Sign up for our FREE Email Newsletter

Friday, June 05, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out! We Will Not Be Silent #BlackLivesMatter


by Angela Miyuki Mackintosh


“I can’t breathe.”

The words of George Floyd echoed in my head as people took to the streets across our country this week to protest the systemic racism that has targeted the Black community for hundreds of years.

On the first night of the protests, I was driving home from an errand when a local college radio station here in Los Angeles started spinning tracks from Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Powerful rap like “Endangered Species” and “Rollin’ Wit The Lench Mob.” It instantly brought back feelings of anger from the 1992 LA Riots. We protested against the police’s use of excessive force against Rodney King. By the time the riots ended 2,383 people were injured, 12,000 were arrested, and 63 people were killed. I was in Venice Beach protesting with everyone else, a twenty-year-old, trying to make a difference. We hoped our voices would be heard. I can’t believe I’m forty-eight now and it’s the year 2020, and we still can’t breathe. None of us can breathe until we start laying the groundwork for change.

It may seem overwhelming, but as writers, we cannot stay silent. Silence is a form of complicity. We must speak out against the violence inflicted on our fellow human beings if we are to breathe. Write about what angers you. Write about the current administration’s enablement. The abuses of power. The ignorance. Write about what’s going on around you right now. How this affects you personally. Write to educate others and yourself. And if you really can’t write, highlight voices of the oppressed and marginalized and share resources.

Earlier this year, my writing partner encouraged me to write a piece for The Sun Readers Write column’s “Work” theme, which is still on submission. As I sat down to write, a story popped into my head about the first time I fired someone and how it changed my life. I was twenty-six and worked at a lingerie store. The new owner promoted me to manager and gave me my own store to run. As manager, my first assignment was to fire the previous manager, who was an African American woman twice my age. It was a terrible ordeal and I ended up crying. She pulled me into her arms and told me it would be okay as I fired her. At the time, I thought it was part of the job. I didn’t realize I was a pawn. I didn’t realize that the new owner didn’t want her as manager because of the color of her skin.

A few months later, I promoted my best sales person to assistant manager, who also happened to be Black. Well, as soon as I did that, the new owner transferred a woman from another store to take her place as assistant manager. Right then, I knew for certain that the new owner was a racist. As an Asian whose mom was first generation, I am no stranger to racism, but I was inexperienced, and didn’t think something like that actually happened in real life. I also felt used. I remember consulting a customer who was an attorney, who told me it wasn’t my fight. The owner had written up the previous manager and had a paper trail to justify the firing. Plus, he told me, the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, an agency that protects our workplaces against harassment and discrimination, closed more cases than it investigated, leaving less than 2 percent completed. I quit the next day, opened an art gallery, and never worked for another company again. That experience had such an impact on me that it changed my life’s trajectory. And yet; still, to this day, I regret not taking a stand.

When we stay silent as writers and as human beings, we are legitimizing the harm that will be placed on future generations.

As I write this, I just finished watching the emotional debate on the Senate floor as Senator Rand Paul tried to amend the anti-lynching legislation on the day of George Floyd’s memorial service in Minnesota. Both Kamala Harris and Cory Booker spoke out with raw words that brought me to tears (video link). Booker said, “It would speak volumes for the racial pain and the hurt of generations.” He raised his voice and continued, “I do not need my colleague, the Senator from Kentucky, to tell me about one lynching in this country. I’ve stood in the museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and watched African-American families weeping at the stories of pregnant women lynched in this country and their babies ripped out of them while this body did nothing.”

The time of doing nothing is in the past.

There are many things we can do. Writers are talking about books you can read to educate your children, and we’re proud of our team member Sue Bradford Edwards for writing Black Lives Matter (Essential Library, 2015). Her book was recently mentioned as essential reading in a tweet by the Richland Library alongside The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Hands Up, Don’t Shoot by Cobbina.

Take steps to invoke change locally. Here in Los Angeles, since Mayor Garcetti and the district attorney Jackie Lacey have been in office, 601 people have been killed by the police, and our district attorney refuses to charge those officers. We need to engage in a practice where police who are criminals are prosecuted when they abuse, brutalize, and kill our community members. Take action by joining your local Black Lives Matter chapter.

Additionally, check out this Anti-Racist Guide created by Victoria Alexander, which includes organizations to connect with, where to donate and sign petitions, articles and books to read, videos to watch, Black businesses to support, and children’s anti-racist resources.

