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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

 

Interview with Maja Scheler: 2018 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Maja’s Bio:

Maja Scheler has returned to the page.

After graduating from Oregon State University in 2015 with a Liberal Arts degree focused on creative writing and Spanish language, Scheler birthed three novel-humans within three years. Her most accomplished works to date are wiping derriéres at NASCAR speed and managing a 24hr buffet for her three sons and Oregonian husband.

Jokes aside, with the encouragement of a few published write-ups already floating around cyber space, Scheler started writing again in the summer of 2018.

Words and their power to tell an evoking story have always been among Scheler’s chief joys in life.

Exposed is her debut flash fiction. If you haven’t read it yet, click through here and then come back to learn from Maja’s writing insights.

WOW: What inspired you to write Exposed?

Maja: My very first draft for Exposed was written in the beginning of 2015 for a class I was taking in college. The piece was the result of my subconscious. About six months prior, my husband and I drove cross-country, traveling through Native American reservations and visiting several National Parks: Olympic, Banff, Glacier and Yellowstone. When we were in Yellowstone, I remember being in a constant state of wonder. I’d look out into the valleys with its mountainous backdrop and I could see them, like ghosts in their former days. I thought a lot about the history of Native Americans throughout that entire trip.

Six months later when I was required to write a 500-word story for class, I woke up one morning and wrote it all down before getting out of bed. I wrote it initially as a soliloquy of Raven’s life, and how she viewed her home, the land. I realized then that I was debriefing my travels. Images of what I had seen were coming back to me, and the rest unfurled in an effort to answer deeper questions I didn’t know I had. Later my professor said she wanted to know more of Raven’s story, and that got me thinking, what was her story?

WOW: That leads us into my next questions. How else did this story change during the rewrite process?

Maja: I picked the story back up for the first time since 2015 last summer (2018). The story began to change when I started to explore Raven’s relationship with her brother. When I read through the soliloquy-style narrative, dialogue happened, and then scenes and flash backs began to flesh out for me. Adding the dialogue and backstory gave my characters a life force; and the more I spent time with them, the more invigorating the revision process became for me.

WOW: In some ways the ending feels so dark since she doesn’t survive. How did you choose this as the essential ending for this story?

Maja: I find it interesting that you say she doesn’t survive. I’ve really enjoyed hearing different take-aways other readers have experienced from this story. I only edited a few words in the last two paragraphs from my original draft. My goal with it was to leave it open ended, to whet the appetite of the reader to wonder about what happens to Raven, when she is ultimately found out. She clearly expects to die, and chooses to accept that fate. But does she actually die? Or is she taken back to the palefaces’ camp? Does she assimilate or is she forced to assimilate? Does she discover that she is not the last of her kind, but just one of many held hostage? What really becomes of her is a question I’m still asking myself. Although these questions may not be in the back of every reader’s mind, I wanted the ending to be haunting, because the history is haunting.

WOW: That’s amazing. It’s like an inkblot test. What are your short term writing goals? What do you hope to accomplish this year? Do you have long term, such as five year, goals? If so, what are they?

Maja: My current short term goal is to finish the first draft of a manuscript I began loosely last summer and more assertively since the New Year. My next short term goals would be to write another flash fiction, and find homes for some already finished work. In five years, I aim to publish a novel and have a collection of flash fiction/short stories. Overall, my long term goal is to keep showing up to the page and write every day.

WOW: What do you hope that our readers take away from your own flash fiction writing experience? What advice do you have for other writers who are new to this journey?

Maja: Gosh, well, one take away from my own experience would be to work with your subconscious. Don’t think; just write. Sometimes this is best done as soon as you wake up. But I’ve also found it helpful to write a few pages whenever I feel that my mind is cramped. When I’m trying to produce words for my novel, but can’t for some reason, I pull out my notebook and write whatever comes to me until I feel as the “dishwasher” of my brain is unloaded. It’s like detoxing your thoughts so you can come to your piece fresh. This is an effective way to rid yourself of that To-Do list that tries to make you do everything else but write.

