Friday Speak Out!: New Tricks

Friday, December 09, 2022
By Margaret Mills

I recently started a story in Kindle Vella, the serial publication platform of Kindle Direct Publishing that launched in 2021. Writers publish their story in episodes with the first three being free to readers. After that your fans pay to unlock each episode. Publishing in serial form is not new, of course. Charles Dickens did, although the internet adds a level of sophistication not available in his time.

My writing career has been varied. I’m in my sixth decade of writing now. I was first published when I was eleven years old, on the children’s page of a regional magazine, and paid a dollar for my short story. That got my attention – writing plus money - and I went on to submit more, enter contests and even wrote a column for my tiny hometown newspaper before I was out of high school. With a major in English but the teaching career not panning out, I started writing for the religious market as a young wife and mother.

I began writing as an adult on an old electric typewriter and used carbon paper for copies. When the first word processors were developed, I jumped on that: no more correction fluid. In six decades, the writing world has changed: computers, the internet, self-publishing. My main writing now is a blog that involves historical research, with plans to publish a series of books based on the blog, all in the Christian genre.

So why did I publish in Vella? It is designed for those who want to read short episodes on their phones and the most popular genres appear to be romance, and sword and sorcery, or at least stories featuring elves, witches, and wolves. Some authors have created seasons and just keep the story going.

For me, it was a way to get some eyes on my more “experimental” work. For those with a fan base already, Vella is ideal. Since I was dipping my toes into fantasy/time travel, I didn’t have that. My marketing strategy was hoping my grandchildren would tell their friends. However, I like the structure of regular short episodes (1200 words is best I’m told, although episodes can be 600 to 5000 words). I set myself to publish a new episode on Tuesdays and Fridays, which works well to push this writer to finish the book. It’s best to have your story as nearly done as possible, as there are instances of readers being left in the lurch. Mine was well along and I know how it ends, but having that structure brings much-needed discipline.

Vella is not for everyone, but for new writers who need the encouragement of a “thumbs up,” or the discipline of a publication schedule, it has something to offer - as it does for old writers who just want to try something new.

* * *
Margaret Mills currently lives in western Oregon with her youngest daughter and an elderly cat. While she majors in faith-based and inspirational writing, she has also published articles about crafts, the outdoors, and history. She writes a blog: Standing in the Gap for Oregon, and dabbles in fiction. More information can be found at www.writtenbymargaret.com, and her latest venture into fiction can be read at Taking the Waters | Kindle Vella (amazon.com)
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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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On the Discouraging Days

Thursday, December 08, 2022

 

Yesterday I had one of those days, and it’s spilling over into today. I’ve let that negative voice in my head discourage me. I’m not sure what triggered it. It could be several days in a row of gloomy, cold, drizzly weather (I’ve been prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder in the past) or it could be the result of completing a massive revision on my young adult novel last week. I took a few weeks off writing and producing for my podcast, "Missing in the Carolinas" so I could focus on the book edits and when I sat down yesterday to work on the new episode . . . I couldn’t do it. I was tired, fatigued, anxious about being behind on holiday prep and shopping and a slew of other things. 

I’m a person who is very goal oriented, and have been all my life. It’s why I do well with writing and editing sprints, such as National Novel Writing Month. They include firm deadlines and I get a rush from the adrenaline of the intense focus and fast pace. It’s probably why I also excelled at my former job of being a magazine editor, because we worked under similar conditions. That position also caused me a great deal of anxiety due to a lack of staff support, but that's another story!

In September, I left my job as a magazine editor so I could focus solely on ramping up my podcast and writing fiction. But last night, when I ran into a block putting together my latest podcast episode, I let it bother me too much. I admitted I will not be able to produce an episode this week, by Friday at least, and I felt like a failure. I have the idea and framework for the next two episodes, but something is keeping me from moving forward. 

I felt like I should have bounced back after completing those book revisions and write the usual long-form script. Depending on how you look at it, I’m fortunate because I don’t have regular sponsors to keep me on a regular production schedule. That’s also unfortunate, because it allows me to slack off when I have a few of these “negative self talk” days. My husband tried to tell me to give myself grace because I’ve been working hard and consistently writing, even if it feels like I’m not “achieving” things on the pace that I would like. I think the fact that I now have to design my own podcast website after the designer I hired fell through is also weighing on me. 

I’m taking things one day at a time right now. My daughter, who went off to college seven plus hours away this year, will be home tomorrow for her winter break. I’m going to embrace her being home, read a good book, plan some quality family time, and put together a game plan for the podcast, book launch, and another book revision for early spring. Things are looking up, even if that voice in my head tries to tell me they are not. 

How do you combat negative self talk and still find a way to complete creative projects? I'd love to hear your strategies!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and host/creator of the true crime podcast Missing in the Carolinas.
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Hating Confrontation (The Rest of the Story)

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

When last we met, I shared how I hated confrontation, and specifically the back-and-forth with a designer re: my book cover. So here is what has transpired since. 

Oh, wait! First, a little backstory. 

I sort of lost it when I got the last covers. I’d spent hours writing an email, very carefully explaining what I wanted and why the designs I was sent were not hitting the mark. And I’d like to add that in the comments of my last post, our WOW! editor, Angela Mackintosh, made an excellent suggestion and one I’d followed. To wit, send screenshots of book covers that are appealing and why. That way, the designer will have a better idea of what is expected and desired. 

It’s so time-consuming, scrolling through hundreds of book covers! Anyway, the designer had not produced what I considered anything close to the samples I’d sent. AGAIN. So I sat down and wrote a scathing, blistering email addressing every concern and frankly, it got a little (and by little, I mean a lot) personal.

