Tuesday, July 31, 2007
WOW! had a chance to catch up with Marci and see what she's been up to. Marci is super! We think you'll really enjoy this interview.
WOW: Marci, congratulations to you for your 3rd Place Win! How does it feel to be in your shoes?
Marci: Well, I've never won anything before but a pair of Psychedelic Furs concert tickets in 1984, and a ham at a company Christmas party years ago. And I don't eat ham. This was the first thing I've ever submitted, anywhere, so it's an honor to have been chosen as the 3rd place winner. It feels great!
WOW: That’s wonderful! You were definitely overdue. So, tell us what inspired the idea behind “The Wedding Zinger”? Was there anything from real life inside your story?
Marci: Oh, nothing from my real life, thank goodness! Though an old friend from school wrote to me and said that, sadly, it seemed like something that would happen to one of us. I couldn't really pinpoint what inspired my idea. I just knew that I didn't want to write something predictable, like the groom turning out to be an ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, etc. I suppose I have a penchant for the unconventional.
WOW: Unconventional can be refreshing to read, as it was in your case. Does this unconventional trend carry over into the unpublished novel that you mentioned in your bio? Could you share something with us about the book? And tell us, do you plan to pull it out in the future and send it out?
Marci: Well, there's not much to tell. It was a semi-autobiographical novel, but with a twist. And the main character was male. I definitely won't send it out because it ended up in a dumpster years ago when I decided it was garbage. This was pre-computer, and I had spent a year writing it in a spiral notebook, then transferring it to a word processor (not a PC!) Then later I did the dastardly deed. I will never do anything like that to anything I've written, ever again, no matter how bad I think it is. I guess I learned a valuable lesson.
WOW: Unfortunately, I think many of us can relate to that kind of deed. So, let’s forget that you did it and move on to entirely different subject! How about outside support? Have you found any books or authors who you deem more helpful that others for your writing?
Marci: Not so much, as far as technical writing reference, but I actually try to take something from every author I read. For instance, someone like Stephen King--who I actually wouldn't even think to list as a "favorite author"--helps me realize that one truly is only limited by his or her imagination. And boy, does he have one. I love reading Stephen McCauley. That guy pours so much humanity into his writing that it's almost painful--whether poignant or just plain funny. And I would love to soak up as much as possible from, say, an Alice Sebold or Wally Lamb. Good stuff.
WOW: Thanks for the suggestions. Now, I have a couple of new names to check out. To get back to your writing, do you have specific long-term goals?
Marci: I barely have specific long-term goals for my HAIR! But for right now, I just want to get my self-published, oh wait that's subsidy/vanity-published, collection of short stories completed. After that, I hope to concentrate on the novel based on one of them, and maybe go the traditional route of sending query letters, etc. Then I'll see where that takes me!
WOW: I’d say that’s quite a goal, and we wish you well, here! I think you have another goal we need to ask you to share. Of course, we learned in your bio that you intend to go back to school. Do you care to share these education goals with us? (Inquiring minds love to know what other writers are doing.)
Marci: I am hoping to find my way as I go along, but I'd better formulate a plan at some point! I have to start from scratch, so I've got a little time. Knowing my preferences and aptitudes, I'm leaning toward behavioral/social sciences, maybe psychology. I think it would be terrific to have my own practice, specializing in counseling grieving pet owners, since that is a type of grief that is not universally understood. Just to validate people’s grief does wonders...But anyway, I'm not even sure yet if I can be a good student again, so I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I could very well flunk Math ten times over and fail miserably. Like many people who write, numbers aren't my thing.
WOW: I can certainly relate to that, but you might surprise yourself! Since numbers aren’t your gig, though, let’s get back to the writing. Could you tell us a little about the short story collection you’re publishing later this year?
Marci: Well, it's kind of all over the place, which is one reason I'm not even trying the traditional publishing route. And of course there's no real market for short story collections from unknown, novice writers. Some of the stories are quite dark, and some (I hope) are kind of comical. And a few are in between. I might have even mastered "touching" in one or two, which is hard for me. I expanded "The Wedding Zinger" and will be including it. In reading it recently, I discovered some common themes: ghosts, death, dreams, gender confusion and karma. What that says about me, I couldn't tell you! I write from male and female perspectives, first and third person. Actually, I even wrote from a dog's point of view, in second "person." It's starting to all sound a little schizophrenic now...
WOW: Oh, no, don’t use that word! As writers we’ve earned the creative license to experience worlds through various pairs of eyes. We gain wisdom this way, at least I like to think so. So, any final words of wisdom for our devoted readers?
Marci: Gosh, I really don't have any, except I will say that if you're writing and sharing your words with no one but Microsoft Word, step out into the world! Send in stories for contests like this, or just share something with a friend. You'll be glad you did. That said, I need words of wisdom, so please, I'm open to them. :) Feel free to send your wise words to me at: email@example.com. Thanks.
WOW: It’s been a pleasure interviewing you, Marci. We wish you well with all your writing and educational goals! Thanks ;-)
Monday, July 30, 2007
But it’s just when I’m feeling a little smug that I fall back into the over-forty sticky web of complaining and nit-picking. I tease my 80-year-old mom that she’s always complaining (and she knows she does it and chastises herself for it). But why do I do it? It certainly doesn’t help my writing. Who wants to read someone complaining about a stress-invoking vacation or kids’ arguments? I mean, at least I have a place to vacation and kids who are capable of arguing. Plus, for the first time in twenty years of marriage, we’re actually going on our second vacation in the same year. Whoa! That should make me smile.
Maybe my attitude needs readjustments. Well, not maybe, but definitely. I’m losing grip with my gratitude-attitude. I need to make sure my vacation resets my outlook. What about you?
We Americans don’t take enough time off. But it’s really foolish. Vacations can be anything or anywhere that take us away from our normal, daily grind, whether we work from home at a job, as a mother, as a writer, or in an office elsewhere. No matter the time involved, either; work will always be there when we return.
