" and I think the advice was great. Chris's sincerity really comes through. I can't wait to check out some of their other episodes.

And why did that particular episode catch my attention, dear Muffin readers? Well, because I am 95 percent sure that I'm stepping into the podcast world with WOW!'s and Angela's support. We aren't sure how it's going to look or who all will be involved (all the staff members are currently pretending like I have lost my mind and asking who can take on one more thing?), but I'm serious about this. SO serious that I have read Sheena Yap Chan's article on podcasts in WOW!'s issue 90 a few times now and wound up buying this book the other day:



I'm so excited about this! Ideas are flowing. Podcasts makes me want to read more, write more, and find new authors and topics to explore. They are definitely saving my creative life at the very least, if not my actual life, giving me something to focus on during the mundane everyday tasks that we all have to accomplish. So while you wait for me to figure out what the podcast's going to look like, check out those podcasts above or let us know one you really like in the comments below.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, children's author, editor, teacher, and writing coach in St. Louis, MO. She is soon hoping to add "podcast host" to her resume. For the time being, you can check out her writing and books at MargoLDill.com or her editing business at Editor-911.com. She also teaches a monthly novel writing course for WOW!, which you can check out here. The next one starts on May 3!


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

 

What is poetry?

The answer to that question is similar to the answer Louis Armstrong gave when asked to define jazz. “Baby, if you got to ask the question, you’re never going to know the answer.”

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, poetry is defined as literature that evokes a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience or a specific emotional response through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.

Here's my definition of poetry in the form of a poem:

Time condensed
Through a memory filter,
Removing excess words
And thoughts that cloud
Emotion, leaving us with truth,
Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

A few more questions about poetry


Does poetry need to rhyme?

No.

Does poetry follow rules?

Some poems follow rules of meter and rhyme, but others do not.

Is one better than the other?

Yes, but no one knows which.

Who is the best poet ever?

Let's just say there are many fine poets, and maybe the best poet has not yet emerged in the timeline of "ever." Those worth reading, however, include Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver, and Anne Sexton.

Alright, then, how about the best poem?

I am conflicted when it comes to naming the best poem. One of my favorites isn't a poem at all, it's a short story titled Black Box by Pulitzer-Prize-Winning novelist Jennifer Egan. The story was sent out one tweet at a time at one-minute intervals from The New Yorker's Twitter account. Read it here: (some language and scenes unsuitable for children.)

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/black-box-2

To me, the story looks like a poem. Egan described it as a "Series of terse mental dispatches from a female spy of the future, working undercover by the Mediterranean Sea." Although Twitter may not be used for many stories or novels, she called the format "the odd poetry that can happen in a hundred and forty characters."

And finally, when my favorite local poet Matthew Freeman was asked about the difference between good poetry and great poetry, he responded, "Despair."

So, what is a poetry? Just like jazz and pornography, I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.


Mary Horner is a freelance writer and editor.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

 

Meet Melanie Bell, Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Melanie Bell launched her marketing technology firm in 2014 after working for a startup accelerator in Houston. This followed undergraduate studies in international development at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she stayed to acquire several years’ marketing experience, and an MBA at Rice University.

Born in Long Beach, California and raised in Houston, Texas, Melanie has traveled to places as far and varied as Venezuela, Rwanda, Cambodia, China, and Sardinia. She prefers to stay away from tourist traps and takes to the backstreets to sample authentic cuisine and culture.

To hone her writing skills while continuing to run her business, Melanie recently began entering writing competitions and joining local writing workshops. She is a voracious reader, digesting a wide mix of fiction and nonfiction, often biographical and historical. Maybe one day she will write a novel. She balances work life with her husband, two step-kids, and a contentedly overweight tabby called Lenny.

Read Melanie's story, "Blueberry Bonds," and then return here to learn more about the author.

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

WOW: Hello, Melanie, and congratulations on placing again with this moving story! It seems workshops and writing competitions are helping you hone your craft. What are some of your favorite resources for finding classes and contests?

Melanie: There are a few local groups that offer a fantastic lineup of classes and workshops as well as other events with a literary focus. Inprint and Writespace immediately come to mind. I also have a tab set up on my Flipboard account for creative writing, and that feed pulls in various contests, which is how I found out about WOW!

WOW: What is your favorite line from “Blueberry Bonds?”

Melanie: I have two! "Uncooked blueberry pie sludged toward the floor" simply because I love the word sludged. I also spent a lot of time developing the characters, 99.9% of which didn't end up in the story, so I also loved including this tidbit about Emmie's grandma: "Every night, her grandmother took a small bourbon to the bedroom to read trashy magazines."

WOW: Yes, I agree that those are two great lines. Sludged is awesome. You mentioned you enjoy reading a wide variety of titles. We’d love to hear about what books are currently on your nightstand.

Melanie: Ha! Far too many if there is such a thing. My husband and I are slightly concerned my books are breeding. I have a few anthologies/compilations (Didion, Cheever, Chekhov), a book about linguistics, a biography of the fascinating Gertrude Bell (no relation as far as I know), and about five new historical fictions that just arrived like The Gown, The Forgotten Garden, and The Watermelon Boys.