I did not send that email. 

Once all the frustration poured out, I found I could consider the problem a bit more…shall we say rationally? (Because that email may have tipped into irrational.) I waited a few days and sent a more pithy and mostly not-at-all personal email. 

I included a cover that I liked from their very own website and wrote the following:

I put that cover above—it's one from your website's portfolio but I could have included dozens more from ********—because that's the kind of quality I keep expecting to see. After five unworkable covers, I'm wondering what to do next... Try another designer? Use a premade cover and refund the difference? Or refund my entire payment? Please let me know where we go from here—thanks! 

Within a few days I heard from my project manager. She apologized that the concepts hadn’t worked and said that, if I agreed, they’d like to start over with a completely new designer. (The timeline would be impacted, of course, though the timeline had already blown way by.) 

Now here’s the thing. My biggest issue with this company had been that I felt the assigned designer did not have the skill set to make the kind of covers that I’d seen plastered all over their website. And I feel like no matter who you are—newbie indie author or best-selling indie author—paying the fee for a custom book cover should get one a professional designer (and product). 

But here’s the other thing. I knew this company did excellent work and I suspected that they would not want to refund the money. So I felt like I had a pretty good chance of getting a senior designer who could actually design the concept I wanted and not a cut-and-paste mess. 

And you know what? He—or she—just sent me excellent cover concepts. So after a few tweaks, I’m hoping for a successful and happy ending to, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.”

~Cathy C. Hall (with fingers crossed)
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Interview with Heather Bourbeau-2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Summer 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

 

Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, Meridian, and The Stockholm Review of Literature. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. She floats between fiction and poetry, and lives among the sage and fog. Her most recent collection is a poetry conversation with Irish-Australian poet Anne Casey, Some Days The Bird (Beltway Editions, 2022).


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

WOW: Welcome, Heather, and congratulations! Setting plays such a large role in “Among the Sharks.” What inspired this story and how did you work with the use of setting to set the stage for this dark tale? 

Heather: The idea started with the net. I had been encouraged to write on the topic of “entanglement.” I immediately thought of the physical as well as the emotional meanings of that word. I knew I wanted to anchor the story in the larger San Francisco Bay. I love mornings on the water—there is a calm beauty—but you are also very aware of the potential dangers in the bitterly cold water and of life on the margins that you see in those early hours, including subsistence fishing on the piers and housing encampments along the shore. 

WOW: I love that the concept of this story is based on such a complex topic. It works beautifully. You are also an accomplished poet. Can you share more about the story behind “Some Days the Bird,” which you describe as a poetry conversation between you and poet Anne Casey? 

Heather: Anne and I met at the end of February 2020 when were the featured readers at Live Poets at Don Bank in Sydney, Australia. As Anne read her poetry, I felt like I had dumb lucked into meeting one of my people. In December 2020, I reached out to her, proposing we engage in a poetry conversation riffing off of Lace & Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens by Ross Gay and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. (In 2016, I had fallen in love with the dozen poems they published as part of their exchange.) As someone who is deeply curious about the natural world around me, I wanted to engage in my own conversation with another writer, anchored in the experience of our respective gardens. I thought Anne would be the perfect partner for this, not only because of the fascination of witnessing opposite seasonal changes and dramatically different flora and fauna, but also because Anne’s writing captures the small and sublime amid a backdrop of history and events. The result is 52 poems (26 each) that examine the year that was 2021. 

WOW: What a fascinating project! It looks like it turned out well, too. What advice would you give writers wanting to explore the craft of lyrical poetry? 

Heather: The key for me is to pay attention with all my senses and keep a small notebook where I can jot down images, insights, and overheard fragments that will help me see themes. Sometimes I think I have nothing, that I am tapped out of creativity, but then I look at my notes and realize my brain has been playing with ideas and rhythms all along. 

WOW: You’ve had success being published in a variety of literary journals. What advice would you give to writers looking for places to submit? The list of publications can be overwhelming. 

Heather: First, know your voice. When you have a sense of what makes your voice unique, you will have a better sense of which journals might be the best home for your work. Follow the writers whose work you admire and write in a similar vein as you, see where they are published. Ask for recommendations. Check out and perhaps subscribe to monthly listings like Literistic. And aim to join the 100 rejections club by receiving 100 rejections in a given year. The more you submit, the more you will be published. For every 100 rejections, there will be some stellar publications. 

WOW: Great advice. How did you first hear about the contests at WOW? What other parts of the website do you enjoy? 

Heather: I first heard about WOW through Literistic. I liked learning about the contests (obviously), but then I loved the prompt resource. What a treasure trove!!

WOW: I agree! Thanks again for stopping by and giving our readers to learn more about you and your work.
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From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, December 05, 2022
From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith
We are excited to launch the tour for From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. This book is perfect for unpublished writers who want encouragement while preparing work for submission for the first time and a friendly voice to demystify how the publishing process works. It's also wonderful for published authors who are interested in learning why some of their past work might have been rejected. Its down-to-earth tips for revising, submission strategy, and having happier, long-term publishing experiences make this book a must-read for writers.    

Before we interview the author about her inspirational book for writers, here's more about this book:

You’ve been writing and honing your craft for months or years and are curious about seeking publication for your latest project. Perhaps you wonder about the next steps in the process. Look no further!

This book has a little something for every writer interested in expanding their audience and sharing their writing with readers, from pre-writing and writing your drafts to choosing your market and the writing life before, during, and after publication.

