Interview with Barbara Olsen: 2021 Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 20, 2021
Barbara’s Bio:
Predominately a visual artist, Barbara Olsen has been creating art for several years, exhibiting her work in numerous shows and publications. Unapologetically a lifelong list maker, journal nerd, and travel diarist, she also has an innate interest in the written word. In the last couple of years, she’s dipped her toes into the world of writing poetry and prose through enrollment in local classes. Within these circles of talented, passionate writers, she’s found a supportive community. Her vision is to ascribe, through imagery and words, personal, but at the same time universal, stories borne from observation and transformation. When not writing or painting, Barbara can be found in her backyard watching the birds, looking for monarchs, and imploring her plants to grow. Her essay, A Fish Out of Water, is dedicated to all fellow humans who have ever felt they don’t belong. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Barbara's award-winning story "A Fish Out of Water" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Barbara: In a writing class I was taking, we were encouraged to create an essay juxtaposing two seemingly disparate ideas. For some time, I had been mulling over interactions I had experienced that spoke to a sense of alienation, a feeling probably not uncommon for those living outside their home country. I knew I wanted to write about this issue. This assignment gave me the impetus to start. So, I had the subject but needed the counterpoint. Because I love idioms, I searched for one that would align with that concept. Hence, “A Fish Out of Water” was born. From there, I needed to do some research to determine if any fish really could survive outside of water or its breeding ground. Discovering the world of snakeheads, I found my perfect foil (fish)! From there, interspersing facts about snakeheads with the recollections of conversations or situations where I felt like a fish out of water myself, the essay found its pacing. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your process. I love to hear how pieces of writing prompts, personal experience, and research intersect to form a completed piece of writing. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Barbara: Probably it’s best to keep my mouth shut. Seriously though, two things stand out for me. First, the writing process has been a replacement for therapy since I can’t afford the real thing. When I write my thoughts down on paper about any given situation, I’m halfway to understanding and processing the problem and further down the road to becoming a better-balanced, saner person. Two, in reliving these situations (about this essay in particular) and thinking deeply about their ripple effects, I’ve come to see just how close we all hold onto our deep-rooted, visceral beliefs. Once questioned, our first response is to lash out in fear, anger, or distrust. This reaction is problematic as it shuts down any chance for a healthy exchange of ideas. 

WOW: It is amazing how much you can reveal about yourself to yourself through writing. It can definitely be an effective type of therapy! Can you tell us more about your visual artwork? Does it ever inspire your writing or vice versa? 

Barbara: I’ve been painting predominately with watercolors for several years, with a recent foray into mixed media. I have incorporated words into some more recent collage pieces and enjoy the visual interplay between the two expressions. I also love seeking out and thinking about idioms, figures of speech, song, and book titles, and I will often use these when naming my paintings. View my artwork at The language of art inspires me as well. Words like chiaroscuro, pentimento, and sfumato, alizarin and quinacridone, each have their rich etymology. Snippets of language learned through years of creating visual art will often seep over and infuse my prose and poetry. 

WOW: Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Barbara: I am inspired each week by a coterie of fellow writers in my local writing classes. Humbled, amazed, and moved by how they weave together words, I am left speechless at their abilities. The strong voices of Joan Didion, Ellen Goodman, and Nora Ephron also inspire me. Their insights into the female journey, and their prowess at taking us along for the ride, never fail to elucidate, educate, and entertain. In another life, I’d like to think I could be reborn with the intellectual rigor, the unfaltering energy, and the sublime clarity seen in the essays by Siri Hustvedt. Her ability to bridge the worlds of any number of disciplines, notably art and neuroscience, is truly remarkable. Another work I found to be a wellspring of great inspiration was Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. Her ideas on the creative process, fear, and writing resonated deeply with my own: “The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them…” 

WOW: That’s a great list of inspiring writers. Big Magic is one that has stuck with me, too. If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Barbara: Don’t belabor putting your words out there for others to read. It’s a huge time sink. You already know what inspires, resonates, and enrages you. Write about that. Don’t push. When it’s time, you’ll sit down and start. And read a lot. 

WOW: Anything else you’d like to add? 

Barbara: Thank you to everyone at Women on Writing for the fantastic platform you’ve provided for women writers to get their work out there and seen by another set of eyes in a supportive and non-threatening environment. 

WOW: You are very welcome! Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, book reviews, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen. Tweets @dr_greenawalt.
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Saturday, June 19, 2021

No, this is not about Sioux's past life as a cheerleader. I can semi-coordinate my legs (sometimes) and can control my arm movements (most of the time) but I can't do both at the same time. 

No, this about our family and friends who are cheerleaders--the folks who are cheering us on as writers. I read Jeanine DeHoney's moving post, and thought about the sweet way her family encouraged her witing... and I thought I would throw my two cents one and half cents into the conversation.

My cheerleaders are a mixed bag. My cheerleaders are 99% over the top... and then, there's my husband.

My hubby means well, bless his heart. He doesn't love to read, so that is responsible for some of his screw-ups and screwy thinking. When I have a story published in an anthology, he quickly looks to see where my story is. If it's near the front, that means (from his perspective) it's a good story. If it's in the last half of the book (or shudder--at the very end), it tells him it's not a great story. No matter how many times I've talked about themes that antholgies have, it doesn't matter.

When I got a "yes" from a publisher, my husband started dreaming of spending Stephen King money. He just knew the advance would be huge, and the residuals would be rolling in, courtesy of Brinks trucks. (His fantasies really crashed and burned when he found out I was donating all my proceeds of my book to a Tulsa cultural center.) Bless his heart.

When my book finally got published, I proudly gave him a copy. He does read in our reading room (AKA the bathroom) so I kept track of his progress by thumbing through the pages until I found his bookmark. Before he was even halfway through, he complained about the ending. The ending? How did he know how it ended? He was still in the middle.

"Oh, the other day I went to the last section and read the ending." What? I'd worked hard to craft a finale that was reflective and moving. The sections before it built up to the conclusion.


No more blessings for him...

image by Pixabay

The other 99% of my cheerleaders are phenomenal. This is what some of them have done:

  • Volunteered to be a beta reader, and read my book in one day--because they were that engaged
  • Helped with the title
  • Offered to interview me
  • Posted their review on their blog/website or on Amazon
  • Bought several copies for their children and their children's friends
  • Passed on and helped create an incredible plan of getting sponsors and providing curriculum to teachers, so they can get classroom sets of my book
  • Volunteered to be on my "street team" of early reviewers
  • Set up their personal "book event" so I could sign their book

The truth is, with all the rejection and obstacles we have to overcome as writers, we cannot do it alone. We need cheerleaders in our lives. Cheerleaders who will get us a cake with WRITER emblazoned on it, cheerleaders who will offer their shoulder when we get a rejection email, cheerleaders who will share their expertise when it comes to publishers, marketing and connections.

What have your cheerleaders done for you? And remember the name Jeanine DeHoney. Someday, she's going to have a book out, and you are going to want to read it... 

Sioux Roslawski is a freelance writer and a middle-school teacher. Her debut novel, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, along with wherever Sioux is (she always has some copies in her car).


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Confessions of a "Free Spirit" Writer

Thursday, June 17, 2021

On a day trip to Greenville, S.C.

Financial expert Dave Ramsey has a philosophy that people have different personality types when it comes to managing money. “Nerds” are the ones who like creating a financial budget, sticking to it, and keeping a close eye on the finances because it gives them a sense of security. “Free spirits” don’t like to be constrained by the budget and have more of a “I want to live life to the fullest—we’ll figure out how to make more money!” attitude. 

In our house, my husband is definitely the nerd most of the time with our finances and I’m more the free spirit. He’s always had a practical approach to money, although he does have a free spirit side that sneaks in occasionally. I feel like it has something to do with the way we were both raised—his family had to stick to a firm budget and his mom thought nothing of shopping at four different grocery stores to hit all the weekly sales. My parents should have been sticking to a budget but had more of the “We need new furniture even if we can’t really afford it!” attitude, which got us into trouble more often that I’d like to remember. They once bought an RV because they dreamed of driving it across the country, but instead, they ended up parking it on a lot and living in it for about a year and a half before selling it. They never took that cross country trip.