WOW: As you travel extensively, have any of your travels inspired short stories or essays? We’d love to hear details!

Melanie: There's so much great material to pick up while traveling - from random people you encounter, different weather, scenery, food, and changes in dynamics with the people with whom you're traveling. I entered a short story contest run by a new group called Prolitfic earlier this year and focused my entry it around a family on a summer vacation in Los Angeles, which is where I spent lots of my summers as a kid. However, I wanted to highlight some of the stresses of family trips as I'm now experiencing them as a stepmom to a teen and a tween. I used it as an opportunity to explore the trip from both points of view (parent and child), though both are relatively dislikeable and misunderstood characters. There are more things in the works that are related to my travels, but I'm keeping them in stealth mode for the moment!

WOW: I agree! I think having marketing background helps you write and pitch stories in a special way, too. Speaking of you having a marketing background, including an MBA, when did you first discover your love of creative writing?

Melanie: This is a new love of mine, just within the past year or so. Though, as I've been writing more, I've recalled several childhood memories of writing short stories that I enjoyed. One was about someone who had no friends and whose family had rejected him. I think about 3 pages of it were about his very lonely existence and then 3 pages were about him dying. I'm shocked my creative writing teacher didn't send me to the school counselor, but all the girls in my class had written very dark, psychological pieces, so it must have been a phase we were all going through at the time. The other short story I remember writing with a friend was about how I was going to meet Prince Harry and how we'd fall in love and get married. Perhaps this counts as fan fiction?! I wish I'd held onto these pieces. It'd be so much fun to dig them out now and reread them.

WOW: The past year or so? That's incredible! I'm sure we'll see more of your work in the future. Sending you happy writing vibes!

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Monday, April 15, 2019

 

Behind the Facade


I’m a writer. I’m not someone who wants to be an “influencer,” per say. I much prefer to sit on my couch with my dogs, my computer, or a good book. On social media, I’ll occasionally share a photo from an activity I’m at or a good meal I whipped up. But I paused a few days ago when someone who is a business coach talked about how you should get more “personal” in your social media accounts. I wondered if this is good advice for a writer looking for an agent or not. Does it make you seem more real, or authentic? Does it make you look more like a person who would leap through fire to sell her books?

I decided to take a baby step and try that strategy out here today on the blog. So I’m lifting the façade, and being honest with everyone. I hope this post will help convince other introverted writers such as myself that they are not alone.

Revelation #1
I struggle with my weight, and have since I was about 14 years old. This shocked me when I thought about it the other day. That’s a long time to be worrying about your weight! I think the concern first started because I had a chaotic childhood where my parents moved houses three or four times a year during my formative years. I eventually grew so frustrated I thought maybe if I stopped eating things would get better and slow down the craziness. Well, they didn’t. I grew up with a Hispanic mother and grandmother and aunts who didn’t hesitate to speak out if I ate too many tortillas or guacamole and gained a few pounds. Have you ever seen that movie Real Women Have Curves? Starring America Ferrera? Story of my life. I finally got professional help when I was 19, but I still find myself having to be conscientious about what I eat and how often I exercise.

Revelation #2
I have persistent depression and anxiety. Sometimes I think this goes hand and hand with being a creative person. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m sure a lot of you will agree with me here. The funny thing is, I never considered myself an “anxious” person. Sure, I carry my car keys in my hand with my finger poised over the unlock button in every parking lot, and lock the door as soon as I get inside. Sure, I make sure I’m never on my phone in a parking lot as I’m walking to my car at night, and maybe I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night worrying (about my kids, my husband, something I forgot to do at work, a deadline I’m not sure I’ll be able to meet) etc. but that doesn’t make me an anxious person, right? Ha! I think this is something that has gotten worse with age but I’m working on it. I have to take more time to care for myself before caring for others, knowing when I need to bow out of a social activity that will make me uncomfortable, and simply taking time to decompress when I need it.

Revelation #3
I am a blessed person. Despite my misgivings, and despite a distant relationship with my extended family, I have a lot. I live in a beautiful house, have a job that’s ten minutes away from that house, and have two kids and a husband who love me completely even with my quirks (I think!) I have two dogs who are almost always happy to see me, and I have a phone and earbuds that can feed all the podcasts I can handle into my ears as I exercise outdoors. I also have access to good food, good books, and the occasional margarita. Life is good and sometimes I need to remind myself of that.

What are some revelations about you that others may not know? Do you have any quirks or fears you’d feel comfortable sharing, because, guess what? We’re all in this together, and keeping things inside isn’t always the healthiest route.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. Visit her website at www.FinishedPages.com.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

 

Interview with Alicia Ezekiel-Pipkin Q1 2018 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest Runner Up!


Congratulations to runner up Alicia Ezekiel-Pipkin and everyone who participated in our WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!

Alicia's Bio:

Alicia Ezekiel-Pipkin is a nonfiction lyric essayist interested in the correlational between identity and the natural world. Generally, her essays contemplate the intricate relationship of nature v. nurture and the effects that relationship has on a person. Alicia’s work has contributed to the Seattle art installation, Anastacia-Reneé: Poetry in a Time of Chaos and has been honored by New Millennium Writings. Alicia is currently working on a collection of personal essays as an MFA candidate at University of Central Florida in nonfiction. She currently lives in Orlando with her dog Theo, who does not appreciate all the large reptiles out to get him. Readers can connect with her through her new website, Instagram, or Twitter.