Topics covered include:
  • The Lovely Littles: Breaking into Literary Magazines
  • The Spinning Spider: Keeping Track of your Brainchildren
  • Options, You’ve Got ’em: Traditional, Indie/Small, University Press, or Self-Publishing 
  • Two Streams with One Stone: To Simultaneously Submit or Not
  • Monetize it! Part One: All about the Benjamins; Monetize it! Part Two: Risk and a Swimming Metaphor
  • The Myth of the Fancy-Pants Tools
  • The Art of Writing the Author Bio
  • Paradox Meets Passion: Writer vs. Author
  • The Slam-Bam Reply: Now in Two Painful Varieties; Creative Noodling
  • F.U.N.
and so much more!

Publisher: Vine Leaves Press (May 2022)
ISBN-10: 1925965929
ISBN-13: 978-1925965929
ASIN: B09V88F1SC
Print length: 184 pages
 
You can purchase a copy of this book in ebook or print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

About the Author, Melanie Faith

Melanie Faith is a night-owl writer and editor who moves through the daytime world with her camera. She’s an introvert who likes to wear many hats, too, including as a poet, photographer, professor, and tutor. She’s been a doodler for years but just recently started to share her perfectly imperfect doodles. She loves to write about historical settings in poetry and prose, and this fall she taught both a Leaping Worlds class for historical fiction and time-travel writers as well as a university class about publishing. She especially enjoys creating nonfiction craft books that assist fellow authors on their writing paths, including books packed with tips about writing flash fiction and poetry. Her latest published craft books are: Photography for Writers, guides for teaching online and writing a research book respectively, and From Promising to Published: A Multi-Genre, Insider's Guide to the Publication Process (all from Vine Leaves Press). Read more about her books, classes, and arts projects at https://melaniedfaith.com/.  

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congratulations on your book! Why did you decide to write this book? 

Melanie: Thank you! I’m so excited about this book and sharing it with readers. I’ve taught online classes in publishing and marketing books for several years, and I love the process of sharing the many options for how writers can go about taking a manuscript from a file on a computer or a draft in a notebook to an e-book or tactile book. 

I remember very clearly how confusing and unfathomable the process felt to me before I got my first publication credits. I didn’t know where to start. I really want to give writers an easier, clearer view of their options for breaking in than the way I approached submitting work and publishing in a very prolonged, stumbling, unsure way for the first few years of my writing career. 

WOW: That's so awesome! You start out in your book saying you've submitted your writing more than 1,300 times! I'm so impressed (especially as someone who has only gotten close to the 200 mark). What has kept you motivated to submit so many times? 

Melanie: That’s such a great question! 

First off, I had no clue when I started trying to get published in my teens how often I would submit or how many rejections I’d get—or that getting rejections is routine and completely normal. Often, it’s best just to keep looking forward; one tiny step at a time creates marvelous momentum. 

That said, after I received my first rejection slip from a publication when I was 16, I kept writing endlessly but I didn’t make any submissions to editors outside of a school setting for four years. It stung deeply! So, I fully understand how painful rejection can be and how very personal it feels every time. 

On the other hand, I genuinely want to connect with readers, and I know that having endless project files just sitting on my laptop won’t help me to connect with my fellow readers and writers, so it’s important to me that I submit my writing regularly. As I developed as a writer and a person, knowing that I was trying became more important than whether it was a yes or no response (although I still savor each and every yes!), which gave me the courage to submit more and more. One tiny step at a time adds up over time. 

Both rejections and acceptances have reinforced for me that it’s important to keep persevering and sending work out there. You just never know when it’ll be a yes, so it’s important to interpret a “no” as a “not yet” or a “not for us,” and submit the work again and again and again to other markets who will be a better fit for the work. 

When I first started, I put a lot of pressure on myself and on my writing to get immediate (or almost immediate) yeses or I stopped submitting, instead of editing my manuscripts more and then sending to other editors. I gave up on pieces too soon, which is very common. 

For the past several years, I’ve aimed to submit at least three pieces a month, whether that’s a guest blog, an article, a batch of poems, photography, or a complete book manuscript. Also, once I started to submit simultaneous submissions to editors who accept them (always check guidelines before submitting), that increased the number of submissions I made because I didn’t need quite so much new material all at once. That way, I always have multiple projects in rotation on editors’ desks which increases my chances at a yes. The yeses, along with reader and fellow writer encouragement, really make a huge difference in motivating me and keeping me going. 
 
 
"You just never know when it’ll be a yes, so it’s important to interpret a 'no' as a 'not yet' or a 'not for us,' and submit the work again and again and again to other markets who will be a better fit for the work." 
 

WOW: I love you keep things in rotation. You also teach students! What kind of lessons do you gain from your role as a teacher? 

Melanie: I love teaching fellow writers. They are some of the most imaginative, talented, hopeful, determined people I’ve ever met. They are generous with sharing their thoughts, struggles, and goals. I feel a sense of community with my students. We all understand the cycle of hope, angst, and hard work involved in pursuing publication. I love how each writer’s path shares commonality and yet is also highly personal and unique. 

Working with students teaches me how marvelously diverse and important writers’ voices are as well as underscores that there is room for all genres, styles, innovations, and writers at the table. 

My students teach me again and again the value of having writing dreams as well as perseverance, flexibility, and acceptance as our skills and our projects evolve over time. 

WOW: Those skills are so important! Your first chapter talks about the importance of calling yourself a writer. Personally speaking, I've been a writer for as long as I can remember but it's only in the last few years it's now officially part of my email's signature line. Why do you think it's such a struggle for writers to label themselves as a writer? 

Melanie: This is such an important question; thank you! 

