Querying with a Fun Fact

Thursday, May 16, 2024


My feline overlord.

I’ve been querying and pitching seriously for 5 or 6 months. I’m not sure how many I sent out, but the response was discouraging. There were no positive rejections. No “send me something else.” The only personal rejection told me that they had just signed something very similar to my idea. Sigh. 

Then I retook a class on pitching. The instructor is Amber Petty. Her idea is that you should be able to pull most magazine and website pitches together in a half hour or less. In her list of what should go into a pitch, she includes all of the standard things you see in a query letter (greeting, here’s my idea, here is how I’m going to approach it, here is a bit about me and where my work has sold). 

Then she adds something different. She recommends ending with an interesting fact about yourself. “I pitch article ideas from my office in a 200-year-old farmhouse.” “When I’m not writing, I take my watercolors and create urban sketches around Boston.” Her reasoning for this is that you never know what it is that will grab an editor’s attention. She’s had people turn down her pitch but ask her to write a piece somehow related to her interesting fact.

I have never been able to bring myself to include something like this. I just . . . no! I’m from the Midwest. I’m Presbyterian! We do things just so and that does not include willy nilly touchy feely irrelevant facts tacked onto the end of a pitch letter. 

I’m sorry! It just doesn’t. 

As I was working up my most recent batch of queries, I researched the various agents as I always do. I was reading about one potential agent on The Manuscript Wish List. After giving information about the types of manuscripts she is looking for, she had a paragraph labeled “Fun Facts about Me.” Among the various facts was something about the demanding cat who holds her prisoner. 

I glanced again at the types of manuscripts that she wants. My book is about mountain lions from their evolution to life in the suburbs and cities. It is for an early middle grade audience and very science oriented. Her manuscript interests circled around this but didn’t overlap it. She wants middle grade nonfiction. She wants nonfiction, science-oriented picture books. 

I thought that I should probably keep looking but something kept bringing me back to this listing. Before I could change my mind again, I prepped my query letter and sample pages. What about that interesting fact? Should I include it at the end? I decided against it. 

Instead, I opened with: I laughed out loud when I saw your page at Manuscript Wish List. Like you, I am captive of a feline overlord. Newton demands frequent brushing and chin scratches. Then I moved on to discuss the manuscript. 

As long as I was being bold, I felt that I should admit that I knew it wasn’t quite what she was looking for. I was glad to see that you like STEM and STEAM and hope you will be interested in The Mountain Lion even though it is for a young middle grade audience. 

Amber Petty may be on to something. This was the first query that brought a request for a full. Even if it doesn’t bring a contract, it got her attention. We’re conversing. If she doesn’t want this, maybe she’ll want something else. 

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 50 books for young readers.  
  • To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  
  • Click here to find her newsletter.

She is also the instructor for 3 WOW classes which begin again on June 3, 2024. She teaches:
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I Learned a New Word Today

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

As a big fan of crosswords and Scrabble, I’m always learning new words. Words like qaid, a tribal leader, but more importantly a word that uses the letter q but doesn’t need a u. But yesterday morning, I learned a new word as I brushed my teeth. The morning news folks were talking about Jenifer Hudson, the multi-hyphenate. The what?

Turns out multi-hyphenate first made an appearance in the entertainment industry of the 1970s for things like producer-director or writer-actor. But my introduction to this new world, Jennifer Hudson is a singer-actress-talk show host-author-Weight Watcher spokesperson-clothing line launcher or, for short, a multi-hyphenate. Although originally used for creative people, when Emma Gammon’s book The Multi-Hyphen Life: Work Less, Create More, and Design a Life That works for You was released in 2020 it expanded the use of multi-hyphenate to…well, everyone. Because who doesn’t have a side gig, passion or hobby in addition to their main job?

Some may feel that labelling yourself a multi-hyphenate makes you sound impressive, accomplished, driven. But I have my doubts. Because what human has dedicated themselves to just one role in life? My world is populated by a baker who is also a production line worker. A banker who is also a philanthropist. An IT specialist who is also a musician. A teacher who is also a mountain climber. A probation officer who is also a landscaper.

Don’t get me started about writers! How do they fit into the multi-hyphenate world? I’ve known writers  who were also librarians, lawyers, museum directors, teachers, forklift drivers, personal assistants, cellists, teachers, engineers, therapists, racehorse breeders and farmers. Not to mention the many writing related titles we assume: novelist, non-fiction author, children’s author, copyeditor, publicist, publishers, proofreader, literary agent, writing instructor, journalist, editor, content writer, book reviewer, columnist.

Personally, I’m a blogger-content writer-essayist-blog tour manager-social media manager-book reviewer-photographer-author. Or as I like to call myself: a writer. 

There was a time when advice from on high told writers to specialize in one type of writing. Is any writer a specialist now or are we better served by becoming proficient in multiple areas? And if we all branch out into many areas does the term multi-hyphenate lose all its cache?

Are we all just…people?

Jodi M. Webb writes from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains. After a decade hiatus from writing, she is back with recent bylines in Bob Vila, Pennsylvania Magazine Mental Floss and a WIP about her plant obsession. She's also a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Get to know her @jodiwebbwrites , Facebook and blogging at Words by Webb.
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Interview with Susan Enzer: Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Contest Third Place Winner

Sunday, May 12, 2024
Susan’s Bio:
Susan Enzer is a writer of vignettes and creative nonfiction stories. Named a Top Writer of 2023 by Papers Publishing, her work also appears in Passengers Journal where it was featured in their inaugural Podcast. She studies at The Writers Studio and attends workshops at Westport Writers. Susan is currently working on a memoir. She lives in New York City and can be reached at susan.enzer1@gmail.com or on Instagram @susan.enzer1.

If you haven't done so already, check out Susan's award-winning essay "Scents of a Life" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Susan: It started with a prompt on the senses. The sense of smell is evocative, a trigger for memories. I began with the memories of the difference in the scents of each of my two newborn sons. The more I wrote about Joshua, the more his story unfolded through aromas and scents. And the more the details emerged – the insulins, the bitterness of its taste and the condition always there. Above all he was a boy, a teenager, a young man. So, I wanted to document that journey. Again, it was the scents that revealed the memories of who he was. 