If you haven't done so already, check out Alicia's emotional story  Mother Moon and Me and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW:  Congratulations again Alicia and thank you for taking time to chat with us today! Let's dig right in: Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Alicia: Generally, I write in any isolated chair and table in a room with some source of sunlight. The process of writing itself is not as demanding to me as the pre-writing. The meditating. I’m not one that can just sit down and write. For me, that practice implies a pressure to produce. I need something, a moment or concept, to consume my thoughts and demand to be written. It’s not the most reliable approach, but I do most of my writing in my head while running. When running competitively in high school and college, I found myself alone for miles and hours, with nothing to do except think. At stops signs or red lights, I’d make notes in my phone to explore on the page afterwards. Running is so isolating that it makes one examine themselves and their surroundings. I think that’s why I’m drawn to the essay. The essay is an attempt to make sense of one’s thoughts.

WOW: That's a very enlightening point of view - it also explains why you pack so much emotion into your writing. How has your writing been therapeutic? What advice would you give to others? 

Alicia:
As my father combated the crystalizing colonies of cancer cells encroached on his skin, lungs, intestines, and prostate with chemotherapy, I contended life’s afflictions with writing. After years of untreated symptoms, our medication cabinets filled with prescriptions for his cancer and my major depressive disorder in the fall of my sophomore year of college. Because the medication made us both physically ill, we turned to more natural remedies—beer for him and writing for me. Creative writing provided me with the ability to communicate the foreign emotions that blistered beneath my ribcage. Unlike the bottles of medication meant to drive away the loneliness, writing offered a way to talk to it.

The more time you spend writing, the more self-aware you become. You learn to thoughtfully and clearly communicate your ideas. Self-awareness and communication are important for everyone, not just beginning writers.

WOW: Thank you for your honesty; I'm so happy to hear you turned to something as healthy as writing! What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2019 and beyond?

Alicia:
Right now, I’m working on my thesis for my MFA in nonfiction at the University of Central Florida. It’s a collection of essays that explore coming of age and the weight of nature vs. nurture. The essays I've written explore subjects such as motherhood, eating disorders, love, genetics, and the natural and scientific world. These threads stem from my fascination in observing various forms of motherhood and the effects a child’s upbringing and genetics have on her emerging adulthood. Nature vs. nurture is constantly observed in this collection. These essays aim to calculate the sum of a being, to quantify the unquantifiable, and approach non-scientific subjects through a scientific or naturalist lens.

WOW: I'm not sure how you find time, but thank you for including this interview in your schedule!

What pushed you toward sharing such an intimate story? Any regrets? Tell us more...

Alicia: I wrote this piece after reading Amy Butcher’s Women These Days. Her essay stitches together news headlines by searching “woman + [verb].” Around the same time, a man had followed me on his bike as I ran. A friend was followed on her bike by two guys for twelve miles. The female runners of Rowan University (New Jersey) were banned from running in sports bras due to their bodies distracting male athletes. With all of this in mind, I wanted to explore the origins of my distrust in men and somewhat reclaim that fear in the last paragraph of my essay. The only regret I have sharing this essay is its colder portrayal of my mom. The companion essays to Mother Moon and Me flesh out her character more, and by just reading this one, the reader doesn’t get a rounded view of her. My mom is a loving, complex person who taught me empathy. Without her, I wouldn’t be a writer.

WOW: Well thank heaven's for Amy Butcher and for your bravery in sharing your story. We are so happy to part of your journey!

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!


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Saturday, April 13, 2019

 

Sowing and Writing

Crystal in a well-sown field with her husband Mark
(photo credit to Oh! Photography)
I can't say for certain who should get credit for this quote:

"Well behaved women rarely make history"

Some folks credit it to Eleanor Roosevelt, others say Marilyn Monroe or possibly Gloria Steinem...well whatever, it's a quote I hold dear.

At our house, we are firm believers in having fun and sowing your wild oats. That time of sowing makes for great stories later on in life, and even if you aren't a writer, it's fun to reflect on those years of fun and frivolity. If you are a writer - even better for adding depth and dimension to your young or wayward characters.

Just this evening, I ran into a gentleman about my age. Our paths have crossed many times through life and tonight's conversation went something like this:

"Hey Chad - you had a great time between 20 and 30, right?"

With a sparkle in his eye, "Oh yes, I sure did!"

"And any regrets?"

"Absolutely not!"

To put it in context, I was out having a delightful time with some friends who happen to be young enough to be my children. I tease the young man about claiming him on my taxes since he's eaten more meals at my house than some of the children I've birthed myself. The young man is 22 and getting ready to settle down with a delightful young woman.

My fear for the young couple is the lack of sowing - they haven't sown those wild oats. I'm fearful they will settle down, get married, have children, and never experience that decade of wild freedom and fun. I'm old enough to know that missing those years mean one of two things:

1) A lifetime of wondering "What if?"

2) A midlife crisis that usually includes a broken home, shared custody, and pain for innocent children and bystanders.