While you’re reading this, I’m vacationing in South Lake Tahoe, California, tent camping with about a hundred of my husband’s relatives. The vacation gathering is for a family reunion that happens only every five years. I should be grateful to get away and join a crowd of happy campers! The funny side note is that my husband asked me to bring my laptop along, so he’d have a partner-in-crime, a person to dash away with from the campground, lakeside, and boats, to find a Wi-fi coffee shop from where he could stay linked to his career stresses.
I must confess, I did think about it. But my final response was, “no, I’m not taking my laptop along; that would go against the grain of balance, and you shouldn’t bring yours along either.” But he’s rarely lived a day without his cell phone, gadgets, or laptop near his body, as if it’s a lifeline.
Why do we tend to do this? Too much work and not enough play forces hard-working people to weave nasty webs of complaints, negative thoughts, and ungrateful feelings. I don’t want to be this way. It doesn’t improve my writing.
What is a lifeline for your writing or your attitude? Do notice when you complain too much? Do you notice when the smallest parts of life that should bring you pleasure, instead leave you feeling down or knotted up? Do you need to get away?
I intend to return from camping with fresh ideas for stories for children and teens; maybe I’ll steal away a few moments in the tent with a pen and pad and actually “write away my sticky web of complaints” while smelling the pine trees, the dry earth, campfire and soot. S’mores, roasted marshmallows, and trail mix sound so different and delicious, along with some fattening hot dogs, beans, and all foods other than spinach salads and light dishes.
When was the last time you took time away? Even only a weekend? You deserve to at least pencil it in on your calendar. But don’t take your gadgets for work. Take only your attitude. If you find yourself laughing at this in an ironic sense, as if there’s no possible way to take time off, then you should write off your stress in some fashion.
Please let us know about your writing lifelines, lack of vacations, or actual vacations. If you take plenty of vacations, instead, then we could live vicariously through you! Or tell us how you manage to keep a grateful outlook in life.
The bottom line is that we want you, your Blogs, your words, your attitude! Speak Out is every Friday here at WOW! Don’t hesitate.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
We appreciate your patience through the rough waters this past month. Our issue coming out later than expected, and our switch to the new server, oy! Thankfully, now we're smooth sailing and moving much faster. ;-)
Our normal prize schedule allows winners to receive prizes within the month notified. Since our issue went up late last month (July 16), we are one week behind in sending out the prizes. But, don't fret! They are scheduled to be shipped out Tuesday July 31.
I know you all are anxious to receive your goodie bags, and you can be assured that you'll receive them in a weeks time -- as fast as UPS can deliver.
Thanks again for your patience, and be sure to give us a shout when you receive them.
Angela & Team WOW!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
First, you have to be able to write from the part of your soul most people don’t feel comfortable tapping into. You have to be honest, real and willing to make yourself vulnerable and a lot of people aren’t able to share that part of themselves with others. But it’s essential in Christian writing. If your work doesn’t stem from your soul, your readers will know. Christian writing is more than just placing “God” here and there; it’s speaking from your heart to inspire others.
Next, be sure you understand the particular publication you’re writing for. Some Christian magazines don’t have a specific Denomination they represent and welcome work from Christian writers of all faiths. Others are very specific and will only accept work from writers who can represent their specific denomination. For example, I had an ezine accept a piece from me. But this particular ezine had strict views on marriage and their writers had to support and demonstrate those views. After reading my bio, the editor had concerns about whether I could properly represent her publication.
You see, although I am in a long-term committed relationship and have children, I am not married and, therefore, don’t depict what they seek to in their magazine. Unfortunately, this meant I couldn’t be published with them. Now, this sounds harsh but they do have a right to filter through those writers who can’t be representative of what they want for their publication – all magazines do this. Bottom line: study the magazine you want to write for and be sure you can give them what they ask for.
Finally, when in doubt, listen to the experts. I always refer to Jerry B. Jenkins’ works because he’s one of the “top dogs” in Christian writing. His book “Writing For the Soul” is one I highly recommend for your writing library if you’re interested in this genre. Another great resource is the Christian Writers’ Guild website (http://www.christianwritersguild.com/). It’s chocked full of helpful and inspirational tips. They also have courses you can take if you’re interested in specializing in this field (I’m in the Journeyman course and enjoying it very much).
All in all, Christian writing is like any other genre: challenging but rewarding. But it can be very different from the regular way we write so research it carefully and choose what works for you.
Why not tap into your soul and see what flows out?
Friday, July 27, 2007
After a long week of working, I always find it helpful to take a quick refresher course to make sure my novel is still on track. I asked Brenda if we could snag some tips off her website, and she graciously said yes. :-)
Hopefully this is the boost you need. Enjoy!
TIPS TO TAKE YOUR MANUSCRIPT FROM AMATEUR TO PROFESSIONAL
Define Your GENRE
1) What is your story about? Each has its own set of rules: word count, number of pages, etc.
e) romance--single-title; series
f) science fiction
----2) coming of age
k) women's fiction
I've had questions concerning the difference in mystery and suspense genres.
A true mystery is a whodunit, a fast-paced puzzle of clues a sleuth, professional or amateur, works to solve.
In a suspense, the perpetrator may be known from the beginning. The protagonist's life is usually in danger and we follow along, getting more emotionally involved while he/she tries to stay alive.
Your CAST of CHARACTERS
2) Who is in your story? What do they want? What is as important to them as that next breath? List ten things for each. Avoid opening confusion with too many characters. Each character, except walk-ons, should have a goal, a strong point, as well as a fatal flaw. What mannerism; way of speaking, is unique to each one?
a) Star of the show - protagonist
b) Villain - antagonist
c) Love interest
d) Mentor: wise old woman, best friend, grandmother, grandfather, etc
e) Bit parts - the walk-on cab driver, waitress
3) What is the point of your story? One sentence: Romeo & Juliet--great love defies death. Stay Off Your Soapbox or you will lose your reader.