When we take steps forward in ending the hateful practice of anti-Blackness, we take a collective breath and commit to change.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a similar time of great moral crisis for our nation, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We will not be silent or complicit. We will speak up and say, “Black Lives Matter.”


*

Do you have any books or resources you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you.


Angela Miyuki Mackintosh is editor-in-chief of WOW! Women On Writing. WOW is committed to promoting the work of women, people of color, disabled, LGBTQ, and all marginalized people. Angela currently writes the introduction for WOW's monthly Markets Newsletter and E-zine. Sign up here.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to blog editor Marcia Peterson: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 04, 2020

 

Writing When It's Impossible to Look Away

I looked ahead to my blog post date with a sense of dread. I wondered...what in the world should I even say? Where do I begin?

To be honest, my heart is not really in writing these days. Over the weekend, I battled between staring at social media posts and trying to keep up with what is going on while thinking about my own writing. I did eventually work on a short story and even submitted it to a few places. But it took work.

If you are feeling like I do, and battling between wanting to watch, wanting to do something and help, wanting to learn, while also wanting to escape, I encourage you to give yourself a moment to pause and take a breath. And be sure to listen. Ask people how they are doing. Hey, even ask people you don't know all that well how they are doing.

On Wednesday, I wrote a little bit of a reflection on my own personal blog about what type of writer do I want to be? What type of stories do I want to tell? As things evolve in the world around us, I'm thinking about this question more and more. And I can tell you that the answer changes frequently.

One of my favorite writing prompts lately has been asking myself about values. What are they? Where did they come from? In fact, jotting down thoughts about this is probably what led me to work on my own short story this weekend (which is greatly inspired by one of my own values: do to others what you would have them do to you).

So I encourage you to think about two things this week - what type of writer do you want to be? And what are your values? 

Nicole Pyles is a freelance writer and blogger. You can check out her writing blog The World of My Imagination and her most recent project, her work-life blog LadyUnemployed.com. Follow her on Twitter @BeingTheWriter or semi-occasionally rarely updated Instagram account, @BeingTheWriter.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

 

Are You a Healthy Writer?


Writers have to be extra conscientious when it comes to their health. They need to go out of their way to make sure they’re taking good care of themselves.

Why? Well, let’s examine what are often the habits of writers. Check all of them that are problematic for you.

𐲘 Isolation. Writing is not like working in an office or a school or a store, where we’re surrounded by people all day. Many writers like it completely quiet when they work. Other writers cannot write when there’s human interruptions (kids or spouses). Being isolated doesn’t always lead to good mental health.

𐲘 Rejection. Writing might be done with a rose-colored (wine) glass in hand, but most writers (I imagine) view the glass as half empty rather than half full. We tend to fixate on the rejections, instead of the acceptances. Dealing too often with the (erroneous) idea that we’re not good enough certainly makes us prone to depression.

image by Pixabay

𐲘 Eating and exercise. Writers chant, “Butt in chair. Butt in chair,” as their mantra. After all, most of us don’t write as we’re hanging upside down from a couple of mile-long pieces of silk. Usually we’re sitting on our rear end, hunched over our keyboard and eating Krispy Kremes by the boxful too much. As we nibble gorge on apple slices crackers dipped in a sour cream and salsa creation chocolate chip cookie dough, we think, ‘Well, I’m on a writing roll (not to be confused with a Hawaiian roll). If I get up now and walk or bike or do the treadmill, I’ll ruin the writing groove I’m in.’ Eating unhealthily, and maintaining the activity level of a sloth, makes for a vicious cycle.

𐲘 Sleep. If we’re writers who write full time, we probably stay up late, trying to squeeze every last minute out of the day. If we have a regular job and write in our “spare” time, we don’t have much choice. Staying up until midnight 3:00 in the morning is almost unavoidable. Not getting enough sleep makes us more depressed… and our weight creeps up… and we become more lethargic… and we eat more. And the cycle continues. Not getting adequate sleep just adds to the perfect storm of problematic choices.

I could check each of those boxes. On top of all the bad things I’m doing to my body and my psyche, depression/mental illness runs in my family. Serious mental illness. I’m talkin’ ‘bout homicidal and suicidal mental illness, and four blood relatives are proof, so in my opinion, I need to be extra vigilant. The one I’m most concerned about? My eating and lack of exercise. I believe if those two areas would improve, a couple of the other ones would fall into a healthy place.