WOW: Yes, scents can be such a powerful memory trigger, and you used this so well in your story. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Susan: I am resilient, persistent, and patient. I wrote, revised, distanced myself from the piece, changed the title at least five times and finally "set it free" after three years. 

WOW: I love this because it shows that writing and publication are not straightforward or linear processes. And, speaking of writing processes, please tell us more about your memoir-in-progress. 

Susan: It is a story of stories and vignettes threaded through the resilience of a mother and son who are “married” by his chronic illness. She yearns to make him whole. She is determined to pass each test of endurance, step into and through each crisis. Her belief (magical) that this will bring them closer to having lives of their own. Over time, her growing awareness that his magical belief is that he can ignore his chronic illness. That he is not ill. That he is free from consequences. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that glimpse into your story, which sounds like it has layers of depth. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Susan: Nick Flynn who gets himself on the page as well as creating the memoir his father could not write for himself. Lucia Berlin, chatty, meandering and profound. I am not a meanderer so Berlin reminds me I can allow my inner thoughts, even my humor show up. Kate Walbert for her capacity to show the PN on the page through a composite of others. For me that is the shared experience of others with a child, a husband living with chronic illness, renal failure – crises and unwelcome surprises. 

WOW: If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Susan: It's not my job to criticize what shows up on the page. It's okay to write those words on the page and read them out loud, to hear them. AND it's okay for me to appear on the page and in the story. I carry memories and details, stories and losses. I need to share them and set them free. 

WOW: Wonderful advice! I like the image of letting your stories free. There’s something very inspiring in that. Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 


Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.
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Why Creating Specific Goals Is Essential to Your Writing Success

Thursday, May 09, 2024



When it comes to my freelance work, setting goals comes easily to me. I wanted to become a commerce writer. I took specific, actionable steps, from creating my sample to pitching editors. And voila! It happened. I have other goals, too, such as mastering the cold pitch and expanding into other niches. 

Yet, creatively, I lack in creating the same type of reachable and actionable goals. However, over the weekend, I was thinking about my usual approach and knowing the vague goal isn't working. 

You see, what has motivated me with freelance work is knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve. With creative writing, not so much. 

At first, I blamed being a short story writer, and then I read this article about George Saunders, a prolific short story writer who has published numerous collections. Reading that article helped me realize there's nothing wrong with being in that lane. Not everyone's a novelist or needs to be to achieve success.

And I realized...what did I want from my short story writing? Sure, being in anthologies and having numerous collections published (that people actually want to read) would be ideal. But much like my freelance dreams, I want tangible next-step goals that feel possible to me now. 

Thus, the journey has begun. What does success look like to me? You know that question they ask you in job interviews, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I have always despised that question because I fight the urge to sarcastically say, "Being alive, I guess." Yet knowing the answer to that can help. What are my tangible next steps to success? What does that even look like to me now? 

I've realized that my lack of actionable goals and stages of success is hindering my motivation. If you struggle with motivation, it may be time to ask yourself: what does success look like to you?  

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Voices Project, The Ocotillo Review, and Gold Man Review. A poem of hers was also featured in the anthology DEAR LEADERS TALES. Her short story, “The Mannequin of Lot 18,” was nominated for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2024. Since she’s not active on social media very much, stay in touch by following her writing blog at World of My Imagination.
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Louise Alexandra Erskine: How Vulnerability Builds A Brand

Wednesday, May 08, 2024
Screw Prince Charming by Louise Alexandra Erskine

By Rosie MacLeod
 
Imagine if you could explore and confront your most traumatic experiences in a way that would help not only you but also your readers to heal?
 
This is precisely what Louise Alexandra Erskine has turned her hand to. Poetry helped her “unintentionally” to face—and progress beyond—the “compound trauma of childhood trauma, failed marriage [and] an abusive marriage.” One of her micropoems went viral, accumulating 50,000 repins on Pinterest. Fans have even been tattooed with its words:
 
And
from the
Chaos
of Her soul
there
flowed
Beauty
 
This year, she released her second poetry collection, Screw Prince Charming!, also home to many micropoems. Why micropoems? “The format is a tool that’s more accessible,” Louise muses, “it’s a really good way to pick apart your own hopes, dreams, disappointments, trauma and memories and make them digestible.”
 
Vulnerability, micropoems, and building your brand gradually—Louise Alexandra Erskine shares how to build your “personal brand of books” and resonate with readers in self-care poetry.

***
 
WOW: Thanks for joining us today. Your new collection, Screw Prince Charming! is very readable. Talk to me about your work, and how you got started.
 
Louise: It has all just grown up with me. It’s just me exploring what it is to be a woman, to be me, to have trauma, to heal. All these little parts of me, entwined. We—me and poetry—are growing up together, and we are not there yet. That’s why I haven’t written my experiences as a memoir yet. It’s a process that it is still working itself out publicly—not just healing, being brave enough to dream publicly. I think that’s the hardest part, sometimes.
 
WOW: So you and poetry are still growing, and in an interview, you said it had evolved into something larger. What is that something?
 
Louise: I never really set out to be a brand, but it’s evolving that way. I almost feel like it’s more of a movement than anything, this movement of people who have grown in that constant battle between feeling broken and searching for wholeness and meaning in all of the trauma. We are not lightness, and we aren’t darkness. Me and people like me are the light between the stars.
 
You are worth celebrating - Louse Alexandra Erskine

WOW: For readers searching that wholeness, your poetry books feature spaces for writing exercises geared towards self-care. What made you want to build this service-orientated brand around your books?
 
Louise: When I was 26, journaling was huge. I was divorcing. To have kept a diary or a journal would have been incredibly unsafe for me. A poem, on the other hand, if somebody found it, could just be a poem. So poetry enabled me to pin down on paper and gain perspective. I would feel less weighed down by ‘the things’ if I could just look at them in front of me, rather than feeling trapped beneath them. I just felt, if that works for me, there will be others whom journaling is overwhelming or unsafe.
 
