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Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Interview with Kara Weeks: Runner Up in the Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Kara Weeks lives in New York City with her tortoiseshell cat named Beatrice. She works full-time in creative advertising and finds time to write on nights and weekends in between cups of coffee and glasses of wine. She is currently working on a series of short stories, which she hopes to complete this year. When Kara isn't writing, she can be found exploring a new corner of the world, walking with a camera in hand around New York City, burying her nose in a book, or lacing up her running shoes for her next race. You can follow her on Instagram: @karaweeks27.

Before you read her interview, be sure to read her story What Father Knows, then come on back!

-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner up in the fall flash fiction writing contest! Can you tell us about what inspired this story? 

Kara: Thank you! A friend of mine had a family member who had a similar experience with her father. It stuck with me so I began writing the fictional characters of Bri and her dad to explore the father-daughter relationship and how strong that bond is. Ultimately, they'll love each other no matter what and I wanted to unveil their years of love and history as an anchor for them.

WOW: You absolutely captured that relationship! I see that you work in creative advertising! How does your work in advertising influence your short stories? 

Kara: Advertising at its core is about storytelling. The work I do for brands is about finding what that story is and how to continue the narrative in a succinct, engaging way. Thinking with that lens for work has deepened my skills for storytelling as a writer in my personal life and vice versa.

WOW: I think that's a fantastic way of both worlds inspiring each other! You are currently working on a series of short stories. Can you tell us a little bit about them? 

Kara: It will be an anthology following the same character, a 28-year old woman who is crippled by the monotony of her suburban married life. I'm still workshopping but it has taken a darkly comic angle so far. I'm excited to see where she takes me.

WOW: That sounds so interesting! So, you are my Instagram inspiration! I can see you have an eye for photography. Do your photographs ever influence or inspire your writing? 

Kara: Thank you so much! As a photographer, I'm captivated by details - the chipped edge of a building, the slight reflection of light on glass. In my writing I take the same approach, I like details that tell the story more than a comprehensive, play-by-play narrative would. I actually have a separate Instagram for my photography if anyone would like to follow me there! @karaweeksphotography

WOW: Well, I'm definitely following you now! Lastly, what writing advice has stayed with you the most? 

Kara: All good writers are readers first.

WOW: I totally agree! Best of luck with your writing and congrats again!

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Monday, March 30, 2020


Thank You Helpers

WOW! I don't even know where to begin - the world is upside down. I've journaled about how a trip to the grocery seems surreal and somehow dangerous. I want to remember these days. I also have the same feeling in my stomach I would get as a child watching a scary movie. Daddy would see me hiding under the blanket and remind me there would be a happy ending and ask "don't you want to see how it ends?". I'd try to stick it out as long as I could, but I'd give in to that topsy turny feeling in my tummy and run to the bathroom until it was over. I didn't care how it ended, I just wanted it to stop. The grown-up me knows we need to see this COVID-19 thing come to an end. The grown-up me knows once it's over we will appreciate one another more. The grown-up me knows I need to come up with fun ways to keep the children entertained.

Yet ... here I am hiding in the tub with a glass of wine wondering if maybe when I come out it will be over.

Most days I don't feel very grown-up. I'm worried about finances (I'm a musician and half our income each year comes from that) so I'm baking and taking on more author work to supplement our income. I'm worried about the elderly - so I'm shopping for people and leaving groceries on porches. I'm worried about my family and their health (physically and emotionally) - my mother usually sees the children several times a week and it's been 3 weeks since she last held the baby on her lap for a nap. My husband says I wake up in the middle of the night scared saying things like:

"I gave it to all of them - Ken warned me"

I internalize things. My friends and family see my humorous posts about being the new gym teacher, hairdresser, etc... and inside, I'm wondering if I remembered to sanitize my phone before lunch. My hands bleed from the excessive hand washing, and I keep counting the jars of vegetables to make sure no one will go without.

I know on a certain level we are all feeling this. We are all trying to do our best under some very trying circumstances. I want you to know I see you. I feel you. I'm on your side.

The ONLY thing keeping me smiling right now is doing what Daddy taught me. I'm looking for the helpers. I see the man from Koeppel Concrete who donated gift cards to healthcare workers to purchase scrubs from the local small business Working Man's Friend. I see the woman who is on furlough who is helping at the local Festival Foods making sure shelves are stocked. I see the nurse who works tirelessly with the elderly and during her time off cares for her special needs son while also sewing masks for fellow healthcare workers. I see the teachers juggling their own children while putting together online lessons for their students. I see restaurants making deliveries and donations to healthcare workers. I've always seen you - but right now I NEED to see you. I've been posting on social media asking people to tell me about the amazing acts of kindness they see each day.

