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Thursday, June 20, 2019


Build relationships (along with a portfolio)

I mentioned earlier this year that although I have directed successful public relations campaigns for others, I have a difficult time promoting my own work. Because you can't solve a problem until you identify it, and to be honest, I've identified it, named it, and lived with it for a long time, I now feel ready to move on to the next step.

I have begun, in earnest, to promote my own work. And, I'm building momentum. For example, I've read my work in front of others, as well as submitted stories, poems, pitches, and books. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a real-world problem, pitched the idea to an editor who liked it and will pay me to write about it. Cool. Dream job, right? To be honest, yes and no.

The reality of working as a writer on her own is that once you write and sell an idea or story, then you may need to start over. The satisfaction of submitting that story is short-lived. After I sell that article, I need to start from scratch, and that's when contemplating the safety of a 9-5 job sounds pretty good. Well, maybe for a few minutes, because there are many ways to connect your writing to those who need it.

The key is to think in terms of building relationships, and building a network of connections that overlap. If I connect with Company or Editor A, then I should take a look at their connections (as much as I can) to see where I may be able to write and sell something similar to Company or Editor B.

If my relationship with my editor or contact is friendly and casual, I can ask for other names of people who might be interested in my work. If not, I may go online to find their business contacts, and ask Editor A if I can use him or her as a reference when contacting someone else in their network. Be careful that Company or Editor A is not archrivals with Company or Editor B. You may never hear from either one again. I speak from experience. But sometimes they hate each other so much that they like stealing each other's writers. That's also happened to me.

When I sold my last article to the editor I am working with, he told me their budget for summer projects is pretty low, so not to expect much in the next two months. That's bad news for me, but I know he's been in his job for a long time, and one of the people he had me interview for an article has a media production company. Guess who I'm going to call next week?

During these conversations, I'm going to ask both of them for names of other people they do business with to see if any of them need a writer. I'm also going to look at those industries because I have pertinent writing examples.

I've reached out to others in the publishing industry as well. I am now a first reader of stories for a literary journal. There is no deadline for these, and sometimes they remind me how many I have left to read as a gentle push to finish one batch so they can send the next. It's a great way to see the type of writing others are submitting. Although I can't submit to this journal now, as a reader, my work may get a second look at a different journal when they find out about the work I do (because I will tell them!).

As a teacher, I've been asked a few times to review textbooks, which I find enjoyable. When I did this a few months ago, the editorial assistant who was responsible for submitting my W9 form couldn't read the one I sent through the website. We emailed back and forth a few times, and after she received a good copy, I asked if I could send a humorous short story. She said it wasn't her area of interest, but she would pass it on to other editorial assistants in her very large corporate publishing company. I haven't heard back, but I have her email and will use it later if I think of something educational she may want to read, because that is her area of interest.

As a writer, don't just focus on submitting work. Build relationships, because all business involves people, and publishing is a business.

Mary Horner teaches communications and has been spending more time contacting potential clients to increase her writing revenue.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019


5 Star Review of "Papa's Shoes" by Madeline Sharples - Review by Crystal Otto

Papa’s Shoes: A Polish shoemaker and his family settle in small-town America is a work of fiction about immigration with a feminist and historical bent. At 99,968 words, Papa’s Shoes is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

Ira Schuman is determined to move his family out of their Polish shtetl to the hope and opportunities he’s heard about in America. But along the way he faces the death of three of his four sons, a wife who does not have the same aspirations as his, and the birth of a daughter, Ava, conceived to make up for the loss of his boys. Ava grows up to be smart, beautiful, and very independent.

Besides having a feisty relationship with her overly-protective mother, Ava falls for the college man who directs her high school senior class play. With the news that she wants to marry a non-Jewish man, Ira realizes that his plan to assimilate in the new world has backfired. Should the young couple marry, he must decide whether to banish his daughter from his family or welcome them with open arms. Even though he won’t attend their wedding, he makes her a pair a wedding shoes. In his mind, the shoes are simply a gift, not a peace offering.

Print Length: 286 pages
Publisher: Aberdeen Bay (April 27, 2019)
Publication Date: April 27, 2019
ISBN-10: 1608300986
ISBN-13: 978-1608300983

Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples is available in print and as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

5 Star Review by Crystal J. Casavant Otto

Papa’s Shoes by Madeline Sharples is absolutely beautiful and definitely a 5 Star Book. There are so many things Sharples did right with this book, but a few are so outstanding I’d like to point them out in detail:

The historical accuracy in these pages is so well written you often forget it is a work of fiction. Sharples writes with such attention to detail you might think she experienced each scene herself. The sights and sounds of the Shtetl drew me in from the beginning and I continued to enjoy the attention to detail and historical accuracy throughout the story.