When we practice the arts—whether it’s sculpting, painting, writing a novel or a collection of poetry, or recording a collection of songs—one of the first questions any artist gets asked is, “Have you sold/published [your project]?” Another is, “Where can I read/see your work?” 

It’s often very challenging to keep growing as writers while also experiencing the pressure to write faster to have publications available that showcase our writing to the best of our abilities as we are still developing as artists. 

Crafting the work alone in a room or in a small workshop group of trusted friends is much different than sharing it with a wider audience that often doesn’t include writers. People often mean well in showing interest or curiosity, while at the same time not knowing how very much effort and time go into writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a single work of art. We can feel hurried or a little foolish or embarrassed at times when we don’t have immediate publications after many months’ work or study—even though that’s 100% normal. Writing is a slowly built craft; not fast food. 

It’s natural to self-protect and not tell many people (if anyone, even ourselves) that we are writers for years—but to keep writing, revising, and learning, just without the title. Although, after a while, claiming the title becomes important. 

I understand hesitating to call oneself a writer, because I took photographs for many years before I dared to call myself a photographer aloud, much less on my website and social media, even though I ran around taking photos with a camera for almost as long as I’ve been a writer. I always felt like someone would call me out on it, because I didn’t professionally study photography, and I don’t make my living from photography, and because for very many years I hadn’t had my work in an art show yet. It was so liberating when I finally felt ready to call myself a photographer, not just a person who “likes to take photographs now and again.” 

Still, we wouldn’t go up to a plumber and say, “Well, since you haven’t fixed 7,000 faucet leaks this year, you’re not a real plumber, are you?” or a chef and say, “You don’t have a three-star restaurant, so why’s your name on the door?” but that’s often part of the message writers receive, that there are benchmarks before publicly saying we are writers—through words or body language or even self-talk—which makes writers understandably hesitant to claim the title of writer. Many wait until they get a first publication or a writing-related job or a degree in writing or have won a writing contest as a protection mechanism against the questioning or judgment of others. 

Also, it’s not easy to claim space as a writer. There’s a ton of competition, and writing is a craft that we learn and improve on over time and with effort and energy before we gain more and more confidence in our abilities. It’s totally normal that sometimes it takes many of us months or years to say aloud that we ARE writers. 

The great thing is that it gets much easier to say it the more we type it in our emails; say it aloud to new acquaintances, friends, and family; and start putting it on our websites, front and center. 

It’s a subtle shift, but a big one. Being a writer is an identity as well as a vocation and a lineage of all the writers who came before us and those yet to follow this path after us—it’s a very exciting, honorable, frustrating, mysterious, worthwhile path, and it just takes as long and it takes to feel comfortable voicing that we are writers. No benchmarks needed before applying. 

You are a writer if you practice the art of writing, period. Publications, workshops, classes, conferences: all of these can be wonderful and very helpful parts of the writing journey to experience—just know that you are already a writer before, during, and after them. 

No shade at all to any writers still getting to the point where they can type or verbally introduce themselves as writers. You’ll get there. Nurture yourself and support what feels best for you. 

Once we do claim the title “writer” aloud or in print—whether it’s in our own handwriting in a notebook or all over the internet—it’s that much sweeter for the journey it took to get us there. 
 
 
"You are a writer if you practice the art of writing, period."
 

WOW: It's such a profound journey to finally call ourselves a writer. What do you hope readers take away from your book after finishing? 

Melanie: I hope this book infuses readers with self-belief and courage to pursue publication in whatever ways are the best fit for them and their projects. 

I want writers to feel prepared to put in the work over years—writing, publishing or self-publishing, and marketing are often more of a marathon than a sprint—and also to know that they deserve success. 

I’d love for readers to know from the book that we’re living in a golden age for ways to become published (from self-publishing and blog posting to small-press publishing to publishing with a university press to getting an agent to publishing with big-name traditional publishers) and also myriad ways to study craft and keep improving (from reading craft books, taking online or in-person classes, starting or joining a workshop, and much more). 

I also want readers to take away that all writers (even frequently published ones) experience setbacks, rejections, and support during our careers that make this writing path a varied and meaningful one. Perseverance and some humor, too, are assets I hope writers will take along on their journeys to make their writing and publishing dreams come true.

Mostly, I hope readers will feel excited that what they have to say will find its target market and readers who will appreciate their writing. You’ve got this!

WOW: Thank you so much for your insights, Melanie! Best of luck on your book!
 
 
From Promising to Published Blog Tour and Giveaway


---- Blog Tour Calendar

December 5th @ The Muffin
Join WOW as we celebrate the launch of Melanie Faith's blog tour of From Promising to Publishing. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book

December 5th @ Karen Brown Tyson
Visit Karen's blog today and read about whether to monetize your writing or keep it a hobby.

December 7th @ Create Write Now
Visit Mari's blog today to read a guest post by Melanie Faith about how to self-motivate.

December 8th @ Margay Leah Justice's Blog
Join Margay as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.

December 9th @ Blunt Scissors Book Reviews
Jennifer shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's helpful book From Promising to Published.

December 10th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog to catch her review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.

December 11th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Visit Linda's blog as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.

December 12th @ One Writer's Journey
Sue shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's helpful book for writers From Promising to Published.

December 13th @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews & Interviews
Visit Lisa's blog for an interview with author Melanie Faith about her book From Promising to Published.

December 15th @ Mother Daughter Bookclub
Join Cindy as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.

December 16th @ The Faerie Review
Lily shares her thoughts about Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.

December 18th @ Michelle Cornish' Blog
Come by Michelle's blog and read Melanie Faith's guest post about overcoming imposter syndrome.