Dear reader, before you get offended - I realize there are some high school sweethearts who marry young and live a dreamy life of bliss...but statistics show most marriages today end in divorce. The happily ever after is something most of us dream about but seldom of us get right the first time. If you are one of the happy couples who beat the odds - good for you - leave a comment about what you think the key to a successful marriage is (please)!

I sowed a lot of wild oats and like my friend Chad (not to be confused with sewing which I am not very good at) - I wouldn't change a thing and I don't regret a single seed (even the ones thrown into the wind). As I sit and watch the young couple navigate their own relationship, I smile at my memories of love found, love lost, and all those seeds that have since become journal entries, stories I share with a smile on my face, and someday my very own memoir. I'm not looking to make history, but I'm certainly not claiming to be well behaved either.

How do you feel about your youth? Your so-called mis-spent years? What's your plan? Do you share those stories with your friends and family? Are they fond memories?

What advice do you have for young couples or young people today? Do you believe in sowing those wild oats?

We'd love to hear from you!

Cheers!

xoxoxo
Crystal



Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, 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 12, Andre 10, Breccan 5, Delphine 4, and baby Eudora who somehow turned 1 not long ago), 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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Friday, April 12, 2019

 

Friday Speak Out!: Never Too Late

by Jeanine DeHoney

I recently read an article about an African American actress named Dorothy Steel. She started acting at age 88 and after roles in several movies landed a role in Marvel’s mega blockbuster hit “Black Panther” as the Merchant Tribal elder at the age of 92. Yes, 92.

When reading the back story about this gemstone of a woman, who reminded me of all the beautiful strong elder woman in my own village, it was awe-inspiring. She exemplified the adage that it is never too late, to follow your dream, to do what makes your heart soar.

Each day I have to remind myself of this truth as I pursue a writing career, a dream I had since I was seven years old. It is so easy to slip into a gloomy abyss at times when you feel that it’s now or never with your writing. You may feel like I have that if that novel isn’t finished yet there is a likelihood it may never get finished. Or if you haven’t landed a feature essay in that magazine you’ve been submitting to for what seems like an eternity, that it will never happen.

It’s easy to feel on any given bad day, writing or otherwise, that you should throw in the towel because you aren’t in that imagined place you thought you would be during this phase of your life. Although the reasons why we may not be in that place are as varied as they are significant; raising children, being a caretaker of a parent, health problems, dealing with emotional lows, finances, etc., that feeling of, “My writing career will always remain lukewarm or never get off the ground,” can malign your spirit.

But oh how prejudicial and unloving we are to ourselves when we court these ideologies. We have a gift as writers and it will never be too late to use our gift and spread our words to the world. It would be a loss to all if we didn’t persevere, and share our stories, our wisdom, our humor, our passion, this much-honed gift we’ve been blessed with.

So make a pact with yourself or with someone close to you that will hold you accountable, that you’ll never ever “ever” say “It’s too late,” to pursue your dream. No matter how many other things take priority, how many obstacles you must overcome, and no matter what age you are or are approaching…live and write freely, with full on passion and expectancy. And if you need more inspiration to live and write accordingly in your creative purpose, remember actress Dorothy Steel.

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Jeanine DeHoney has had her work published on several blogs, in magazines and anthologies. Among others her writing has been published in Essence, The Children's Ark, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby, The Write Place At the Write Time, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, True Stories Well Told, Parent. Co., Brain Child Magazine, Jerry Jazz Magazine, Today's Caregiver Magazine, and Rigorous Literary Magazine. She is an essayist in the anthologies "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul,” "Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from The Ones Sandwiched in Between," “Theories of HER-an experimental anthology, in the anthology, "In Celebration of Sisters," and in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Anthology, The Power Of Yes.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, April 11, 2019

 

First, You Need a BIG Black Snake (Or How To Grab the Attention of Agents, Editors, and Readers)

The other day, the black snake returned to my deck. It is a seriously BIG black snake and so I posted the pic on social media and immediately, the comments started. There is something about a BIG black snake that really gets people’s attention and oddly, I thought about my latest pitch. And here’s what I thought: I need a BIG black snake.

Not literally, just metaphorically. In other words, would my pitch immediately convince an agent to read my first ten pages? And assuming my story delivered, would my agent’s pitch (which started with my pitch) be compelling enough to make an editor want to read it? And then the editor had to sell my story to an entire publishing company, who in turn had to sell the pitch to thousands of readers.

It’s pretty overwhelming, when you think about all that your pitch has to do. So it behooves us all to get the equivalent of a BIG black snake. But what makes a good pitch? I know you’re thinking it’s a good story, but it’s not that simple. Plenty of writers can produce wonderful stories. But there are plenty of wonderful stories gathering dust because the writer couldn’t pitch the story well enough to grab the right person’s attention. So a few ideas about good pitches:

First, know what your story is about. I know. It’s ridiculous. Who doesn’t know what their story is about? But if you only have thirty seconds to take everything you know about your story and then pitch your book to editors and agents, could you do it? Could you quickly get to the essence of it all, capturing the voice, the hook or premise, the tone, the characters?

