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Saturday, July 20, 2019


The feeling it gave them

I recently read an article about Miami Vice, the television show that premiered 35 years ago this fall. The show had a big impact on me, the city, other viewers, and the television and film industries. My favorite quote from the article by Craig Pitmann on the website Crime Watch summarized its popularity:

But people weren’t watching Miami Vice for the plots. They were watching it for the attitude, the visuals, the music—the feeling it gave them.

Breaking through to the emotions and feelings where people connect is a talent and a skill that artists struggle with throughout their careers. We want our work to touch people's lives with universal truth, but our perceptions, as well as those of the audience, can block the message.

For me to get to a state of writing from pure emotion, I need an image, sound, or information that speaks to me. Sometimes I view other forms of art like paintings, sculpture, or documentaries. Discovering the backstory of an artist I've never heard of is interesting, and helps me realize how much we are alike in trying to find connections in a physical or emotional space. Other times it's not so magical, and I hear a word or word combination from an advertisement for an everyday product like cheese that makes me think of that word or combination in a new way.

When I'm not inspired externally, I go inside to a quiet space to think. I ask myself about the feeling, compare it to something else, and (try to) describe it. I dig deeper. I define what I think and figure out how to represent those thoughts through words. Sometimes I read a few pages from a favorite book to remind me how words can work together beautifully.

Regardless, it's not easy finding the place where we keep all the feelings and connect on an emotional level. But when we get there, your readers will remember 35 years later.

Mary Horner is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.

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Friday, July 19, 2019


Friday Speak Out!: Dear Diary

by Sharon Gerger

I write humour, or for you Americans, the quicker to the punch line version, humor. I also create funny, nay, hilarious greeting cards.

These last few months have not been particularly splendid for me. I'm not going to get into the whys, suffice to say, it’s just life tossing crap at me the way it tosses crap at everyone at some point.
I used to always have at least twelve stories or essays out looking for a home with either writing contests, or magazines, or online publications, at all times. I did that for more than a year and got a few yeses and a lot of nos. The yeses were so spirit and morale-boosting.

Then the aforementioned crap started flying and I stopped writing, the thing I love to do most in the world. Sorry adult sons, I don't actually enjoy cooking Sunday dinner for you.

Last month was particularly challenging, I was exhausted all the time. One evening, before I fell asleep in front of the TV, I got out my journal which I had not touched in months and just wrote. It started as a whining session, then devolved into a pity party then evolved into a list of things I missed. Things i used to do that made me happy. At the top of that list is writing. I also missed getting some recognition, confirmation that I was on the right track. I kept on writing in my journal and then remembered that the WOW website (if you are reading this, you are here now) always has a writing contest on the go. I polished a previously written story and entered the contest; it made me feel hopeful and kind of awesome.

I also sent some of my greeting cards to friends who were having a tougher time than I was and they all told me they were funny. It was the kind ego stroking I needed. Yes, I know friends nice-lie but I'm okay with that.

WOW had advised us that the first round of judging would likely be complete by the end of the first week in July. At that point, they would email the finalists to let them know they were moving on to the next round. I didn't get an email. I was disappointed but continued to work on an essay I want to enter in their essay contest.

And then a couple of days later, I got an email from the WOW contest folks announcing I was a finalist. I am thrilled. So thrilled, you'd think I'd been told I'd won first place. Essays have always been easier for me to place, but short stories, much as I love writing them, have not been an area of success for me.

I sit here now, waiting for the next level of judges to recognize my comedic genius and offer me gobs of cash for my book, so I don’t have to beg for coins fund my broccoli habit while I write full-time.

* * *
Sharon Gerger is a writer! Her creative non-fiction writing has appeared in Woman's World magazine, The Globe and Mail, the award-winning anthology, Laugh Out Loud and numerous on-line publications. She has made a few long lists for short story competitions only to have her hopes dashed when compared to brilliant writers, but she will not be attending any self-pity parties, she'll just try again. 
TWITTER: @sharongerger1

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, July 18, 2019


How Can I Help?