During the summer, my goal is to find something I enjoy doing—and something I can do even when there’s snow on the ground and even when it gets dark at 5:00 at night and even when the humidity level and temp are both hovering close to 100. I’ve ruled out a gym (waiting for machines is frustrating for me) and biking. I’ve got a couple of exercise CDs, and one of them I even used to enjoy (Billy Blanks kickboxing) but that was 20 years ago. Am I going to topple over if I try it now?

My most recent plan: I’ve ordered a mini trampoline. Since I love music and I love to dance (like Elaine Benes in Seinfeld) and since music energizes me, I think it might work… but only time will tell.

If you'd like to read an article on why writers are not always easy to get along with, check this piece out.

And now for you. How many of those things are a problem for you? And what are you doing to get back on the right path?

Sioux Roslawski is a teacher during the school year (although she's currently looking for a job) and a writer in her spare time. She's busy querying  publishers and agents, hoping to get her middle grade novel published. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

 

Checking For Consistency When You Are Done (Consistency Post 2)

At the end of May, I wrote a post introducing a series on consistency. As an editor, I’ve realized that consistency is one of the elements that makes a piece of writing successful. If you aren’t consistent. no matter what you write, readers can be taken out of your story, post, novel, or article before they even get to enjoy the content.

I asked if anyone had consistency questions, and one of my fellow bloggers, Sioux Roslawski, asked me: How do you check for consistency when you’re dealing with a long piece like a manuscript? Do you print out a physical copy and start highlighting details in different colors? Do you do a readthrough and use post-its?

This is a great question and a perfect one to start with. Many of us write a first draft and realize when we get to the end that there’s still so much work to do! Sometimes, there’s more work to do than before we wrote this 75,000-word manuscript. The strategies that Sioux mentioned in her question are ones you can use to check for consistency. But even using different color highlighters can become confusing if you are reading a 300-page document. So my advice is to tackle consistency before you type "the end" for the first time.

Here are some strategies to try:

1. Keep a manuscript bible. Fantasy and science-fiction writers will often keep what they call a series bible. This is a separate document in Word or sometimes a physical notebook. This is where writers keep track of their worldbuilding rules and regulations, setting details, character descriptions, and everything that makes their fiction world run.

You don’t have to write one of these genres in order to keep a bible. To stay consistent with your characters, setting, timeline, or anything else you need to keep track of in your story, keep a story or series bible. There are several software programs that can help you do this, such as Scrivener, Microsoft OneNote, or even the Notes app on your smartphones. Some people like to use a plain old notebook like what they bought when they started elementary school each year. It doesn’t matter what format you keep your bible in, but keep track of details, so that when you write your character dyed her hair red in chapter three, you can remember that fact in chapter ten.

2. Pick a style. Whether you are traditionally or indie published, you need to be consistent with your grammar and punctuation rules. Let’s take for example the Oxford comma. In Chicago Manual of Style, the Oxford comma is present. In AP style, there is no Oxford comma. This may seem like a small detail. But there are a lot of rules to grammar, and these "small" rules add up.

  • Does the punctuation go inside the quotation marks or outside the quotation marks? 
  • Should I capitalize this noun or should I not? 
  • How do I write numerals up to 100?
These rules exist to help writers be consistent when they write. If you follow these rules, and you are consistent, then your reader will not be taken out of the story. Pick a style. It’s fine if the publishing house you choose to query uses AP style when you are using MLA style. The important thing is that the editor knows you worked hard to be consistent, and there will be minimal edits to get this manuscript in tiptop shape. Don’t decide halfway through what style to follow or switch it up to another style. Be consistent from the beginning and stick with it.

3. Find a beta reader. When we finish the manuscript, almost every single one of us knows that there’s probably something in the story where we were not consistent. It can be as simple as a character sat down and then stood up twice or eye color changed. You definitely need to set the manuscript aside for a length of time, so that your mind can clear, and you can read it with fresh eyes. When you read the manuscript with fresh eyes, try to do it in a short amount of time--taking no longer than a week if possible. Take notes on any plot point, blocking, character element, or anything else in the story that causes you to worry you weren't consistent. Then find a beta reader. This does not have to be another writer, just someone who likes to read and will look for the points you are concerned about.

If you are looking for consistency in a manuscript, the best way is to do as much as you can while you are writing. Then when you are done, after some time, read through your manuscript as quickly as possible and make notes for someone else to check, too.

Stay tuned for MORE consistency posts coming in June!