Yeah. Not so easy to get all that in a few sentences. But if you know what your story is about, that’s a starting point, and there are lots of ways to begin. I like Gary Provost’s sentence about story structure which you can read about here; it’s a good checklist. But just about any book on the subject of writing can help you here. (Or conversely, help you find where or what is missing in your story!) And once you have conquered that one-page summary, you’re ready to move on to the pitch phase.

Read lots of pitches! Now, I realize you don’t have access to all the perfect pitches that have been written out there. Though sometimes, an author might share the pitch that got her the agent of her dreams. Or an editor might share a pitch that made her publishing house buy a book at auction. But that’s a painstaking search mission and there’s an easier way to find great pitches: go to the bookstore or your local library.

Head directly to that shelf where all the best-sellers are waiting and turn to the back cover. There you will find, in a short paragraph or two, exactly what’s inside that book. I don’t care if it’s a memoir or a thriller, a romance or a how-to, that back cover is golden. And often, the back cover is remarkably close to what the writer used as the first pitch. You can even do a little comparison and read the summary inside the book cover; that’s how you’ll see what was left off the back cover. And when you understand the difference, it’s time to move on to writing a pitch.

Practice writing pitches. You can concentrate on writing your own pitch, but sometimes, we’re so invested in what we’ve written that we find it difficult to cut. Practice distilling other people’s books into pitches and get used to the process. Or practice with movies. It doesn’t matter as long as you know the story well. And once you’ve honed your skills, then write your own pitch.

It’s just a few lines, but those few lines can make the difference between ho-hum and humdinger. So spend a little time on the whole pitch thing and when it’s good and ready—when you’ve got your BIG black snake--go grab someone’s attention!

~Cathy C. Hall



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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

 

Being a Writer is Like Being an Alcoholic

Hi. I'm Sioux and I'm a writer. It's been four days since my last rejection. (Yeah, I know I blended being in an AA meeting with being in confessional. Sorry.)

Even though I've never had a problem with alcohol (food is my issue), I am a writer and it has been just four days since my manuscript was last rejected. In working on this post, I first sought up the advice of well-known authors (as I licked my wounds from the most recent, resounding "no") but then made the connection between struggling with an addiction and rejection... and this wine-ing session was born.



“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

As a former member of Overeaters Anonymous (I've since fallen back in love with swimming in vats of chocolate pudding and mashed potatoes) I learned that people who struggle with addiction (and rejection) have to find a sponsor (editor/publisher) who is the perfect fit for them. One size does not fit all.

I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

One of the main threads that runs through groups like OA and AA is striving towards progress, not perfection.  When you stumble, you go to another meeting. When you're rejected, submit again.

“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” – James Lee Burke


Being in a group like Overeaters Anonymous or AA means you learn a great deal about yourself--your triggers, your weaknesses, your strengths. As you write, you learn more about your craft. You refine your work, you reflect, you get feedback to better your story or manuscript.

“Rejection has value. It teaches us when our work or our skillset is not good enough and must be made better. This is a powerful revelation, like the burning UFO wheel seen by the prophet Ezekiel, or like the McRib sandwich shaped like the Virgin Mary seen by the prophet Steve Jenkins. Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” – Chuck Wendig

The "serenity prayer" is how the OA meetings finished up--at least in the group I was in.  Being able to recognize that there are some things that are out of our control (we can't change the mind of the editor who's rejecting our work--this time) and realizing we can change some things (how our sample begins or we can revise our query letter) allows us to let go what is beyond us.  Fixating and obsessing over things we don't have power over will only make us crazy.  Instead, focus on things we do have control over (after eating a plate full of cheese-y garlic bread to take the sting out of the rejection).


The writing accountability group Sioux Roslawski is a part of  (the Butt-Kickers) is struggling with rejection--some of the writers enjoy moments of success now and then, but the members moan and console each other when a rejection email is received. Sioux is seeking out an agent (or a publisher!) for her middle-grade manuscript (it's historical fiction!). If you're curious what her writing is like, check out her blog--Sioux's Page.  

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

 

Interview with K. Alan Leitch, Runner Up in Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest

Author of YA, Mysteries and Satirical Adventures, K. Alan Leitch writes with lyricism for the fun-loving reader. His novel awards include Textnovel, Serena McDonald Kennedy, The Write Launch and Book Pipeline. Through sixteen short fiction awards, he’s loved soap operas with Writer Advice; lived loudly in Gathering Storm Magazine; written in seven different voices for WOW! Women On Writing; and protected other worlds in Stringybark Stories. His satirical adventure, Crimes of Convenience, has placed in the 2017 International 3-day Novel Contest, and his YA Mystery, Too Much Information, has placed in the top seven of the 2018 International Eyelands awards and in the top ten of the 2017 Book Pipeline Contest, surpassing 1,974 other published and unpublished novels. Visit K. Alan's Blog or tweet-a-gram him @KAlanAuthor

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in our Fall 2018 Flash Fiction competition. Can you tell us the source of your inspiration when you write in a teenage voice like the one in your story, "Weak as Tissue?"

Keith: I actually get asked about my teenage voices a lot, and not always so politely. Sometimes the question starts with, "What makes you think you can.." Because of my age and (maybe to some extent) my gender, many in the writing profession are surprised. But the answer is surprisingly simple: I'm a teacher.