Number one rule on Theme, which is also the Number One Rule for everything in your writing:
NEVER BORE YOUR READER.
If you absolutely must lecture on your theory of life, go to your bathroom, stand in front of your mirror and talk to your heart's content. Learn the fine art of subtlety for your novels.
4) Story strucutre is the stumbling block in most writers' adventure. Basic plot: character A wants something and character B tries to stop him. The story is presented in three parts, each important in laying out your story.
According to Aristotle, there are three sections of a story--the beginning, middle and end, or,
Act 1, Act 2 & Act 3
Each act has a specfic job to perform, and therefore, each act has different requirements. Do you know what they are?
Plotting Stepping Stones not only help you plot, but when they are used correctly, they increase the dramatic action for the reader. After all, a writer's goal is to keep the reader turning pages.
For more information, click on 'plotting help'.
POINT of VIEW
5) Who is telling the story? Reader needs to identify with character.
a) First person narrative: I watched the boat skim the waves…
b) Second, not recommended: You are waiting for your husband/wife/children to come home and you’re checking the windows every three minutes…
----1) Single - one character all through book: He walked to the window, pulled back the drape and stood watching for their Camry to turn into the driveway. It was almost midnight . . .
----2) Multiple - two or more PsOV. Avoid scene HEAD-HOPPING
----3) Omniscient - all knowing, also not recommended as the reader can’t identify with character.
6) Scene is the building block of your story. Story consists of scene, sequel and narration, repeated over and over until the end. A scene is a single unit of action, taking place in real time. Each scene must have three essential elements.
7) Sequel is a time to reflect, to let loose the emotions from the devastating scene. Slam the door; go on a crying jag; wail and moan to your best friend. Or retreat behind closed doors, whatever is in the nature of the character you devised. However, a book full of moaning is tedious, so he/she must decide how to proceed. Therefore, SEQUEL, similar to SCENE, has it's own three vital steps in order to move the story forward.
8) The heart of your story--getting your characters talking. You do not want to sound like an English professor unless your character teaches English. Nor do you want them to be illiterate, unless you're writing another Grapes of Wrath. It all depends on your character and story.
Do not, under any circumstances, use dialogue to 'info dump' back story into dialogue.
Use contractions, the way people speak. Avoid dialect. Use tags and beats.
9) Style is more than the way you string words together. It's also how you present your story to the reader. Be sure to vary scene/chapter as well as sentence length.
Once you learn pacing, you'll be able to control whether the reader flies through your manuscript, not wanting to put it down, or whether the unfolding is so slow the reader feels close to a coma
a) PRESENT: She looks into the mirror. What will the other girls wear? She tugs at her skirt, wondering if it is too long.
b) PAST, more popular: She looked into the mirror. What were the other girls wearing? She tugged at her skirt, wondering if it was too long.
10) Never bore them with lengthily description. Set that scene following the rule of 3.
Avoid confusion with the journalistic five W's--
Who, What, When, Where and How.
SHOW, don't TELL
11) The most repeated phrase in writing classes and how-to books is, "Show, don't tell." It's one of the most difficult techniques for a writer to master; it's also critical for reader identification. But what does it mean?
When you tell about something or someone, you're stating a fact. But does the reader FEEL anything? Chances are they won't. Therefore, to connect with the reader, you must learn the technique SHOWing in your writing.
12) Do not have your character emoting all over the page--it will resemble an old-fashioned melodrama. Remember, less is more.
Instead of saying your character feels sad, WRITE IT SO YOUR READER WILL CRY.
How to accomplish that? Craft. Technique, such as the M-R unit.
13) Suspense is not just for mysteries. Without some kind of suspense to your story, your reader will yawn, think of bedtime or all of the other chores he/she should be doing. The book goes down and your next one will sit on the bookstore shelf. You want your reader to stay up all night turning pages; you don't want to put him/her into a coma.
How to make your material engrossing? Technique, the craft of knowing how to create tension and suspense.
14) To outline or not to outline. Do you really need it? One writer outlines extensively using index cards and colored markers. Another simply lists chapters and their one-line content. One former instructor writes his story then, during revision, outlines using Stepping Stones. You must find what works for you.
Do you know what Stepping Stones are and when to use them? If not, check my Plotting Help section.
MINI-SYNOPSIS, your JEWEL
15) Your Jewel is your story condensed into one hundred words or less. It's great for query letters, blurbs. Make sure you hit the Stepping Stones so the agent/editor can see you know classic story structure.
A famous quote says, "Writing is rewriting." How long it takes you to produce a publishable manuscript depends on several factors:
a) correct grammar, punctuation and sentence structure
b) use of all five senses to give the reader the full experience of the fiction world
c) a cool-off period after the first draft
d) and, most important of all, an excellent proofreader. No one can write a mistake-proof manuscript, but a manuscript full of errors is a sure way to get it rejected. If you can't afford a professional, perhaps a retired school teacher would be willing to check your manuscript, or you might think about joining a writers' group. Most participants are willing, even eager to trade manuscripts for critiquing.
Brenda Hill is an Editor, Instructor, and Author. She offers editing and plotting assistance through her website: http://www.brendahill.com
WOW! had a chance to interview Brenda for our July Issue's 20 Questions Column. Check out the interview, it's not to miss! Brenda is a really great person and a sweetheart - anyone would be lucky to have her as an editor.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
However there was a time when my favorite thing about deadlines was the "whooshing" sound they make rushing by.
I've done the goal setting thing, the resolution thing, the do it and reward yourself thing and failed at all of them. I want to share what works for me. It's a little thing called DUH!
D - Do it first or as close as humanly possible.
U - Understand it may be inconvenient and/or difficult and do it anyway.
H- Hurray, celebrate! You did it!