WOW: Gosh, that’s a danger I’d never even thought could exist. What came first for you—the poetry or the therapy? Were you writing poetry when you found it to be a great healer, or recovering when you discovered poetry really helped?
 
Louise: I was healing and writing poetry, but I didn’t realize I was doing the two things simultaneously; it was just a natural process for me.
 
WOW: And was the self-care angle also a natural one to pursue? Did you see the therapeutic benefits of writing, and just need to get the word out there? Or was it something else?
 
Louise: It was just something I enjoyed. I realized then I would feel lighter because of it. It helped me to feel less alone. When I put my poems out there and they generate reaction; I know I am reducing peoples’ loneliness. And if my work could do that, that was everything to me. It was all about the connection. I did not want anyone else to feel as painfully isolated as I had.
 
Someone that loves you doesn't diminish you in an effort to make their own light brighter - Louise Alexandra Erskine
 
WOW: As well as relieving loneliness, you inspire other people to write. There are spaces for writing exercises in your books and journals. Why do you inspire other people to write?
 
Louise: We rise by lifting others. If you push a rock up a hill, you’re still going to summit! I want to be the best teacher or mentor. To be a leader, you must want to take people where you’ve been and equip them to go further. That is the joy of leadership.
 
WOW: And by leading them into creativity, your readers become writers. The receiver of the creativity becomes a creator. Are you deliberately pushing boundaries and asking, “What even is poetry?” and “What even is a poet?”
 
Louise: Yes, I absolutely am. I don’t just write poetry, I am poetry. There’s a Bible verse that talks about how we are God’s masterpiece—“masterpiece” is the Greek word for “poem,” pōema (also spelt “pōlema”), from where we get “poem”: you are a poem that God wrote. That’s me. I am literally walking poetry. No, you don’t have to write things in nifty little squares to be a poet. You literally are poetry. To be a poet is about pushing boundaries. If you can do it in poetry, you can push them elsewhere. You can challenge societal norms to improve the world. I know that sounds incredibly idealistic, but I am and I’m not sorry!
 
WOW: In pushing boundaries, you seem to define poetry as “An ongoing conversation—an energy—shared with my readers.” All your readers and followers are writing a chapter in your work. Am I right?
 
Louise: Yes. I love that so much. It is not about me or my writing or my personal glory, it is about creating a movement of people that can heal and evolve and challenge enough to change the world. That is my aim.
 
 
"We all have a distinctive backstory. It's a case of being able to be vulnerable enough to share it."
 
 
WOW: What tips do you have for building that movement and a brand around books? Is it a distinctive backstory? A landmark quote? Some other Unique Selling Point?
 
Louise: I wish I knew! I am figuring this out as I go. I think it’s all of the above. We all have a distinctive backstory. It's a case of being able to be vulnerable enough to share it. You are your brand, and you must find your people. A distinctive backstory could be absolutely anything. Whatever your story, your people will be out there, people who identify with you and share part of your story. You need to be brave enough to be vulnerable with them, and honest enough to show your genuine self. That is scary, especially at the start. A wide audience would be lovely, but my focus is on finding the right audience: meeting the readers my heart is for and then bringing them alongside me in the best possible way. A wide audience will help you to find more of the right audience. I keep trusting that focusing on the right audience will cause the rest to fall into place. It’s a balance. Maybe that is the unique selling point—nobody else can tell my story.
 
WOW: Do you find that very contemporary language helps to tell that unique story? I’ve noticed that the language in your poems is very colloquial.
 
Louise: It depends on the audience you’re trying to attract. If you want to connect with academics and intellectuals, then use all of the beautiful poetic language. But if you’re looking to connect with people who are broken and searching for a way to heal, then you need to speak to them and meet them where they are. I am not afraid to drop an F-bomb in a poem because that will connect with my target audience (trauma survivors). It’s mostly about knowing whom you want to connect with so you can know which language is best for you to use.
 
WOW: So that’s the advice for speaking to a readership—what about for writing in a positive and therapeutic way? Any advice on that?
 
Louise: Even when it’s something that hurts, you can still make it beautiful with poetry. I wrote a poem about a miscarriage I had. There was nothing in it to say it was about a miscarriage. It said, “And just like that you were gone, and I’m left here without you. Like a sky stripped of all its stars.” It helped me to put metaphor to something. It makes it simultaneously bigger and smaller. I feel like it’s okay now. I will never be a woman who hasn’t miscarried multiple times, but I can now hold that information without it breaking me because I processed it, wrote it in this way, and because I’ve made it into something that’s beautiful. I shared it and people have connected with the sense of loss and that is an incredibly powerful thing.
 
Not your puppet, not your strings - Louise Alexandra Erskine

WOW: You’ve also processed painful domestic abuse in poetry, as well as how you are overcoming it. Do you have any advice for writing about really traumatic issues?
 
Louise: Think about a moment that hurt. You can just take a small segment from it, without naming the whole, specific trauma. Just capture the essence of it. Write maybe ten micropoems about the same/similar moments. You will slowly build a picture of something that happened as well as how you are processing and healing from it. Don’t ever share it while it’s still raw. You need to write it, put it away and come back to it.
 
Don’t share it until you’ve finished processing it. The absolute last thing you want to do is write something traumatizing for you and attract invasive and overwhelming comments. The first time you share it, tell it to your best friend. Tell them things you haven’t been brave enough to say out loud. And you don’t have to give a huge life story. Sharing a little bit of trauma at a time is the most effective way to heal.
 
WOW: When you are confronting trauma through those micropoems, when you’re building up a picture of what you’ve experienced, how do you keep writing positively?
 
Louise: Balance. Try to share a combination of my goal—meeting my people in their pain and isolation. I do this by letting my readers know I have felt what they feel. It would be incredibly heavy to only discuss those things. So I will also write poems that discuss the beautiful moments.
 
Much of the time, writers and speakers tend to sell themselves to an algorithm that works beautifully in terms of initial growth but that is detrimental long term. So, if I share something painful, complaining, and it does well, then the tendency is to say, “the algorithm likes this, so I’ll just keep sharing that content.” You then tunnel vision your way to only having this very one-sided, narrow perspective on content that you are sharing. And you must keep the bigger picture in mind. It is better to grow slowly. And then have a body of work that readers can look back through. Keep the wider picture, don’t niche too far as tempting as it can be.
 