Having been a teacher for twenty-four years—twenty of those full-time—teenage voices might be the ones that are most familiar to me. I've known literally thousands of teenagers, and I still talk to hundreds every week. The bigger challenge is to write something that's not in a narrative style that they've influenced.

Sometimes a student will voice a problem to me that's completely similar or radically different from a problem I heard ten years ago. When it comes to insecurity over body image, I'm afraid that's timeless. It also knows no racial or cultural barriers, and, let's face it, it lasts more into adulthood than we care to admit. Thus Brooke's conflict in "Weak as Tissue."

#ownvoices are incredibly important, and I completely support the trend. However, there's also something to be said for experience: finding the common ground within a culture to speak through protagonists, and the conflict around it to create narrative tension. I suspect it's the same for a lot of authors... an amalgam of the people who surround them every day are their most likely characters.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Keith: Well, outside of my blog, I mostly write only short stories (flash or otherwise) and novels. The shorter the story, the more I enjoy my ability to focus on the exact choice of the most lyrical words possible. Flash-writing is much more about exposing my themes than it is about worrying whether I've contradicted some plotting detail in Chapter 2. That creates a whole different writing 'mode.'

WOW: What is your ideal writing environment?

Keith: The inside of Scrooge McDuck's vault. I'm sorry, I really don't know. Sometimes I need some background music or noise, and knowing there's some humanity around me. It's a cliché, but my local Starbucks serves me well on those days. At other times, I need silence, familiarity and the view from my own window. I think the only consistency is that I always need to be confident that I won't be interrupted—not even by my own cripplingly short attention span.

WOW: I'm the same way about not being interrupted. So, what's new? What projects are you working on now?

Keith: That's a timely question. I haven't actually written a new novel for a long time, now, because I've been focusing on finding a home for some of the work that I've polished. I'm still seeking a home for for YA Psychological Mystery Too Much Information, which has placed strongly in two competitions but remains unsigned. Recently, I came close to a deal for my magical YA adventure, Olivia Tames Olympus, so I'm following up on some of those threads: you might see it around soon.

I'm also a big disappointment to the world's greatest editor, Matthew Bird, because I haven't acted on his outstanding feedback on my 3-day novel finalist, Crimes of Convenience. It's a semi-satirical mystery about a convenience store clerk in Provo, Utah, who becomes a suspect when boys from a nearby prep school are poisoned by sealed snacks sold in his store. His desperate investigation leads him to discover cover-ups of abuses by powerful men. A little too familiar these days, I know; it's more fun than it sounds. Editor Matt, who authored writing guide Secrets of Story, is trying to convince me to make it YA, too. Maybe.

Of course, there's also the whole list of short fiction on my blog, including the recently published In Deep by the amazing Clare MacQueen at KYSO Flash.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Keith. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Keith: I'd actually like to share an improvement I need to make myself, and that's about treating subcultures with respect.Too often, I write surrounding characters who are cliché, because they're a gang member or from a poorer class than the protagonist. Naturally, that means they must be violent or grammatically challenged, right?

Well, no, actually. All it necessarily means is that they've had different experiences from the protag. I think if it's worth writing about a particular subculture at all, then it's worth locating that subculture's dignity: starting with a change in the labels. Throw out "Emo" and "Banger," and start again. I blog about this a bit more here.

In the meantime, write some Flash Fiction. Competitions like this one are just the inspiration you need.

****

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

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Monday, April 08, 2019

 

Looking West - The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant by Albert Nasib Badre blog tour and book giveaway!

Looking West begins in 1960 as the Badre family emigrates from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States. This is a dream come true for fourteen-year-old Nasib.

Nasib struggles to assimilate as a teen in Albany, New York. With limited English skills, he attempts to learn new customs, make friends, and adapt to a different culture. In Beirut, the Badre family was well-known and socially privileged. In America, they are unknown nobodies. Nasib adopts his father’s name “Albert,” and to further Americanize his name, young Albert becomes “Al.”

Despite the many frustrations and difficulties, Al’s ultimate goal is to become a successful American. The new anonymity actually inspires the young man. Excited by the opportunities available to him in his new country, he determines to make a potent contribution to society.

As he strives to adapt, Al reads voraciously, becoming increasingly interested in religion and philosophy. Books become his “American friends,” and reading soon prompts him to ask deep theological questions about his family’s Lebanese Protestant roots, his mother’s conversion to Catholicism, and the contrast between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. This ultimately leads to his Catholic conversion.

Al’s search for meaning in life leads him to social activism among New York City’s poorest. And, in time, to graduate studies, where his desire is to improve the human condition through information technology.

Al Badre—like many other American immigrants--works his way through hardship to achieve a meaningful place in his adopted nation.

Paperback: 267 pages
Publisher: WidO Publishing
ASIN: B07N6LR52T
ISBN: 9781947966130

Looking West: The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway and Contest!
To win a copy of the book Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on April 15th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:


Albert Nasib Badre is an American author born in Beirut, Lebanon. He immigrated to the United
States with his family in 1960 at the age of fourteen. His family made Albany, N.Y. their first home in America where he attended a private Catholic high school through his Junior year. After three years in Albany, the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa, when his father accepted a professor position at the University of Iowa. He finished his senior year at Iowa City High School, then went on to the University of Iowa where he got a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. After college, he spent a year as a social worker in New York City. Deciding social work was not for him, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan where he got his Ph.D. in 1973.