Here's why it works for me. There isn't much worse than going to bed with things that needed to be done still needing to be done. The guilt robs me of sleep and I lay there berating myself for not getting things done. By applying "D", I don't have to dread doing it or the results of not doing it.
The "U" also reminds me it may not be fun. For example, exercise. Not fun but definitely got to be done.
My favorite is the "H". We should celebrate our accomplishments everyday. No matter how small they are.
I'd love to take credit for this little system but just can't. I found it on Margie Lawson's website. Here's the link. Give it a good read over. She explains it very well.
Now, apply as needed:--)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Bobbie Christmas
Ask the Book Doctor: About Avoiding Fraud and Finding Your Voice
Q: I just read a news report that Laura Alpert, who writes under the name of JT LeRoy, has been found guilty of fraud. She called her book a novel, and she’s guilty of fraud? What do you think about that? Isn’t a novel fiction? Why must the author even be known?
A: An author’s real name doesn’t have to be known, but in this case Alpert was found to be a fraud, not because of her novel, but because of her attempts to pass it off as truth. She was not indicted for writing a book she sold as an autobiographical novel based on the life of male prostitute JT LeRoy, even though the implication was that it was true, but slightly fictionalized, and that fact turned out to be untrue.
Instead, she royally messed up when she sold the rights to a production company that planned to make a movie based on LeRoy's life (not necessarily based on her novel). The movie, then, was not planned as fiction, but as a documentary of a true life. In addition, she definitely committed fraud when she had friends dress up and pose as LeRoy at book signings and had them lie to journalists about having had sex at truck stops. The author herself even posed as a troubled teen when she called a psychiatrist, possibly another publicity stunt. All those efforts to legitimize something that was not true were, I’m sure, what convinced a jury that Alpert wasn’t simply the author of a novel; she was defrauding the public by implying that the novel was based on a true story, and she didn’t sell the novel to the production company; she sold them the rights to make a movie on LeRoy’s life, with the implication that it was real.
The moral of the story is that the truth may set you free, but a lie can get you thrown in jail, fined, or both.
Q: I have often heard people speak about the writer's voice. What exactly is it, and how can I find my own?
A: Voice applies to two potential ways of writing. You can use your own voice when you write a book or article, or you can narrate through a character’s voice, and the two voices often are quite different.
As far as finding your own voice, a quick answer came from a client of mine recently. When he talks, he has a quick sense of humor and uplifting spirit. He said to me, “I spent ten years looking for a voice, and then I discovered it was mine.”
Entire books have been written on voice, but in truth my client summed up the subject of author’s voice nicely. If you have a naturally pleasant way of conversing and you use correct grammar, all you have to do is let that style of speaking pour into your writing, and you’ll find your voice has been there all along. To hear voice at work in the writing of others, read anything by William Price Fox, Bill Bryson, or Pat Conroy.
To get an idea of how voice is used when a story is told through the voice of a character rather than in the voice of the author, read Catcher in the Rye or Sophie’s Choice.
Narrative voice is vital in contemporary literature. I often hear agents say they are looking for a fresh voice, which is another way of saying they are tired of reading manuscripts that are derivative of whatever is selling at the time. Don’t try to be another John Grisham, Stephen King, or Dean Koontz. Be yourself, and you’ll have a fresh voice.
The best way to find your own voice is to relax and write as if you were writing to your best friend. On the second or third draft you’ll want to address what we call “schoolgirl writing” by substituting dashes, exclamation marks, and parentheses with correct punctuation, but otherwise, you’ll find that you’re writing in your authentic voice. In your authentic voice you won’t stretch for words you wouldn’t say in conversation, and you won’t push to write long metaphors and similes that detract from your message. Relax; your voice is already with you!
Do you have a question for Bobbie Christmas, book doctor? For a personal response, E-mail Bobbie Christmas at Bobbie@zebraeditor.com.
Bobbie Christmas is the owner of Zebra Communications, a literary services firm providing manuscript editing services to individuals and publishing houses since 1992. Contact her at 770-924-0528, visit her Web site at http://zebraeditor.com/, or e-mail her at the address above. Be sure to sign up for the free Writers Network News by visiting her Web site and clicking on “Free Newsletter.”
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
WOW: I know it was hard waiting for the results. How did you react when you got the news you were the winner?
WOW: Sounds like you were excited:--) What kinds of things influence your writing?
WOW: If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?
WOW: Very good advice. Some that I need to take myself at times. What projects are you working on now and is there anything we should be looking for soon?
CJ: I have a book coming out this fall called Ghosts of Interstate 10. It is being published by Quixote Press. I will be following that one with Ghosts ofHighway 1. I am also putting together a book of short stories about raising kids in the country.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I received information about upcoming webinars from In the Company of Writers. See the information below and find one that fits your interests. The first one fits right in with this month’s theme on self-publishing and the following ones might be right up your writing alley. Check them out:
NEED INFORMATION ABOUT PUBLISHING?
INTERESTED IN IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS?
WANT TO KEEP GROWING AS A SUCCESSFUL WRITER?
In The Company of Writers
DISTANCE LEARNING AT ITS FINEST!
Simultaneous Publishing - The New Book Model
August 1, 2007 from 7 to 8:30 pm (EDT)$47
Tips and Secrets You Won't Find Anywhere Else
Presented by World Famous DAN POYNTER
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Poynter.htm
WRITING FOR THE (LUCRATIVE) YOUNG ADULT MARKET
Tuesday evenings, August 14 - 21 - 7 to 8:30 pm (EDT) $137
Next Generation of Decision Makers, Parents, Politicians, Movers & Shakers...
Presented by Prize-winning Author SHELIA MOSES
Learn: To Create: Compelling Characters, Subject Matter, and Story Line plus
Dilemma-Conflict and Solution That Inspires and Attracts Young Adult Readers
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Moses.htm
THE PLAYWRIGHTS SERIES A Five-Week Webinar Course
September 11, 18, 25 and October 2, 9; $257
Presented by PAMELA TURNER, Ph.D. and HANK KIMMEL, M.S., J.D.