While I was thinking over these financial attitudes about money recently, it struck me that I also consider myself a “free spirit” when it comes to my writing. This is probably why I’m not a published novelist yet. I wrote my first few books without even a glimmer of an outline and only recently learned the beauty of outlining and storyboarding BEFORE starting a full-length novel. With my true crime podcast, I don’t have episodes planned out even six months ahead of time—instead, I brainstorm different themes for the show and then sort of back my way into them as I’m researching. I also try to plan content for my writing blog but fail time and again at keeping a consistent posting schedule. I have a daily gratitude journal but often find myself distracted and skip writing in it at least twice a week. 

I’ve interviewed writers over the years who consistently hit a word count goal each day, outline several novels at a time and have a detailed spreadsheet where they keep track of their submissions, acceptances, and rejections. They treat every aspect of their writing like a business, and they are way more successful than I’ll ever hope to be. 

There is some hope for this free spirit, though. The few fiction contests I’ve placed in were the ones where I sat down and wrote a story without stopping to overthink it or spent hours of time editing and revising it. When I have hard and fast deadlines (and in my day job as a magazine editor, I have plenty) I get my work done. I like to think my podcast episodes turn out well once I finally turn all the research into a coherent script. 

I’m interested to learn how many readers here considers themselves writing “nerds” or “free spirits.” Am I in good company? Is there hope for a “free spirit” to have successful creative writing career? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer, magazine editor and creator of the podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas.” Learn more about her at
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Psych 101: Rejection

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

About two weeks ago, I got two rejections in a single day. One was from a dream agent and it was a FORM rejection. But I was simply too busy to let it bother me. Whatever. Deadline dead ahead. 

Then a friend spoke about a similar pair of rejection that really shook her. She’s an amazing CNF writer and has had work in places I would never dream of approaching. But the rejections flattened her. 

Both of our responses made me wonder. Why do writers react to rejection the way we do? I turned to psychology for answers about how we react and what can be done about it. 

Why It Hurts 

For answers as to why rejection hurts, we need to look to the past. Early humans, without ferocious teeth or claws or the ability to run really fast, survived because they were part of a group of other humans. Psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb explains that rejection was BAD and humans developed a response, for their own good, that made them want to avoid it. 

We are hardwired to react and to hate the way it feels. What about the variety of responses? 

How we as individuals react is rooted in infancy and the attachments we formed. Psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps explained that people who had secure attachment styles grow up seeing ourselves as worthy. Those with an insecure attachment style are more . . . insecure. 

Not that this means you will never be impacted or that you will always be impacted. Because there are things you can do to help you deal with rejection. 

When Rejection Happens 

First things first, acknowledge what you are feeling. Go ahead and be angry, sad, bewildered, or shocked. Feel, observe and identify your feelings. This may take a day or two but that’s okay. 

Once you’ve identified your feelings, move into self-care. Psychologists warned that this doesn’t mean self-medicating with alcohol, chocolate, or other sweets. Empty calories are never a good long-term plan. 

Instead, do something that centers you. For some people this might involve running or meditation. Do things that make you feel calm and serene. I walk, do yoga, and knit. 

Moving Forward 

Once you’ve had time to process the feelings and are in a better space, take another look at your query, pitch or manuscript. Is it the best it could possibly be? Don’t just come back with “of course it is!” There’s bound to be one section that is especially strong. Now find the weakest section. What can you do to make it as good as your best section? 

Perhaps the work really is as strong as it can be. If so, make sure that the agents or publishers you targeted were the best possible fit. Look at other markets and see if you can find one that is similar but even better for your work. 

The Big Picture 

As you prepare yourself for the next round of submissions, consider why you are pursuing publication. What does it mean to you? Look at the amount of effort you’ve already put into it. Writing, rewriting, and completing a manuscript is a big deal. Not everyone can pull it off. But you’ve done it. 

In part, how we respond to rejection is hardwired. But we can work through it when it happens. And we can make sure our work is top notch and our markets are the best possible fit. Have your self-care routines in place and then hit send.

Acceptance or rejection, your fellow WOW writers will be gathered round when the responses come. And a caring community? A highly recommended way to stay centered. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on July 5, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.
Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 5, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  July 5, 2021). 

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Meet Roxane Sloan, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Winter 2021 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Roxane Sloan, a life-long Hoosier, resides in Southern Indiana near the Ohio River and teaches English language learners in kindergarten through sixth grade in the public school system. She was fortunate enough to be awarded two Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships which allowed her to study TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in England, to experience life in Kyoto, Japan, and to teach English in a remote village in Mongolia. Roxane is currently putting the finishing touches on one middle-grade novel while revising the second draft of another. She is fascinated by language and the power of words to alter a thought, shift a mood, or change a life. 

 ----------Interview by Renee Roberson 

WOW: Hi Roxane, congratulations on your win! We are excited to chat with you today. First off, we'd love to know how you came up with the idea to use a delightfully descriptive painting of a religious figure as the focal point in your story, "The Velvet Jesus?" 

Roxane: A writer/artist friend of mine purchased a historic home that, for some unknown reason, came with a picture of Jesus painted on velvet. She called the painting "The Velvet Jesus". When I told her that was the perfect title for a story, she said, "I give it to you." In all fairness, I have not seen the painting so the descriptions of it in my story are a product of my imagination. 

WOW: I love that! Your bio mentions your participation in the TESOL program on two different occasions. What are some of the life lessons you learned during those fellowships? 

Roxane: The Lilly Endowment's Teacher Creativity Fellowships fund proposals to help renew and rejuvenate the commitment of Indiana educators. My proposals were tailored to my interests in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), travel, languages, and cultures. The experiences in England, Japan, and Mongolia taught me numerous life lessons. I learned that just because you don't speak the language doesn't mean you can't communicate. By traveling solo, I gained self-confidence and found that kindness, caring, and thoughtfulness are universal. I discovered that time is fluid; a scheduled time that is strictly adhered to in one part of the world may be a loose approximation in another location. "Soon" might mean in ten minutes, this morning, tomorrow morning, or even the day after tomorrow. I learned that things seldom go as planned, and that's not always bad. Most importantly, I discovered we are global citizens, more alike than different. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing those with us. You are currently working on two middle grade novels. Could you share with our readers what they are about? 

Roxane: Sure! I would be happy to share! In Rough Riders to the Rescue, eleven-year-old Addy embraces a new hobby every time her family moves. She finds it easier to collect hobbies than to make, and then leave, new friends. So far, she has learned ventriloquism, kung fu, how to play the ukulele, cook paella, and speak three languages. But in the Southern Indiana countryside, four horseback-riding sixth graders, a semi-retired spy, and a mysterious Spanish-speaking girl in trouble, put Addy's determination to avoid friendships to the test. In The Ghost Hunter's Daughter, Ella is trying to come to terms with her parents' divorce, a divorce she is convinced was caused by her father's all-consuming ghost-hunting hobby. Ella's life becomes even more complicated by the appearance of a ghost boy and his dog. She works to help the ghost boy resolve a family quarrel that was cut short by his untimely death, while hiding the existence of the ghosts from her father. 

WOW: Those sound fantastic--you must let us know when they are completed and ready to be enjoyed. I imagine your work as a teacher has inspired some of the themes and characters you create. When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher? 

Roxane: I always played school with my younger sister. When I was in fifth grade, I would sometimes help with the kindergarten class across the hall. I decided then that I would be a teacher. I also decided I would fly a helicopter to school and land on the roof. As an adult, I quickly discovered that the salary of my chosen profession did not invite the purchase of a helicopter. But I'm good with that. My little Prius allows me to listen to audio books, the BBC, and the Broadway channel as I travel to and from school. 

WOW: Yeah, no helicopters for most teachers, ha ha! Who are some of your favorite authors to read for inspiration in your own writing? 

Roxane: There is so much excellent writing in every genre, it is almost impossible not to be inspired when reading. I do my best to learn from each book. From Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Water Dancer) I am learning the power of description. Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys and The Dream Trilogy) has the ability to make the reader like even the most unlikeable characters. Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache novels) creates a setting that is as alive as her characters. Carlos Hernandez (Sal & Gabi Break the Universe) has a protagonist who is not perfect, but is a decent, caring, hilarious person. Jasmine Warga (Other Words for Home) and Padma Venkatraman (The Bridge Home) write with sensitivity, giving the reader insights into other cultures. Lisa Lewis Tyre (Hope in the Holler) draws the reader in with a great first line and follows up with a delightful cast of characters. I suppose I had better stop before I take up all the space in the blog. Thanks so much for letting me share!