And for those who are just starting out, take the journey as it comes. After finishing school in 2015, I took a hiatus from writing and started a family. I had three sons within three years, and I was afraid I would never rise above the fog of mommy brain to string two words together again, but in due time— my oldest just turned four.

Since then, I’ve learned that there is no substitute for getting words out. I’ve given myself permission to write atrociously in faith that something worth keeping will emerge. So whether it is typing or writing longhand, writing daily or even a few times throughout the week is vital. I also learned to not take the advice of other writers as anything more than just an idea to try. What works for some, may not work for others. I’ve been experimenting a ton with this, and have learned a lot about myself through the process. If you don’t already know what works best for you, experiment and you’ll discover it.

More advice would be to guard your writing time and befriend Thesaurus. Making time to write and viewing that time as sacred is indispensable. This will require you to say no— a lot; but think of it as a pre-scheduled date with a friend, your friend Thesaurus. With that said, there is a sincere joy hidden in a list of vocabulary words that are new to you.

And lastly, perspective is everything. As a mother, writing often feels selfish. And when I feel torn by this emotional perspective, I remind myself of something my husband wrote to me in letter once: To create is to celebrate the Creator. This to me removes the stress of having to produce something of immediate worth and to have fun by allowing my writing process be an act of celebration of creativity. It’s not about comparing or achieving. It’s about recognizing that we all have stories to share and tell, but only you can tell the story that’s within you your way. And to me that’s a gift from the Divine worth celebrating.

WOW: What a great quote from your husband! And so much excellent advice for women who are feeling guilty about creating the time and the space to write. Thank you for encouraging our readers and good luck with your planned projects. We are all looking forward to seeing more of your writing in the future.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

 

Mindful Dementia Care - Blog Tour and Giveaway


Mindful Dementia Care is a book of stories and a book of love. It is a book without denial, without any papering over of the challenges that can be involved with being a caregiver, and the sadness, anger, and frustration they may bring. It is also a life-changing source of information that can revolutionize relationships with one of the most vulnerable populations in our midst. In her decades as a caregiver, Ruth Dennis witnessed the tragic results of the medicalized and institutionalized way of caring for people with dementia. And equally clearly, she saw a better way. Mindful Dementia Care illustrates alternative methods for making a difference and achieving results through care that honors the whole person. The key is creating an environment with countless enriching touchstones to the inner person through facilities that are filled with art, animal companions, music, dance, books, laughter, and wholesome food. It is an approach that embraces creative and artistic processes to shape a more loving, spiritual approach for elders and their families.

Print Length: 170 pages
Publisher: Golden Word Books (February 26, 2019)
Publication Date: February 19, 2019
ISBN-10: 1948749149
ISBN-13: 978-1948749145
ASIN: B07NXV95TT

Mindful Dementia Care: Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

Book Giveaway! 
Scroll to the bottom of this post and enter the Rafflecopter form to be entered in a random drawing. We will choose a winner May 6th!

About the Authors:

Ruth Dennis :
In her decades as a caregiver, Ruth Dennis witnessed the tragic results of the medicalized and institutionalized way of caring for people with dementia. And equally clearly, she saw a better way. Mindful Dementia Care illustrates alternative methods for making a difference and achieving results through care that honors the whole person. The key is creating an environment with countless enriching touchstones to the inner person through facilities that are filled with art, animal companions, music, dance, books, laughter, and wholesome food. It is an approach that embraces creative and artistic processes to shape a more loving, spiritual approach for elders and their families.

Ruth Dennis has worked in mental health, the arts, and community education for over twenty-five years. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and, for the past two decades, has worked closely with palliative care, hospice, and grief support. Central to Ruth’s life is her role as caregiver to her brother Morgan, who has Down Syndrome. He is the bravest man she has ever known.