The flow of the story is consistent and once the reader is drawn in, their attention is kept from cover to cover. Papa’s Shoes is a story of courage and love (which is never without loss) and is a heartwarming read that kept me absolutely engaged cover to cover.

The cover of Papa’s Shoes is lovely, but it’s only after a reader finishes the book they can fully appreciate the true beauty and relevance of the Shoes. It’s apparent much thought and detail went into getting the cover and all pages of this novel absolutely perfect!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others. It is my hope that Madeline Sharples writes a sequel to Papa’s Shoes so we readers may enjoy more of the lovely characters she’s created in this beautiful book.


"From an insightful storyteller, Papa's Shoes, is a heartwarming story of courage and love. Author Madeline Sharples has created an epic journey with intriguing twists and surprises along the way. From days of old in Poland to cultural and economic realities in America, this is an awe-inspiring novel about families, generational history, and the incredible power of change. You truly won't want to put it down!"
—D.A. Hickman, author of Ancients of the Earth: Poems of Time

"Author Madeline Sharples tells the intimate story of an American family, of immigration, tragedy, renewal, and love with grace and the delicate touch of a poet. There’s a raw kind of sweetness in this rich and epic saga."
—David W. Berner, author of The Consequence of Stars and A Well-Respected Man

“An immigrant family’s braided history – its conflicts, losses, and secrets – come to life in Papa’s Shoes. With loving attention to detail, Madeline Sharples transports readers from a Polish shtetl to the Illinois town where Ira and Ruth settle, and shows us the intimate workings of their
marriage. This family’s triumphant journey to the American Midwest will inspire you long after
you’ve closed these pages.”
—Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story

About the Author:

Madeline has worked most of her professional life as a technical writer, grant writer, and proposal process manager. She began writing poetry, essays, and creative non-fiction when her oldest son, Paul, was diagnosed as manic depressive. She continued writing as a way to heal since his death by suicide in 1999. Madeline’s memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, first released on Mother’s Day 2011 in hard cover, is about living with her son’s bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide. Her publisher, Dream of Things, launched a paperback edition in July 2012 and an eBook in August 2012.

Madeline also co-edited Volumes 1 and 2 of The Great American Poetry Show, a poetry anthology, and wrote the poems for two books of photography, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Besides having many poems published in print and online magazines, writes regularly for Naturally Savvy, and occasionally for PsychAlive, Open to Hope, and Journeys Through Grief and The Huffington Post.

Find Madeline Online:
Facebook page
Twitter page

----------Upcoming Blog Tour Dates

June 20th @ Women's Writing Circle
Madeline Sharples pens today's guest post at Women's Writing Circle with Susan Weidener - don't miss the post titled: "Fact vs. Fiction" and learn more about Madeline's latest best selling novel Papa's Shoes.

June 26th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Fellow author and memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her review of Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples. Don't miss Linda's insight into this touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they move to America!

June 27th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews the latest best selling novel Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - readers will delight to hear what Nicole thinks of this crowd pleasing story of one Polish shoemaker and his family!

June 28th @ Deal Sharing Aunt / Vicki Brinius
Vicky Brinius reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples. Find out how she feels after reading this touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America.

July 2nd @Author Anthony Avina
Fellow author Anthony Avina reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - this is a touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settled in America.

July 2nd @ Amanda Sanders
Amanda of Amanda Diaries reviews Madeline Sharples latest novel Papa's Shoes - read Amanda's review and add this lovely story to your TBR pile today!

July 4th @ Author Anthony Avina
Readers at Anthony Avina's blog will delight with today's guest post and author interview with Madeline Sharples - learn more about her and her latest work!

July 5th @ Lisa Buske
Lisa Buske shares her review of Papa's Shoes - the latest novel by Madeline Sharples and a touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America.

August 12th @ Kathleen Pooler’s Memoir Writer’s Journey
Readers and writers alike will want to stop by Memoir Writer’s Journey to hear from Kathleen Pooler and friend / fellow author Madeline Sharples as they discuss Madeline’s latest book Papa’s Shoes.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Interview with Laura Ruth Loomis, First Place Winner of Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Laura’s chapbook of linked short stories, Lost in Translation, was published in 2016 by Wordrunner Press, and she is currently working on expanding it into a novel. Her most recent short story, “In the Flesh,” appears in the current issue of On the Premises. She has had nonfiction published in Prime Number, poetry in Nasty Women Poets, and fiction in Writer Advice, and Many Mountains Moving.