WOW: Thank you for sharing such a vast array of literature with us. We are always looking for good book recommendations!
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Hugh Fritz's Public Display of Aggression Blog Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway!

Monday, June 14, 2021

We are excited to be back with Hugh Fritz and announce the blog tour of Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series, Public Display of Aggression. Join us as we interview the author, highlight upcoming spots on the blog tour, and give away a copy of his book. 

First, here is a little bit about Public Display of Aggression: 

Soleil and Flarence are immortal Genies who can bend the fundamental forces of the universe through willpower alone. For centuries, they have considered themselves the most formidable beings in the world, but some newcomers just might give them a run for their money.

Magic has always been limited to living things. Throughout his life, Soleil has never come across an object with supernatural capabilities. Now, a human has somehow constructed guns with the ability to fire spells. Genies are normally resistant to offensive magic, but Soleil knows from experience that the enchanted revolvers harm all creatures equally. 

 Resurrection is one of the few limitations to a Genie’s abilities. Not even magic should be able to bring a person back from death. Recently, though, Flarence saw a corpse not only rise but also fight. Endowed with incredible speed and strength, the revived man seeks revenge on his murderers. 

 To make matters worse, Darren (the third member of the Genie “family”) is still missing. He's been lying low, biding his time, but hasn’t forgotten about Officer Tymbir, and has every intention of settling their score. 

 Darren, the revived corpse, and the man with the magic guns have a list of people to kill, and are eager to spill blood. With the help of Mohinaux and Claire, Soleil and Flarence rush to locate them, uncover the sources of their powers, and find a way to stop them. 

This book is perfect for adults who want to get in touch with their inner child! 

Publisher: Golden Word Books (March 22, 2021) 
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Cyberpunk 
Pages: 196 pages 
ISBN-10: 1948749556 
ISBN-13: 978-1948749558 

Purchase Public Display of Aggression on AmazonOrganic Books, PageOne Books, and Barnesand Noble. Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list.
About the Author Hugh Fritz: 

Hugh Fritz
Hugh Fritz is a fan of monsters, mad scientists, sorcerers, and anything that involves beings with incredible powers beating each other senseless. After years of writing research papers, he decided it was time to give reality a rest and let his imagination run wild. 

Find out more at: 

---  Interview by Crystal Otto 

WOW: Thank you for sticking with your writing during the pandemic; readers were eagerly awaiting the rest of the story. And a special thanks for returning to WOW to help promote your work! It's always fun to work with a returning author and like an old friend; it's great to see you again Hugh! 

Let's get the tough one out of the way right away - talk about an icebreaker! How do you deal with rejection? 

Hugh: I remember that there are many options available, so I don’t dwell on any one missed opportunity. Getting copies of my book into stores has been especially challenging but even though Barnes and Noble doesn’t stock my work, there are other local bookstores that have put it on their shelves. If writing was my sole job I might be more insistent on making my work more public but in my current position I can afford to start small and wait to see if the series gains in popularity slowly. 

WOW: That sounds like great advice - let's keep heading in that direction. What have you learned through the publishing process that you could share with new up and coming authors? 

Hugh: My latest learning experience came from hiring an illustrator. Dividing the workload between the artist and the publisher can be challenging because small changes can lead to heated discussions. Most writers probably don’t consider the model of the printer that is used for their book or the quality of ink cartridges, but when artwork is included those details really do make a difference. 

For example, I asked the publisher to print the images and send them so we could get an idea of what they would look like in the book. I was happy with the printouts I received but the illustrator was not satisfied because the contrast, shading, and dots per inch were off. It turned out the samples were printed on a desktop office printer rather than an industrial mass-production model. The publisher recommended waiting until full copies of the book were printed before expressing disapproval. When the paperbacks were finished the printed copies of them were more satisfying for everyone. I guess my point is that adding pictures to a book requires deep attention to a lot of details that were once nothing to be concerned about. 

WOW: I had no idea - that is such great insider information! I'm glad you shared that with our readers today. Thank you. Speaking of sharing - are you part of a writers group - how has it been beneficial in your process? 

Hugh: I have been part of a writer’s group for about five years now and they have been very helpful by being honest about which chapters work and which don’t. There have been many meetings which I have brought in a section of the story that I spent hours perfecting, only to have people tell me that the character’s actions weren’t believable or the sequence of events was confusing. There have also been plenty of meetings which I brought in a rushed piece and didn’t expect it to be positively received but found the other members really liked it. Some of my best work has started as plot points that I was planning on throwing away, and probably would have if my reviewers hadn’t advised otherwise. 

WOW: I sure hope there was some of your home made beer at some of those meetings? But kidding aside, sounds like you have a great group of people helping you. It's refreshing to hear the positive way your group has helped you! What about journaling? Do you journal? Why or why not? 

Hugh: I do not journal because too much changes for any entries to be reliable. I always have a clear idea of how I want my books to begin and end. When writing a series, I have an idea of how I want the overall story arc to begin and end. The middle is fluid, and I will take a scene in one direction only to decide I don’t like it and change it later on. I usually outline as I go. I come up with chapter titles and write a brief description of what I want to happen in each one. All those descriptions are subject to change and I’ll usually rearrange, delete, or alter the characters involved as the plot develops. 

WOW: You're very focused - I love it! As a driven and focused person, let's talk about stress and self care which can sometimes be sidelined when we get busy. How do you deal with stress and self care - what advice do you have for others?

Hugh: I need to force myself to practice healthy habits. When it comes to self-care I’m vulnerable to stress eating and drinking. I don’t keep a lot of snacks around the house because if I take a break for a “quick bite” it won’t be quick; I’ll help myself to a little bit more, and then a little bit more after that. The only way I can avoid that situation is to make it impossible to start going down that road in the first place. 

I’ve also found that taking more responsibility for myself through gardening is helpful in avoiding overconsumption. Preparing soil isn’t an intense workout but it’s a good excuse to be outside and get some physical activity. It also takes a long time for plants to grow, which provides motivation to make it last. All the work would feel pointless if an entire harvest only lasted one day. 

The same reasoning applies to alcohol. I stay away from hard liquor and stick to beer, which I make in 5-gallon batches. That sounds like a lot, but it takes a minimum of one month to prepare and making one batch last to the next one requires being stingy. Typically, I have to limit myself to one glass a night, otherwise it will be gone too soon. 

WOW: You're full of great advice, but let's turn those tables: What's the best advice you've received and how has it helped you? 

Hugh: Being an author should not be sought as a full-time profession, at least not initially. The main reason is monetary. It’s difficult to sell enough books to cover costs of living. Also, doing something professionally can result in a change in perspective. If my lifestyle was based on book sales I’d have to be more forceful in trying to get people to read it, and it would also come with a greater expectation to meet deadlines. I might even have to change my writing style to make it more marketable. That would likely make the overall process less enjoyable. I do want people to read this series and hear what they think of it, so writing is not something I just do for fun, but it is an escape. It’s a way to relax when the pressures of work and school become too high. I like using creative writing this way and I would prefer to avoid turning it into a 9-hour/day, 5-day/week job. 

This advice has not been limited to writing. The first time I heard it was when I briefly played mandolin in an Irish music band. We weren’t paid for our shows. We didn’t even call them concerts, we called them Sessions. That might sound frustrating to some people, but the band members were only doing it as a side project and only because they enjoyed it. Meanwhile, I knew other people in bands who were trying to become professional but tensions during rehearsals and struggles in expanding their fan base frustrated them so much that they quit music altogether. 

WOW: Ah yes - the old advice that we shouldn't plan on getting rich writing or making music! Thanks for your insight on that - greatly appreciated! 

 Let's talk something more tangible: What does your writing space look like?