Velma Arellano:
Velma Arellano, MA, CDP, CALA, Director of Operations, has been working in elder care for the past 2 decades, and is the longest standing administrator in Santa Fe. She has overseen $2 million in construction and design to create two state of the art, intentional Alzheimer’s Care homes in New Mexico, and very recently acquired a third, non-Alzheimer’s, 14 bed, cozy, Assisted Living Bungalow in Santa Fe. The latter, Vista Hermosa is drawing on the cutting edge of culture change by incorporating the ideas of permaculture with elder care. Both Memory Care homes are the only two Eden Alternative Registered homes in New Mexico, and Vista Hermosa is well on its way. Eden Alternative is the honor society of long term care, and is an International Movement which truly changes the culture of how we care for our elders. Velma introduced “real” pets to our homes for elders to enjoy, goats, chickens, peacocks, and recently a 10-week-old German Sheppard puppy named Silver.

Ms. Arellano is a certified assisted living administrator (CALA), Certified Dementia Practitioner through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP), and an Eden Alternative Associate. Velma has served on the board of Directors of the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association and was only one 7 citizens who started the first Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Santa Fe, Espanola and Los Alamos. She is a member of the 305th annual Fiesta’s de Santa Fe Council and was instrumental in the legislative passage of Helen’s Law. This law protects endangered elders, which eventually gave attention to the Silver Alert Program, like Amber Alert, but for memory impaired adults. Ms. Arellano is also a member of the National Biodynamic Association (Tierra Viva) and the Earth Citizens Organization (ECO) and is committed to mindful living and a sustainable world. Velma is active with Shim-Sung, Brain Yoga. Shim meaning heart, and Sung meaning open.
Ms. Arellano holds a Masters Degree in Agency Counseling and Psychology from New Mexico Highlands University and Bachelor’s Degree in Television Broadcast Journalism/ Mass Communication and Spanish.

As a volunteer, Velma is a member of the New Mexico Health Care Association and NM Assisted Living Task Force Committee (NMHCAALF) . She sits at the table making her voice heard in guiding NMHCAALF’s advocacy in the New Mexico long-term care delivery system. She helps identify and establish policies and provide resources that give people a real opportunity to improve the quality of life and quality of care in New Mexico’s frail elderly and intellectually-disabled populations.

Luke Nachtrab:
Luke Nachtrab, Owner, is a father of 3 children (Joey, Kate and Molly) and married to his lovely wife Kara. They currently live in Sylvania, OH where they were both raised and where Vista Living Home Office is based. He started his career shortly after completing his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University. As first employee of Northaven, the Nachtrab Family Business Management Company, Luke created an infrastructure to manage approximately 75 residential properties in the Toledo, OH area. Assuming operations of Vista Living, the family assisted living facilities in 2004 (www.vistaliving.com) his passion and love for the elderly, particularly those walking with forgetfulness, and their families began to flourish. He was named President of Vista Living Communities in 2011 where he utilizes his background to maintain the highest standards of care for those with Alzheimer’s. Moving his young family to Santa Fe for 4 months in 2014 he began to set the company up for growth. His passion for this business and making a positive impact on those with Dementia and their families is evident in his approach and philosophies. Using values taught by his parents he brings integrity and compassion to business. With this as a guide he operates VLC as a business second; always trying to do what is right despite potential impact on the business.

Luke has a wide a diverse business background being intimately involved in executive leadership with global internet businesses, restaurants, real estate and logistics. He has been on numerous organizational boards in the Toledo area. He currently serves on the St John’s Jesuit High School Board and Finance Committee. Engaging with the Industry he is also active on Argentum, panels on their mission to Expand Senior Living.

Continuously improving, Luke has completed many non-degree courses in the last 15 years and in 2011 completed his MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He is an instrument rated pilot, loves skiing, golfing, soccer, squash, fishing, culture, traveling, watching The Buckeye’s and being Dad! He looks forward to raising his children to someday be involved with the business.