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and writing coach and instructor, living in St. Louis, MO, with her nine-year-old daughter and her one-year-old lab mix dog, Sudsi. To take Margo's next novel writing course, go here and sign up before June 5! She will help you be consistent when writing your novel or memoir.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 01, 2020

 

Wishwork by Alexa Fischer (Reader Review And Giveaway)

We are proud to present a special reader review event with author Alexa Fischer, featuring her book Wishwork. Read the reviews of this inspiring book, an interview with the author, and enter to win a copy of the book and a bracelet.

First, about the book Wishwork:

What is your greatest wish? Do you want a new job? An influx of new clients? Zero credit card debt? A strong, healthy body? A passionate, exciting marriage? More free-time to relax in your backyard with a great book? You don't need a miracle to make your wish a reality. With Wishwork, you will visualize your #1 wish, write it down, focus on it, and take action for 21 days in a row to make your wish come true.

Work for your wish: Alexa Fischer (TV and film actress, entrepreneur, and founder of Wishbeads, a fast-growing jewelry company) is your guide on this 21-day journey. You’ll complete simple daily action steps and record your experiences, feeling your positivity and optimism grow with each passing day. Wishwork gently reminds readers that wishes don’t just magically come true without any effort whatsoever—you’ve got to put in some work!

Wishwork will motivate you to get off the couch, turn off Netflix, get moving, cultivate a positive mindset, and make your #1 wish come true—while keeping the process fun and uplifting, not daunting. Life's too short to wait on the universe to grant your wishes. Alexa will walk you through simple but life changing steps to grant them yourself!
  • Make a wish
  • Do the work
  • Watch it come true
What WOW's readers said -

"I'll admit, the brevity of this little book made me a bit skeptical. But, digging into the daily prompts and following the action steps gave me a shift in my own journey that I haven't been able to get anywhere else!

I'm a writer who has been struggling with the plot of my novel-in-progress for TEN MONTHS. Enter the action step that Alexa gives on Day Two: creating a playlist of songs that "inspire me to take action on my wish." I began listening to my playlist during daily walks, on my commute to work, and even during my showers. After a few days, my fictional characters started talking to me and I was inspired to pick up my pen again and continue crafting my novel! After being stuck for TEN MONTHS, you guys! This is huge!

My wish is Big and understandably will take several years to reach. But I'm happy to say that the 21-day journey that Wishwork provides was the jump-start I needed to set me back on this path! A little book with an impact! I highly recommend it."

- Mary Jo Campbell

"What a fun way to get what you want! I have always believed you get what you focus on and that is the key to this book. It starts by guiding you to determine what it is you most desire - your wish. Then, over the course of 21 days, there is work to be done. Don't worry, it's not hard work, but it IS important. By being grateful for what you have, helping others, noticing the beauty around you, and more, you will also get closer to seeing your own wish come true! Lined pages are included in the book for each 21-day prompt."

- Michelle Cornish

"Small book yet really powerful. It made me reflect on what I really wanted to achieve and inspired me to go after it. This book gives that much needed “push” to get things done. Honest, relatable, and a great source of motivation. It’s something you’ll want read over and over. A life manual."

- Rozelyn de Sagun

"This journal is so helpful when it comes to manifesting goals and dreams. I love that it lays the framework needed to realize your goals and make them happen. In these days of uncertainty this book is wonderful for lifting spirits and letting hope prevail!"

- Sara Lehman

"This book probably couldn't have come around at the right time, not just for me, but for a lot of people, I'm sure. It's hard to stay focused at any given time, but with all the craziness in our lives today, it is that much harder. What's also hard is staying positive about things enough to want to wish for anything more. That is why this book is so handy; it will help you focus on the things that mean the most to you, the things you wish for and maybe, somewhere down the line, a better life. Who wouldn't want that, right? Now, to make that wish..."

- Margay Justice 

"I’ve always believed that everything you need to find your true calling is contained within you. Identifying your desires and dreams is the first step to figuring out your life’s path, and belief in yourself is what you need to make it happen. Wishing is another form of manifesting and positive thinking, and the brain is a mysterious and powerful tool. So I was delighted to read Alexa Fischer’s tiny-but-powerful Wishwork book!

One of the first stories she shares is how she came up with the idea for her business, Wishbeads, and her relentless pursuit to make it happen. As a fellow entrepreneur, I enjoyed her story and admired her tenacity; plus, those bracelets are not only clever but gorgeous! The name of this book, Wishwork, is the process of wishing, then working to make that wish come true.