With so much sadness and fear in our world right now, we need to thank the helpers, but more importantly we need to see them. We need to hear about them. There are so many ways to help right now - and new ideas are popping up every day. Big or small, your help is bringing a smile to more than just one person. Keep helping and please know we are seeing you!

Thanks for listening - I struggled with this post - and now can you do me a favor? Leave a comment about something you've done, something you've seen, something you plan to do that will help someone else? These stories help me get through each and every day - you have no idea! THANK YOU <3 p="">
Hugs (hopefully in real life again someday),

Crystal is the office manager, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, Auntie, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, 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, two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, horses Darlin' and Joker, and over 250 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal milking cows, riding horses, and riding unicorns (not at the same time), taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!

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Sunday, March 29, 2020


Interview with Kim Burnett: Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up

Kim’s Bio:

Kim Burnett is a policy wonk by training who made an early career move from Capitol Hill to the nonprofit space, most recently in support of the children and schools in Haiti. A Midwesterner by birth and inclination, she now lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE. She has three happily launched children, a sweet husband and equally sweet dog.

She started a deep dive into memoir and essay through classes at the Writers Center in Bethesda, MD and worked with a nurturing circle of six other writers she met there for more than 12 years. In her new home at the beach she discovered a talented group of writers in the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild. They encouraged her to walk into the world of submissions. Her first published essay recently appeared Persimmon Tree Magazine, which she declares a good beginning.

She is interested in good books, good friends, and any activity that gets her on the trails or the beach.

If you haven't done so already, check out Kim's award-winning story "Does My AOL Email Address Make Me Look Fat?" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Kim: This piece came together organically. The airport morning visit to Starbucks happened last January, and it was one of those moments I felt like I was above the scene, observing. No one noticed as I scribbled notes because they were all eyes-on-phone. I didn't think of it again until months later when I was working on my "serious writer" technology presence (which, by the way, I have yet to finish) of domain name, website address and email address and I felt resistance to making a choice. As I journaled about it, I realized I felt resentment that I would not be taken as seriously as a writer if I continued to use my comfortable AOL address. I wrote the essay that hour.

WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing process with us. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Kim: I realized that turning 60 brought up unexpected insecurities and questions. Will I still be taken seriously by younger editors and writers? How hard am I willing to work to keep up with technology? What do I need to do – and what do I NOT need to do - to be both challenged and comfortable in my work? And - boy this was a surprise - I am more like my father than I imagined.

WOW: I love how writing can bring up so many unexpected questions and realizations. Enjoy the process of reflecting on those questions, if you choose to do so! Please tell us more about your experiences with writing groups.

Kim: Thirteen years ago, I took a memoir class at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, and two of the women from the class asked five of us to join them in a writer's group. They were all published and polished, and I was new to memoir and creative nonfiction writing. Month in and month out we've given each other support, honest feedback and the gift of encouragement, and I cannot imagine my writing journey without them. When I moved to Rehoboth Beach two years ago, I joined the thriving Rehoboth Beach Writer's Guild, and the teachers and fellow students have helped me become a better writer. They encouraged me to submit my work, and I've been accepted in several online publications.

WOW: That’s so wonderful that you’ve had multiple positive and encouraging experiences with your writing groups. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have most influenced you, and in what ways?

Kim: Anne Lamott, Nora Ephron, and Sloan Crosley taught me to tell stories that are honest and open. I've loved the NYT Modern Love column for years because most of the writers craft something complete and powerful with a challenging word count. Joan Didion taught me how to live with grief, and Wendell Berry challenged my assumptions about our natural world and community.

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

Kim: I would tell my younger self to protect her mornings and write more. I would tell her to stop saying yes to things of little importance. I would convince her to submit, submit, submit.

WOW: That is excellent advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Kim: It is never too late to learn to be brave.

WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.

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Saturday, March 28, 2020


Stay Home and Read Author Giveaway Sign Up

Authors, has your book event been canceled? So many people are impacted by the crisis happening around the world, and we would like to invite you to participate in our group author giveaway. It's called the Stay Home and Read Event! This is for all authors, no matter when your book was published or whether you had an event canceled or not. We'd love you all to join in!