December 20th @ A Storybook World
Deirdra features a spotlight of Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.

December 21st @ Elle Backenstoe's Blog
Join Elle as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.

December 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog and read his review of From Promising to Published.

December 23rd @ Help Me Naomi
Noami shares a review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.

December 24th @ The Mommies Reviews
Join Tara she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published and hosts a giveaway too.

December 27th @ Mindy McGinnis' Blog
Join Mindy's blog today where author Melanie Faith shares tips on writing author bios that have personality and heart.

December 27th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Join Beverley as she reviews Melanie Faith's book From Promising to Published.

December 29th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog to read a guest post by Melanie Faith about the benefits of hiring a freelance editor and how to find a good fit.

December 30th @ Jill Sheets Blog
Join Jill as she interviews Melanie Faith, author of From Promising to Published.

January 2nd @ Elle Backenstoe's Blog
Visit Elle's blog again and read Melanie Faith's guest post about the benefits of beta readers and how to find one.

January 3rd @ Editor 911
Join Margo as she features a guest post by Melanie Faith about the taking-on-too-much spiral.

January 4th @ Liberate & Lather
Visit Angie's blog and read her review of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. She hosts a giveaway and also interviews author Melanie Faith about her book.

January 5th @ Word Magic
Fiona reviews this helpful writing book From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith. Don't miss it!

January 7th @ Leslie's Voice
Join Leslie as she reviews From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith.
 
 
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
 
Enter to win a copy of From Promising to Published by Melanie Faith! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends December 18th at 11:59 CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Barbara Olsen: Q4 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, December 04, 2022
Barbara’s Bio:
Predominately a visual artist, Barbara Olsen has been creating art for several years, exhibiting her work in numerous shows and publications: www.barbaraolsenart.com. As an unapologetic lifelong list maker, journal nerd, and travel diarist, she also harbors an innate interest in the written word. In the last few years, she’s dipped her toes into writing prose and poetry and been recognized by WOW! Women on Writing competitions for her work. Barbara’s writings disclose personal, but at once universal, stories that reveal our interconnectedness. She’s currently working on a collection of essays exploring transitions. 

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Barbara: As with many of my essays, I began writing it in my head. After a while, when it became too uncomfortable to keep it inside, it found its way onto the blank page. I had seen the interaction between the teenager and his mother on a beach two years ago. It deeply disturbed me on a maternal level and brought up my own insecurities. Was I a good enough mother? What could I have done better? So, I initially spoke to that in the first draft of my essay, but I wanted to express more. There was a feeling of interconnectedness with all mothers that I wanted to include. With subsequent drafts, I eventually found the wording to convey the awareness within mothers that the work we do is hard and never forgotten. I wanted to wrap the mother in my arms and say, "I see you. I have been where you are now. You are not alone." 

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

Barbara: I learned that it takes persistence to hone an essay down to its true essence. And that, just because it veers off course a handful of times, doesn’t mean you can’t get it righted in the end. 

WOW: The power of persistence: so important for writers. Can you tell us more about the collection of essays you’re working on that explore transitions? 

Barbara: I’ll start by saying I’ve always been uncomfortable with change. Obviously, I’m not alone. I think countless humans would be more than happy to freeze-frame their lives during the good times and watch that movie run for a while. It’s hard being human. Our parents get older, our children grow up, and our loved ones pass away. Our roles morph, and we change as well. We become different people. The essay collection I’m working on explores these transitions: the ones in our lives where the sands shift beneath our feet, and we search for meaning and perspective as we regain our footing. 

WOW: I love that concept, and it sounds like it is so relevant to our WOW community. Was there anything in particular that inspired you to start writing creatively after being predominantly a visual artist? 

Barbara: I’ve always been particularly inspired by the combination of images and words. Illustrated travel diaries and sketchbooks line my bookshelves. Because I’ve kept journals, lists, and travel diaries over the years, it hasn’t felt like a massive leap to writing essays. When I apply paint to paper, I can visually express what I can’t always put into words. But on the other hand, I can often write more succinctly what I can’t articulate with paint. There’s this symbiotic relationship between the two; each expression informs the other, and smack in the middle is where I like to live. 

WOW: It’s fascinating to hear about the relationship between visual and written expression and how it manifests for you. What have you read recently that has influenced your writing? 

Barbara: I enjoyed Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, Jo Ann Beard’s Festival Days, and Sarah Polley’s Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory. All are collections of essays and stories. Whether or not they have specifically influenced my writing is hard to say. I know that within these collections, I have discovered pieces that align with topics I like to explore: memory, transitions, and loss. I imagine almost everything I read informs my writing in one way or another on some subconscious level. 

WOW: Wonderful. Thank you for sharing your reading list! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Barbara: Thank you to Ashley Memory for critiquing my essay and for the biggest compliment she could ever have given me, “I needed to read this essay.” Thank you to everyone at Women on Writing for providing a supportive platform for women writers to get their work out there and be seen. And for the valuable critiques that help nudge good essays toward great essays! 

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


Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.
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The Attractiveness of Wisdom (Reader Review and Giveaway)

Friday, December 02, 2022

The Attractiveness of Wisdom by Judy Kelly
We're proud to announce our reader review event for
 The Attractiveness of Wisdom by Judy Kelly. Read the reviews of this romantic Christian novel and our interview with the author. Don't forget to enter to win a copy of the book as well! 
 