Session 1 - Getting Started
Session 2 - Building Structure
Session 3 - Developing Story
Session 4 - Finding Voice
Session 5 - Navigating the Biz
Tuesdays, 8 - 10 pm (EDT)
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Playwriting.htm
Soon to be Announced
HOW TO GET PUBLISHED AND MAKE A LIVING AS AN AUTHOR
A Twelve-Week Webinar Course Fees/Dates/Times TBA
Presented by VALERIE CLARK
Intro: Being a Writer vs an Author
From Book Concept to Manuscript
Components of the Writing Process
Finding an Agent; Getting Published
Branding and Marketing
Achieving the Dream to Write
How to Write and Pitch a Screenplay
In The Company of Writers LLC, 1071 Steeple Run, Lawrenceville, GA 30043, USA.
Geri Taran is the creator and the President of In the Company of Writers. She is a poet, a writer, an editor, and an artist. Her written works have ranged from business and corporate publications, newsletters, reports, interviews, articles, and essays, to stories and poems for both young people and adults. Find out more about her at the website.
Have a fabulous WOW week! ;-)
Saturday, July 21, 2007
This weekend has proved to be one of great insight for me. Two of my brothers, Cam and Ian, came to visit me this weekend. It was a wonderful visit especially since we hadn’t seen one another in about seven years. I’ve always found it so comforting that no matter what chaos exploded around us, my siblings and I have remained close.
Homemade wine was poured, scrumptious barbeque was devoured and memories flowed. We laughed, we cried and we hugged as we each took turns pulling out our memory cards from the corners of our minds (as well as what’s happened since we last got together). As I listened and shared, I wondered: who would share our hilarious childhood antics and who would tell our stories of closeness and survival after we’ve passed on?
Now that I have children, it’s become important to me to leave my stories behind – both of my life and of their lives - as I saw it. Here are a few things you can try to preserve your own memories:
(a) Start a baby journal. This is a little book you write down all the goings on during your child’s baby years and beyond. I started one during pregnancy with each of my children. I record what pregnancy was like, what I craved, what happened in the world at the time I was pregnant, what they were like as babies, recorded their development achievements and anything exciting that happened in their lives. I plan to record things until they grow up so they can read about their lives from my eyes and in my voice.
(b) Create a scrapbook. This has become a popular way to keep memories alive. Scrapbooks are like photo albums with a boost. If you go to a craft store, you have so many options to make your scrapbook original and personal.
(c) Build a memory box. This can be a chest you put together from Ikea or an old chest you fix up. You can even decorate an old cardboard box. The idea is to create a personal box to keep photos, letters, journals or other memory treasures that tell a story of your life or the life of the person you made it for.
(d) Leave a legacy. Collect stories from all your family members and put them together in a book to unfold the story of your family. You can use this idea for your children, for a valued friendship or anyone else you adore and want to remember and be remembered.
This weekend also reminded me of my dear grandmother. Grandma loved to tell us stories of her youth. She was a young thriving artist living alone in New York with a bunch of schoolmates and, oh, the stories she told. Sadly, Grandma was slowly taken from us – a victim of Alzheimer’s - and her stories faded as her memory did. I wished one of us thought to record her stories at the time. Now, I make sure mine will always be here – long after I’m gone.
There are so many different ways to create memory treasures. How will you make sure your memories stay alive? Can you think of other ways?
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Enter our Summer Flash Fiction Contest. Here's the prompt:
Growing up your parents always tried to have an exceptional vacation during your summer break. Now your parents are older, and as a special summer vacation for your parents, you are going back home and tell them which one was your favorite, most memorable summer vacation of all. Which vacation did they give you that you treasure so dearly, and why?
Story slant: Geared toward women readers, light-hearted to funny, imaginative, creative—you get it--*original*.
You can find all the details on our "Contest" page. Deadline to enter is Aug. 31st. Don't miss it!!!
Remember the winners are published on WOW! and be sure to check out our very cool prize packages.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Lauri Griffin has three children, one husband, one dog, and a variable number of guppies. She works with gifted children and manages a literacy program for struggling readers. She also writes regularly on the subject of family fun at http://www.families.com/lauri/. Visit her blog, Lauri’s Reflections for her thoughts on writing, creativity, motherhood, and fun websites that catch her attention. She is working on several writing projects.
WOW: Lauri, major Kudos to you for your 1st Place Win! How does it feel to take the top spot?
Lauri: Winning is fun! I like it! I'm still a little stunned. I had to look at the site a few times before I really believed it said I won.
WOW: I’d bet you’re not the first winner to double check the site. Now that reality has set in, could you tell us what inspired the idea behind “It Would Mean a Lot”? Was there anything from real life inside your story?
Lauri: I mulled the prompt over for a couple of days. I wanted a good surprise of an ending. We've had some good friends divorce so the emotion is true, but none of the circumstances in the story are from real life.
WOW: But your writing makes it real. You obviously have experience. In fact, in your bio you mention that you’re working on several writing projects. Would you care to share your favorite one (or more than one) with us and our readers?
Lauri: I've got two short stories that I'm currently submitting with ideas and starts for lots more. I'm revising two novels. One I've worked on for years. My writing friends are starting to yell at me to send it out. Deadlines are good for me. Otherwise I keep tinkering with things and getting ideas for making them better.
WOW: Yes, tinkering is wonderful for a while, and then every writer needs to determine that critical “breakaway” moment to leave their work alone. You’ve brought us to a good point for encouragement. By the way, have you found any books or authors who you deem more helpful or encouraging than others for your writing?