 
"If I share something painful, complaining, and it does well, then the tendency is to say, 'the algorithm likes this, so I’ll just keep sharing that content.' You then tunnel vision your way to only having this very one-sided, narrow perspective on content that you are sharing. And you must keep the bigger picture in mind."
 
 
WOW: Are there any topics you would avoid, to keep that balance and keep writing in a positive way? Or is nothing off limits?
 
Louise: I think it very much depends on the circumstances. In a domestic abuse interview or blog post, I might discuss a specific incident of sexual trauma. I won’t put those things into poems. If I do an interview about domestic abuse, the people watching it have consented to that content. I don’t feel like anything is off-limits for me, but I will be the one to choose how and when and where those things are shared.
 
WOW: And yet, you’ve managed to do all this writing and interviews and raising awareness without using your name! Your entire brand is known as “Beautifully Defected.” Why did you take this as your “nom de plume”?
 
Louise: One of the many ways this idea of being “beautifully defected” came about was when I was in what might be called a “situationship” with a guy. He went to a rave and sent me a picture of him with a sticker reading “we are defected” stuck to his forehead. I didn’t know if it was thoughtless or if it was a comment on our relationship. Either way, yes, we are defected as a couple and as individuals—but I’ll be damned if I’ll be ashamed of that. I am defected, but it makes me beautiful. I can be more beautiful for having been broken. I was fashioned into something beautiful. Nobody gets to tell me that my brokenness is ugly.
 
WOW: Well put, and poetic as always, Louise! Thank you for chatting with me today.
 
Readers, find out more about Louise and her books by visiting beautifullydefected.com and catch up with her on Instagram @beautifully_defected
 
***
 
Rosie MacLeod
Rosie MacLeod is a London-based translator, interpreter and reporter. She has made reports for Global Radio and regularly reports for ShoutOut UK and East London Radio. She has written for Drunk Monkeys, World Literature Today, Inside Over and the Journal of Austrian Studies. You can listen to her radio work here: www.mixcloud.com/rosie-macleod. She tweets as @RosieMacLeod4. Get in touch via LinkedIn. Website: rosiemacleod.com. Instagram: @rosie.macleod.3
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Interview With Fall 2023 Flash Fiction Runner Up Winner, Sara Winslow

Tuesday, May 07, 2024
 

Today, I'm honored to interview Sara Winslow, runner up winner in our Fall 2023 Flash Fiction contest. Read her story "Blonde" before you check out our interview.

Here's more about Sara:

Sara Winslow is a repenting (a.k.a. retired) government lawyer who is now fulfilling her lifelong dream of writing creatively. Her short stories have been published in the literary magazine Sequoia Speaks and in Fabula Press’ Nivalis 2022 anthology. She has an essay appearing in Exsolutas Press’ Thriving anthology, which is scheduled for publication in March 2024. Sara lives in San Francisco. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys experiencing live music with her partner, practicing and teaching yoga, and exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on winning runner up! Your story has so many levels to it, I loved it. What inspired you to write this story? 

Sara: Isabel Wilkerson’s book, Caste, has had me thinking about a lot of things over the past year or two. It was a big source of inspiration for this story. I wanted to write something that might (in its own little way) help show how ludicrous racism, misogyny, and homophobia are.

WOW: You absolutely achieved that with this story. What was your revision process like?

Sara: “Blonde” started out as a more traditional short story (i.e., much longer than 750 words). But I couldn’t come up with a good ending, and I abandoned it. When I saw the WOW Flash Fiction contest, I dug up the story to see how it would work if I stripped it way down. That led to a better ending, and ultimately led to the story I entered in the contest.

WOW: What a great way to reuse old stories! How did you know you were done with your story?

Sara: I’m lucky to have a lot of people who are willing to read my stories before I finalize them: my writing group, my writing partner (see below), and numerous friends and relatives. I always learn from their comments, even if I don’t agree with all of them. Once I’ve incorporated everyone’s thoughts as best I can while staying true to my vision of the story, I review it again to see if it’s still something I would want to read. If so, I consider it done. Several people were kind enough to review and comment on earlier versions of “Blonde,” including two women I met in a virtual WOW class last year. With this particular story, some of my readers loved the early draft I sent them, others thought it was sorely lacking a plot, and still others felt it needed a bit of fine-tuning. I ended up doing fine-tuning that addressed some comments but not others, and submitted it to WOW when I myself was satisfied with it.

WOW: How wonderful to have so much support! I had to smile about your bio and you being a repenting government lawyer. Does your experience working in law inspire your writing?

Sara: I don’t often write about lawyers or the law. But I do think the discipline of legal writing (while quite different from creative writing) has given me the structure to work on fiction and creative nonfiction in retirement. For example, right after law school, I served as a clerk for an appellate judge. If I drafted an opinion for him that glossed over a sticky issue, he would send it back, insisting that I tackle the issue head on. I often remember that lesson when writing fiction – if I find myself glossing over something, I go back and think, how can I address this in a way that would satisfy Judge Steadman?

WOW: That's an awesome lesson! You live in one of my favorite cities in the world! Are you involved in the writing community there? How does that help you in your writing journey?

Sara: San Francisco is an amazing city, with numerous writing communities. I belong to the Mechanics’ Institute, a membership library in downtown San Francisco that was founded in 1854. The Institute hosts various events and groups, including a writers’ group I belong to. Everyone in my group is working on a novel. We read and critique each other’s chapters and help each other along. I also try to attend events at other writers’ communities. An author talk I attended at Page Street Writers in San Francisco led me to meet a fellow writer who introduced me to WOW and has become my writing “partner” – we read and discuss each other’s writing, and periodically get together at a café to submit our work to publications.

WOW: That must be so rewarding. You have numerous publications under your belt. What is your submission process and how do you know which literary magazines to target?