Find Mindful Dementia Care Online:

Website:
https://www.mindfuldementiacare.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VistaLivingCare

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44643108-mindful-dementia-care




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

April 29th @ The Muffin
We launch this book blog tour with a giveaway for this unique book!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

April 30th @ BreakEven Books
Today, the author spotlight at Breakeven Books belongs to a delightfully unique book called Mindful Dementia Care by Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab. Don't miss the opportunity to learn more about this informative book and it's authors.
https://breakevenbooks.com/

May 1st @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Readers at BringOnLemons will hear from guest blogger and book reviewer Tara Forst as she reviews the unique book Mindful Dementia Care by Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from a health care professional as she provides honest feedback about this touching book.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

May 4th @ The Muffin with Crystal Otto
In today's Muffin post, Crystal reveals her thoughts and feelings about promoting a book that hits a little too close to home. Find out more about Mindful Dementia Care by Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab while hearing some inspiring thoughts on getting out of your comfort zone by WOW!'s very own Crystal Otto.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

May 7th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Madeline Sharples reviews Mindful Dementia Care by Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab for readers at Choices. Don't miss Madeline's insight into this unique book.
http://madelinesharples.com/

May 8th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte reviews Mindful Dementia Care for readers at Bring on Lemons blog. Find out what this Wisconsin Healthcare Provider has to say about this unique book that deals with topics Michelle is submerged in each day as a caregiver for aging patients.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

May 16th @ Lisa Haselton
Lisa Haselton interviews Ruth Dennis about her unique book Mindful Dementia Care; Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest. Find out more about Ruth and her beautiful book.
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

May 17th @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reviews Mindful Dementia Care; Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest for readers at Coffee with Lacey - don't miss her insight about this touching book.
https://coffeewithlacey.com

May 22nd @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto shares her review of Mindful Dementia Care with readers at Bring on Lemons blog.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

May 24th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Linda Appleman Shapiro, distinguished author and psychotherapist offers her insight in a review of Mindful Dementia Care.
http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

May 28th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles Reviews Mindful Dementia Care and shares her thoughts about this unique book. Readers at World of My Imagination will benefit greatly from Nicole's insight and this touching book.
https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

May 29th @ Lisa M. Buske
Author Lisa M. Buske reviews Mindful Dementia Care for readers at her blog. Don't miss Lisa's insight into this unique and beautiful book.
http://www.lisambuske.com/blog

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

To win a print copy of Mindful Dementia Care, please enter the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends on May 6th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

 

Should I Really Save Everything I Write?

Not too long ago, I was going through my notebooks from high school and early college years. Each one was filled with partially finished stories, snippets of character sheets, and scenes without a story attached to them. After finding them and briefly contemplating keeping these notebooks, I threw them away - well most of them at least - and I even blogged about it (twice).

It felt freeing. It was part of my new journey with writing and I was proud to take that first step. Recently though, I came across an article by a writing blog I follow called The Write Practice that encouraged its readers to save everything they write. This may not be the best idea if you handwrite like I did for so many years. However, it made me think, should I have saved these old notebooks?

With that in mind, I can't help but think about a story scene that didn't have a home. I had edited this scene out of a short story I had written, and one day, I recalled a DIFFERENT scene I had written YEARS ago. That one didn't have a home either but I loved it and kept it. So, I decided to find this story scene from years ago to join it together with my new lonely story scene. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it. When I didn't see it in my notebooks (at least, the ones I didn't throw away), I realized I probably threw it out.

Should I have kept these notebooks? With my latest experience in mind, I thought for a moment I should have kept them. However, I recall reading online somewhere that the unfinished stories we write are often our attempts at telling a certain KIND of story that didn't work out. Often, we attempt telling it again but in a different way. So, while I have an untethered story scene without a home, the best I can do is keep it in the draft file in my mind for another inspirational moment or maybe I can recreate the scene I threw away.

Should you keep everything you write, just in case? No. I mean, sure, I believe in keeping some things, especially since your own writing can be incredibly inspiring. I think after a while though some stories should be archived, so we avoid becoming packrats and over-obsessing about days of writing past. That in and of itself can be a wormhole to avoid growing and moving on in our own writing.