He spent the next thirty years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and today he’s Professor Emeritus of Computing. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, he was an international consultant specializing in designing technology to enhance the human experience. Dr. Badre was an early pioneer in the field of human-centric design, with some thirty years of experience in human-computer interaction, learning technologies, and human-centric e-learning. His background combines expertise in the empirical methodologies of the behavioral sciences and the design approaches of the computing sciences.

Dr. Badre authored numerous technical papers, is co-editor of the book Directions in Human Computer Interaction, and the author of the book, Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context, which was adopted in several dozen courses worldwide. His memoirs, Looking West, is the story of his coming of age immigration to America and subsequent conversion to the Catholic Church.

Today, Dr. Badre and his wife live in Providence, R.I., near his son and family, where he leads a very active volunteer life, in service to the community.

Find Albert Online:

Website: https://www.badremusings.com

Twitter: @anbadre

Instagram: @anbadre

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/197752.Albert_N_Badre

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

WOW: Al, thank you so much for choosing WOW to help promote Looking West - this is sure to be an exciting book blog tour! Let's ask the tough question first: What was your biggest fear with sharing such a personal story about yourself and your family?

Al: I was a bit concerned about the fact that I am telling readers intimate details about myself, and in a way, I was invading my own privacy. But as an early editor told me, readers love intimate detail, and because it’s true, if it is a good story told like it’s a novel, they will love it. Also, even though I spoke many times with my family and friends about memoir content, anecdotes, and ideas, I was still apprehensive about their reaction to how I would eventually write it down. Luckily, the feedback has been very positive from all the people mentioned in the memoir.

WOW: I'm happy to hear your family is supportive, and as someone who has read Looking West, I must say it fits the bill as a good story told like it's a novel!

Does journaling play a role in your writing?

Al: Looking West didn’t start as a personal journal even though I did have writings that I relied on later. I was first inspired to write my memoir when I read letters that my mother, my two brothers and myself wrote to my father detailing our life in America when we first immigrated. My father was with the UN, and not with us the first three years of our immigration. The majority of the letters were from my mother, who wrote to him at least once a week detailing the voyage by sea and telling him about our daily life in Albany.

After I read and reread all the letters and decided to start writing, I spent many delightful and enlightening hours conversing with my mother about our life in Lebanon and our American adventure, and took lots of notes. My wife, Barbara, and I explored a large trove of photos from my parents’ files and albums as well as our own collection, and these triggered lots of memories. I also had many conversations with many of the friends and family mentioned in the book, taking notes and filling notebooks.

WOW: How inspiring it is to hear the inside story about how Looking West came to be. Thank you for sharing your delight and enlightenment with readers - early reviewers agree this is an inspirational story and fabulous book! You're sure to continue being successful with with sales and reviews, let's talk about that. How do you celebrate successes in writing? What advice do you have for others?

Al: In my early drafts, whenever I finished writing a chapter, I would reward myself by going with my wife to a good restaurant.

My advice to other writers, Get an editor. After you finish the first draft, give it to a developmental editor and be ready to do lots of rewriting, restructuring and multiple revisions. When you finish with a developmental editor, go to a content editor. Then, if you have a publisher, be willing to listen to the publisher’s editors, and be humble.

WOW: That's sound advice - thank you for sharing. How did you come up with your title?

Al: Good question, the answer to which I am using in some of the book signing talks. The title Looking West refers to the fact that my small Protestant community in Lebanon was connected to Western culture at its roots. The same was true of the Eastern Christians, particularly the Maronites and Melkites, who looked to France and to Rome for cultural and religious sustenance. We looked to the West for our values, entertainment, music, movies, books, clothing, and travel. For us in the Protestant community, America was our “West.” It was missionaries from New England who brought Protestantism to Lebanon in the nineteenth Century, and succeeded in converting many Eastern Christians. As I said in the book, The Christian community from whence I sprung insisted that Lebanon was a Phoenician, not Arab, nation and looked to the West, and specifically to America, for inspiration and support.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that insider information with our readers - great title and explanation. Here's a fun question: If Looking West was made into a movie, what would be the theme song and why?

Al: I would choose two songs, America by Neil Diamond for the start of the movie and You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban for the second part of the movie. The words Diamond uses are just how I felt as an immigrant coming to America. On the boats and on the planes, to a new and a shiny place, they’re coming to America. The America of the 1960s was a country that welcomed immigrants with open arms. Diamond sings My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty. This is exactly how I felt as our ship approached the New York harbor and I saw the Statue of Liberty.

The Josh Groban song is for later in the movie because it sings of struggle and hope. His words resonate with my struggle to achieve my goals, you raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, you raise me up, to walk on stormy seas. With God’s help, I achieved my dream, I made it to where I wanted to be in my life, the realm of the mind.

WOW: If I had to choose between those two I'd have a tough time too! Great ideas!

What's next for you?