Sara: Thank you for calling my handful of publications numerous! When I have something that I think is ready to submit, I'll scour numerous places, looking for publications that are accepting submissions or holding contests, then I check out those publications to see if they seem like a good fit. For example, Poets & Writers magazine has extensive listings on its website. The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, Chill Subs, and Duotrope also have listings. Many publications use Submittable for their submissions, and the Submittable website has a “Discover” tab that lists open calls. In addition, I subscribe to any newsletters I can find that contain such listings (including WOW, Funds for Writers, Winning Writers, and many others). It can be a very time-consuming process just to find places where you can submit your work. And then the submissions themselves can take a long time as well. It’s more fun to meet with a friend and do your submissions together over a cup of tea or glass of wine! And then you also have someone to commiserate with when the inevitable rejections start filling your inbox.

WOW: Ha, isn't that the truth! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. Best of luck on your future writing endeavors! 
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We Burned Our Boats - Interview with Karen Jones Gowen (and Join our Reader Review Event)

Monday, May 06, 2024
Today, I'm excited to interview Karen Jones Gowen about her memoir, We Burned Our Boats. Karen chats about the book, her writing space, journaling, and more. If you love adventure and wonderful surprises, this memoir is for you!
 
We're also inviting readers to participate in our Reader Review event. You can sign up and receive a copy of the book! You don't need to be a blogger to join in on this event; anyone who can leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon can participate and receive a copy of We Burned Our Boats. Leave a review by June 6th, and you'll also be entered in a drawing to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!
 
About the book:
 
We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen
Bruce and Karen Gowen are facing a retirement that neither one wants. Bruce can't imagine life without employment. Karen wants change, adventure, a chance to spread her wings and fly away after thirty years of raising their large family.
 
Their opportunity comes in a way they can both support: helping their daughter and son-in-law with a hotel project in Panajachel, Guatemala.
 
Never ones to do anything half way, the Gowens sell everything, including one of their businesses. What they can't sell, they give away. With their worldly possessions down to two checked bags and two carry-ons each, they fly one way to Guatemala City. Then on to Panajachel, a tourist town on scenic Lake Atitlan, in the southern highlands of Guatemala.
 
Here they begin their new life, a time filled with incredible experiences, tough challenges, and unexpected adventure in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. A place where the Maya culture permeates the land. A land and people that will transform anyone fortunate enough to encounter the magic of these hills in Guatemala.
 
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (January 2024)
Paperback length: 306 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1947966680
ASIN: B0CPCHJKNG

We Burned Our Boats is available to purchase in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop.org. Add it to your Goodreads reading list as well.

About the author, Karen Jones Gowen:

Born and raised in central Illinois, Karen Jones Gowen attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She transferred to Brigham Young University, where she met her husband Bruce, and there graduated with a degree in English and American Literature.
 
Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen's writing.
 
Visit her website at KarenJonesGowen.com.

----- Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you for writing such an inspiring book! What was the takeaway you were hoping people would have after reading We Burned Our Boats? I love asking this question because so often what we set out to share can morph into something else. So tell us more about your goals with We Burned Our Boats.
 
Karen: My hope was to inspire people to persevere during the trials of their lives. We all know things don't always work out the way we plan or hope for, but if we carry on and do the best we can, wonderful surprises may be at the next turn. I also wanted to inspire others to not be afraid to try something new or go somewhere unknown, because adventure is not only for the young.
 
WOW: What an inspiring message! Karen, you are one of the most unique (and busy) people I know. I don't envision you sitting still much, so that begs the question: Where do you write? What does your space look like?
 
Karen: I write most often on the bed, either mine or in the guest bedroom. I will write in the living room when composing a rough draft with pen and paper, but when I move to the laptop, it's always on the bed. Unless I'm transcribing the handwritten pages to the computer, then it's the kitchen or dining room table. You will notice the complete absence of any desk work. I can't stand a desk and never use them. I also don't have a designated writing space. I like to spread out throughout the house, using whatever room or furniture suits my purpose. But there always has to be a window and space for spreading out papers. 
 
WOW: Oh yes—I agree on the window! And you are definitely busy, which leads me to my next question: What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2024 and beyond?

Karen: I am working on the sequel to We Burned Our Boats. I intend for it to be a travel trilogy, continuing with the memoir genre. The second book, which I hope to complete this year, is about a summer spent in South America, traveling with my son. In the month of April, I posted daily stories from this adventure on my blog Coming Down the Mountain.

WOW: Oh Karen, I'm excited to read the next book and then the third! You always leave me wanting more (and wondering where you find the energy)! You are so young at heart, which makes me wonder, do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you?

Karen: My current self would say to WRITE MORE, repeated a thousand times. When you're young, the tendency is to think there's always plenty of time. I'll write when the kids are older, when I move to a different location, when my work schedule improves, when I have more confidence in getting published, when I've experienced more of life. I was first published many years ago when I was a new mom in my early twenties. I sold a couple stories to a children's magazine with a wide circulation, which should have motivated and encouraged me in my talent to KEEP WRITING and WRITE MORE. I too often allowed negative thinking to dampen my efforts. One of my author heroes is Brandon Sanderson. I'm not a fantasy fan, but I find who he is as a writer incredibly inspiring. Hard-working, never gave up, wrote constantly even in the face of rejection, kept learning and improving and writing. Now he has made it yet remains connected with his fans. He also exhibits admirable humility for someone so successful. Be like Brandon Sanderson is what I wish I could say to my younger writing self.

WOW: Now that you've opened the door to keep writing it makes me wonder, what role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your life?

Karen: Journaling is my life blood, my therapy, my hobby, my writing practice, and a way to remember events later when I decide to write a memoir about something specific. I write in a journal every morning without fail. I can't imagine starting the day without it. I'd feel lost. I do edit my journals though, since I tend to repeat myself and also vent inappropriately. One day I'll be gone and my kids will see them, so I keep that in mind. I've not had much luck with writer's groups although I have joined a few through the years. Now, online is where I connect with other writers. Not as many blog as used to but when I find them, I like to follow them and their work.

WOW: Karen, we've known each other for quite a few years, and I love following your journey as your friend—thank you for sharing life with not only me, but with the world! You are such an inspiration. Thank you for trusting me and WOW! to help share We Burned Our Boats with the world. You are amazing!