So if you are hesitant about archiving, deleting or throwing away stories because you feel like you'll need these story scraps, all I can say is likely this story will come to you again. It just may not look the same way it did before.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

 

When Writing Heals Our Wounds

Canva.com


There are many reasons we write.

We write because we want to make money and support ourselves and our families. I started out my career writing press releases and news briefs for public relations clients because it seemed like a natural way to make a paycheck out of a communications degree.

We write because editors ask us to. When we become experts on a specific topic (such as human interest stories or parenting), editors will think of us when they have a story they need to assign.

We write because our minds and hearts are filled with stories that beg to be let out. I can’t even remember when I first started putting my ideas down on paper, but I was in elementary school at the very least. I still remember one of the first creative pieces I worked on having a thriller/suspense element, and I couldn’t have been older than fifth grade.

There’s another reason we write. We write because it serves as therapy for us. When I worked on an essay about my alcoholic father-in-law (and his legacy as a songwriter) a few months ago, I was able to process some of the emotions I’d been suppressing since his death. Sharing the piece with my husband and two kids helped them to heal as well, even if there were a few tears shed.

The idea for my award-winning story “The Polaroid” came from a desire to take the story of a girl missing for years and give it a happy ending. And most recently, I was able to process a memory of a possible pedophile that was a friend of my parents (and the near miss I had with him) in an essay tentatively titled “A Drive on the Parkway.”

And when I began writing my short story, “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women,” I didn’t know it would help me make sense of older boyfriend I had in high school who belittled me and spent almost two years breaking down my confidence before stalking me after our break-up.

But my notebooks are also filled with poems I’ll likely never share and stories that never see a word of revision. That’s because they serve a purpose of helping me heal my wounds in the only way I know how.

Author Graham Greene once said:
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic, and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou wrote:
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

Songwriter Lucinda Williams has said:
“I write first for myself as a therapeutic process, to get stuff out and deal with it.”

Now it’s your turn. How has your writing helped heal your wounds?

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

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Friday, April 26, 2019

 

Friday Speak Out!: The Relationship of Writing: Mad Dash or Life-Long?

by Amanda Russell

When I think about the writing process and how creativity works for me, I cannot separate it from a regular practice.

I used to write a lot during my teen years and in college- those times when everyday life is intensified by complex ideas like who am I, what do I believe/think, where am I headed and the ever-present how do I get there?

As time progressed, I found that my muse was not ever-ready in the wings. It seemed that my existential searching was part of her fuel. So, I began to look for her, to wonder if she’d ever return. Then, I found her. Where? In practice.

My Writing Experiment

Several years ago, I was put to a challenge by a spiritual father of mine to make writing my rule. He had patiently listened to what I loved about writing, what I wanted to convey about the human experience and how. When he asked me what my practice was like, I was stumped. I did not have one! Then he put me to a challenge: write every day. Make writing your practice.

In searching for how to do this, I came across Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones. The author was attending sit meditation and inquiring about Zen Buddhism. “Why do you come to sit meditation?” her Roshi asked, “Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.”

In that book, I found the guidelines for what I now call my Writing Experiment. I set out to write every day following the rules for writing what Goldberg calls “First Thoughts”: In order to do this timed exercise all you need to remember is to keep your hand moving constantly, no crossing out or editing, no worrying about spelling or grammar, let go of the control, do not allow logic to get in the way, and go deep without fear or judgement. According to Goldberg, first thoughts allow a writer to “capture the oddities of your mind” and “explore the rugged edge of thought.” Yes please!

I began to do the timed exercise daily and found that the muse came back. But I was building a life-long relationship with her instead of the hot mad-dash that results from inconsistency. This practice filled many notebooks, and I began to realize that I was doing a lot of personal work in my writing, moving through times of uncertainty and processing all kinds of ideas and experiences from joy to grief. My forthcoming poetry chapbook, Barren Years, is a product of this experiment.