Her short story, “Notes to Self: One Week Out,” was a runner-up in the Winter 2016 issue of Women on Writing. Coincidentally, it deals with themes similar to those in Repetition Compulsion.

When social work and the real world become overwhelming, Laura writes humor, including a piece in Writer’s Digest, and her continuing quest to someday win the Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night” Award.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2019 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Laura: Thank you! I've enjoyed your contests before, and this story seemed timely and relevant for contest aimed at women.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Repetition Compulsion?” I hadn’t heard of this term before.

Laura: I ran across the term in John Krakauer's book "Missoula." He described a trial where the jury had trouble believing that a woman who'd been date raped would continue to have contact with her assailant. I hadn't known the term, but I recognized the phenomenon from doing social work. Sometimes a person responds to trauma by going back to the situation in an attempt to "fix" it, make it come out differently, so they can feel safe and in control.

It's easy to assume that we'd never do this, but people aren't always going to be rational after a major truama. That's why I wrote the story in second person, because it really could be you or me.

WOW: Yes, the second person point of view is well used here. Great job! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Laura: I like flash fiction because I have to imply more in the story than what's on the page. I've written longer stories, and I'm attempting a novel. Flash fiction teaches me to make every word matter, which is a lesson that helps with other kinds of writing. I've even tried my hand at tweet-length stories, with hashtag games like #vss365 on Twitter.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Laura: I always have a journal with me, and I write bits and pieces while I'm on public transportation, or waiting anywhere. When the story starts to come together in my head, I'll sit down at the computer.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, though. Writing is a lot like exercising: once I get started, I can get into a rhythm and keep going, but sometimes I have the worst time with getting started. And with writing, as with exercise, good music helps. I have "soundtracks" for my longer stories.

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

Laura: That's a hard question! Trying to get published means getting past a lot of rejections, no matter what. The most helpful thing for me has been my critique group. They keep me accountable, because I have to have something to bring to group, and they help me sharpen the writing until the story on the page is as close as I can get to the one in my head.


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

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Monday, June 17, 2019


Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy - Blog Tour and Giveaway

Mari L. McCarthy’s international bestselling book, Journaling Power, started a movement. Now, Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is igniting a revolution!

You’ll discover the life-changing magic of journaling through moving personal stories told by just some of the thousands of people who have tapped into the proven therapeutic power of expressive writing.

These are people just like you, and their challenges are the same ones you have.

Heal Your Self with Journaling Power reveals the inner strength and grace that comes with living your life in the present from the inside out. It will help you transform your life and…

● Manifest everything your desire

● Fill you with uplifting positive energy

● Put you on a path to better health and wellness

● Give you the inspiration and motivation to live your best life

● Show you how to use journaling to solve your most pressing problems

The only right way to journal is YOUR way. Just grab a pen and paper and do it!

Print Length: 143 Pages
Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help
Publisher: Mari L. McCarthy
ISBN-13: 9780463807361

Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is now available to purchase on,, Barnes and Noble and also on Mari's website (where you can get a signed copy).

Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on June 24th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

Praise for Heal Your Self with Journaling Power

Testimony from Casey Demchak, copywriter and consultant; also featured in Chapter 8, "Design Your Future" of Heal Your Self with Journaling Power (having trouble viewing the video below? Watch here!)

Mari McCarthy's latest, Heal Your Self with Journaling Power, represents the voice of a warm friend who not only talks the talk but also has lived first-hand the transforming power of writing. Packed with focused, fun prompts to jump-start the journaling process, this book is a motivation and an uplift! I especially enjoy the stress-bucket exercise. Not to be missed.
—Melanie Faith, educator and author of In a Flash and Poetry Power,

In a world of ever-present scary news, stress, and technology that distracts us from genuine human encounters, Mari McCarthy invites us to do something both simple and radical: pause daily to encounter our own souls. And she not only tells us to just do it, she shows us how with her own life story, the stories of others, and her many ideas about how to maximize the transformative power of journaling time.
—Kevin Anderson, Ph.D., Author of Now is Where God Lives: A Year of Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul and The Inconceivable Surprise of Living: Sustaining Wisdom for Spiritual Beings Trying to Be Human.

The most important lesson illustrated in Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is that anyone can enhance their health and wellbeing through the therapeutic power of expressive writing. This is the definitive book that shows you how. So just grab a pen and a pad of paper and do it!
—Mike Bundrant, Co-Founder,

About the Author, Mari L. McCarthy

Mari L. McCarthy is the Self-Transformation Guide and Founder/Chief Inspiration Officer of She is also author of the international-bestselling, award-winning book Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live.

Mari began journaling to relieve the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) over 20 years ago. Through journaling, Mari was able to ditch her prescription drugs and mitigate most of her MS symptoms. Now she teaches people throughout the world how to heal, grow, and transform their lives through the holistic power of therapeutic journaling.