Hugh: Cluttered. I have a full-time job which keeps me busy when I’m not writing. I’m also interested in a job change and have been taking classes at the University of New Mexico to make it happen. Unfortunately, I only have one desk for all my work/book/school materials, so the stacks of papers get pretty tall. On the plus side, once a work project is completed or a semester ends a lot of pages are no longer needed, which means I have plenty of compost material. Thanks to the workload, the soil in my yard gets a huge nutrient boost a few times a year. 

WOW: You are so honest - I love and appreciate it! How quickly our time flies when chatting with old friends and returning authors. Before we say goodbye, let's tell readers what the future holds. What's next for you?

Hugh: I want to finish Mystic Rampage 3 (Anomaly Aftermath) by the end of the year and end the series. This project has been going on for long enough and I’m ready to move on to something new. I have a head start on a few books. I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month a few times and have two 50,000-word rough drafts of new works. One of them is about a dragon which I review and revise when I need a break from Mystic Rampage. I really hope to get that one published one day, although I don’t plan on expanding it into a series. 

WOW:  This was such a great opportunity to reconnect! I know we will see you soon with the next book and there's at least two of us in our house who are eager to get our hands on it - so I hope you work fast! Until then - stay healthy and keep writing! Thanks for choosing WOW! 

 --- Blog Tour Calendar 

June 14th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of this incredible tale. Find out more about the author, Hugh Fritz, and enter to win a copy of Public Display of Aggression for yourself. 

June 15th @ A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden
Deirdra Eden shares the spotlight today – and in today’s spotlight it is none other than Hugh Fritz with Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series: Public Display of Aggression! Readers won’t want to miss an opportunity to dig into the magic of this incredible story! 

June 16th @ Create Write Now with Mari McCarthy
There’s a guest author at Mari McCarthy’s Create Write Now and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Using Bacteria and Fungus in Food.” Join readers at Create Write Now to learn more! 

June 17th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Nicole Pyles shares her thoughts as she reviews Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers at World of My Imagination will put their imagination into overdrive with this fast-paced story involving plenty of magic. This is Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series but reads just as well as a stand-alone. Don’t miss today’s review by Nicole!

June 18th @ Bibliophile with Diti Shah 
Diti Shah shares her book review with her Insta followers – find out what she thinks of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz! This is Book #2 of the Mystic Rampage Series that has delighted readers and left them wanting more!

June 21st @ A Storybook World with Deirdra Eden
There’s a guest author at A Storybook World and it’s the one and only Hugh Fritz who recently finished Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series. He’s busy promoting Public Display of Aggression but has taken time out of his busy schedule to write an informative post about “Illustrations in Fantasy Novels.” This will be great for writers and readers alike.

June 22nd @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews Hugh Fritz about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2 Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this insider opportunity to hear from the author himself – the man behind all the imagination and fun!

June 23rd @ One Writer’s Journey with Sue Bradford Edwards
Fellow author Sue Bradford Edwards offers her review of Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Readers won’t want to miss her thoughts!

June 24th @ Knotty Needle with Judy Hudgins
Judy Hudgins keeps readers on the edge of their seat at the knotty needle blog as she reviews Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series . Readers will want to grab their own copy of Hugh Fritz’s Public Display of Aggression so they won’t miss a beat of this imaginative story!

June 30th @ Bookish Trischa
The spotlight is bright at Bookish Trischa and today it shines on Hugh Fritz and his latest creation Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the book everyone is talking about!

July 1st @ Book Santa Fe with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto reads a lot and she loves a fast-paced imaginative story. Public Display of Aggression is 5 Stars and she can’t wait to tell readers more about it at Book Santa Fe today! This is the 2nd book in the Mystic Rampage series, but she says it reads great as a standalone. Read Crystal’s full review today! 

July 7th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith 
Readers of Varsha’s blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today in a post about “Fan Fiction” as he takes a break from promoting his latest book Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this guest post and opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and the man behind all the excitement!

July 9th @ Bring on Lemons with Carmen Otto 
Carmen is an avid reader and soon to be high schooler – she loved Book #1 in the Mystic Rampage series and she joins us today to share her 5 Star Review of Book #2 – Public Display of Aggression by Hugh Fritz. Don’t miss her youthful insight! 

July 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog 
Readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog will hear from Hugh Fritz today as he pens a guest post titled “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. This post will delight authors and readers alike – so don’t miss it! This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the Mystic Rampage Series and Book #2, Public Display of Aggression

July 12th  @ Bookish Trischa 
Today is the day – Trischa reviews Public Display of Aggression – Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about and hear from Trischa herself as she shares her insight into the writings of Hugh Fritz. 

July 13th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith 
Today it’s Varsha’s opportunity to share her review of Public Display of Aggression. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about the fast-paced writing of Hugh Fritz and Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage series! 

July 14th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog 
A few days ago, readers of Author Anthony Avina’s Blog heard from Hugh Fritz in a guest post: “Preference of Series of Stand Alone Pieces”. Now it’s review time – hear what Anthony has to say in his review of Public Display of Aggression, Book #2 in the Mystic Rampage Series by Hugh Fritz! 

 ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** 

Enter to win a copy of Public Display of Aggression by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends on June 27th  at 11:59pm CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the widget and follow up via email. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Robyn Fisher, Runner Up in Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, June 13, 2021
In 2016, Robyn quit her demanding teaching job to become her husband’s full-time caregiver. After he died 2017, she walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, sold her Pacific Northwest home of 25 years and finished writing her forthcoming memoir, You Remind Me Who I Am: A Memoir of True Love and Lewy Body Dementia. She writes, blogs and podcasts about healing from loss, hiking and walking, and mid-life reinvention. She currently divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and Maui, documenting her walks and thoughts on Instagram @robynpassowfisher. “The Glass Sliver” is an excerpt from her memoir. Find her blog and more at

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Robyn: Gosh, why not? “The Glass Sliver” is a short excerpt that I felt was a stand-alone and was excited to find a place to submit it. So thank you!

WOW: Your entry, “The Glass Sliver,” is an excerpt from your upcoming book. What inspired you to write a memoir?

Robyn: My memoir chose me, actually.

In 2016, Lewy Body Dementia was ravaging my husband’s body and brain, and I quit my full-time teaching job to be his 24-7 caregiver. He was a musician, a poet and a writer, and he loved that I wrote regular updates to keep our friends and family in the loop about his illness, especially because he couldn’t write anymore. I always read them before I emailed them. “Your writing brings me such joy,” he told me. This is a disease characterized by hallucinations and personality changes, and when I would write about what was going on, and read it to him, I believe it helped ground him. “You remind me who I am,” he told me.

My writing helped ground me, too, back then. Still does, actually, when grief comes to call. The positive responses, from both my husband and our circle of friends, made me want to keep writing. My updates became essays, and then after he died, I hired a writing coach who helped me turn those essays into chapters.

My book is non-linear in structure, with the main timeline the last two years of my husband’s life, the medical mystery, love and family, and the acceptance of knowing that our partnership was ending. The secondary timeline takes place during the two decades leading up, from the somewhat scandalous beginnings of our love story, our commitment to honesty in all things, family, and the love that helped us deal with the end.

WOW: How wonderful that your writing brought your husband joy, and that it helped you as well. What has your memoir writing journey been like? Anything you can share about the process?

Robyn: When I went on my pilgrimage along the Camino, I had only about half of it done. Not too long after I returned, I decided to sell my house and simplify my life. The book was pushing on me. Literally. I felt a gentle push on my shoulders and head, almost like the someone was guiding me into a chair from behind. When the push happened, and I couldn’t sit down, I had anxiety. Grief is weird. I wanted to distract myself from it, but I also want to learn what it is trying to teach me.

Well anyway, I got my house on the market, then spent six weeks with some friends who encouraged me, read my chapters and helped me keep writing. The book is done now and I’m shopping for a publisher, looking to build an author platform. It has given me something to focus on instead of grief. It has been guiding me at this stage of my life.

The process now is the query process which is daunting, in all honesty. But I am also writing a blog about my Life Reinvention after loss, writing and submitting personal essays and other writing.

Gosh, I hope I answered your question!

WOW: Yes, and best of luck on your publishing journey! You mentioned walking the Camino Santiago in Spain. My sister also completed that solo journey following a difficult life event. What was it like for you?