Let's sit down and chat. I already have a cup of deliciously strong coffee, and I'll get comfortable while you run and grab your favorite beverage from the kitchen. Would you like sweet tea? Lemonade? Coffee?

Let's sit in the comfy chairs with the thick cushions - no rush - I'm glad you're here.

Have you ever thought about our friendship? More than how we met. I mean, what makes us friends? Recently my husband pointed out how people are always dropping in to chat. I teased and said they just like my coffee and cookies. Though my cookies ARE delicious... I've come to the conclusion there's one thing I say that helps draw people in. Here's a typical scenario and you can see for yourself:

Ring Ring

Crystal: "Hello, this is Crystal."
Amber: "Hey - are you home?"
Crystal: "Sure am - you stopping over?"
Amber: " If you don't mind. I'll be right over."

If there's no coffee left in the pot, I'll start a new pot and put out some snacks or pastries. We have a policy here at our house where you just walk right in.

Amber: "That coffee smells great - I'm exhausted."
Crystal: "Here's a hug and a cookie too - now, how can I help?"

The key to being a good friend is not found in the cookie, coffee or the open door policy - it's right there in those magical words:


This simple phrase open the door to a deeper and more meaningful friendship. Very seldom does a friend respond asking for advice or money. Do you know what people want? They want someone to listen. By the time they're done explaining the situation, they've usually come up with a plan on their own. At the very least, they feel better because they've gotten the words out of their head and I can share the burden with them.

I don't know anything about domestic violence, childhood cancer, changing the oil, and the list goes on. I don't have thousands of dollars sitting on the counter waiting to be shared. There's so much I don't know and don't have, but I DO know a little something about listening and somehow listening and helping are closely intertwined.

The next time someone comes to you feeling stressed, tired, or overwhelmed, give it a try. Instead of agreeing with them as so many times we do, try and ask them "How can I help?" The conversation will go much differently. If a friend complains about a busy spouse and you join in the conversation by talking about how your spouse does the same this or that as well, you'll both leave the conversation just as frustrated (possibly even more frustrated) than you were when you began. If you ask how you can help, the tone of the conversation heads toward chatter about a solution instead of additional banter about the problem. When we share our burdens with a friend, we feel lighter. When a friend walks in with a frown and out with a smile, I feel I've done my job as a friend.

What do you say to help a friend in need? What has someone said to you that helped you through a tough situation or period in your life?

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 13, Andre 11, Breccan 5, Delphine 4, and baby Eudora who will be 2 in a few months), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns and horses, 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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Wednesday, July 17, 2019


A Movie to Move the Reader

Movies. They can chronicle the journey a writer embarks on when writing a manuscript. They can tease the public into buying your book. Photos and music have a way of engaging an audience in a way mere text does not.

I recently made a movie to explain what I'm going through as I work on submitting my manuscript. Soon, I will be launching a website (I know--about time!) and will include this video, along with any other videos I make in the future.

What are some considerations when making a movie? And what is--in my opinion--the easiest movie-making program?

Read further, then watch my movie and tell me what you think.

Movie-Making Tips

  • Choose photos that will show part of your message. You know the writer's mantra Show, don't tell. That applies to movies as well as stories and novels. 
          For example, if you have a photo of a character you want to incorporate into your movie and  
          you want to create a somber mood, make sure the character's not smiling. Edit the photos using 
          a sepia filter if your story takes place 100 years ago. If it's a light, humorous tale, use brightly-
          colored images.
  • Music can also convey a message in a subtle way. Sometimes an instrumental piece is the best choice. If your movie has some high and low emotional points, you want to choose a dynamic song. 
  • If you have a gem of a line you want to really highlight in your movie, consider putting it all by itself.  Don't surround it with a bunch of other text--it'll get lost.
  • Use transitions (how one image morphs into the next), but don't go crazy with them. Less is more. Be intentional with them (and don't use a different one each time, because they're so fun to do). For example, if you have two or three slides that contrast with the next ("My first draft was sucky... My second draft was semi-decent... My third draft was the bomb!") a transition that looks like a page turning would be effective. 
  • Don't put too much text on one slide/image. A couple of (short) sentences or one longish one. Each image ain't a novel.
  • If you're using text instead of a voice-over, make sure you time the images so the audience has enough time to easily read whatever's on the screen. Practice reading it aloud, and slowly, to make sure your viewers have enough time to read it. After all, you already know what the text is. You've written and revised it and watched the movie a bunch of times as you edit it. For your audience, it will be fresh and new. Allow the viewer more time than you need to read it...
  • ... but don't linger on a slide/image too long. No one wants to look at a three-word sentence for 7 seconds. The viewer gets antsy. They start cleaning the toe jam from between their toes. They slather the facial version of Nair onto their mustache area while they wait. Three seconds might be enough. If it's an image (and no text) that's full of details, you might want the full 5 seconds. Fiddle with it.
My favorite movie-making program is Photo Story 3. It's a Microsoft (free) download, so I think it won't work for you Apple folks. (I know it says "for Windows XP" but disregard that. I don't have no fancy-dancy "Windows XP" and it works fine on my laptop.)