She lives in a gorgeous beachfront home in Boston, where she has the freedom, flexibility, and physical ability to indulge in all her passions, which include singing and recording her own albums.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, let me just say congratulations on your book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power! What inspired you to write this book?

Mari: Thank you. I’m very proud of it and excited to get other journalers stories out into the world. As for inspiration, well, it was all part of my plan to have a Journaling Power trilogy. My first book was Journaling Power: How to Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live, a self-help memoir (a new book genre), which introduces journaling power to the world. This second book shares journaling journeys of just 10 of the thousands of people who use journaling daily to solve their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual problems. My third book will be more spiritual and closer to the format of Journaling Power and focus on transforming self-sabotage into everlasting self-love.

WOW: I love that this will become a trilogy! For those who were a fan of your first book, Journaling Power, what can they expect from your latest book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power?  

Mari: It’s about the Journaling Journeys of ten journalers (and an update about my Journaling Journey now in its 21st year) with chapters on Nurturing Your Inner Wisdom, Managing Your Mind and Expressing Your Emotions and much, much more. They’re talented, creative people who use journaling to meet and master life’s challenges and readers will learn that journaling is the all-purpose self-healing tool. And…four of the stories are from guys. Yay!

WOW: The power of journaling is so profound! I was amazed to read your own story about how journaling put you back on the path to better health. I don't think people realize how journaling can transform you physically as well as emotionally and mentally. What would you say to them if they are in doubt about the impact of journaling? 

Mari: Read my book! :) Journaling helps us reclaim our power that we’ve given away to the medical establishment. We are our own primary healthcare providers and we need to find health care resources that will partner with us to improve our health. I would encourage them to grab a pen and notebook, put a question like “How do I get off of all these drugs?” or “How do I get rid of these extra pounds I’ve been carrying around?” or “Why don’t my doctors listen to me?” or… and then write, write, write. They’ll be blown away to discover how disconnected they are from their body because they’ve been living in their head since forever. Journaling reconnects all the parts of us and makes us whole again.

WOW: Those are such powerful questions to start with - I love that! You teach and inspire people everywhere to transform their lives! What is it like to see people's lives changed because of the impact of journaling? 

Mari: It’s the best part of my life to be celebrating people’s AHAs with them and to read and/or hear them realize they do have the power to discover, uncover and recover their authentic self and that they already have all the talents they need to pursue their passions and change the world.

WOW: How inspiring that is! What do you hope readers take away after reading your book? 

Mari: That they accept that they are a universe of infinite possibilities and by using the ultimate self-empowerment tool, Journaling, they can heal the issues in their tissues that they’ve been carrying around since childhood, learn to live in the present from the inside out, and create the happy, healthy life they want to live.

WOW: I love that - "heal the issues in their tissues." What is next for you? What are you working on now? 

Mari: I’ve just come out with a new self-healing journaling power workbook (I think that makes it our 22nd or so workbook). It’s called Empower Your Self which is our June featured workbook of the month.

I’m also planning out the third book in the Journaling Power trilogy, Create Unconditional Self-Love: A Journaling Power Book, which I’ll release March 15, 2022. I have a draft of the front cover and I’m currently working on the back cover. My book writing process is to create the front and back cover design and content, and then plan out the structure/flow, and then all that’s left to do is write, write, write.

WOW: I love your approach with writing and I can't wait to see what you publish next! Congratulations again on your book and good luck on the tour!
--- Blog Tour Dates

June 17th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Stop by Women on Writing's blog The Muffin and read an interview with author Mari McCarthy and win a copy of her book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 18th @ Karen Brown Tyson's Blog
Visit author Karen Brown Tyson's blog today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why you might still be experiencing writer's block.

June 19th @ Conversations Live with Cyrus Webb (Originally Aired June 12th @ 10:30 AM EST)
Cyrus Webb interviews Mari McCarthy of Create Write Now about her latest bestseller Heal Your Self With Journaling Power. 

June 20th @ Look to the Western Sky
Visit Margo's blog today where you can catch her review of Mari McCarthy's incredible new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 22nd @ Lapidus 
Visit Lapidus, words for well-being association, where you can read Francesca's review of Mari McCarthy's eye-opening book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 23rd @ Life Like a Galaxy Girl
Stop by Alanna's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 24th @ Thoughts in Progress
Do you love the energy in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? Well, if you do, you will not want to miss today's post at the blog Thoughts in Progress where Mari McCarthy shares her tips on how to recreate the magic of NaNoWriMo in any month.