Robyn: Lifechanging. It was the perfect thing for me to do at the point in time, just seven months after my Bill died. I had been a hiker and backpacker in my youth, but I felt this physical exhaustion like none I’ve ever felt before. I had gained weight, my body felt broken, exhausted, sick. I have described those early days of grief as an illness. I knew walking a long distance would help me feel healthy again, get my body moving again, release the exhaustion of grief. Help me figure out my own pace of life.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Robyn! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Robyn: I’m not a very disciplined writer and it helps me to have a deadline, so that’s what I do. I find or create deadlines for myself by participating in writing groups or taking classes. It also really helps me to do a Julia Cameron style brain dump to get started. I keep post-it notes and lists in my journal of scenes that I think I want to write, and almost always when I sit down to work on one, I end up writing something else. I’ve learned to trust that something else. If I trust the writing and take it where it wants to go, that works best. I’ve also learned to reach out for help when I need it!


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Retrain Even Your Old Dog

Friday, June 11, 2021

As part of my health journey, I recently read the following: 

  People change behaviors by retraining                              automatic habits.
(thanks Noom) 

 I also read this on my oldest daughter's 23rd I'm the old dog referenced in the title. 

Whether we are old or young, we can change our behaviors and today let's brainstorm about how we can change our writing/journaling behaviors to become more successful. 

 Back in the day, before I started writing for WOW! and managing tours, I read a fabulous article by Sarojni Mehta-Lissak titled 13 Strategies for Freelance Writers . If you don't have time right this minute to visit this article from 2007, let's look at some quick tips:

* Read Writing Magazines (you're here, aren't you?)
* Have at least one friend 
* Go to libraries
* Keep a piece of paper nearby
                                                     * Start a blog
                                                     * Enjoy the ride 

If you're anything like me, before your feet hit the floor you are grabbing your phone. I check my email, social media, and right before choosing my outfit I check the weather. That's great and all, but if I want to improve my writing, I know I need to "Read Writing Magazines" and if I do that first each and every day, I know I can build a healthier habit. This doesn't mean I can't eventually check my emails and social accounts. It just means making my writing a priority will help me with my goals. Seeing Lena's freshly painted walls is fun, but it's not going to help my writing. 

You see where this is going? 

I challenge you to review the list included in this article (or refer back to the original article) and make your own action plan. 

Mine looks like this:

1) Start each day reading a writing magazine (like WOW!) instead of starting with social media and emails.

2) Get back in touch with my writing group and even if we can't meet in person, let's get back to sharing our work. Instead of looking for another Netflix series to enjoy, I am going to retrain myself to use that time for writing instead.

3) Go to the library - it's open again! Bring the kids even!! Instead of movie and popcorn night, we can have library afternoon with a stop for icecream on the way home! 

4) Find a fun and artsy notebook and special pen to keep next to the bed, but one that will fit in your purse and beach bag too! I can retrain myself to enjoy this as a special treat! 

5) Get back to regular blogging (start with one post each week as a beginning goal). 

6) Reward yourself with something special once you've been working on and accomplishing this action plan for a month! 

Now that I've shared my plan, let's hear what's on your mind? How are you going to retrain your automatic habits? 

Leave your comments, ideas, and suggestions below!


Crystal is a hot mess of busy-ness who has decided to shorten her bio...

You can find Crystal milking cows, riding horses, and the occasional unicorn (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 own 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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Friday Speak Out!: How Journaling Saved My Writing

by Maruable (Marusa Zemva)

In recent years I've often dreamed of flying. These kind of dreams have always been my favorite. If I could be any animal, I would choose to be a bird. So I can fly wherever I want to, whenever I want to. From a bird’s eye perspective, everything looks so clear, so small, almost meaningless.

Well, the dreams where we can fly are supposed to tell us that we need to change something.
And when we finally decide we will do something different, our insecurities come to the fore. When I decided I would pursue my writing career I was overwhelmed by a strong doubt. I doubted my ability to describe and summarize my views. I doubted my ability to correctly express myself. I've had this big fear of the language barrier, and I was convinced that I was simply not capable of writing content worth reading and sending out as to actually get someone to read it.

I struggled for months to write something and lost myself in trying this and that. I was so afraid of not writing well and being rejected that I just didn't do anything. I gave up before I even started. I stopped trying.

Looking back, I think I didn't know shit about myself and my desire to write was not strong enough. A year later, I was alone one day, drinking wine and thinking about writing, and suddenly I felt like I had a pivotal moment where I realized I was made to write. It hit me literally from nowhere, and it was like a 'light bulb' moment of sorts.

Later, I somehow managed to suppress all my feelings and hopes, and I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of writing. Which didn’t mean that someday I wouldn’t be, but at that moment it was more important to know I was not.

One day I took a piece of paper and began to write. My monologue. My journal. My thoughts. I wrote something small every day. Some days I wrote just a few words and some days I wrote pages. This helped me overcome my own limiting beliefs. Until it all became so real and unbelievably clear, and I thought, it would be sad not to share this mess with anyone. It would be sad to not share my soul story with some other souls out there. Souls, who might be struggling, souls who might be feeling as lost and defeated as I was back then. And just like that I decided I would collect all this written mess into one book.

From that day on, I called myself a writer. And now it is up to me to upgrade from writer to author. I know I have a long way to go, but now my belief is stronger than my doubts, and I believe that change can happen. That change is a real possibility. And, truth be told, I am the one who will make it happen.

While journaling down my thoughts and feelings, I also became more observant of the world around me. It really brought so much clarity into my life, and I am beyond grateful for that 'light bulb' moment I had.

For once in my life, I freed myself of all my thoughts. Through that, I realized my meaning. And after that, I never dreamed of flying again.

* * *
My name is Marusa (also called Maru) living in Bled, Slovenia, and I am a Freelance Content Creator under the name Maruable. 

I hold a Bachelor’s degree of Natural Resources Conservation and Research and thoughtfully strive to create and preserve a better world for all beings.

I am an adventure seeker, a yogi and an absolute animal lover. With English being my second language, I still decided to write and manage my business outside my comfort zone. Furthermore, this year I've finished writing my first draft of my book which I also wrote in English. The book speaks about my personal development journey, and it'll be out soon. 

My 'Maruable' website link:
My instagram link: 

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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Interview with Writer MM Wittle's on Her Experience with Local Gems Poetry Challenges

Thursday, June 10, 2021
MM Wittle Bio: 
MM Wittle is a writer of all genres who is a high school and middle school teacher during the day, a college professor at night, and a book worm and writer on the weekends. Wittle also knits book scarves because to her, books need to be kept warm, too. Wittle’s play “Family Guidance'' had a reading at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA and was selected for honorable mention at the 5th Annual Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s Playwriting Competition. “The Education of Allie Rose'' was a finalist in the Philadelphia Ethical Society Playwriting competition and was shortlisted in the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama in England. Wittle’s work has appeared in Transient, The Bond Street Review, Free Flash Fiction, The Fox Chase Review, The Four Quarters, Decades Review, *82 Review, Thin Air Literary Magazine, and Emerging Literary Journal and others. Wittle's creative nonfiction book, Three Decades and I'm Gone was published by Creeping Lotus Press in 2014. Follow MM Wittle on facebook

Congratulations on the publication of your chapbook Prescribed Burn, a winner in the Local Gems poetry challenge! How did you learn about the Local Gems poetry challenges and what prompted you to sign up? 

I've done their 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, which they didn't publish, and The Phoenix Rising Challenge. The chapbook I have now is from the Phoenix Rising Challenge. 

30 Day Challenge I've been on their mailing list and they have published my work before in two of their South Jersey Bards Collections. And I signed up for it because I knew I needed to push myself to write. With the pandemic and teaching, I wasn't leaving room for my writing. I figured if I had prompts helping me each day, I would be more likely to stay with it. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge I went with the Phoenix Challenge because it was only for 10 days and I figured I could write a response to a prompt for ten days while I'm teaching...during a pandemic.... 

Were there any moments during the challenges that you thought you wouldn’t finish? Were there any moments of euphoria? 

30 Day Challenge I won't lie; there were days when nothing came out. But then, there were days when I could write 5 poems. I used my Facebook writer's page to keep myself accountable and I even read some drafts on there to hear some reactions. I think there are a few poems in that chapbook I really like (and others I really hate). 