The other day my four year old son asked me, “Are you a fill-in?” I puzzled him back by answering, “No, Love, I’m a full-time.” Whatever he meant by that question, I may never exactly know, but it surfaces again and again in life as an invitation to show up and be present, to practice.

* * *
Amanda Russell is a poet living in New York with her husband and two children. When she is not busy with her family, she enjoys reading the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, Mary Oliver and Stanley Kunitz, spending time connecting with friends, gardening, writing, sewing and other creative endeavors. BARREN YEARS, her debut poetry collection, will be published by Finishing Line Press in June 2019.
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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 25, 2019

 

Who Has the Right to Write It?

So, before I begin this post I should explain a bit of the backstory, in case you haven't been subjected to my previous prattling and blathering before this. I am trying to snag an agent/publisher for a manuscript. It's a middle grades historical novel. The main character is Henry, a 12-year-old African American.

I am a white senior citizen female.

My son was a 12-year-old boy (two decades ago). Have I been around lots of students that age, both black and white, during my teaching career? Yes. Have I tried my best to depict Henry in a respectful and nuanced way? Yes.

But as a writer who's white-as-notebook-paper, do I have the right to tell the story of a person of color?

Some editors think I don't... or at least they think I might have difficulty getting my story published, since #OwnVoices is a current trend in publishing. This movement supports a gay character being written by a gay writer, a Hispanic character being written by a Hispanic writer, and so on.


photo by PxHere.com

I actually worried about this when I began this project. I consulted a friend (who's black). I wrote in the author's note (for a manuscript that was in its initial stages--a definite case of putting the cart before the horse) that I felt I had the right to tell the story because of the shame and regret I felt in regards to this part of our country's history. After all, it was white people who did all the horrible things during this event.

Here's the rejection letter--

Dear Sioux:

Thank you for your interest in ____ Agency.

This is a really important concept and you're obviously a talented writer. However, even though this story is grounded in history and deals with important subject matter, the writing feels a little "familiar". Additionally, and this comment has nothing to do with the quality of your writing, you may face some #OwnVoices concerns in relation to this story. While there must be a space for providing different perspectives on terrible chapters of our past, I think the trend at the moment is towards promoting #OwnVoices takes on these kinds of issues. Of course this is a subjective view, and I'm sure others will feel differently, but, for now, I’m going to pass.

I wish you all the best for your continued writing journey. 


Thank you, again, for sharing this with me.


Do I appreciate the time this agent took to write me a personal response? Yes. Yes. Yes. Do I try to keep the phrase "talented writer" closer to my heart than "the writing feels a little 'familiar'"? Most definitely yes. Am I happy with the dilemma I now face?

No.

I now have lots to think about as I slog forward/sideways/backwards in this writing process. I know my life is better because of Jacqueline Woodson (a gay writer of color) and Sherman Alexie (a Native American writer) and Leonard Pitts and Nikki Giovanni and Shay Simmons and Maya Angelou. But my life has also been made richer because of writers like Arthur Golden (a male who is not Japanese), who wrote Memoir of a Geisha. He did loads of research and interviewing, and became a geisha via his writing.

In my research on #OwnVoices, I came upon this from a Filipino rapper:

Ego,
It wants to fight me,
Ruby, don't take it lightly,
Just focus on plottin’ nightly,
'Cause we know it’s never likely,
If I don’t,
Then who will write me?
                                                  -Ruby Ibarra, “The Other Side, Welcome”

The last two lines spoke to me, because there are no books--for children--about this event, except a YA novel. I'm saddened because perhaps if I don't write this story, who will?

I'm going to end with a link to a thoughtful discussion that Lisa Bodenheim sent me. Janet Reid, a literary agent, had some words that gave me a glimmer of hope: 

"But if the question is whether I want the stories told or not, I vote for having them told. And I'd vote for having people tell their own stories, but sometimes that's not an option... I think the only thing to do is keep querying. You don't need every agent to say yes; you don't even need two. You need one, who sees the value of your work and wants to champion it."

I'm looking for just one...


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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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