Lauri: Early on I couldn't have kept writing without Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She very honestly pegs so many emotions and weird mental stuff that go into writing. I remember laughing wildly the first time I read the book. My own copy is highlighted, underlined, and lent out a lot. The book I don't lend out is A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. The book has great daily prompts for writing, but also lots of encouragement and ideas for bringing all the senses into writing. The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass is also a favorite. He takes writers through all kinds of exercises designed to make characters multi-layered, to connect themes, and to build tension. He's very big on having tension on every page. I know my writing has grown a lot due to following the exercises in the book.
WOW: Isn’t it great to have mentors, even when they exist in books? They help us directly or indirectly with our focus and our goals. Do you have specific long-term goals?
Lauri: I have so many goals. But I also have children who tend to get in the way of getting things done. Most of the time that's okay. I consider myself a mother first. As it is they are all growing up way too fast.
WOW: They do that, don’t they? Way too fast. Time spirals out of control the older they get, and this is one great reason for writing our thoughts down, to keep track. You mention your Blog, LauriReflections, for your thoughts, creativity, motherhood and fun. Has your Blog motivated any of your writing projects or ideas?
Lauri: Blogging has helped boost my confidence level. Getting comments from people all over the world is so fun. I love knowing that my thoughts or even just cool websites I've found have helped someone, or made someone think, or prompted them to get out that journal or notebook, or just smile. It's also led to some paid non-fiction writing on parenting and education.
WOW: Congratulations for getting paid from Blogging. Payment also helps boost confidence and I bet you, in turn, boost a lot of kids’ egos. You mention in your bio that you manage a literacy program for struggling readers. How did you get involved with such a worthy cause?
Lauri: Even though my twins are quite bright and we had done everything "right" they struggled with reading. So I started to read about literacy and theories on how the brain learns and works. I was also looking for a part time job with family friendly hours. I happened to meet a woman at a class on brain theory who was leaving this position. I love helping kids learn to read. And our program’s goal is to actually make the kids love reading, not just be good readers.
WOW: A love of reading is a key to learning. I’ve been involved with classroom reading skills, and it’s so important for growth. On a side note, is your literacy program inspiring for your writing? I refer, actually, to the children in the program.
Lauri: I would like to say that it does, but if anything it hurts my writing. Not only does it take time, but also a lot of mental energy. I'm always trying to find the answer for each child. So I read up on dyslexia and different learning disabilities and theories of things. I think that teaching and working with the literacy program use up the same mental energy as writing. So instead of letting my mind daydream about a character, I'm busy wondering if a certain program or another one will work better, or I find myself thinking about books they would like.
WOW: That’s understandable. I think many parents and teachers can completely understand your position. But your devotion to the children is commendable. Speaking of devotion, do you have any final words for everyone in our devoted audience?
Lauri: Give the WOW contest a try. When I thought of a story idea for the prompt I thought it must not be original or it wouldn't have just popped into my head. And I thought for sure that anyone reading it would see the ending coming from a mile away. But people told me the ending surprised them. I'm very glad I gave it a try. It's hard to judge your own writing. I'm incredibly fortunate to have a marvelous online critique group and several local writing buddies. They inspire me with their writing and encourage me with my own. Finding people who support you and believe in you is crucial.
WOW: That’s a great perspective to leave with everyone. Thanks so much for sharing your time and yourself. We wish you the best of luck in your future writing dreams!
If you haven’t read Lauri’s winning entry yet, check it out here: Spring 2007 Contest Winners.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Mom sighs and shakes her head, “What was I going to type next?”
Only writers can empathize with the need for privacy to focus on that hard-to-write article or the hard-to-capture character. Somehow, perhaps through Murphy’s Law, our best writing moments are those that get interrupted. Maybe it has nothing to do with this at all and more with feeling tossed around between everyone’s needs. Multi-tasking is one thing, but the need to focus at certain times is completely different.
Novelist Judith Krantz once revealed that she places a sign on her door that says: “DO NOT COME IN. DO NOT KNOCK. DO NOT SAY HELLO. DO NOT SAY ‘I’M LEAVING.’ DO NOT SAY ANYTHING UNLESS THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE. . . . Also, telephone’s off!”
I’ve felt like this before--don’t interrupt me except in cases of natural disaster! Many writers come up with their own devices and signs--pleas for respect. But for the littlest kids, this can create a trying situation. Plus, in our world today, using the TV is considered taboo to help. Well, I disagree.
Certain channels do provide quality TV that can expose children of varying ages to new subjects. For example, when my children were younger, but too old for Sesame Street and similar shows, I’d give them paper, pencils, and let them watch a Mark Kistler drawing program on PBS. They’d learn how to draw using their imaginations and Kistler’s skill sets. They’d end up with a work of art to display. They’d also end up with a huge smile on their faces.
As my kids grew older, they watched Bill Nye the Science Guy working out some special science experiments; they learned about animals in the jungles and zoos; they watched the Kratt Brothers and their leaping lemur explore different creatures, and various other educational programs. Another quality TV show for older preteen children is Myth Busters on Discovery Channel, or (for the dog lovers) the Dog Whisperer on the same channel.
In our society, a stigma is still attached to letting our children watch television while we accomplish tasks, as if we’re rotting their brains. But TV actually provides educational material and fascinating tidbits of information. We need only look for it.
Having said this, I should say I don’t let my kids watch TV all day long or even half a day. But when I know I’m working on a writing project that’s difficult, and one that requires focus, I plan ahead. There’s nothing wrong with using the TV to entertain our kids during tough moments. There’s nothing wrong with stealing moments in time that we need, especially when it’s only for an hour or two in a day. We deserve quality time to write, and our kids deserve quality time, too.
Of course, we can’t always plan ahead. So in the last few months I’ve given myself a huge challenge: I allow my kids into my writing space from time to time to practice “blocking out all their noises and voices.” It helps me extend beyond my comfort zone. I can’t do it successfully all the time, but I envy people who can.