Phoenix Rising Challenge Not finishing wasn't an option. What I liked about this challenge was there were many different ways of looking at the prompt and I kept trying to push the idea of some of them. For example, the poem “The Shopping Cart” came from the prompt about what goes in a full shopping cart. For this poem, I thought about my trips with my mother to the local discount store. And the namesake of the book, Prescribed Burn, came from the idea of building from the ashes like the Phoenix. 

After you finished the poetry challenges, what was the process like submitting to and publishing with Local Gems? 

30 Day Challenge I wasn't sure if the email I had for them was working, so I kept emailing to check a few days before. Then I submitted on the day it was due and didn't hear anything until the winners were announced and I wasn't one of them. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge After I was done, I was given a few days to edit. Then I submitted the chapbook and the process moved along. I got my manuscript back for editing and then we discussed the cover. I used my picture of the High Water Mark monument in Gettysburg. 

What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating these books? 

30 Day Challenge I really like this chapbook and do have it out making the rounds. I was able to see three themes emerged and I really liked how the chapbook just weaved itself together with very limited direction from me. So, I think from this I learned to trust my process and the book will present itself. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge The Phoenix Rising is a very limited print. There are only 74 copies printed. Ever. And I am using that as a nod to my father because as I was writing this book, his birthday and death anniversary fell around the time of the challenge. The 74 is the age he would have been if he didn't pass away in 1985. And while I am always writing about his and my mother's death (both passed before I was 18 years old), I think with this collection, it isn't just their deaths emerging and making its way on the page. There are different ideas peppered in here. And I think my biggest win is finally writing about Gettysburg, PA (which I LOVE and have been obsessed with since 1991). 

What were your thoughts or feelings when you held your books in your hand for the first time? 

30 Day Challenge It's still in manuscript form, but I do like it. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge "I gotta mail these copies!" I did a presale and was feeling very bad that my supporters were waiting for their copies. But after that, I think...this is going to sound weird but, it's almost like I have this need to get rid of the book as soon as I see it. I was like that with my other chapbook, Three Decades and I'm Gone. I was happy and thrilled the book was done, but it's almost like the book isn't fulfilling its purpose sitting in a box in my kitchen/home office/classroom on Wednesdays. Like, I wrote these books to get the stories out there and I want them far...far away from me. They no longer are just mine, but they are yours and you will take the lessons and words you need from them. That got hella deep!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience writing and publishing your poetry? 

I feel like the biggest thing is to believe in your work, even if that means not getting it published right away. The world is filled with many fantastic poets, and you should be encouraged and empowered to add your voice to that conversation. And as a very wise woman once said to me, come up with a list of 10 places you feel your work adds to the overall voice of the magazine, published catalog, whatever it may be. Send out 5 queries. Once you get that first rejection, move down to number 6 and get your work out there. It has a place and it will find a home. And lastly, I would say believe in your work to occasionally make special editions. I have a special print of a Sylvia Plath poetry collection owned by her editor. We all can't and shouldn't be Sylvia Plath, but our work, our voice, is as important and needs to be dressed up in special editions and limited runs. 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who connects with writers and readers @Dr_Greenawalt.
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Writer...Plain and Simple

Wednesday, June 09, 2021
This past weekend my family surprised me with flowers and a cake. There wasn't any iced inscription on it that said, "Happy Birthday," or some other celebratory salutation most would expect on a cake. Instead, as my grandchildren held it in front of me with a lone candle, was the word, "Writer,"... plain and simple in blue icing. 

My heart swelled. Joyous tears filled my eyes. So often we writers feel others, even those closest to us, aren't aware how long and hard we toil at our craft. Sometimes we assume they don't know the behind the scenes work ethics we have, the sweat and tears we pour into our work, the disappointments we have faced, and the tenacity it takes to write one poem, article, story, novel, podcast, screenplay, etc. And sometimes because others don't acknowledge our efforts with bells and whistles, we wrongly assume they aren't as excited about what we accomplished, or simply think that being a writer is no big deal. But this past weekend my family showed me that it was, a big deal. They applauded me for this arduous writing journey I have been on for so many years, one that is still in progress. 

My husband acknowledged my beginning journey, when I typed, one peck at a time on the Royal manual typewriter he gifted me with when he saw how serious I was about writing, and how I used to type through the wee hours of the morning sure that I would never give up on my dream but unsure of whom would want to read my words. My adult children acknowledged my middle writing days when they saw me writing after getting home from work, after dinner, after checking homework, after they snuck out of their rooms at night to get another glass of water, and seeing me at my desk/office in our Livingroom writing. And my grandchildren acknowledged that from the time they were old enough to remember, I was always putting pen to paper or sitting at my computer writing in between loving on them.

Writer...this is our profession, so full of passion, love and pain, letdown and excitement, and everything in between. But it is something we can never stop doing, even if we tried. 

Writer...sometimes it comes with a cost. Sometimes we give more to our writing than our family, and hope and pray they don't suffer because we chose one over the other if only for a little while. 

Oh how thankful I am to have people in my life that have never pointed a finger at me and made me feel guilty for my love affair with writing even when I was feeling guilty myself. How thankful I am to have loved ones who understand the big picture, who were/are there from the beginning, the middle, and will be there until the end.

As a writer, I'm sure you have those kind of loved ones and people in your life too. Even if they don't surprise you with a cake, they acknowledge you as a writer in other ways. Maybe your spouse brings you a mug of tea and makes sure no one disturbs you when you're knee deep in a writing project, or an adult child posts updates about your writing life on Facebook or Instagram, or you overhear a younger child bragging to his or her friends that, "My Mom is a writer." Or maybe you are acknowledged through a smile or an encouraging word that gives you a second wind that helps you become more productive. These are the people who see you, who applaud you, who are proud of you even if they don't say it often. Some have been there for your beginning writing journey, some have entered your life in the middle of your writing journey, and most will be there until the end, acknowledging you as "Writer." Plain and simple. 


Jeanine DeHoney is a freelance writer whose writing has been published in several anthologies, magazines and online. 

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Interview with Tara Campbell, Winter 2021 Flash Fiction Contest First Place Winner

Tuesday, June 08, 2021
Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and three collections: Circe’s Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, and Political AF: A Rage Collection. Her fourth collection, Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection is forthcoming from Aqueduct Press in 2021.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2021 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Tara: Thank you so much! I give all credit to my friend and fellow writer Myna Chang, who has placed first and second in previous WOW contests, for introducing me to the site. The freshness of the work up at WOW intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a try too. Kraken wasn’t my first entry, but it is my first win, so I encourage everyone else out there to keep trying too!

Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Kraken in Love?” On your website you refer to your writing as, “…put our world in a snow globe, add a drop of weird, and shake,” which is a great description. 

Like many people, I’ve always been drawn to the ancient, outsized horror of creatures like the Kraken. From the safe distance of modern times, we can look back on the terror as kitsch and reproduce embodiments of it on all sorts of cheesy products. I did this myself in a way, stuck at home knitting quarantine-fueled projects like Krakens emerging from between bright red lips [see attached photos]. I guess I started thinking about how this thing that’s a joke now was once real, in some form, and I began to imagine what it would have been like to be one. The isolation of COVID probably influenced my Kraken’s loneliness. In real life, I’m blessed to live with a partner I love, but I know that many people have been starved for touch, and I’m sure this hunger played a role in my Kraken’s predicament.

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Tara: I’m working on a series of flashes based on random selection within a uniform framework. It’s inspired by a technique novelist Michael Moorcock wrote about involving "deliberate paradoxes" like “In the City of Screaming Statues"—a verb and an object we would never expect to see paired together. So I made my own lists, and am drawing paradoxes at random—and these paradoxes are landing me in a lot of interesting cities that I have to then figure out through writing.

WOW: That sounds like fun, making those kind of lists! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Tara: I teach speculative fiction, and one of my favorite ways to keep with the field is The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series edited by John Joseph Adams in tandem with a guest editor every year. I just finished going back through the 2016 and 2017 editions. I especially enjoyed the 2018 edition guest edited by N.K. Jemisin. There is so much variety and energy in that selection of stories—which makes sense, given the breadth and verve of Jemisin’s own work.