June 25th @ Bev Baird's Blog
Make sure you stop by Bev's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 26th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today where she highlights Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 27th @ The Frugalista Mom
Make sure to Rozelyn's blog and read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power. Plus enter to win a copy for yourself!

June 29th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab your coffee and visit Lacey's blog today and read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's powerful new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 30th @ Wild Woman Writer
Visit Anne Easton's blog today where you can catch her review of Mari McCarthy's inspiring new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.
July 1st @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog today and read Mari McCarthy's poignant guest post about our conversations with our inner critic and how to silence them.

July 1st @ Writing Through Life
Be sure to stop by Amber's blog and read her interview with author Mari McCarthy and also enter to win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 2nd @ Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde
If you are in need of a new book in your life, make sure to stop by Lindsey's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 2nd @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog again today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why we procrastinate and how to avoid it.

July 3rd @ The World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog today and catch her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 5th @ Bring on Lemons
Make lemons into lemonade today when you visit Crystal's blog today and read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 7th @ One Sister's Journey Keeping it Real
Visit Lisa's blog today where you can read Mari's blog post about disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with yourself.
July 8th @ A Day in the Life of Mom
Want to inspire your kids to journal? Visit Ashley's blog today and read Mari McCarthy's guest post featuring imaginative journaling activities to do with kids.

July 9th @ Bev Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog again where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about mindful journaling for mindful eating. Don't miss!

July 9th @ Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde
Visit Lindsey's blog again where you can find out more about Mari McCarthy and her book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 10th @ Lapidus
Join Francesca at Lapidus again where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why journaling is part of self-care.

July 10th @ Look to the Western Sky
Make sure you visit Margo's blog again and read Mari McCarthy's guest post featuring more imaginative journaling activities you can do with your kids.

July 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Stop by author Anthony Avina's blog today where you can read his review about Mari McCarthy's inspirational book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power

July 12th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today where you can read her interview with author Mari McCarthy and also be sure to check out Mari McCarthy's guest post about journaling power for emotional health.

July 13th @ A Day in the Life of Mom< Make sure your day today includes visiting Ashley's blog where you can read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's life-changing book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 14th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Do you procrastinate too much? Well, visit Anthony Avina's blog again today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post on how to use your favorite types of procrastination to your advantage.

July 15th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Do you like to journal? Stop by Wendi's blog today where author Mari McCarthy talks about journaling power for mental health. Don't miss it!

July 16th @ Reading Whale
Visit Caitlin's blog today and read her interview with Mari McCarthy as they talk about Mari's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 17th @ Michelle Cornish Blog
Stop by Michelle's blog where she reviews Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power. You can also check out her interview with Mari and find out more about the author!

July 18th @ Margay Leah Justice Blog
Visit Margay's blog today and read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 19th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Do you love journaling? Well if so, you will want to visit Wendi's blog where she shares her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's powerful book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 19th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog again where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.
July 21st @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today where you can read Mari McCarthy's blog post about overcoming writer's block. Don't miss this if you are struggling with staying inspired!

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

To win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on June 24th at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email the winner the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, June 16, 2019


Meet Mark Fiore- Quarter 2 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest Runner Up!

Congratulations to Mark Fiore and Legacy. and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Mark's Bio:

Former California native Mark Fiore now lives on the slopes of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, in southern New Mexico, where life is saner, the people are nicer, and the writing juju is excellent. So much so that after forty-plus years of near-daily journal writing, he finally got up the nerve to proclaim himself a writer and DO something with all those journals.

Mark has worked with mythologist Michael Meade and the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation in support of their work to develop mentoring relationships and forms of community healing through innovative workshops and retreats that inspire personal growth and leadership development. The non-fiction epistolary account of his efforts to live an authentic life can be found in You Are Loved, an Email Memoir, which he co-authored with writer Lisa Lucca. Before adopting his pen name, Mark was a contributing writer for The Good Men Project. Two of his essays about growing up male can be found here and here. Additional examples of Mark’s writings can be found at

He is currently writing the follow-up story to You Are Loved, sifting through forty-three journals in search of insights and observations about life, love, and God that might be of help to anyone who’s felt as confused and ungrounded in their lives as he once was. He wants everyone to know that he’s not kidding about the desert writing juju thing.

If you haven't done so already, check out Mark's beautiful essay Legacy and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Mark! I thoroughly enjoyed your story; thank you for submitting to our Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest and congratulations on being a Runner Up! 

Thank you for writing this essay - I love the message and love! Were there any fears you had to overcome in order to submit this essay? How did you overcome those fears and/or obstacles?

Mark: My only real concern was the degree to which my story would connect with WOW’s readership. One of the guidelines for this contest was to “gear your writing toward women readers”, so a father’s story of the journal he wrote to his daughter during the first sixteen years of her life would have to first make an impression on the contest judges before fans of the website would ever see it.