First, about the book The Attractiveness of Wisdom:
 
After a tumultuous marriage and a struggle trying to keep it together, Hamilton, a university dean, sets out on a perilous emotional journey to change his life and seek the love he's always wanted. He has tried to control his life and the lives of others. Hamilton meets Franny, a troubled dance teacher, and accepts her job offer of organizer in her studio. When Franny injures her foot, Hamilton must step out of his secure place to help. His trepidation increases when he meets a research journalist who falls in love with him. But her life isn't what it seems. He fears controlling her, and after her convent life, she needs his love.
 
Will Hamilton wise up and learn how a man truly loves a woman, the value of friendship and the need for prayer?

The Attractiveness of Wisdom is a Christian literary fiction, heart-warming, enthralling novel with endearing and unforgettable characters.
 
Publisher: Black Rose Writing (November 2021)
ISBN-10: 1684338506
ISBN-13: 978-1684338504
ASIN: B09L1FRK6C
Print length: 341 pages

The Attractiveness of Wisdom is available to purchase on Amazon, Black Rose Writing, and Bookshelf.com. You can also add the book to your GoodReads reading list.

What WOW readers said: 
 
"This is a heart-warming, Christian, literary fiction novel with endearing characters. The value of friendship and family are important themes in the book. So many people get divorced nowadays that we don't often stop to think how that impacts all the parties involved. If you like books that make you think about your life and how you're living it, then I would recommend this book." ~Michelle Cornish

"What a charming book! This is about a man who learned how to let go and let God. Hamilton starts out struggling with losing control after the falling apart of his marriage. He then has to take a sabbatical from work for health reasons. He ends up helping out a woman running a dance studio and that eventually leads him to Emma. What a transformation! This is a heart-warming tale of love and learning to change your own ways. I absolutely recommend it. It's a worthy, unforgettable read." ~Nicole Pyles

"This is quite an exploration of a personality in need of transformation. Hamilton starts out as very controlling. He thinks he knows best and tells others how to do things, including his wife. That turned out to be a disaster and led to a divorce. Even when he takes a sabbatical from his university position and works in a dance studio, he thinks everything should be done his way. "The novel follows Hamilton's experiences as he learns the damage his attitude has caused. This novel is his story of learning he can't control everything. He ultimately, though very reluctantly, comes to find God is in control. He has the healing experience of finally loving another while letting go of his controlling attitude. "Kelly has given readers a touching story of possible romance. It is also about loss and how people make their way through it. Primarily I think it is about coming to grips with letting God have His way, shown through the life of Hamilton. Kelly's writing style is straightforward and easy to understand. The plot moves at a consistent, methodical pace. This novel would appeal to readers who like a novel centered on the events experienced by one man as he learns to let go of control in order to experience love." ~Joan Nienhuis

"This book recounts the spiritual journey of a middle-aged man through divorce, parental relationship epiphanies and new love. I so appreciated the authors skillful way of painting a love scene that was tender, passionate and not graphic. I felt that the inclusion of the spiritual side of these characters gave the story greater depth. I would recommend this book to my daughters and friends." ~Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed.

"Such an interesting romance! Definitely reminded me of some personality traits in myself and others - I enjoyed the storyline and did some self-reflecting along the way!" ~ Crystal Otto

"What makes wisdom attractive? The ability to listen definitely helps. So does the release of controlling behaviors. In Judy Kelly’s The Attractiveness of Wisdom, Hamilton is divorced from a woman who considers him too controlling. He doesn’t even know he’s acting that way as we see in his interactions with his children, who love and tolerate him and a group of dancers who aren’t nearly as polite. Everybody has their own way of doing things, and his is not always the right way, a lesson he faces repeatedly as the book progresses. There are some good plot points moving the story forward and the look at romance, where things went wrong, and second chances, will help those involved in a relationship with a shaky partner. Author Judy Kelly has picked a subject with a great deal of potential. Despite a few proofreading glitches this story can open a reader’s eyes to the power of letting go." ~B. Lynn Goodwin
 
About the Author, Judy Kelly
 
Writing has been a passion of Judy's as far back as she can remember. In her early teens, she wrote stories in notebooks and when she finished one, she went on to the next one. When she wasn’t writing, she was reading. The fact that a person could write something down, and it could be written in a book for others to read and enjoy, and these books were housed in a place called a library, really fascinated Judy.

After earning a Master’s degree, and while she earned the ED.S., Judy taught students who were fourth and fifth grade learning-disabled students. The reading books that were required for them were the same for the general education population, but during that time, there was a tendency of some teachers to implement a different curriculum for children who were learning-disabled. These strategies were designed to improve the students’ learning ability so that they could learn to read, write and do all the things the general education students were doing. The problem was that the program was a year long, and year after year, the students got farther and farther behind. So, Judy ditched all that and taught them reading, and all the other things that the general education students were learning.

When Judy's students began their reading program, they hardly knew any words. She used to tell them stories that she would make up on the spot that were designed to help them with vocabulary, comprehension, and the other concepts they needed to learn to read. They asked her if her stories were written down. She went home and wrote some stories for them and those stories were used in place of the books. That was when Judy began to look at writing as not just something to write and tuck away. The students were enjoying the stories and she could see that she needed to take writing seriously.

One day her students told her that her stories sounded like “the real stories in a real bookstore.” That was the beginning of her writing career. 

You can follow Judy on her website: https://judycar.com/. You can also find her on Facebook too.
 
 

 
---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on your book! What inspired you to write this book? 

Judy: As a healing prayer minister, I encounter people who want prayer for their emotional, physical, or spiritual life. Something happened to them in the past and they want to make a change in their lives. They come for prayer, and we pray. Prayer is the beginning. There is no magic to prayer; we pray a special prayer and puff, you're a changed person. Prayer doesn't work like that. Prayer is ongoing with change. 