My next read is going to be Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction (ed. Joshua Whitehead) because I want to keep expanding the range of experiences I read, and anthologies are a great way to discover new writers to follow.

WOW:  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Tara. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Tara: It was my pleasure! I would advise people to look at the profiles of the guest judges to help determine if they have a story that might fit. It’s useful to know whether a judge prefers realism or is also open to speculative elements. One judge might want to linger in rich imagery, whereas another wants to be carried away on the momentum of a story. In a pool of strong writers, these subjective preferences can make a difference. But the most important thing is to remember that not being selected doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad—it means there wasn’t a fit. And there’s nothing wrong with trying again until there is!


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know Blog Tour (And Giveaway)

Monday, June 07, 2021

Now announcing a blog tour featuring two clean and sweet books:

Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection and Only My Horses Know

Both books are perfect for parents who worry about the material their children are reading or they are reading to them. Both are clean and sweet. 

Published by Editor-911 Kids, an imprint of Editor-911 Books, a small, independent press owned and operated by Margo L. Dill that publishes books that readers love but aren't traditional. 

Join us as we interview the authors, share more about the books, and give you the chance to win a copy! Also, by actively participating in this tour, you have the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds with a story by Margo L. Dill, editor (stories for kids ages 3-9):

In this full collection of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred, we have included all six stories from volumes 1 and 2, a bonus story "Looking Inside" by Margo L. Dill (only available in this collection), and a foreword by Margo also. Each story has an illustration to start the story along with a question for children to consider while the story is being read aloud to them (or older children can read to themselves). These stories are perfect for parents and grandparents to read to the children in their lives.

The stories are:

"Looking Inside" Join a kindergarten class as they learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he believed all people were the same on the inside.

"Ben and the Terrible Red Card" Ben is always getting in trouble at school, but he feels his teacher just misunderstands him. He's trying!

"The Hobbling Hermit" The hermit's feet hurt, and he takes out his grumpiness on his new housemate, a small, smart mouse.

"Sammy and the Cross-eyed Crow" Sammy lives in the jungle and talks to animals! What happens when he meets a crow who can't fly straight?

"Ben and the Bully, Billy Bob" Here's another Ben story, and this time, Ben's in front of the principal's office for a run-in with Billy Bob the Bully!

"The Cheerless Chairmaker" Fred Olds has written a new fairy tale with a poor, sweet chairmaker and a smart, savvy princess!

"Sammy and the Royal Rabbit" Sammy is back in the jungle with Jonathan the crow, and this time, he is visited by a rabbit who thinks he's a king!

This is a very special collection of short stories by two experienced children's authors. Don't miss out on getting this collection today! 

Purchase Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

Only My Horses Know (middle-grade contemporary novel) by Cinda Bauman

Life on a Montana horse ranch has always been the best for twelve-year-old Kylie Hannigan. She bonds with the horses, rides them with her friend Joey, and helps her mom train them. Plus she barrel races her favorite horse, Kiwi, and with plenty of practice and grit, they will definitely beat her rival Olivia this year.

But then, something starts happening with Kylie’s mom. She sleeps all the time, and Kylie has to do the chores, the training, and all the care for the horses--and it’s too much! At least it’s summer, so she doesn’t have to worry about school, and she can spend time talking to her favorite animals. One day, a strange-behaving horse with an even stranger name shows up for training but is only ignored by Kylie’s mom. Training a difficult horse used to be a fun challenge Kylie could share with her mom, but that’s not even happening now.

Then her mom changes again, and she’s up doing everything—including cooking and cleaning in the middle of the night. Kylie still gets no rest because Mom thinks Kylie should be able to do it all, too. So when school starts and Mom’s behavior goes back and forth and back and forth, and then embarrasses Kylie in front of Joey more times than she can count, Kylie decides the only thing she can do is hide everything from everyone—accept her horses.

Kylie’s life spins out of control along with her mom’s. She can’t train for the barrel races with Kiwi or keep up with homework or talk to her best friend. What will it take to get her life back to the way it used to be? Or is that even possible?

Purchase Only My Horses Know on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Be sure to add this to your reading list on GoodReads.

About the Authors

Fred Olds has crafted dozens of stories over the years and has been involved with various writing and critique groups. At the age of 92, he is a devoted husband and proud father and grandfather living in Central Illinois. After retirement from the Postal Service as an electronic technician, he finally has time to concentrate on writing. A true storyteller at heart, his first love is writing children’s books with an occasional murder mystery thrown in for a change of pace. Check out his kids’ short story books, Read-Aloud Stories with Fred, Vol. 1 and then Vol. 2, and his first book for adults, The Hobo Who Wasn’t, an exciting detective story. He's also the author of The Dog and the Flea: A Tale of Two Opposites and The Cat, the Mouse, and the Neighbors' Dog, two books of the Perky Pet Problems picture book series.

Margo L. Dill is the CEO and owner of Editor-911 Books in St. Louis, MO. She is also the author of the American Civil War Adventure Series with two books, Anna and the Baking Championship and Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, for middle-grade readers. Her other books are That's the Way It Always Happened and Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies, which are illustrated picture books, and she has a short story about kids learning about Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings in Fred Olds's collection of short stories, Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Vols. 1 and 2. Her next book is for teachers and parents and is out in June 2021, It's Not Just Academics: A Guide To Teach Kids' Health, Communication, and Social Emotional Skills. She lives in St. Louis with her tween daughter and lively rescue dog, Sudsi. 

Find out more at:

Her website:

Cinda Jo Bauman lives in Central Illinois with her husband and dogs. During her high school years, she took every art class offered along with every child development class. After a class where she spent part of the day at a daycare, child development won out over art. Years of story time led to a love of children’s picture-books, which made her wish she had stuck with art. 

Flash forward to today, and she still loves children’s books! After researching and much study; learning about writing and illustrating children’s books, she joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and found her passion. Besides writing children’s picture books and middle-grade novels, Cinda also creates with cut paper sculptures and paints in oil and acrylic. She loves iris flowers and the color purple.

Only My Horses Know is her debut middle-grade novel.

Find out more about Cinda:

Cinda's website is:

Make sure you follow along and leave a comment on participating blogs. At the end of the tour, we'll be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner who has commented on at least one blog post throughout the tour.  Tour ends July 11th. You have until July 15th to submit your entries on this Google Form to be eligible to win. The winner will be announced on July 16th. 

Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First off, congratulations on the release of these two sweet books! What inspired you all to write these books and stories? 

Cinda: I have always dreamed of writing and illustrating children’s picture books. After working on a few, I just wondered if I would also be able to write a novel. I had the characters. I had the horses, but I struggled to find the plot. Only My Horses Know was written after remembering a character on an old medical series called ER. One of the nurse’s moms struggled with a mental illness. It made me so sad for the character, how she had kept that secret all her life. I could just feel her pain. I kept wondering what sort of life the character would have had as a child, pre-teen. I decided I would write what I imagined life would have been like for her. 

Fred: Well when our [my wife Jean and I] kids were tots, like most kids at bedtime, they pulled every trick in the book to keep from going to sleep. “Tell me a story, Dad,” they’d beg. So with a bit of imagination, (something I’m fortunately blessed with), I’d conjure up some tale about a past pet, embellish it a lot, and begin. 

“Close your eyes first,” I’d say. My stories rarely got to the end before they were asleep. (That should have told me something!) 

By the time I neared retirement, and with a mental library of stories already, (coupled with the convenience of a computer word processer; my handwriting is awful!), I decided I’d like to take a shot at writing kids’ books. 

But first I needed help, and after a complete and total humbling from my teacher’s constant criticism during a writing correspondence class at Parkland, I knew I needed to join a critique group. The rest is history. 

Margo: I have the honor of publishing these two wonderful authors’ stories, and then in Fred’s collection book (Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Vols. 1 and 2), I slipped in a story of my own. “Looking Inside” is possibly more relevant today (unfortunately) than it was when I wrote the story. The inspiration came from a magazine ad where two kids (one Black and one White) were pictured, with one looking inside the other’s wide open mouth. I thought to myself, What is that kid looking for? Then being a former elementary school teacher and a current parent, I knew what it was like to want to really share a message with a group of YOUNG kids and for them to be very curious about everything BUT what you are trying to teach them. So I combined the ad image with my experience and set the story near Martin Luther King, Jr. Day while this poor teacher tries to share Dr. King’s message and wonder if the kids are ever going to understand what he was trying to teach about race. 

