The List

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
By Valerie Fentress

We all want to be on it. We all want to bask in the glory of the prestige, but how do books reach the New York Times Best Seller List?

Well the best way to make a goal is to know how the beast operates. And surprisingly the list isn't put together by the New York Times Book Review department. (Which could be a blessing or a curse, depending) The list is actually put together by the News Surveys department.

The list is based on weekly sales reports obtained from selected samples of independent and chain bookstores, as well as wholesalers, throughout the United States. The sales figures are widely believed to represent books that have actually been sold at retail, rather than wholesale figures, as the Times surveys a number of actual booksellers in an attempt to better reflect what is actually purchased by individual buyers.

"According to Alan T. Sorensen of Stanford Business School, who studied sales of hardcover fiction, the majority of book buyers use the Times’ list to see what is worth reading. Therefore, according to Sorensen, relatively unknown writers get the biggest benefit from being on the list, while for already best-selling authors such as Danielle Steel or John Grisham, being on the list makes virtually no difference in increasing sales." (^ "Readers Tap Best-Seller List for New Authors", Stanford Business Magazine, February 2005. Last accessed December 2006. See also Alan T. Sorensen, Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales, May 2004.)

So how does one get their book on the Best Seller List? Most of the efforts in increasing sales has to do with marketing and public relations. The more hype you create through interviews, book signings, and the efforts made by your publisher/agent. Each play a large roll in creating a buzz within the book world, which in turn will get more and more of the individual buyers interested.

So it is important to learn the steps to marketing that manuscript as it is knowing how to write it. The NYT list changes weekly, which shows us it is possible. And a lot of is comes down to timing and effort.

Best of Luck, and I hope on day to see you on the list.
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Interview with WOW! Flash Fiction Winner, Cynthia Boiter

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
WOW!'s Winter 2008 Flash Fiction First Place Prize goes to Cynthia Boiter, an award-winning freelance writer whose work has appeared in Southern Living, Woman's Day, and Family Circle, among other national, regional and local publications. When she is not writing, she is a member of the adjunct faculty in the Women's Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. She is currently working on a book with her husband on beer and travel, tentatively titled, Bob, Beer and Me.

If you haven’t already read Cynthia's story about a brief conversation between a husband and wife that says more without words than with them, please do so: Dobie. And don’t forget to come back and read our interview with this talented woman, whose well-deserved first place win should come as no surprise.

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WOW!: Cynthia, you have an impressive, award-winning writing background. Did you have any idea you might win first place in our contest?

Cynthia: I actually happened upon this contest the evening that it was due and decided to give it a shot – so I banged this piece out, sent it via email to one of my daughters to see if it made any sense, and decided to give it a shot. I had no idea what to expect – I hadn’t even read any of the previous winners at that point because I was pressed for time.

WOW!: Your decision to give the contest a shot definitely paid off! Your story contains excellent descriptive passages, especially the use of color. Do you have any of the creative interests in your personal life that Timbro is trying to steer Dobie away from?

Cynthia: I like to think that I live my life with an eye toward creativity. I think we all have that capacity within us – to create, to make our environment pleasing and interesting. I love color and texture and whimsy and I’m a huge patron of the arts – but other than the little bit I can do with words; I wouldn’t call myself “talented.”

WOW!: Our readers may beg to differ on that, Cynthia, as you have a talent for creating such believable characters. How did the characters of Timbro and Dobie come about?

Cynthia: When I was a young woman I read Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, and that was, I believe, the single most influential book of my life. Being from the South and a descendent of families who worked the land for little pay, I realized when reading Alice, that the women in my own background may have been talented artists who had no canvasses for their artistic abilities. They couldn’t have afforded the tools and provisions to pursue creativity, nor would they have had the time or the encouragement, given that they were mere “women”—so in all likelihood, like Alice’s mother, they captured their canvasses wherever they could – in the garden, in the clothes they sewed for their families, in their pantries. This realization both thrills me and breaks my heart. So, maybe with stories like Dobie’s, I can channel a little of the creative energy of my own ancestors onto the page.

WOW!: I like how the story ends, with Dobie humming, as if she knows something her husband doesn't. She's already so creative, perhaps without realizing it. What would you tell Dobie if you could tell her anything?

Cynthia: First of all, I would talk to Timbro! I’d give him a little lesson in how lucky he is to live the life that Dobie has made for him. I’d ask him where he thought his meals and his clean clothes and happy home would come from if Dobie weren’t there doing the equally important work she does – and how would he be able to do his work if Dobie didn’t do hers. Being a woman, Dobie, of course, is already aware of this. I would tell her 3 things: To keep the faith; to teach her daughters well; and to put back secret money of her own whenever and wherever she could!