We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen
Join the Reader Review Event

Readers, if you'd like to receive a copy of the memoir We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen for review, please fill out this Google Form. Book reviews need to be posted by June 6th on Goodreads and Amazon. We'll be sharing all the reviews in a Reader Review Event and Giveaway post here on The Muffin on June 10th! Besides receiving the book, you'll also be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


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Interview with M. M. De Voe, Second Place Winner in the Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, May 05, 2024
M. M. De Voe
M. M.'s bio: M. M. De Voe can be read in various anthologies, literary magazines, poetry collections, horror magazines, sci-fi dailies and on her free weekly Substack called “This is Ridiculous.” All this and the “masterfully conceived” fiction collection A FLASH OF DARKNESS (Borda Books 2024) and first-prize winning productivity guide for creative writers with kids (BOOK & BABY) can be found on her website at mmdevoe.com (it’s worth it) or just follow her @mmdevoe on Twitter. She is the founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis, a literary nonprofit for writers who also are parents. She is frequently on Twitter @mmdevoe.

(Photo credit: A. Mathiowetz)

----- Interview by Angela Mackintosh

WOW: Welcome, M. M.! I'm thrilled to chat with you today about your dynamic, award-winning essay, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t have to do laundry." We all loved the one-sentence format with the extra bonus paragraph. Why did you choose this structure, and do you have any tips for writing a one-sentence essay? I know they are hard to pull off, and you did it beautifully!

M. M.: I love that essay too. It came to me fully formed. I just had to write it down. Sometimes the universe bestows little gifts on us. Honestly? I needed to feel seen.

WOW: It's such a gift when an essay comes fully formed! I'm also intrigued by your humorous title, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t have to do laundry." Why did you choose this particular author?

M. M.: I’m actually re-reading The Cave by Jose Saramago—I’m reading it aloud to my daughter and it’s just so brilliant—it puts my tiny one-sentence to shame. But I didn’t think enough people had heard of him. Marquez also wrote long, winding, inter-threaded, domestic narratives, though he wrote in Spanish not Portuguese—hm. I probably should apologize if Marquez actually did laundry and helped his wife raise their two sons. What do you think the chances are? Both Marquez and Saramago also happened to win Nobel Prizes in Literature. Just saying. 

WOW: You're right, I haven't heard of Saramago, and now I'll have to check out The Cave because I love domestic narratives. Your essay accurately captures that overwhelming feeling of being a writer with kids and many distractions and trying to focus on the writing at hand. I'm curious how you tackle this in real life. Your book, Book and Baby: The Complete Guide to Managing Chaos and Becoming A Wildly Successful Writer-Parent sounds like a much-needed guide! Can you share a couple tips from it? How do you find time to write?

M. M.: Oh wow, thanks so much for this question! My book is a collection of advice and anecdotes that I collected and distilled over years of running the nonprofit Pen Parentis—we help writers stay on creative track after having kids. It’s divided into the ages of kids from infant to grown and flown. It’s not a “how to” exactly—more like a fun read about how others managed. I have never liked didactic nonfiction. I was so lucky that many of the authors we interviewed were willing to have their interviews published. That said, some great advice was to write in the car during swim lessons, to write early mornings or late nights depending on your kids’ sleep schedule, or in my own case, I made a little nest on my work table for my sleeping infants so I didn’t have to get up and walk over when they needed me. Every word counts!  

WOW: Finding those pockets of time to write can help so much! You're also the author of a flash fiction collection, A Flash of Darkness (Borda Books), which Kirkus called "masterfully conceived," and Tommy Dean described as "wickedly fun, deeply cutting, and as creepy as a funhouse mirror." That sounds like my kind of book! We have a lot of writers who are interested in putting together a collection. Please tell us more about the flash compilation and how it became published.

M. M.: It’s a great story. The publisher came to me! Over time, I had written four stories that they had published and when later they conceived of a series of single-author collections by “Bold New Voices” they invited me to submit my stories. The irony is that when I submitted my literary collection, they rejected the manuscript and asked instead for my “weird” fiction. It was a pleasure to collect all the nonconforming oddities together and it has been very well received!

WOW: To have a publisher invite you to write for them is so rare and such a compliment! You're one of those talented writers who write both fiction and creative nonfiction. I have an ongoing debate with a friend about which genre is harder to write. She says CNF is harder because you have to include all the wisdom and takeaways, and I think fiction is harder because there are way too many possibilities. Which came first for you, and which do you think is harder?

M. M.: Despite winning prizes for it, I don’t consider myself much of a CNF writer. My heart is in fiction. I love a good story and I hate it when truth gets in the way. But I’m also always afraid someone will get embarrassed or offended.

WOW: "I hate it when truth gets in the way" - love that! You're the founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis, a literary nonprofit for writers who are also parents. That sounds like a fantastic resource for writers in the WOW community. How did you start it, and what do you provide for writers?

M. M.: It is such a wonderful community! The story of how it began is actually in my Book & Baby book. We offer an annual fellowship to inspire writers to create new work, monthly literary salons featuring famous writers who have kids—these are open to anyone—your community is warmly invited to check them out on YouTube.com/penparentis and a Cycle of Support which blends mentorship, membership and weekly accountability meetups.

WOW: Those salons look inspiring and it's great they are available to everyone! You're so busy and yet still manage to remain productive in writing and publishing. I'd love to know what you're working on right now. Did you ever write the essay about being the eldest daughter and taking care of your baby brother?

M. M.: I did not! When my brother read the essay he commented and made me self conscious! So I’m back to working on a novel about a woman who feels destined to be an opera star. New York City eats her alive.

WOW: Great premise! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, M. M. Good luck with that and all your literary projects, and congrats again on your second place win!

Find out more about WOW's contests by visiting www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php.

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What Was Never There - Interview with Elizabeth Maria Naranjo (and Join our Reader Review Event)

Friday, May 03, 2024
Today, I'm thrilled to interview Elizabeth Maria Naranjo about her vibrant and haunting short story collection, What Was Never There. We chat about Elizabeth's writing process, the joy of entering writing contests, and her goals for the year. If you love magical realism and gripping stories, you'll want to read this book!