Al: I’ve started working on a sequel, except I am thinking seriously of writing it not as a memoir, but as a novel. It’ll be based on my life in academia. There’s lots of conflict involving people who are still around, or the families, and I am sure they would not take kindly to my relating some of the stories. It is about this idealistic individual who starts as a young assistant professor counting on spending the rest of his life pursuing a scholarly career in an intellectual paradise disconnected from real world concerns. He finds out the truth about academic life very fast. He tries to fight to preserve his scholarly independence and, in the process, he makes enemies, is wounded more than once, and finds out academia is as cut throat as anywhere else, perhaps more. The story climax on how he overcomes conflicts and difficulties, and eventually reaches scholarly independence.

Of course, writing a book like this means I have to go take courses in creative fiction writing, and I am looking at what is available right now.

WOW: I just don't know how you find the time - very impressive! Readers should know you are also a busy volunteer - what would you like to tell others about volunteer work and how it has impacted your life?

Al: Well, I chose to become a Catholic, and I believe to live a truly Catholic life, we need to be merciful and loving to the poor, the marginal, and the forgotten. For me, that means practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the community where I live, including feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, giving clothes to the needy, and sheltering the homeless. Those tenets have affected me deeply leading me to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the community where I live and as a result I have been volunteering organizing food for those in need, serving in meal kitchens, leading Bible studies, and participating in parish community spiritual activities.

Also, living the good news is part of who I am. This reminds me of a true story of how one can be inconspicuous in living and spreading love. This is a story of an old lady in a college town in India who sat on a bench acting like she needed help reading excerpts from the Bible. So, when a student would pass by her bench, she would stop him and ask him to read to her. Another person who knew her well, and knew she could see and read, noticed what she was doing and came up to her and inquired why was she asking students to read to her? She told him, this is my way of spreading the good news.

WOW: Spreading love - that's such a beautiful way of looking at it! Now just one last question: If readers have just one takeaway after finishing Looking West, what should that be? What is the main messaged you wanted to share with the world and why?

Al: The main message is, never give up your dream. Whether you’re an immigrant, changing countries and struggling with a new language, and trying to make new friends, or a native-born person, you’re likely to face obstacles in life when you try to achieve your ambitions. Stay on course, don’t give up, and trust that you were put on earth because there’s a unique mission for you in this world.

WOW: Thank you so much for spending time with us today and for all this great information about Looking West and the publishing process that brought you here! We look forward to seeing you again when you finish the sequel!

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

Launch Day – April 8th (today)
Albert Nasib Badre launches his tour of Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant with an interview and giveaway at the Muffin!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

April 11th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Nicole Pyles shares her review of Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant with readers at World of My Imagination. Don't miss a chance to learn more about this heroic memoir.
https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

April 12th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto shares a 5 star review or the touching and empowering memoir Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

April 15th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interview Albert Nasib Badre about his empowering memoir Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant. Readers at Selling Books are looking forward to learning more about this touching journey.
https://www.sellingbooks.com/

April 16th @ To Write or Not to Write with Sreevarsha Sreejith
Sreevarsha Sreejith reviews Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Sreevarsha and visit To Write or Not to Write.
http://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

April 16th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interview
Don't miss today's empowering and honest interview between Lisa Haselton and Albert Nasib Badre - you will want to learn more about Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant in this touching memoir.
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

April 17th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Well known book reviewer and fellow memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro reviews Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant by Albert Nasib Badre.
http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

April 19th @ Memoir Revolution with Jerry Waxler
Jerry Waxler tells why he thinks Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant by Albert Nasib Badre is an important contribution to the Memoir Revolution. Don't miss this insightful review of Badre's journey to find himself at the intersection of two seemingly very different cultures.
https://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/

April 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina delights readers at his blog as he reviews the moving memoir Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

April 23rd @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird reviews the memoir Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant by Albert Nasib Badre.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

April 25th @ Writing Through Life
Amber interviews Albert Nasib Badre about his moving memoir Looking West - don't miss this opportunity to learn more about the journey of this successful Lebanese-American immigrant.
http://writingthroughlife.com/

April 26th @ Breakeven Books
Today's author spotlight at Breakeven Books is none other than memoirist and immigrant Albert Nasib Badre with his touching story Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about this inspirational coming of age memoir.
https://breakevenbooks.com/

April 29th @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reviews "Looking West" by Albert Nasib Badre - readers at Coffee with Lacey will delight in this beautiful coming of age memoir and one man's journey as a Lebanese-American immigrant.
https://coffeewithlacey.com/

April 30th @ Choices by Madeline Sharples
Today's guest post titled "The Backstory: Letters, Photos, and Conversations" is penned by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this great post and opportunity to learn about Badre's memoir Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant.
http://madelinesharples.com/

May 1st @ Lisa M. Buske
Description:Fellow author Lisa M. Buske reviews the inspirational and touching memoir Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this opportunity to hear Lisa's thoughts on this powerful story.
http://www.lisambuske.com/blog

May 7th @ Bring on Lemons with Karen Levy
Israeli-American author Karen Levy reviews Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant by Albert Nasib Badre.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

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

To win a print copy of the book Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre, please enter the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends on April 15th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!


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