I love Photo Story 3 because it's so user-friendly. (It's so easy to use, even my not-too-bright-but-oh-so-cute dog Radar could use it.) To rearrange the images into a different order, all you have to do is slide them into a different spot in the line of slides/images.

Have you already made a movie to promote yourself or a book? If so, what tips could you add to this list?

Does my movie intrigue you? If so, please send $19.99 to my home address. When I find a publisher and it gets published, I'll send you a copy. I'll even sign it.

What can you say to nudge me into creating a website sooner (rather than later)? Procrastinating minds want to know...

Radar agrees with Sioux (his mom). He's made movies about the joys of digging and having fun with hoses and sprinklers. Photo Story 3 is so simple to use, even his hairy paws and small brain can handle it.

He doesn't have any blogs, but if you'd like to check out his mom's, head to Sioux's Page.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Interview with Heather Baver, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Heather Baver is a writer of short fiction and poetry. In 2016 she began working as a freelance writer for a local lifestyle magazine, adding nonfiction to her repertoire.

Currently she is finishing some long standing writing projects, as well as creating new fiction. She enjoys the camaraderie and encouragement of participating in a writer’s group.

Always fascinated by history, Heather loves reenacting old-time radio with SOAP, the Spirit of the Airwaves Players.

Heather lives in Pottstown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Now that her children are getting older, it’s time to dust off that long-shelved novel.

Before you read her interview, make sure you first read Heather's story They Aren't Listening Anymore, then come on back!

------ Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your win! What was the inspiration behind your story They Aren't Listening Anymore?
Heather: I wanted to explore the gap between who people are versus physical appearance. Radio actors created with their voice--it didn't matter what they looked like. By using their voices as a tool, they became somebody else. It's very freeing--just like writing, you can become so many characters. Kids who attended live broadcasts were often surprised to find out radio actors looked nothing like the pictures the kids created in their minds while listening at home. For my story I wanted to create a person who thrived in the world of old-time radio, but who was unfortunately limited by emerging TV technology. I am fascinated by these transition moments in history.

WOW: What a transforming time it was, too! I read that you love the camaraderie of a writing group! What advice do you have for writers who are looking for a writing group but haven't found one yet?

Heather: Over the years, I have been lucky to be in writing groups of various sizes. For writers looking to join one, try checking your local bookstores. I happened upon a notice on the bulletin board at a bookstore, and that's how I joined my first group. You could also try forming your own group, either by working with a local bookstore, or by reaching out to friends who are writers. A writing group can be an in-person meet-up to read works and offer critique, or it can be done online with friends sharing comments via email. Another time, a writer friend and I shared pieces by writing letters to each other (as in actual on paper letters)!  

Writing groups are a wonderful way to keep writing and to encourage others to create. It is so enriching to see other styles and points of view.