We're also inviting readers to participate in our Reader Review event. Sign up and receive a copy of the book!
You don't need to be a blogger to join in on this event; anyone who can leave a review on Goodreads and Amazon can participate and receive a copy of What Was Never There. By leaving a review, you'll also be entered in a drawing to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

About the book:

What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo
A mother and daughter lost in the woods must overcome their worst fears to find their way back. A father going through a divorce witnesses a seemingly impossible motorcycle accident, which forces him to question the truth of his own perceptions. A little boy with a terrible secret routinely steals away at night to meet a girl beneath a willow tree—only to discover she has a secret of her own.

What Was Never There is a collection of short stories with the common theme of memory, or rather, the way memory haunts us.

Includes Pushcart Prize nominated stories “We Never Get to Talk Anymore” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard” and the award-winning “Windows,” selected for Best Microfiction 2023.

ASIN: B0CQSTX8WT
ISBN-13: 979-8866571697
Publisher: Independent (December 2023)
Length: 276 Pages

What Was Never There is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads list.

About the author, Elizabeth Maria Naranjo:

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is the author of The Fourth Wall, The House on Linden Way, and What Was Never There. Her stories and essays have been widely published and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Essays, and Best of the Net, and her short story, “Windows,” was selected for Best Microfiction 2023. She lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband and two children.

Visit her website at www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com.
Twitter/X: @emarianaranjo

----- Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you for writing such a delightful book full of intriguing stories! What was the takeaway you were hoping people would have after reading What Was Never There? Each story touched me in one way or another yet they were all incredibly different.

Elizabeth: Thank you, too, for the compliment! I’m glad readers are enjoying What Was Never There. What I hope people take away from it is a sense of empathy. Most of the stories in What Was Never There deal with uncomfortable and even painful internal struggles. Many of the characters are haunted by past decisions or how close they are to making the wrong one. Not all of these struggles will be relatable, but that’s the beauty of fiction; it asks us to strive for empathy, even, and especially, when that’s a difficult thing to do. 

WOW: I felt every bit of what you wanted me to as a reader; it was definitely a whirlwind of feelings. I know you're always working, so that begs the question: What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2024 and beyond? 

Elizabeth: My goal for this year was to publish all three books in my cozy mystery series. The first, Murder by Milkshake, will be released in July 2024, and I’m thrilled to be doing a full blog tour with Women on Writing to promote that one! The second book is on track to be released in the fall, and I’m hoping the third (and final) book will come out in December. Once 2025 hits, I’m back to working on more literary fiction and essays. I miss writing motherhood pieces, and now that my daughter has moved out and my son is driving and preparing to graduate high school next year, I have a wealth of great material to work with! 

WOW: The motherhood deal speaks right to my mama writer heart—all the feels! Before I get weepy, let's talk about writing contests. You know WOW! offers several, so we want to know: What is your history with writing contests? 

Elizabeth: Writing contests are awesome! Most of them provide a prompt, a word count limit, and a deadline, parameters that come in handy for those writers (i.e., all writers) who tend to twist themselves into knots over every little decision. It’s much easier to shape a piece of writing around a prompt instead of facing a blank page with a head full of competing ideas. Deadlines are always a good thing because they add a sense of urgency, and word count limits benefit us as well; we are working toward a definitive end. Also, with contests you can often get constructive feedback; in fact, way back in 2011 I submitted a short story called “Flight” to Women on Writing’s Spring Fiction Contest—my first time doing so. I didn’t win, but the feedback I received guided my edits, and “Flight” became my first published piece when Literary Mama accepted it the following year. 

WOW: I hope everyone reads this interview and is inspired to enter a contest, even if it's not ours. I feel like so many of us have an author inside who is just eager to fly free! Speaking of authors, who is your favorite author and why? 

Elizabeth: If I had to choose just one, I’d choose Peter S. Beagle, since he wrote my favorite book of all time, The Last Unicorn. Beagle’s storytelling is of that rare quality that even if you’re reading the story for the first time, you feel nostalgic, as if it’s a place you’ve been before. His prose is effortless and absolutely sublime—whimsical and lyrical yet simple and never overwritten. That is so hard to do.

WOW: That sounds very similar to your style! You always have the most beautiful words—truly a gift! Where do you write? What does your space look like? I envision you sitting in a very colorful room by the way. I think it's because your book covers are always so intriguing. 

Elizabeth: On weekend mornings my writing space looks like a warm, inviting coffee shop. It’s dimly lit and smells like roasted coffee beans. I’ve written several books there, along with countless stories and essays. On weekday mornings during summer and school breaks my writing space looks a little different. Sometimes I stay home and write on the family room couch. Sometimes I drive to the library parking lot and write in my car. The year before last I spent the majority of my writing time at a cheery and blessedly cool Dunkin’ Donuts while my son worked out at a nearby gym. Now he has a license and drives himself, but I do miss that little donut shop! The key for me is claiming a writing space. Even if it’s at home, while I’m writing I claim the space; I close the door, light a candle, play some movie soundtracks or a fantasy playlist, dim the lights, and disappear into the work.

WOW: Oh Elizabeth, we could chat all day! It's no wonder why I love your writing; I feel like if you lived next door, we'd be besties! I'm happy to let readers know that you'll be back with yet another tour this fall for your cozy mystery, Murder by Milkshake, which means another longer interview! 

What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

Join the Reader Review Event!


Readers, if you'd like to receive a copy of the short story collection What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo for review, please fill out this Google Form. Book reviews need to be posted by June 3rd on Goodreads and Amazon. We'll be sharing all the reviews in a Reader Review Event and Giveaway post here on The Muffin on June 7th! Besides receiving the book, you'll also be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

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An Agent Query Checklist

Thursday, May 02, 2024


I love to write fiction and create deeply-flawed characters along with plot twists. With every page I edit, I become more skilled and learn what works and what doesn’t. That’s why most of us are here—we want to connect with other writers, learn from the experiences of others, find marketing tips and ways we can perfect our craft. 