Here are the details:
  • The giveaway starts April 13th and will last until May 3rd. Our ideal deadline for authors to sign up is March 31st, but if you sign up a few days after, that's still fine.
  • All authors participating in the giveaway will be included in an email newsletter about the giveaway sent to 49,000 subscribers and promoted on our social media accounts.
  • We will be hosting the giveaway via Rafflecopter. You can promote up to 3 social media accounts (which will be added as extra entry options). You can also add an email newsletter for readers to sign up for your newsletter.
  • There is a fee of $50 to participate. $10 of this fee will go directly to the grand prize giveaway of an Amazon Gift Card.
  • There will be 3 winners of the giveaway, so be prepared to send out at least three books to the winners.
  • The winners will be US only which will save you on shipping costs. You have the option to choose to send an e-book or print copy.

If you'd like to join in, sign up for the giveaway at this Google form here:

Any questions? Let me know in the comments! Happy reading!

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Friday, March 27, 2020


Friday Speak Out!: Ways to Land an Agent

by June Trop

You’ve crossed the finish line. Now, as an emerging author, you can benefit from the support of a traditional publisher. But don’t overlook getting an agent first.

Your chances of finding a publisher are significantly better if you have an agent. Although agents typically take from 10—15% of the author’s earnings for the book they represent, they know the marketplace and the editors publishing manuscripts like yours. Moreover, an editor at a publishing house will read your submission sooner if it’s represented by an agent rather than submitted “over the transom,” that is, submitted by the author as an unsolicited manuscript. Agents also have experience guiding an author’s career and clout negotiating the fine print in a contract, such as the advances, royalties, and author’s rights.

So how can you get an agent? There are several ways to search for one. Of course, knowing someone who knows someone is best. But another way is to search the internet for “literary agents.” You’ll find a directory of agents online. The number of agents is legion so make a list of only those interested in your genre, especially if they’re seeking new clients.

Another way is to go to bookstores. About once a month, my husband and I go out on a date to a bookstore in the mall. While he amuses himself looking at the magazines, I check out the authors with new books in my genre, historical mysteries. Often they identify their agent in the acknowledgment section of their books.

In any case, be sure to call each agency first to check that the agent is still with them—agents do move around—and then include with your query letter exactly what each requires such as a 100 or 200-word synopsis, an author bio, and some sample chapters. Agents and publishers want to make money. So in your letter, be sure to tout the commercial potential of your manuscript—in other words how it’s unique—and mention how yours is both similar to and different from a book they represent.

By all means approach publishers over the transom, but for every submission to a publisher, send one to an agent as well. As long as none of the agents or publishers insists on an exclusive submission, send out ten, five to an agent and five to a publisher, and then, upon each rejection, immediately submit your manuscript to the next agent or publisher on your list.

Yes, you will get rejections. No matter how good your work, you’ll likely be rejected many times. But remember each opinion is subjective. Someone else could love it. So, as an emerging author, while you search for a publisher, search for an agent as well. The support you gain may be well worth the money it costs.

* * *
June Trop is the author of the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series set in first-century CE Roman-occupied Alexandria. Her books have been cited for excellence at the New York Book Festival, by Wiki Ezvid, the Historical Novel Society, and as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite. Kirkus praised The Deadliest Thief for its “vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.”

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students’ imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling.

June, an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, NY where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with June on her website or her Facebook page: June Trop Author.

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, March 26, 2020


Spray It, Don't Say It

On the occasions when I'm so enthusiastic or my mouth is just so darned juicy that a bit of spittle sprays from my mouth towards whoever I'm talking to, I hope. I hope the slob droplets headed their way didn't reach them. Sometimes I even see where the spit landed--like on their sweater--and then I hope they didn't notice what happened.

Sometimes I imagine they're polite enough that they definitely did see exactly what happened, but they're too nice to embarrass me by reacting.

photo by Pixabay

If you read one of my posts on The Muffin, you know that I recently received a second rejection email. (I'm waiting to hear from a third publisher, one who also requested a full manuscript.) I expressed my discouragement. A few writer friends suggested I make a final push before going a route other than seeking a traditional publisher. One said to send my piece everywhere... to make March my month. To spray it everywhere.

Spray it everywhere. That idea really wedged into my brain. I couldn't get it unstuck.

So, instead of just saying I'm going to submit it to other places, I'm going to spray it. I'm going to send it so many places, it'll be like I had a fire hose in my hands, and my queries whooshed out with incredible force.