This book is a 21-day workbook where you spend each day visualizing and journaling to various prompt questions—everything from finding songs to shift your mood into action to tackling inner resistance. There are daily sections to “witness” and “write”—the “witness” prompt is about observing the world and how you are present in it; while the “write” prompt is about action, a time to focus on one task that will help you move closer to your goals, or an exercise in reflection, where you discover something about yourself. Working through the exercises provided a much needed space for self-discovery. I have two big, long-term goals (including a memoir), and it finally occurred to me that I could combine them. You'll uncover your own revelations as you work through her book.

I enjoyed Alexa’s anecdotes about life, her family, and her "glass half full" thinking. There’s a story about her mom counting green lights that made me smile. Alexa says that one of the many lessons her mom taught her is that life wants you to win. There's a contagious positivity to this book; and the philosophy is similar to the Law of Attraction, but better. The observation and writing exercises invite the opportunity for deep personal reflection.

This book has a ripple effect of goodness. Reading it will inspire you to act. Follow your dreams, say them out loud, and change your life."

- Angela Mackintosh


Wishwork is available to purchase at Amazon, Thriftbooks, and Wishbeads.com. You can also add this book to your reading list at GoodReads.com.

Giveaway

To win a copy of the book Wishwork by Alexa Fischer and a bracelet, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on June 7th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Alexa Fischer

Alexa Fischer is the founder of Wishbeads, a company with a mission: to inspire millions of people to make exciting wishes, take action, put in the work, and make those wishes come true.

In addition to running Wishbeads, she also works as a TV/film actress and public speaking coach. She lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband, two kids, a white fluffy rescue dog, and a bright red 1961 Shasta Airflyte trailer which serves as her outdoor office. You can find Alexa's creations at Wishbeads.com and the rest of her work at AlexaFischer.com.


-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all congratulations on your book Wishwork! Tell me, what was your writing process like?

Alexa: Believe me when I tell you that the thought of writing a book was daunting. I’m a mom and wife, I run two businesses, and I’m a fan of having just a wee bit of personal time as well! Once I decided to make the commitment to write my book, I had to find a structure that worked with my life. I can sum up my approach in two words - TINY GOALS. My editor, Alexandra Franzen, guided me through the process and we created ridiculous easy goals. I broke the entire outline for the book into tiny assignments and then put each assignment (or goal) into my calendar. I actually never felt like I was writing a book at all! It just seemed like another task to handle on my to-do list, like writing a newsletter or promotional email. There it was, the task for the week, and when I would sit down to write, I merely focused on the task at hand. Boom, in a handful of months, an entire book was completed! Simple actions, done consistently create epic results. It was my writing process as well as the essence of the power of Wishwork.

WOW: That's amazing! Tell me about why you decided to write this book.

Alexa: I’ve always been passionate about helping people unlock their brilliance so they can live of life of their dreams. When I created my intention-setting jewelry line, Wishbeads, I realized that I could offer even more support beyond the jewelry itself. By writing your wish, tucking it inside the cylinder, you have a visible reminder to stay focused on your goals, but I knew deep down that wishes require WORK for them to come true. Now, the work doesn’t have to be tedious or overwhelming, it mostly involves a shift in perspective and some encouragement to keep going. Instead of habitually thinking the world is against you or that you don’t have what it takes to make your dreams come true, the Wishwork guides you through a process of self-discovery, where you're invited to experience the world differently - noticing signs and opportunities of connection - to help you see how your thoughts are in fact creating your reality. You experience firsthand the power of intention and the law of attraction. It works!

WOW: I absolutely love that. Writers face so much rejection and criticism. It can be hard to remain positive! What advice would you have for writers who are trying to combat the negativity that surrounds them? 

Alexa: I used to be a professional actress, so I know all about rejection! It was just part of the process. If you had loads of no’s, then that meant you were out there doing your job, showing up at audio after audition. Of course, rejections don’t feel good, but what feels far worse is to let the fear of rejection stop you from pursuing your dreams. When you feel negative thoughts pulling to stop and stay stuck, you simply remember all the reasons why you want to write in the first place. All the people who need to hear your words and your desire to share them with the world. When you re-connect to why you want to write your book in the first place, you shut down your inner naysayer and tap into your power to KEEP GOING. Winners are simply people who never quit.

WOW: I completely agree! What is the importance of loving ourselves and how does that help with our wellbeing?