WOW: What inspiring stories of how you all came to find your ideas! How are you all “related”? 

Margo: Besides all being published by Editor-911 Books (which is a traditional publishing company I started in 2020), we were in a critique group through SCBWI back in the mid-2000s when I lived in Champaign, IL. We used to meet at a Borders bookstore with a few other wonderful writers and critique each other’s stories. We grew close like a family, and even though I moved away when I had my daughter, we stayed in touch. 

Fred came to me in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) and asked me to help him publish his stories. I’d been wanting to try indie publishing, and so with his encouragement, I did. I loved Fred’s storytelling style, and I was always a huge fan of Cinda’s book, which we had critiqued back at Borders, and I had edited for her when she revised it. So I asked her, and she said yes. 

WOW: I love how close you all became! Cinda, In Only My Horses Know, you have the challenge of tackling the issues of mental illness, as well as discussing your main character's faith in God in your book. How did you balance both of these potentially challenging subjects in a book meant for middle-grade readers? 

Cinda: I think the hardest part to balance when writing for a young audience about mental illness was the ending. You want your book to have a happy ending, but sadly mental illness isn't something with an easy cure that makes it just go away. So, I decided I needed to find a way to end it that would bring at least hope to the family and to the community. The second problem was that I did not want Kylie's story to be such a downer that readers would get really tired of her and stop reading. But I also thought it was important for them to get to know her and see her and her mom's struggles develop. 

Adding faith to my story came natural for me. But when I look for faith-based books for young readers, it's hard to find books that are not written for an audience who already has faith or a relationship with God. I decided I want my writing to appeal to youth who have no faith. I hope to introduce my readers to God without them even knowing it! I wanted to make sure my characters were flawed and relatable, not perfect goody-two-shoes. 

WOW: What a balance you found with both topics! Fred, your stories range from realistic, humorous school stories to new fairy tales to talking animals in the jungle! How do you come up with your ideas?

Fred: Some ideas are born from incidents in my personal life and some from family members. Sometimes, ideas pop into my head spontaneously, often quite inconveniently. For instance, I’ve often sprung from my bed, just after settling down, when an idea pops up in my head. I’ve learned never to sleep on an idea, for it will vanish forever overnight! And try to keep an idea in your head while on the interstate until you get to a place to pull off! 

WOW: Margo, you just started your new publishing company, Editor-911 Books. What led you to start this and what have you learned so far? 

Margo: Besides what I mentioned about Fred and I having a conversation about his remarkable stories and picture books, I had gone to the 20Books to 50K conference in Las Vegas in 2019. This is a conference for indie authors and publishers, and I was amazed and educated about how far the self-publishing world had come since I had a book traditionally published by White Mane Kids in 2012 (Finding My Place). I was listening to story after story about all the control and creativity that these authors and publishers had, and although my publishers have all been fantastic, I wanted that control back, and my creativity to soar. So I have been learning all I can, and still so much more. 

Then of course, a pandemic hit--we published our first book in June of 2020. But that’s okay because there’s really very little upfront cost. Most cost goes to marketing, and I am having so much fun. I love publishing other people, and the whole creative process of starting with an idea and finishing with a product that someone buys and reads! 

I have plans to grow, grow, and grow. I have two other authors signed, Terrill Martinez and Amie L. Merz. We just published Sioux Roslawski’s book, whom many of you know from her blogging here (Greenwood Gone: Henry’s Story), and I’m hoping when I get a little more experience and no pandemic, to open for submissions a little more. Authors who are interested in finding out when that happens can join the reader newsletter here or the writer newsletter here. Both have “free” gifts with them, and both have different content if they want to join both! 

WOW: From what I know myself, I'm imagining the marketing angle is so big but you are doing so well with both books! So, Cinda, why is it important to have clean books for children, like your Hope and Horses series? 

Cinda: There is so much negativity in the world now. Kids are exposed to violence everywhere they turn and choices that can lead them down a path of lifetime struggle. I hope my readers appreciate that in my books, yes, things sometimes stink, but there's always hope if you are open to it, and if you rely on your real friends, your family, and your faith. 

WOW: I agree! There is always hope. Fred, I'm so inspired that you followed your dreams at 92! What advice do you have for others who feel it might be "too late" for them? 

Fred: It's never too late to do something you really want to do. For instance, when I was 85, I heard someone play a beautiful song on the piano, and it touched my heart. I thought to myself, If I'd only started when I was younger, I could probably play that song myself now. Well here I am, seven years later, and still active; but I still can't play the piano! So quit telling yourself, I'm too old to start something new. Age is just a number, so go for it! 

WOW: Absolutely! What's next for all of you? 

Fred: Well I’ve got Read Aloud Vol.3 and Vol. 4 nearly done, plus The Mortimer Kidnapping, a mystery story that’s ready to go. Plus I’m trying to complete a semi-fictional love story, (¾ complete) woven around my experiences in post-WWII Japan. 

Cinda: I've been working on book #2 in the Hope and Horses Series and jotting down ideas for cover art, as they cross my mind. The themes for the series are: book #1 acceptance and healing, book #2 handling anxiety and loving yourself, book #3 forgiveness and moving on. Book #3 is already written, but I'll be anxious to start on the revisions once #2 is finished. I’m still pinching myself that I’ve been given this opportunity! 

Margo: As I said, growing the business and selling books to readers. I am also finishing up my own title which is a book for homeschool parents and teachers called: It’s Not Just Academics: A Guide to Teach Kids Health, Communication, and Social Emotional Skills, out this summer. I also want to write book three of the Finding My Place series, and I have a YA romance series with book one and a middle-grade mystery series with book one almost done. So many ideas, too little time! 

WOW: Best of luck to you all and congratulations again on your books!

  --- Blog Tour Calendar

June 7th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of this incredible blog tour. Find out more about the authors, their touching books, and enter to win books for yourself. Become an active participant in the tour, and you can win a gift card.

June 8th @ Lisa's Reading
Visit Lisa's blog where she shares a guest post about clean, sweet, books and how to find them (and why kids will love them too). 

June 8th @ Pages and Paws
Come by and read a review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred

June 9th @ Create Write Now
Mari shares a guest post today about tackling the stigma of mental illness.

June 11th @ Pages and Paws
Come by to Pages and Paws again and read a review of Only My Horses Know

June 13th @ AJ Kormon's Blog
Join us at AJ Kormon's blog where you can read a guest post about finding problems kids will relate to. A must-read post for children's book authors!

June 14th @ AJ Kormon's Blog
Join us again at AJ Kormon's blog today where you can read a review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 15th @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews and Interviews
Join Lisa as she interviews author Fred Olds about his book Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection.

June 16th @ Words from the Heart
Linda reviews the book Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds.

June 17th @ Literary Quicksand
Join Jolissa as she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds.

June 18th @ Words from the Heart
Linda shares a guest post about tackling Christian themes in secular books.

June 20th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 21st @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews and Interviews
Join Lisa as she interviews author Cinda Bauman, author of the book Only My Horses Know.

June 23rd @ Bring on Lemons
Visit Crystal's blog today where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know.

June 26th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Join Linda as she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 28th @ Jill Sheets' Blog
Visit Jill's blog where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 1st @ What is That Book About
Michelle shares a guest post about following your dreams at 92. What an inspiring story!

July 2nd @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 6th @ McFly's Book Bliss
Join Marisa as she reviews Only My Horses Know.

July 9th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Join Wendi at her blog Strength 4 Spouses where she shares her review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 10th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Visit Linda's blog again where she shares a guest post about finding a good critique group.

July 11th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Join Wendi again at her blog where she shares a guest post about the importance of communicating in families.


Make sure you follow along and leave a comment on participating blogs. At the end of the tour, we'll be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner who has commented on at least one blog post throughout the tour.  Tour ends July 11th. You have until July 15th to submit your entries on this Google Form to be eligible to win. The winner will be announced on July 16th. Good luck!

Enter to win a print copy of these clean, sweet, and exciting children's books: Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends June 20th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be announced the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and we will follow up via email. Thank you, and good luck!

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