Can you block out everyone? Or do you prefer a quiet space for certain writing projects? Friday is our open Blog day. Speak Out! Tell us how you steal time. We’d love to know. The more we share, the more easily we can all cope. Sharing also provides writers with inspiration.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Women's Writing & Publishing Summit: July 19-21 & 25, 2007
Visit the Website
The WECAI NETWORK™ is excited to present this three-day (plus) Webinar/teleconference Event to "Help Women Do Business On and Off the Web." Here is your chance to attend the Virtual event that is both educational and inspirational.
Bringing together best-selling authors, top editors, agents, and publishers, the Women's Writing & Publishing Summit offers writers the opportunity to meet the people who can make a difference in their writing career.
This Summit is sure to be an important learning experience for aspiring and seasoned writers alike.
This three-day virtual event features interviews, workshops and networking led by some of the worlds most talented authors, publishers and literary agents. Our Summit is designed to help you develop your writing, stimulate your thinking and assist all stages of writers in the craft and the business of writing. During this summit you will get to meet, chat, network, and get to pick some of the best brains in the writing and publishing world.
Here is a sampling of the things you will learn:
- How to get the book inside you on paper.
- How to promote your books all around the globe ... for free!
- How you can effectively sell more books.
- How to expand the audience for your book by utilizing radio, TV, Internet, and print media.
- How to get on the top of the charts at Amazon.
- All this and more!
You will also have an opportunity to attend our Virtual Reception where you can share your book ideas, network with peers and professionals and even win some great prizes!
When you register for the Women's Writing & Publishing Summit you will receive more than a dozen resources including GET it WRITE! How to write, publish and promote the book inside you - as well as a workbook complete with interview questions, outlines, forms and other valuable information to help you capitalize on the information gleaned from this event . . . and more!
- Do you have a book inside you waiting to get out?
- Do you have a manuscript just waiting for an agent or a publisher?
- Do you want to learn what it really takes to self-publish?
- Do you want to learn how to promote your book to bookstores and alternate venues?
- Would you like to see your book become an Amazon best seller?
IF you answered YES to any or all of these questions, then you are invited to Join us July 19-21, 2007 for this Transforming Event!
To learn more and to register Visit the Website
Thursday, July 19, 2007 (5pm to 9 pm)
5:00 pm - Opening remarks and 1st session
Partnership Publishing - How and when to use the Combined Forces of Publisher and Author to Produce Your Next Book with Linda Radke
6:30 pm - So You Want to Write a Book! with Ann McIndoo
8:00 pm - What to Expect When Working With a Literary Agent with Sharlene Martin
Friday, July 20, 2007 (12 noon to 7:30 pm)
12 Noon - Publishing Books - The New Book Model with Dan Poynter
1:30 pm - How to Leverage Your Contacts to Promote Your Book with Lynn Waymon
2:30 pm - Publishing Options “Which One Is Right For YOU with Sherri McConnell
3:30 pm - Are you about to Be Published?
Insider "Secrets" to Get into Major Publishing Houses and Into the Hands of Your Readers! with Kim Weiss
4:30 pm - The Art and Science of Working with a Co-Author and Writing Children's Books with Debra Shively Welch
6:00 - 7:30 pm “Networking Reception“ be sure and join us for networking, your chance to meet other authors and publishers and take part in our prize drawings! During this time we will acknowledge sponsors and a prize will be given away every 5 minutes!
Saturday, July 21, 2007 (10 am to 5 pm)
10:00 am - Copywriting Secrets Every Author Needs to Know with Rosalind Sedacca
11:30 am - How to Make Your Book an AMAZON.com Best Seller with Kathleen Gage
1:00 pm - From Book Signing to Best Seller: An Insider's Guide to Conducting a Successful Low-Cost Book Signing Tour with Jo Condrill
2:30 pm - The Busy Author's Guide to Writing on the Run with Linda & Allen Anderson
4:00 pm - How to Set up Your Own Small Publishing Company with Betty Dobson
4:55 pm Closing remarks and acknowledge sponsors, thank guest experts and attendees
NEW - Bonus Sessions:
Wednesday July 25 - How to use the Internet to Promote Your Book with Donna Gunther (2 PM Eastern Time)
"Let the Universe be Your Guide - Using the to Get Your Book Written and Published and So Much More!" with Marilyn Jennet (3:30 PM Eastern Time).
Come Join WOW! at the Summit, stop by and say hello!
Women's Writing & Publishing Summit Website
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The following week when the postman brought a box - heavier than my oldest child - filled to the brim with children and youth books, I knew how wrong my initial statement had been. First, this course was not going to be “a breeze”. Second, children’s literature has many colorful layers within it the same as other genres. Third, and a point I’d forgotten when registering for the course, children’s books are filled with fantasy – a genre I hadn’t ventured into much.
With an open mind, I dove head first into the deep pools of this wonderful area of writing I hadn’t explored before and was pleasantly surprised. So far, I’ve been taken on adventures in alternative worlds [The Princess and the Goblin (George MacDonald), The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), The Tombs of Atuan (Ursula K. Le Guin)]; brought along on quests [The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, (J.K. Rowling)]; had my eyes opened in Realistic Fiction [The Great Gilly Hopkins (Katherine Paterson), The Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)]; taken back in time [Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)]; and reminded of the preciousness of life [Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbit)].
Even though each of these books are very different in terms of characterization, voice, setting and plot, all share a common theme: they explore different parts of a child’s vivid imagination. Fantasy isn’t all “Star Wars-like”, as I mistakenly thought. It’s being taken away to a different place, a different time or being able to see the world through another person’s eyes. Isn’t that what reading is all about? And isn’t that what we, as writers, try to achieve in our work – no matter what the genre we represent?
This has been the most difficult course I’ve ever taken (which says a lot considering I’m majoring in Psychology). Not because the work is hard but more because the readings challenge me to do what we sadly forget to as we get older: explore the world through a child’s eyes.