WOW: What great advice! Writing groups are definitely a way to stay inspired and accountable. How did writing nonfiction help you with your fiction?
Heather: My nonfiction writing assignments are all word count specific, so they can fit into the magazine's layout. These word limits have challenged me to be concise and provide detail. You don't want to waste words. Cutting words provides clarity. I try not to look at anything as too precious. Write it down, get it out, then look back and see it is serves the purpose of the piece. If it is filler, lose it to make room for detail. When you've trying to make something fit, you either find a shorter way to say it, or you cut it. Writing nonfiction also got me to look at the types of adjectives I use within a piece of writing. When revising, I make every effort to use different adjectives and find synonyms to keep it interesting.

WOW: That's an excellent way of transforming your writing! You really captured the nostalgia of what your character was experiencing and how hard it was to say goodbye. How did you get into the mind frame to write this?

Heather: Thank you! I find the past fascinating. Pieces of it surround us in old photos, books, and other objects. It's so close but we can't get back there. If time travel were possible, I would be ready to sign up. Writing enables me to test out what it might feel like to actually live there. Also, I have spent the last 15 years as an old-time radio reenactor with SOAP, the Spirit of the Airwaves Players. When SOAP performs, we try to take people back in time. We dress up in 1940s clothing and hats, and we have sound effects table with a miniature door, coconut shells (for galloping horses), etc. I drew on those experiences for this story.

WOW: Oh I love that! That sounds so fun! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

I am working on a nonfiction piece about genealogy and my love of sleuthing for clues about the lives and personalities of ancestors. In addition, I am finishing up a fantasy short story about a woman who time travels to visit herself as a child. In this world you can only visit your own past. You aren't supposed to make contact with yourself, but what if it already happened and you remember from your own childhood? 

I also have a longer work in progress about two older women, one of whom is a ghost hunter and buys an old farmhouse. Themes of nostalgia and time travel make frequent appearances in my writing.

WOW: I love your ideas! Congratulations again and best of luck with your writing! 

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Monday, July 15, 2019


Five Posts About How to Be a Better Writer

If you write or read blogs regularly, you’ll know that round-up posts are often popular with readers. Heck, I’m more likely to read something if I know I can get entertaining or educational information in short, digestible chunks. I may or may not have been known to click on posts with titles like “5 Meal Delivery Services You Should Check Out” or “The Best Five Summer Reads of this Year.” When putting together today’s post, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at some of the posts I’ve written over the years (I started writing for WOW! in 2012 if you can believe it.) Here are a few I’ve come up with. Enjoy!

My DIY Writing Retreat
I’m all about writing retreats, but sometimes, they are located in places I’m unable to travel to or the price of it simply does not fit in my budget. These days I’m considering checking into a hotel or a cabin for a few days to spend focused time on a project, but back in 2012 I created my own DIY retreat when my family went out of town on a camping trip. Learn how I did it here.

Build a Better Bio
For writers and editors, bios are an important part of your toolkit. But one bio cannot usually fulfill all your writing-related needs. Read this post to discover what you should put in your bio and see some real-life examples.

ADWD: Attention Writers Deficit Disorder
I’ll admit it. I have a hard time concentrating, especially when I work from home. Sure, sitting around in yoga pants and wearing a groove in the floor between my home office and the coffeepot sounds ideal, but this post shares a little bit of the insanity that comes between.

How to Fit Writing into a Busy Lifestyle
Writing is hard, no matter what we have going on in our lives, and we all have something! In this post I shared a few of the tips that help me be more productive in between writing projects and deadlines.

Four Ways Writers Can Use Instagram
Instagram is a visual medium, but there are ways to play around with and promote your work. I give a few examples straight from my Instagram feed here.

So now I would like to know . . . which of these posts was your favorite?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also enjoys writing young adult fiction and short stories. You can check out her contemporary young adult novel, Between, on Wattpad.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019


Interview with Jacquelyn Speir, Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up

Jacquelyn Speir launched her writing career while working as a technical illustrator in aerospace publications at Kennedy Space Center. She illustrates many of her stories and articles for children, some of which have won awards. Her article about aerospace blimps—‘eyes in the sky’—was published in Essential News for Kids. She also co-wrote and illustrated a booklet about the writing process for Brevard County, Florida fifth graders. While her three sons orbited around the house, her career progressed into architectural design and freelance copy writing. Some years later, she and her husband—a quality assurance engineer and sports photographer—moved to Hawaii. Throughout their 23 years there, her numerous articles on Hawaiian culture, surfing, and wildlife appeared in an online newspaper and on various websites. Her short story “Roots of Change,” about a conflicted taro grower, was published in the 2007 Writer’s Digest winners’ anthology, and her essay “Word Search,” about a stroke victim and caregiver struggling to connect to each other, was published on the AARP Hawaii website.