I began with I made a list, with five agents each day, and that website got me to March 18. 18 x 5 = 90. That means that so far, I'll be sending out 90 new submissions.

I'm changing each of my query letters to match who I'm sending them to. Rachelle Gardner, an agent, wrote a post about how to attract an agent. Cathryn Summerhayes, another agent, wrote a piece about what works and what are potential pitfalls when it comes to queries. Jane Friedman includes resources for writers looking for agents in her post.

I figure that 155 submissions, added to the query letters I sent out previously, proves I haven't given up. I'm willing to give one last-ditch effort before going a different publication route.

Screeeeeeeech. Then the coronavirus really hit the U.S.

The above was written about a month ago. I was not able to keep up the five-a-day query goal, but it looks like I have some time on my hands now to catch up. We've been told to stay at home, and I've been engaging in "distance teaching." The earliest I will report back to "normal" work is April 23...

So, in between my posting lessons online and answering repeated questions of "I did it and I submitted it, but it says I didn't. What do I do?" and grading their work, I have time to query. By the end of my social distancing journey, I will have racked up 155 queries.

(And reading over this, from a month ago, I realize with everyone wearing masks and covering when sneezing and washing our hands until the skin cracks, the thought of spittle spraying everywhere might make you shudder. But fear not. Lately, when I get overly excited, it's just me, the hubby and the dog. We're putting way more than 6 feet between us, so whatever spit is flying around, it's probably landing back on me... which is probably a good thing.)

If you're staying close to home, what are you doing to keep yourself entertained? What are you binge-watching? What are you reading? What are you writing? Querying-like-crazy minds want to know...

Sioux has worn the same pair of sweat pants for a couple days in a row (Ew!), she plowed through the last season of Ray Donovan, is looking forward to the airing of the last few episodes of Schitt's Creek and she just finished reading American Dirt. If you'd like to read more of shudder-worthy habits, check out her blog, Sioux's Page.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Five Tips for Writing a Podcast Script

Podcasting is all the rage, and it didn’t take me long to quickly become addicted to the medium. I’ve discussed my desire to create my own true crime podcast here before, and this past summer, I finally started putting a plan into place. Having found myself with extra time on my hands due to the current state of the world amid Covid-19, I’ve begun working on the podcast production in earnest.

While there are many different components to creating and producing a podcast, today I’m going to focus on the topic of scriptwriting. Here a few tips I’ve learned along the way about writing a podcast script.

Develop a format. I feel like formats are important for the main episodes of a podcast, so the listener always knows what to expect. This format can vary from time to time, such as with bonus episodes, but I find myself drawn to podcasts where I know what the introduction will include, especially if it has catchy music. But that may just be my personal preference.

My podcast is a true crime podcast about missing people, so I decided on a short introductory paragraph that briefly describes the case, followed by the intro, and then the overview of the case.

Write in sound effects and audio instructions. Because I want to add sound effects to break up the sound of my voice, I write in where I want certain types of sounds (dog barking, someone knocking on a door, a car crash, etc.) If I’m also going to use audio from another source, such as a TV news segment, I paste the hyperlink right into the script, along with how far in I want to pull the audio, so I can easily find it when going into the editing phase.

Create a call to action. This part has evolved as I’ve written a few different episodes, but right now I ask listeners to rate and subscribe to the podcast, visit my website, and check out the sponsor. I also provide a teaser sentence that lets everyone know where the next episode’s case will be from geographically.

Read the script out loud a few times before recording. I didn’t do this enough before I jumped the gun and started recording my first episode. I found myself stumbling over certain words and phrases and ended up revising the script as I paused the recording. If you read the script out loud first, chances are more likely that you’ll find those problem areas that need tweaking before production begins.

Compile any extra information in each episode’s document for show notes. Show notes can be included directly in the episode information when the podcast is uploaded to iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts. This can include any of your sponsor offers or codes, products you might be launching, additional links to information about the episode, etc. My plan is to have a page on the podcast website with a running list of the episodes. On that page, I can paste the script directly from my notes for anyone who doesn’t like to listen to podcasts, and then have the audio link also included in the same post. Because I get information from a variety of news sources, I’ll include a reading list on that page for anyone who wants to take a deeper dive into the case. Plus, you never know what kinds of bonus content you can pull from just one script!

Have you ever written a podcast episode, or follow a podcast that has scripts you love? I’d love to know more!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, magazine editor, true crime addict and wannabe podcaster. Follow her at

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