My course took me back to younger days when I was a gangly freckle-faced girl who would go to the library every week and take out as many books as my scrawny arms could carry home. It reminded me of why I fell in love with books in the first place and why I wanted to become a writer. Why not take a trip to your local library or bookstore and delve into the glorious world of Children’s Literature and Fantasy? Go on an adventure, follow a quest or just get comfy and allow yourself to be absorbed between the pages.
OH! And don’t forget to check out WOW’s October issue where the ladies will be exploring the world of Children/YA Literature. Maybe I’ll have a book review or two to check out. =o)
Friday, July 13, 2007
What makes someone a writer? I am not sure. I have kept a journal for over 20 years and write in it almost daily. I didn't grow up thinking I was going to be a writer, but once I started writing I found it very powerful, cathartic, enjoyable and transformational.
I don't think it's necessarily the best writers that get published, I think it's the most persistent ones. Time and time again I have read, “Write what you're passionate about.” I know it certainly makes a big difference in my writing.
People are often amazed that I've written so many books and so am I. When I thought of writing my first book the idea of actually writing a book seemed monumental. One of my mentors asked me if I was going to finish the book. I did my usual song and dance and he just very patiently asked me, “Are you going to finish the book?” He continued to ask me until I finally said yes.
When I was in the process of getting my first book published I received rejection letter after rejection letter. One day I was standing in my living room feeling very discouraged and I heard his voice say, “Are you going to get the book published?” I said yes and that yes carried me through many, many more rejections until I finally got a yes.
Now, when I write a book I don't think about finishing it or getting it published I just allow myself to savor writing each and every word. I find staring at a blank page intimidating so I usually end my writing day by writing at least one sentence of the next chapter. Some days I can write and some days it just doesn't flow. On the days it's not flowing I do something else that helps my creativity to flow.
I had a stained glass studio for 13 years. I loved making stained glass, but once it became a business that enjoyment faded. I love writing and it is how I make my living, but I've never allowed it to become a business.
The publishing industry has changed a lot over the years. These days unless you're a best-selling author you don't have a lot of clout, but I write because I love writing and since I value myself my editors value me as well.
The best advice I ever received about writing was to write what I'm passionate about and to be passionate about what I'm writing. And over the years I've added and allow myself to enjoy each and every moment.
So enjoy writing!
Stop by Susan's website and get to know her and her writing.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
During the day, I had the pleasure of meeting Kate and chatting with her. I knew by time for the workshop she wasn't the type to say what she thought you wanted her to, just to make you feel good. And her blunt, honest comments sure stung, and I sulked four of the five hours on the drive home.(I'm so glad the reading was anonymous!) Then I got over it, and started figuring out how to improve on the problems she and Molly caught. Yes, they were right...it needed work. Seems I started in the wrong place:--)
When we started planning the issue on self-publishing at WOW I knew she would be the perfect choice to get the "editorial" opinion of self-published books from someone who worked in the industry. She graciously answered my questions. So, pull up a comfy chair, prop your feet up and enjoy.
And, thanks Kate. For the interview and for your comments on my first page.
WOW: Self-published books seem to get no respect by the mainstream publishers. What do you see as the main problem with self publishing?
KATE: I don’t think we are as quick to judge anymore. Self publishing was equated with vanity publishing until African American authors, in particular, finding themselves with few alternatives, turned to self publishing out of necessity.
WOW: We hear stories of self-published books such as Eragon getting picked up by the "big" publishers and this is something a lot of publishers push. Does this happen often and should it be something an author of a self-published book counts on happening to them?
KATE: No, it doesn’t happen very often but it does happen. The self published author has to judge whether the book is of regional or national interest.
WOW: Does having a self-published book influence an editor when considering a later work by an author?
KATE: I wouldn’t think so. But then again, many self published works seem to be one shot events.
WOW: What, if any, place do you see for self-published books?
KATE: Regional interest can spark an audience for a self published book. There are stories and topics that might interest a particular group of people but may lack the resonance to achieve a wider readership.
WOW: Do you think there will come a time when having a self-published book will be as impressive or as respectable as publishing with one of the "big" boys?
KATE: I don’t think so simply because of the limits of marketing dollars available to the self published author. Individual works will certainly continue to break out but overall the odds don’t favor this.
WOW: If a person is set on self-publishing, what advice would you give them?
KATE: Think very carefully. It can be financially challenging as well as a lot of hard work to produce, market and distribute.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Linda's 8-Week E-course on Breaking into Magazines
Next Session Starts Monday, July 30, 2007
If you want to write for magazines but don't know how to get started - or if you need some motivation to get you going - this course is for you.
In eight weekly lessons, Linda will walk you through:
- Coming up with a salable idea
- Finding markets that would be interested in your idea
- Finding the right editors to send your idea to
- Interviewing people for the query letter (the proposal that sells the editor on your idea and yourself as a writer)
- Writing a winning query letter
- Getting your query out the door!
Each lesson includes an assignment. You can do much of the assignments after work, during your lunch break, on weekends - whenever YOU have the time. The best part is, you can use the lessons you learn in this course over and over again. The more queries you write and send, the better the chances that you'll get published!
The basic course includes eight weekly lessons and the premium course includes personalized e-mail support as well (Linda sets aside Wednesdays and Fridays to answer e-mails). She says, "I am here to guide you through the program and to answer any questions you might have."
For more details on how the course works, the course schedule, and Linda's teaching philosophy, please download and read the E-Course FAQ on Linda's site (PDF format).
Premium Course - Eight weekly lessons, eight assignments, and eight weeks of unlimited e-mail support ($240)
Basic Course - Eight weekly lessons and eight assignments ($120)
If you missed our last issue's 20 Questions Column with Linda Formichelli, Renegade Writer be sure to check it out! Linda knows all the tricks of the trade, and as you'll see in this unique WOW! interview, she's got a handle on balancing life & writing.
***NOTE: Please be sure to say that WOW! Women On Writing referred you :-)
FIND OUT MORE: http://www.lindaformichelli.com/course/