I submitted the essay to the contest in the previous quarter and requested an editor’s critique. Chelsey Clammer was the editor who came back with not only crazy-smart feedback on how to make the piece better, but also some very complimentary impressions of my writing style and writer’s voice. The infusion of inspiration and encouragement I received from Chelsey bolstered my confidence tremendously, and after tweaking the essay based on her feedback I re-submitted the piece in the following quarter.

Placing in the top ten of WOW’s non-fiction essay contest mirrors back to me that, at some level, women have indeed found something in this story they can connect with. At the very least I would expect memories and/or emotions regarding their own father/daughter relationship to come up, especially for those women who had or wish they had a father who fought to preserve a loving relationship with them in spite of any obstacles, which is the core theme of my essay.

WOW: We sure have some amazing judges and I'm glad Chelsey's feedback was inspiring! What have you found to be most helpful in your writing path?

Mark: I have a very long history of journal writing, which means eighty-something percent of what I’ve written over the years has been read only by me. This is not a great trajectory to maintain for anyone looking to be a published writer. Though I much prefer the organic and more intimate experience of pen-to-paper writing, I discovered it had become something of a liability: when it came to writing with a keyboard and typing into a doc, my writing voice was stiffer, more formal, and at times so calculated that I would get disgusted with myself and abandon whatever I’d been working on. Then I’d reach for a current journal and effortlessly write pages about my stupid writing aspirations and what a hack writer I really was.

I decided the best way for me to break out of this rut, this habit, was to go much more public with my writing, which is why I started submitting 800-word essays to a local bookstore’s monthly “Story Slam” event. Those events had a contest/competition element to them: the event coordinators would toss out a one-word prompt (“Hustle”, “Snake”, “Legacy”, “Superstition”, “Covfefe”), anyone could enter, and the submissions would be blind-judged by the bookstore staff. From the dozens of submissions, only six or eight authors would be selected to read their strictly-timed five-minute piece in front of a live audience.

Those monthly story slam events impacted my writing for the better in two ways: First, it forced me to make friends with my laptop and begin seeing it as helpful tool for composing stories, not just an annoying slab of soulless, plastic push-buttons. I bookmarked and opened tabs for a thesaurus, a dictionary, and punctuation rules; I incorporated my musician sensibilities into these writing sessions, using my computer as an instrument that supported me in finding the right mood or the proper tone for my compositions, taking more care with my word choice, working and re-working a sentence or a paragraph until I nailed exactly what I wanted to say.

Second, writing for those story slams jump-started the much more enjoyable habit of reading my work out loud. This not only helped to confirm whether or not I’d found the right words, but, like walking through a mine field, I’d occasionally stumble upon an honest emotion I hadn’t detected on the page -- just below the surface of a sentence, in the middle of some paragraph -- and blow myself up with tears. It bewildered me. It also made me a regular at the story slam events: over the next twelve months I was chosen to read eleven of my stories, several of which I could not read aloud without (BOOM!) having to pause and collect myself.

WOW: That last paragraph - absolutely beautiful! Your talent shows through - even in this interview! Your writing is very moving.

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

WOW: At the far end of a tiled hallway I turned a guest bedroom – a ten-by-twenty rectangle - into an earthy, cozy den: my writing room. Most of the hardwood floor is covered with a thick area rug in rusty browns and olive greens; similar colors apply to an overstuffed chair and matching ottoman placed diagonally in one corner of the room, next to a small antique table topped with a banker’s lamp -- my reading spot. To one side of this vignette is a 12-string guitar on a stand; to the other side is a 6-string. Both guitars are kept tuned and ready to play, which I tend to do in those moments when I’m stuck or frustrated with my writing but want to keep the creativity in the room.

Backed against one long wall is a comfortable Mission style futon couch which can double as a queen size bed. To either side of the couch is an antique lamp. Displayed on the wall above the couch are four framed dream collages from recent years, all of which have a section devoted to writing goals.

Directly across from the couch and facing the opposite wall is a spacious Mission style desk where I do my writing. Above the desk, also framed and at eye level, is the current year’s dream collage, where I can look up from a given writing project and read a reminder to myself that “the world does not need another mediocre book”.