What I don’t love is what happens when I’m done with a project. The querying process is something that terrifies me. Nothing brings on imposter syndrome like scrolling through the various lists of available agents and looking to see what they want in their submissions. There have been several times where I completed a novel (yes, I've written several), polished it to the best of my ability, and then began to prepare for querying agents. I’ll get through five or six agents on my list, and then grind the process to a screeching halt. 

Every single agent asks for something different. I recently signed up for Query Tracker, a free website (it offers a premium membership upgrade if you choose) that helps you find literary agents in your genre, organize and track your queries, and learn the typical response times and reply rates from agents. This website also shares what agents want to see from prospective writers. 

After randomly selecting five different agents, I’m outlining what I found below when searching the thriller/suspense genre. I will not use any real agent names. For my purposes in this exercise, I’m only looking for agents representing fiction, as the submission process for nonfiction books is different. 

Agent #1 would like you to submit your information through QueryManager.com. That includes a short biography from you, the writer, a website address, a query letter, a short synopsis of your book, the first three chapters of your book, a one-sentence pitch for your book, and a description of your potential target audience. 

Agent #2 requests you contact them through e-mail. When I go to their website to get more information, it does not specify what they are looking for in this e-mail query. I’m assuming a query letter and synopsis of the book would be the first place to start unless the agent requests more information. 

Agent #3 asks that you submit via e-mail. Going to the agency website for more guidelines, the agent asks for a query letter including the author’s bio, optional synopsis, and the first 10 pages of the book. 

Agent #4 wants authors to submit queries via e-mail. The website submissions guidelines ask for a book synopsis and a brief author biography. 

Agent #5 accepts queries via e-mail. They would like a query letter from the author about the book, including the hook, bio, brief synopsis of the work, and submission information (i.e., is this a simultaneous submission?) 

Aaaaand this is why I’ve previously been intimidated by the submissions process. While you’d think I’d be excited about the prospect of getting my book information out into the world, juggling the various elements of the submissions package dampens that enthusiasm almost immediately. I know I’m not alone in this. However, I’m excited to use Query Tracker because it will help me stay organized and provide a record of who I’ve submitted to and when. But before I get started, my first task is to put together the following: 

• A one-sentence logline of my book. 
• A one-paragraph author bio. 
• A one-page synopsis of the book, using samples I found in the latest edition of The Writer’s Market and Save the Cat Writes a Novel
• A brief description of the potential target audience and other comparative titles to mine. 
• The most polished version of the book, where I can pull the first 10 pages, 25 pages, or 50 pages, depending on what/if the agent wants. 

Wish me luck—I have a feeling I’ll need it! 

Have you been through the submissions process with any of your books? I’d love to hear your experiences and submission methods! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She's currently preparing to shop around a suspense/thriller about, what else? A podcaster trying to solve the mystery of her sister's disappearance.
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INTERVIEW WITH BV LAWSON, RUNNER UP IN THE WOW! FALL 2023 FLASH FICTION CONTEST

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Washington, DC-based BV Lawson’s stories have won the Dillydoun Flash Fiction Prize, SMFS Derringer, Noir Nation Golden Fedora, and Gemini Awards. She’s also been longlisted for the New Writers Flash Competition and Fish Short Story Prize; shortlisted for Flash 500 Quarterly and Anthology Magazine short story awards; and chosen as a finalist for the Pulpfictional Flash Contest and Tucson Festival of Books Literary Competition. BV’s Scott Drayco novels have been a featured Library Journal pick and finalists for Shamus, Silver Falchion, Daphne, and Foreword Book Reviews Awards, with her eighth Drayco novel to be published this spring. 

She enjoys flying with her husband above the Chesapeake Bay in a little Cessna. 

Visit her website at bvlawson.com - no ticket required. 

If you haven't read her story, "Chrysalis," take moment to this piece of flash before coming back her to learn more about her writing.

-------interview by Sue Bradford Edwards-------

WOW: What was your inspiration for “Chrysalis?” 

BV: It’s hard to say where ideas originate sometimes, but with “Chrysalis,” the first line just popped into my head one day, unbidden. I’d been reading a lot beforehand on young women and body image disorders, and somehow that first line morphed into this little tale of a mother and daughter’s fraught relationship over their perceptions of what “beauty” really is. 

WOW: Your narrator in “Chrysalis” knows the names of so many butterflies but we never learn her name. How did you decide what to reveal and what to conceal? 

BV: That, too, can be a bit mystical, since with some stories—like this one—I’m able to sit down and write without pause or much editing. But I do subconsciously create backstories for characters, and I like to think in this case that the narrator is a closet science geek, one of many reasons she and her mother don’t see eye-to-eye. In many cases, the characters seem to write themselves. 

WOW: You have so much experience writing flash. What advice do you have for our readers who aren’t sure how to start writing flash? I adore flash fiction! 

BV: It seems so simple, and yet every single word counts. There are many writing prompts all over the internet, and it can be helpful to grab one that interests you and write a paragraph about it. Then you spin that paragraph into another, and before long, you have a tight little story. It also helps to read a lot of flash fiction in various genres. 

WOW:  It's always interesting the way different genres can feed what you are creating. In addition to writing flash, you write a crime fiction series. How do these two types of writing play off each other? 

BV: With novels, I have a lot more room to “play” with words, although I always wanted my crime fiction series to have poetry underlying it. My earliest writings (and publications) were actually in poetry, a genre my mother loved and shared with me. I hope that no matter how short or long my works may be, those hints of poetry will always shine through. 

WOW: A background in poetry?  That makes sense given the figurative language in your story. “Chrysalis” features details about butterflies. Music features prominently in the Drayco series. How do you use these topics to enrich the stories in which they appear? 

BV: The butterflies in “Chrysalis” were integral to the daughter’s character and life experience, and music is integral to the character of Scott Drayco, since he began his life as a concert pianist before tragedy ended that dream. In a sense, butterflies represent how the narrator in “Chrysalis” views herself and her life, just as music represents a lens through which Drayco sees his world. Butterflies are also usually quite colorful, too, and Drayco has a form of synesthesia, where he experiences all music and sounds as colors, shapes, textures, and even tastes. Art = life = art.

WOW:  Thank you for giving our readers so much to think about!  Thank you for taking the time out of your writing schedule to be here with us.
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