Years ago, I realized I had a poor self-concept. To protect myself from condescending words and attacks from the people around me, I built a wall around myself. I kept people away from me. At work or at school, when it came time for employees and teachers to work with a group on a project, I was never chosen. I would be invited to things that everyone was expected to attend. I can't tell you the number of activities I was left out of, even when people made plans in my presence. Over the years, I could have turned into someone hateful and mean. I wanted to push people away and they went away. This continued before I got tired of it. I prayed for help. I wanted and needed to make a change in my life. With God's help (and He still helps) I made a change from someone no one wanted to befriend to someone people love. 

Now, I believe if you don't like who you are, then change. I did. But you can only do that with God's help, and it does not happen overnight, though I often wished it could. I have worked my way back to being someone more human, someone people can talk to, learn from, and enjoy. Me, my inspiration came from my personal experience. 

WOW: I believe the same as well. Change is only possible with God! Are you a planner or a "pantser" when it comes to writing your book? 

Judy: When I read a story, I look for the story beneath the story I read on the page. Some stories don't have that story beneath the story. So far, including The Attractiveness of Wisdom, all three novels have a story beneath the story on the page. When it comes to planning or pantser, I do what's needed. For this story, I had to be a planner. Since the novel is Christian Literary Fiction, it must be written according to the conventions of Christian fiction. It must contain the Christian way of life and show love. I needed the reader to see how change can occur. I start with a character who is flawed. Everybody I know has flaws, and based on that, I can say that most of us have flaws. People can relate to someone who is flawed, but I also wanted people to see that Hamilton is much like the readers; he also has good qualities. Hamilton believes he must control his life and the lives of others. 

Hamilton ended up in a dance studio trying to teach dance because that environment would be exceedingly difficult for someone who is trying NOT to control. In an artistic world, people use their own skill and abilities to accomplish a step, a stroke on a canvas or lyrics. I knew it would be difficult for him. In the studio, the reader could see him trying to make a change. But that was not all I wanted to bring out in that dance studio. Hamilton met a couple who had been together for years. He saw the couple make mistakes, get upset with each other but they continued dancing. I wanted to represent marriage through the couple. He saw why they were together for so long and thought about his marriage and how they were so broken. He met a woman who taught him how to be a friend and just listen when she needed it and offer help when she needed it. Again, he thought about his marriage and how he really didn't listen and the help he offered was more of an effort to control her life. He saw a person in trouble and without asking, tried to help her. When she turned him away, he pushed harder until she finally gave in. In her, he saw what it looks like to control a person. This made him think about his marriage and how he controlled his wife. In a Christian world, when one is called to help someone, that person receives the help they need at the same time. I tried to make that happen in the dance studio. 

Even though it seemed like people just dancing, for Hamilton I wanted the dance studio to be more for him. As the reader sees Hamilton grow, each of the three women he meets, teaches him something. 

WOW: I love how you look for the story underneath the story. What has it been like to publish with Black Rose Writing? 

Judy: I like this publishing company very much. The people in the company that assist during the publishing process are great. The owner does his homework, finds out about marketing tools, and brings us the newest marketing opportunities, such as WOW. I try to take advantage of as many as I can, but even with a discount, it can be difficult. I highly recommend Black Rose Writing.

WOW: That's awesome! You have such good character development in this book. What is your technique to build such strong characters? 

Judy: Characters are not props. My characters are not actors in my mind. I think of my characters as "real" people. They are whole and alive and have experiences. They have jobs. They have their likes and dislikes. They may have something to hide. They have feelings and can get hurt or they can be the people who hurt. Each of my characters has their own backstory. Backstory is what makes a person, so backstory is what I give to my characters.

WOW: That really helps create fully complete people, not just names on a page. Christianity is such a core element of this story and I love how it guided your character in his actions. How does your faith guide you in your writing? 

Judy: The title, The Attractiveness of Wisdom, comes from the Bible. In the Bible, Wisdom is a lady. In the story, Hamilton's change came from his interactions with women. Each of the women offered him a new way for him to see himself and caused him to change. The title represents the good or positive that comes from being wise and doing for yourself what you need. I also prayed each day before I began to write and asked for His help in crafting this story. You see, this is not just my story. 

WOW: That is so amazing! I loved reading that you are a teacher! How does teaching influence your writing? 

Judy: I wish I could say that I influenced my students. After all, I am the teacher. But the truth is, they have influenced me. I began writing because my 4th and 5th grade students in my class told me that my "stories sounded like the real stories in a real bookstore." They were in a program where they were to learn thinking skills. I wanted them to learn to read and think. They had not developed their reading skills and when I went to get them 4th and 5th grade reading books from the book room, I found they could not read. I made up stories for them. They enjoyed the stories and really got involved with the characters and they loved the setting. They read those pages so quickly, I had to write increasingly and write faster to keep ahead of them. By the end of the school year, they were reading on 4th and 5th grade level. This was the beginning of my writing career and almost every time I write, I think about those students who didn't want to learn to read but couldn't get enough of my stories. They asked me to publish the book. 

When my high school students found out I was writing and wanted to get published, they wanted to read something. I had them read a short story I was working on at the time. They gave me help with it. I took their advice, and the story was much better. After I began teaching at a college and completed That Ever Died So Young, one of my students asked me if I was the same person whose picture they saw on the back of a book in the college's bookstore. My college put my book in their bookstore. Almost all of the students bought the book. One student asked me if I was aware of the number of themes in that book. The students read the book and gave me a list of themes they found in That Ever Died So Young. They said they really enjoyed the story and I had to sign their books. 