My laptop is tethered to a large desktop monitor tucked into the upper left corner of the desk, as well as an excellent five-speaker system. No, not for gaming videos: when I’m writing on my laptop the monitor is off, but the speakers are playing the sound of a light, drippy rain. When I’m putting pen to paper for journal writing I’ll switch on the monitor and have it display an eight-hour HD video of a remote, lush forest stream with waterfalls. Also on the desk are: a dimmable, height-adjustable lamp, a stack of five journals titled according to subject matter (music, God, relationships, etc.), a couple of yellow legal pads, and a square, wooden pencil holder, stuffed with a six-month supply of 1.4B Paper Mate Profile pens. When writing at my desk I get plenty of natural light and high-desert air from the large windows to my immediate left.

Pre-dawn is my favorite writing time, which means it’s dark outside, which is why the four lamps in the room are fitted with amber-tinted Edison bulbs. In the two or three hours before sunrise, with its solid oak Mission furniture and earth-tone fabrics, my writing den positively glows with warmth and comfort when bathed in this light. And if it should be raining or snowing while I’m writing in those early morning hours, wild horses couldn’t drag me out of that room.

WOW: I'd ask you for a photograph of your space to add to this article, but you describe it so well I'm sure readers have the perfect picture in their minds! (another testament to your writing skills)

You already mentioned how journaling is part of your life, but tell us more: what role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your writing life?

Mark: I’ve been journaling almost daily for more than half my life, though I have no idea where that compulsion came from. My first journal – six-by-eight inches, thick leather, unlined pages, cover embossed with the image of an oak tree -- was a Christmas gift from a girlfriend. Six days later I wrote in it for the first time: a twenty-nine word sentence reporting that the girlfriend wanted me to move out. The next entry comes three days after that – January 3rd -- describing how happy the two of us are to snow ski and party with friends in a mountain condo. The last entry is dated October 1st of that same year, by which time the girlfriend is gone, my father has passed away, and I’ve taken his final piece of advice to quit the restaurant business and be a drummer, not a chef.

Journals, from that point on, became the most effective therapist imaginable: a safe, reliable, non-judgmental container where I can speak my entire mind and download my each and every thought, belief, or emotion, without being interrupted. As when in the presence of a good listener, this allows me to unravel the messy knot of feelings I’m sitting on at any given time and find my own words that, on a good day, bring clarity, comprehension, and understanding.

All of this to say that journaling has been my practice of getting to know myself and my way through a fatherless life by instinctively and organically writing about it. It’s fair to say, then, that the writer I’m currently showing up as has come from that. The “Legacy” essay certainly did.

As for writer’s groups, I’ve participated in a few and have enjoyed some more than others. I’ve noticed, though, that beginner-level writers seem more interested in validation that critique, as do good writers who lack confidence in their work. There’s no mistaking the difference between a beginner writer with healthy self-confidence, and a more experienced writer trying to hide their insecurities behind a projection of false or forced self-confidence: you can see it in their eyes, their faces, and their body language when it comes time for that twenty minutes of group attention to be focused on them and whatever piece or project they’re wanting feedback on. Trying desperately not to hurt another writer’s feelings by parsing words of criticism makes perfect sense, however, if your impulse is to blurt out what a piece of shit you think their writing is, and I for one have been fortunate enough to have never belonged to a writer’s group willing to be THAT honest.

But these days I prefer to write and submit when I want honest, real-world feedback as to how my own writing is coming along.

WOW: Thank you for such a great insight!

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2019 and beyond?

Mark: In 2012 I co-wrote an epistolary memoir with Lisa Lucca – WOW’s 1st Place winner of their 2018-Q1 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest – which, through a nine-year email exchange, tells the true story of how, with Lisa’s support, I got through a dysfunctional marriage and found my way back to a much more authentic life. You Are Loved . . . an email memoir (available on Amazon) is full of the kind of writing I did in my journals: off-the-cuff, first-draft, honest communication about love, parenting, and life purpose, which I sent to the one person I trusted most, have known for more than half my life, and now live with in southern New Mexico.

There’s quite a love story embedded in that narrative, and my writing goals for 2019 include my intention to finish writing it. It’s under way, and all that remains is to keep coming back to my cozy den in the pre-dawn hours, flip on the rain sounds, and write my ass off. Lucky for me that I have forty-something journals to sift through should there be a need to recall the details of how I came to live the excellent, deeply rewarding life I’m currently living.

WOW: Thank you so much Mark - I've really enjoyed our time together and look forward to hearing more from you in the future! Congratulations again!

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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Saturday, June 15, 2019


The Father I Might Kill

Okay, be patient. I'll get to the post title in just a moment. I promise.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I lost my father many years ago, but my heart is full of memories. He was a wonderful dad. He sang songs like Marezy Doats ("Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy too--wouldn't you?") the Marines' Hymn, and Handel's Messiah. He was an engineer, and pored over assembly instruction for hours--I'm not exaggerating. At the dinner table, he took forever buttering a roll or biscuit--every single square centimeter of the cut surface had to be slowly smeared with margarine. (Meanwhile, our rolls were getting cold.)