Jacquelyn and her husband have returned to the Space Coast, where she is seeking an agent/publisher for her first middle-grade novel, Girl vs. Goat. She is currently working on her YA novel, Swimming with Gators, a story about kids growing up as first generation “space brats” while America was trying to put a man on the moon.

Read Jacquelyn's piece here and return to learn more about her writing process and where she gets her ideas.

WOW: Welcome, Jacquelyn, and congratulations again! Writing creative nonfiction can be such an abstract process. How did you first get the idea for your winning entry, “Scars—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?”

Jacquelyn: One day I was watching the TV show, "Dancing with the Stars," and thought: What if I changed “stars” to “scars”? That would make a great title or ending to an essay or story. So, as the idea developed, I started thinking about what the scariest, saddest, and worst days of my life had been. The process took me through some tough memories. But I’ve learned over the years that we can let adversity get us down or we can use it as rocket fuel for our writing. And that’s how “learning to dance with the scars” became the last line of the essay. My “dancing” has improved a lot with practice.

WOW: Great metaphor! You have an impressive resume full of writing credits and awards. What was the first award you ever won for your writing?

Jacquelyn: In the late eighties, when I first began taking my writing seriously, I entered a contest The Space Coast Writers Guild sponsored in conjunction with their annual convention. To my surprise, I placed first in the Children’s Writing category for my picture book Life is a Lot Like Picking Berries, a metaphor for life lessons. The next year I placed first in the same category for Turtle Egg Moon, a picture book about the life journey of a sea turtle. Though I’ve won several other contests with these manuscripts, I haven’t marketed them for a while, since I’ve been busy with other projects.

WOW: What a great list of projects already in the mix. Can you tell us a little about the middle-grade novel you are seeking representation for?

Jacquelyn: Girl vs. Goat is a contemporary novel about how Rebel-Ann, an ornery milk goat, teaches self-centered, irresponsible Casey Solomon that the choices and sacrifices we make can deepen our love for those who love us. The story takes place on a mini-ranch on the east coast of Florida, where missile launches and summer thunderstorms are the backdrop to the rocky road of a 12-year-old coming of age.

According to her parents, if Casey can’t handle her annoying little brother—whose food allergies prompted the acquisition of a milk goat—and manage her chores, then her dream of visiting her best friend in Key West, will never become a reality. At every turn, headstrong Rebel-Ann foils Casey’s attempts to succeed.

Having raised three boys, seven goats, two rabbits, two ponies, 150 chickens, and several ducks, cats, and dogs, I can relate to Casey’s dilemma. And, Rebel-Ann, the actual goat from which the story evolved, was more of a handful than all the other animals and kids combined.

WOW: What do you like most about writing for children/teens?

Jacquelyn: I enjoy reliving the feelings and adventures of those days and being able to give kids a few clues on how to navigate this difficult, yet amazing time of life. So, through my characters, I get to feel young again.

WOW: What was your revision process like for the essay (Scars)?

Jacquelyn: It’s my usual process: I write several drafts, then leave it alone for a week or so. Afterwards, I take a fresh look, edit for overall content, check sentence length and structure, obsess over finding the best descriptive words possible, and make sure the verbs do the heavy lifting. Then I give it to my sister to review. She points out my mistakes, and, as an engineer, is good at catching inconsistencies. I incorporate her suggestions and give it another long look. If it still affects me, I know it’s the story I wanted to tell—and I “go for launch.”

WOW: Hmm, not a bad idea to have an engineer as a proofreader! I love these practical pieces of advice on your revision process. I know we'll hear more from you in the future.

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