Alexa: Let me ask you, this morning when you saw your face in the mirror, what was the first thought that popped into your head? “Looking good, superstar!” Or perhaps, “Today is going to be a great day.” If you’re like most people, you likely mutter something closer to, “Oh my god I look tired..”, “Ugh, my eyes are so puffy.” or “My hair looks terrible.” Sound familiar? I’m not sure when we all learned that it's ok to be our worst critic, but all those negative comments drain our energy and zap us of our personal power. Imagine the difference in how you would feel if you were fueled by love instead? When you see yourself in the mirror, offer yourself some encouragement! There is no need to wait for love and affection. Give it to yourself and use that positive, loving energy to fuel your work and life.

WOW: Yes! Negativity is so incredibly draining. What do you hope readers take away from reading your book? 

Alexa: I hope that everyone who reads my book makes their wishes come true! I hope they learn how to have the courage to envision their life - as if everything felt just right - as if they were already living their wish - so they have a roadmap to get exactly what they want in life. By visualizing their wish, writing it down, and then following it up with 21 days of simple action steps, they'll experience firsthand how much their destiny is in their own hands. Happiness is a birthright. It’s time to re-invent wishing so it’s a skill everyone can have to build a better future, today.



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

To win a copy of the book Wishwork by Alexa Fischer and a bracelet, please enter using Rafflecopter at the below. Giveaway ends on June 7th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 31, 2020

 

Meet Caroline Tanner - Runner Up in the 2020 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "Talk About the Curse"

Congratulations to Caroline Tanner and Talk About the Curse and all the winners of our 2020 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Caroline's Bio:

Caroline Tanner grew up in England and has lived and traveled all over the world. As a public health expert, she worked in remote and dangerous places managing large-scale epidemics and community heath programs.

After a sudden severe illness three years ago, she was forced to slow down her manic life. She healed by walking in her local woods and practicing yoga. She now teaches yoga for trauma.

She has always been a voracious reader and loves to write. Until recently her writing was mainly technical and academic. She likes to spin a yarn, but was put off the idea of creative writing by the memory of an English teacher telling her she should stick to science as she “lacked imagination.”

She now finds great freedom in letting her thoughts flow uninhibited. She writes by instinct on any subject that comes to mind. She likes shorts because of the discipline of limiting the word length of a piece. She is naturally drawn to writing about the extremes of human nature and the life experience; pain, suffering, and loss juxtaposed with kindness, joy, and humor. She hopes many women will draw inspiration from and find resonance with her writing. She aims to be insightful, witty and wise! Look out for her forthcoming pieces on the current pandemic affecting us all.

The writing bug now unleashed, she plans to do much more of it. She has vague intentions of writing a collection of pieces and a memoir, but she doesn’t plan, and perhaps a novel will emerge.

Interviews and stories of her life and work in emergency aid have appeared in the Daily Mail, The Observer, The Guardian, and on BBC Radio 4, NPR, CBS, and in an ITN TV film.

Caroline’s piece “Wicked” won an honorable mention in Women on Writing’s Winter 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Contest.

Caroline has a grown-up daughter and a teenage step-son. She lives with her husband in a small house on the edge of hill overlooking the National Zoo in Washington DC. She writes to the sound of the lions roaring.

If you haven't done so already, check out Caroline's insightful story Talk About the Curse and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Caroline! Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Talk About the Curse?

Caroline: The subject matter I write about usually chooses me rather than me choosing it! I was chatting with a group of women friends one evening, and we were telling stories about our periods. I recalled my own experience in vivid detail. I took pen to paper and started to write it.

The subject of periods is something that all women have in common. As women, we all have our stories to tell about our experience. I wanted to bring that out. It is somewhat depressing that attitudes and beliefs about periods have changed so little in much of the world. Period shaming continues, girls can’t go to school safely and lack access to even the most basic of supplies. In our own society, our male leaders (you know who I mean) still make the period a subject of jest. Women can be put down, shut up, cast out because they bleed. It is a classic example of the latent fear men have of women and the pervasive misogyny that still exists

In any subject that is difficult and sensitive, I like to find the funny side. Those that can find humor in pain are the most resilient. Laughter is good medicine. There is a time to laugh, a time to cry, and a time to speak out.

I hope women of all ages will relate to this essay and feel inspired to tell their own stories. There is a poignant message to women and girls in this piece about the importance of knowing and owning our own bodies. This starts at a young age by calling things by their biological names. Say Vagina! It wasn’t until I read Our Bodies Ourselves at 17, that I understood I had more than one opening. It is hard to speak up about menstruation in a culture of silence. But we must. Women are creative and resourceful. We have a responsibility to support each other and help each other live our most vital lives.

WOW: I really appreciate what you said about finding humor in the pain - thank you for sharing that great perspective! 

Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Caroline: I like this question! Easy answer. I never sit at a desk. I write with my laptop on my knee. I write in coffee shops and sometimes at home. After a painful renovation, my home space is now a place of light and calm. When the weather is good, I write on my deck, which overlooks the National Zoo and listen to the Lion roaring.

I am not an organized writer. In fact, I would not even call myself a writer. I am just getting my head around that one! My husband is very tolerant of my writing because when I get into it, I get lost. I may not change out of pajamas or do any washing or cleaning. I am focused and single-minded. Time stands still. A piece may emerge quickly, or it can take longer and require several phases of re-writing and editing. I wrote one short piece of fiction in just three hours. That one came to me in the middle of the night.

WOW: Oh yes - middle of the night, standing in the shower, I feel you...you never know when you'll be bitten by the creative bug (and what may have to get put on the back burner)!

Do you often enter contests or is this a first? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests?

Caroline: I am relatively new to creative writing. I love to write, but other than letters and journals, my writing has been mostly technical. After a severe viral illness three years ago, I slowed down my manic life and found for time to write. I enjoy the freedom of creative writing, allowing my thoughts and memories to flow. I am used to writing to deadlines with prescribed word lengths, so I initially entered the WOW contest because it helped me to have a goal and a word limit. WOW provides a uniquely supportive community of female writers and readers. I find the critiques from the judges and editors incredibly useful and insightful. I don’t have much interest in writing groups as I enjoy the freedom of writing on any subject that comes to mind. I don’t want to be forced to write to a prompt. The feedback from the WOW community has been very encouraging. Placing in the top ten has given me the impetus to continue to write. I have focused mainly on creative non-fiction, but I am now dabbling with flash fiction and prose poetry. As far as my advice to others, I would say for both new and seasoned writers, entering contests and, more specifically, the WOW contest with a is a great idea. Keep going with it if, at first, you don’t succeed, don’t be put off. Rewrite and edit and go at it again! In addition to entering contests, I will likely look for outlets to publish. I plan to write a memoir as a collection of pieces.

WOW: You certainly have a gift - so I'm happy to hear there's future plans that include more writing!
Readers are sure to delight in your memoir. And speaking of reading - what you YOU reading at this time?

Caroline: I am reading two works that seem fitting for the current time we find ourselves in.
Mark Nepo: The Book of Awakening.
Mark Nepo always has the most perfect words for any situation. His work was recommended to me by a writer friend. This extract from The Book of Awakening is particularly poignant to our current situation. “This is the trick to staying well isn’t it: to feel the sun even in the dark. To not lose the truth of things when they go out of view. To grow just the same. To know there is still water even when we are thirsty. To know there is still love even when we are lonely. To know there is still peace, even when we are suffering. None of this invalidates our pain, but only strengthens our way back into the light.”

Albert Camus: The Plague.
I first read this novel aged 19. I found a dusty copy high up at the back of my bookshelf. The Plague by Camus is a reflection on the human condition. It reminds us that we are all susceptible to sudden death, whether by a virus, an accident, or the actions of our fellow man. The novel resonates with our current experience because we cannot escape facing our own mortality. We come to understand that nothing in life is certain. We cannot take our comfortable lives for granted.
Camus also reflects on what he calls the “absurdity” of life. I think that in crisis, we are wise to recognize this and to try and find humor, albeit perhaps dark humor. I am British; we like to see the absurdity in things, even death. Think of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Recognizing the absurdity of our situation should not lead us to despair, says Camus, but to a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment to joy and gratitude.

WOW: Those sound facinating - thanks for sharing!

You have lived and worked in difficult situations. Here we are, April 20th 2020 and what advice do you have for others, during these turbulent times of the Pandemic?

Caroline: I worked in public health all over the world in crisis situations. I have experienced long periods of isolation, restricted movement, mass deaths, and sickness. Women friends have asked me to share my experience and advice about life in crisis. I do so with humility as I acknowledge those who constantly live with war and lockdown.

When everything around us seems to be falling apart, we feel fear, confusion, and frustration. Feeling secure is the most important thing. Clean your home, put gas in your car, stock your shelves, and make a coordinated plan. Focus on the four F’s; family, friends, food, and fitness. It is not a good idea to do anything obsessively. That includes watching the news or trying to predict outcomes. Ignore posts of those showing their happy life in shut-down. It is fake news! Be very gentle with yourself and others. Take plenty of rest. Adaptation to crisis living is in itself exhausting. When you feel overwhelmed with anxiety, try and shift your thoughts to a calm place in your mind – a place you know or somewhere imagined. My calm place is a meadow deep in the woods. Find peace and breathe there. Breathing deeply allows negativity and tension to be released.