Most importantly, he and my mom chose me. Biologically, they couldn't have kids, so they took a risk and adopted me... and I'm forever grateful.

My dad makes me think of memorable fathers in literature. Fathers like Harper Lee's Atticus Finch.

How about Jack Torrance--the father in Stephen King's The Shining? I'd love Atticus as my father but Jack? No thanks.

And my third most memorable father: Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo's The Godfather. I definitely wouldn't want him as my dad, but even more, I wouldn't want him as my enemy.

And thinking of Father's Day makes me think of the father in my WIP--James Henry Simmons.

James Simmons lived almost 100 years ago. He was created of ink and imagination three years ago. A mechanic. A strong man. A man who knew when to keep his fist clenched at his side instead of using it to punch someone.

When I first began writing this manuscript, I was sailing along. My family of five--two parents and three children--appeared in the early chapters. By the final chapter they'd be there too, right?

Or would they? Would any or all of them survive the tragedy that hit their community? Would they emerge permanently scarred--either physically or emotionally? These are decisions I have to make.

Well, to be completely honest, I made those decisions a long time ago but am I going to tell you if I killed off the father? The mother? The whole family? Um... no. You'll have to buy the book (when I'm lucky enough to snag a publisher).

If you're fortunate enough to still have your father or grandfather with you--and the two of you have a warm relationship--celebrate. If your father is gone and you have fond memories--take a moment tomorrow to page through a scrap book, look at some framed photographs... and remember.

Happy Father's Day!

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a freelance writer and a dog rescuer... along with being a wife, mother and grandmother. Currently, she's working on earning the title of "Queen of Rejection Letters" as she sends off her manuscript at a feverish pace. If you'd like to read more of her stuff, check out Sioux's Page.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Info Dumping a Problem In Your Fiction? Consider a Doubting Thomas

I didn't have a good photo for this article,
and I'm from St. Louis, so...
I recently had a conversation with a novel writer about how to get needed backstory across to her readers without it being an info dump. My suggestion was to make one of her characters a "Doubting Thomas." Now those two sentences are full of jargon that you may not know, so let me define these terms first, and then explain what happened:

Backstory: The information that happened before the story started AND that the reader needs to know in order to understand the story.

Info dump: A section of a novel where the author puts all the backstory in one place, and it is not naturally worked into the story. It can be in narrative, but it is often worked in through a character telling another the needed backstory through dialogue.

Doubting Thomas character: A character who doesn't believe some facts that everyone else believes or knows to be true. This character can often be argumentative or questioning or even naive--someone whom other characters have to naturally explain things to so that the prose doesn't sound "fake" or "info dumpy" when information is revealed.

In my student's novel, a family is going through a huge crisis, and the grandmother is explaining why one of the characters is so sick. Through her explanation, she reveals her entire philsophy of life and her belief system, which is important to the plot and characterization. Readers need to know what she believes and how she has lived her entire life with these beliefs. But, in the novel, the grandmother starts explaining these fundamental beliefs to her other family members, whom she lives with. Not only do they live with her, but they are a very closeknit family. It wasn't believeable that Grandmother would need to explain this to everyone, and the dialogue came out stilted.

All the author needed to fix this was to make the grandson a Doubting Thomas. If the grandson said something like: "Grandma, come on. This can't be true." Then readers could easily believe that Grandma would explain things to her grandson and maybe even sternly. Grandma may even explain the background to her grandson of why she believes what she does and how it is been true in her life. In other words, a Doubting Thomas grandson would make Grandma stating her beliefs natural and understandable--and better fiction.

Of course, this is not the only way to work in backstory or needed information in fiction works. But if you have readers who have given you feeback or critique that there is an info dump or parts of your novel feel too much like an encyclopedia or stitled, consider making one of the characters a Doubting Thomas and easily fix this issue.

Have you ever tried this method in your writing?

By the way: I'm writing this as the Blues just won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever! Let's Go Blues! Play Gloria! See photo above...

If you want to take the WOW! Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach class this summer that Margo teaches, go here to sign up (Classes start either July 5 or August 2). She is offering Muffin readers a special deal with the class--for the price of $130, you can choose to a) do the traditional class of 4 sections of 4500 words or less of a novel or book-length work in one month b) deal #1 which is turning in a section every two weeks--for writers who can't make the weekly deadline c) deal #2--five sections in one month for the price of four--for writers who have a chunk of a novel already done and need some help and feedback. Sign up, and Margo will email with you to decide what works best for you! To find out more about Margo, go to her Editor 911 site here

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