WOW: I love how your students support you! What do you hope readers take away from reading your book? 

Judy: I would like my readers to see what I had to do for myself and realize they can do the same thing, if they need to. Many times, I see people who need to make a change in their lives, but they think they don't need to. We can be better people. I continue to improve myself and I want to have a relationship with my Father in Heaven. 

 I want people to see the value of family. When parents divorce, they think that there is no longer a family. What about the children? They need to see that they still have a mother, father, siblings, in other words, a family. The family may look differently, but the parents who created their children out of love are still family, even though separated. 

 Put the children first. We saw that in The Attractiveness of Wisdom. It's the job of the parents to keep the children mentally healthy, especially during a divorce. The kids are watching and are likely to repeat what they see and hear if the parents aren't careful. The most important value I want readers to take away is what someone said about the novel. "This novel is about love." Indeed, it is. Hamilton didn't have to do what he did in the dance studio with Franny. But he did. He did it out of love. He did many things in the novel out of love, and we certainly saw how that love impacted his children, especially his youngest son.

WOW: Thank you so much for your time today! We hope everyone enjoys reading your book!
 
 
 ***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a copy of The Attractiveness of Wisdom by Judy Kelly! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends December 15th at 11:59 CT. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget the next day and follow up via email. Good luck!

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Stepping Beyond Your Mentor Text

Wednesday, November 30, 2022
I study Sharon's books
for character description.
I make no secret of my love for using mentor texts. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, a mentor text is a tool that writers use as a guide to make it through a project. When I write for a new publisher, a mentor text helps me get a feel for voice and what goes into chapter 1 and how to end a chapter. That’s when I write nonfiction. 

But I’ve also used mentor texts for fiction. When I work on fiction, mentor texts are how I study pacing and characterization, setting and dialogue. 

Not long ago I used one as a template for pacing a picture book manuscript. My family was driving cross country when a news story about popular children’s books came on. When the announcer started gushing about one of the titles, my husband knew he was in for a rant. It is one of those books that people love or ate, and I fit into the latter category. 

But I didn’t rant about Story X. Instead, I started noodling over how I would do it better. In just a few minutes, I knew who my characters would be, I had a rough setting, and a feel for the story problem. 
 
When we got home, I popped over to my library and checked Story X out as an e-book. Although I prefer print picture books, this was all I needed to check out the story’s pacing. In an hour I had roughed out my own story. 

But I also saw that the pacing didn’t quite work. I faced two choices. I could change my story to match the pacing of Story X, or I could find something that worked better for my own story. I had already created my own characters, plot, and setting. My theme was entirely different. Now I was changing the pacing as well.

That’s the key to successfully using a mentor text. You have to see what works for your story and then see what you need to change to make your story work. After all, you aren’t copying the other writer’s work. You are simply using it as a study of how a story can work. Yours is going to be different because, if you do it right, it will be 100% your own.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 35 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 December 4, 2022).  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 December 4, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 4, 2022). 
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Interview with Myna Chang, First Place Winner of Summer 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, November 29, 2022
Myna Chang’s chapbook, The Potential of Radio and Rain, will be published by CutBank Books in 2023. Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, and CRAFT, among others. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Writings Award in Flash Fiction. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series. Find her at MynaChang.com or @MynaChang.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Summer 2022 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Special Recipe: Book Club Dip?” It reminds me of a hermit crab essay, but it’s fictional.

Myna: This story started in a generative hermit crab flash workshop offered by Cheryl Pappas. We talked about a variety of forms, ranging from simple lists to detailed product reviews and more. The recipe format appealed to me, probably because I enjoy reading about all the fancy foods I’ll never prepare myself. Also, I kept thinking of a silly red car parked in front of a neighbor’s house. The two ideas combined and ballooned from there.

WOW:  It's a fun and clever piece, and I love the last italicized line. Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Myna: When I first started writing flash, I found 500 words to be my favorite length. The constraint forced me to make strategic choices in both the theme and specific words. After a few years of practice, I’m now flirting with 200-250 words. Can I grab a reader’s attention and present a full character arc? Can I leave them with a memorable image, a feeling of resonance? This is tough, but it’s extremely satisfying when it works. After writing flash and micro, short story writing feels almost wasteful!

WOW: What are the most common mistakes made by new writers when writing flash fiction and what advice would you offer to help overcome them?

Myna: I think it helps to look at flash as a unique type of writing. Flash isn’t simply a shorter version of a short story, it’s a completely different animal. You have to capture the reader immediately and genuinely engage with them. What does the reader bring to the story, and how will their own experiences color what they read? Flash stories often invite the reader to step into the narrative, in a sort of collaborative space, making the unsaid elements take on greater importance. A good way to see this is to read your favorite flash journals in depth. Review each story a couple of times to find the layers of meaning, study the word choices, and think about what the author doesn’t explicitly say.

WOW:  Your debut chapbook, The Potential of Radio and Rain, will be released next year. What you tell us about this project, and the process of completing it?

Myna: The Potential of Radio and Rain is a collection of 23 loosely-linked micro and flash pieces, rooted in the shortgrass prairie region of the US. Once I realized I had almost enough stories set in this landscape, I wrote a few more to fill in the gaps. Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time rearranging the pieces to best bring out the connections among them. The manuscript won CutBank’s 2022 Chapbook Contest. We’re now in the process of choosing cover art, which is very fun! We expect it to be available sometime in the first quarter of 2023.

WOW: Congratulations on your manuscript's win and the upcoming release! What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Myna: “Go ahead and end that sentence with a preposition if you want to!” — Great advice from friend and phenomenal writer Marcy Dilworth.

****

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