Build a core support team of two or three friends, family, or neighbors who live locally and can get to your home if necessary. The regularity of contact is essential. The core support team provides a space where you can be your authentic self, express how you really feel, get advice, and, most of all, and not feel alone. This is especially important for women as we do the caregiving and most of the essential work on the frontlines. When you feel supported by your core team, you are better able to weather the storm and be of support to others. It’s like the proverbial oxygen mask. Help yourself before helping others. I have two local female friends in my core support team. We are in touch daily and FaceTime several times a week.

Everything is intensified during a crisis. Your emotions will be raw. I find I laugh and cry more. With death all around, we think about our own mortality. You may feel grateful for things you took for granted; shelter, food, health, and toilet paper. You may notice things you overlooked before; the birds singing, the stars, silence. Adverse circumstances show us who we really are. It exposes the strength and the weakness in our relationships and ourselves. “There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in,” sings Leonard Cohen says. Crises tear down our preconceptions and make us acutely aware of what is most important. We all know the adage; what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. It is a well-worn cliché, but there is a nugget of truth in its rust.

In a crisis that has no clear ending, we want to know when life will go back to normal. This virus knows no surrender. The reality is that we won’t return to the old normal. This crisis will change us as individuals and our society. I advise people to try and pace themselves. Like a marathon, if you sprint at the beginning, you will burn out before the finish. You need plenty of patience and a bucket load of good humor. Stick to the rules in a spirit of solidarity. Recognize that we are all in this together for the greater good. Remember those who are risking their lives for you. Emotionally prepare for the acute phase of the crisis to continue for six months, followed by what we call in emergency lingo the ‘transition to recovery.’ The recovery phase will be about a year.

The word ‘crisis’ means a dangerous and critical time. It also means a turning point. My hope is that through this adversity, many women will discover their inner strength and resilience and find an openness to new ways of being and doing.



WOW: Caroline - I hope by the time this article is published these times are behind us - and thank you for such wonderful insight and advice as is it greatly appreciated - and thank you for sharing your thoughts today. We will be looking forward to hearing more from you in 2020 and beyond! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!


Check out the latest Contests:

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 30, 2020

 

4 Ways I Use My Phone in my Writing

Last week, I found myself in a discussion about how writers use their cell phones when we are at home social distancing. First, let me emphasize that I hate texting. Truly hate it. And I have a lovely ergonomic keyboard at my desk so I have no interest in actually writing on my phone. Talking with my fellow writers, I realized that some of my favorite phone-based activities really are writing related.

Pod casts. For some of you, this is a no brainer but I’m not talking about writing related pod casts. Although there are some I enjoy, none of my favorites are about writing. My list includes “Missing in the Carolinas” from fellow Muffin blogger Renee Roberson, “Fiber Nation,” “TED Radio Hour,” “Stuff to Blow Your Mind,” and “Stuff You Should Know.” It is amazing how many story or article ideas I can pull from a pod cast about horseshoe crabs or Herculaneum.

Webinars. In the past, I’ve always used my computer to participate in webinars, but last week I finished one on writing memoir, one on writing thrillers, and one on constructing fiction scene by scene. The last, I watched on the computer. The other two I watched on my phone and when the speakers put up a slide, I tapped my screen and captured the image. No fumbling to take notes which means no Post-It Notes to find stuck to the cat. It was so efficient!

Audiobooks. With my library closed, I’ve been checking out e-audio books to enjoy while I knit, crochet, fold laundry, etc. I have experienced some amazing books, including The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. During the discussion with my fellow authors, I realized how valuable it was when I listened to a book read by the author. I just finished Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou and hearing her read her own words was amazing. What a lesson in voice!

Dictation. Reading aloud really is the best way to make sure I’ve used just the right word. I discovered this when I had to submit an audition video of an essay. I found myself massaging it as I read, cutting phrases and changing words although I really dislike listening to myself. One person in the discussion suggested Evernote. In addition to allowing you to type notes or make sketches, the app will record audio which will definitely help me refine my work. One piece that I’m working on has been especially challenging as I’m fumbling to find the voice and actually hearing the words is going to help.

Our phones are such amazing tools. How do you use your phone in your writing?

--SueBE
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  July 6th, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 6, 2010). 

Labels: , , ,

Older Posts