WOW!: Excellent advice for both of them, especially for women who aren’t allowed to have much control in a relationship. You are a talented writer in all fields, but which is more challenging for you to write: fiction, non-fiction or poetry?

Cynthia: Well, I’m not a good poet – I’m totally unschooled in it and, while I had some success when I was young, I think that was when the bar wasn’t very high because I haven’t been very successful as an adult. That said, sometimes poems just hit me in the face and I have to write them down. I suspect they’re very amateur. In terms of fiction or non-fiction – I have to want to write something to do it well. Non-fiction isn’t difficult, but I’m my own worst enemy and I’ll procrastinate until the last minute just like in college. With fiction though, I sometimes feel like the words just come from somewhere else and my fingers just type them out. I love that, but I can’t always count on it happening. So, I’m probably equally challenged by all three.

WOW!: Very interesting and something that other writers can relate to. What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Cynthia: Well, obviously I love giving voice to women whose voices may have gone unheard, and I really like looking at the interaction of individuals both with their social environment and with the earth itself. So I often write about people who live off the land in one way or another – I almost always write about Southerners – real, working-class Southerners – not those media created Belles, but real women with dirt under their fingernails. And the other thing that I really enjoy doing is looking at a moment in time – one moment or decision or intention that illuminates a step forward for the character—an emotional or intellectual or spiritual moment of growth.

WOW!: You definitely captured such a moment in Dobie. Is there any type of character you haven't yet written about that you'd like to create?

Cynthia: Well, I rarely write about men, although I’m working on a short story about a boy now and I finished one about a man who had totally repressed his feminine side due to an incident from childhood, not long ago. What I want to do is to take a look at a typical man—in many ways, one like Timbro – and explore why they are the way they are. I want to look at all those repressive, stressful messages that living in a patriarchal society piles on them – and I want to find the authentic self in his character – I want to help him be free.

WOW!: It’s always wonderful when authors try to capture a character from a different perspective like that. Now, what type of writing inspires you?

Cynthia: I don’t want to sound flip, but “good” writing is what inspires me. You know, the orchestration of words – the flow and construction of a beautiful sentence and the use of the most absolutely precise word. That floors me. So, sometimes it Anna Quinlan in the back of Newsweek, and other times its Barbara Kingsolver or Zora Neal Hurston. I like it when words make me feel them.

WOW!: What advice do you have for aspiring women writers?

Cynthia: Be patient with yourself. Try to not beat yourself up but let the muse take you where she wants you to go – not where you think you should go. I, just 5 months ago, came off of a period when I could hardly write. Five years ago my family experienced what I call the “year of death” – my Dad and my Brother and our Golden Retriever all died within a few months of one another and I think I went sort of numb. I wrote very little during that time and I got to the point that I didn’t identify myself as a writer. Combined with that is that I also have what I think may be a real fear of both failure and success, which takes constant rationalization on my part. Then suddenly, I was entering my 49th year of life and I guess the ice cracked. I started writing and I promised my daughters that I would put a collection of my short stories out there and see if anyone thought they were worth reading – and that I would do that before my 50th birthday – which is just about 6 months away. A year ago I wouldn’t have agreed to that kind of timeline – but now, I think I’ll follow through.

WOW!: I really hope you do follow through and I think a lot of readers out there hope the same thing. It’s good that you were able to return from a difficult period in your life back to pursuing your talent. Also, I know you're working on a book with your husband. Are there any plans for a novel in your future?

Cynthia: Oh, I’ve started a couple but then put them aside. But, your site and this contest have encouraged me – maybe it’s time to pick them back up again!

* * * * * *

If you haven't done so already, please read Cynthia's story, Dobie. And remember, every Tuesday we'll be featuring an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Winter 2008 Flash Fiction contest. So, be sure to check back and see who's up next!For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit:
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Finding Inspiration, Part Deux

Monday, April 28, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

The last time I blogged for The Muffin, I wrote about places to find inspiration. Today, I'm going to offer four more ideas of obvious--but not always utilized--places to find new story ideas.

Consider people you know. Are they an expert on a topic? Make of list of the experts in your life and brainstorm for ideas. A teacher from a neighboring school district is an expert chess player. I asked for his help for a story about teaching chess to kids and--checkmate! I sold a story, along with two sidebars and photos, to an area newspaper.

Take a look at current fads and trends. What's hot in your community? For that matter, what is hot in a particular area you are interested in? A local school funded a 24/7 learning initiative and purchased Apple laptops for all 7 - 12 students. As a former classroom teacher--and a current substitute--I find anything relating to education an interesting topic. I interviewed students, teachers and administrators from the district and had a two-day, four-story feature in an area newspaper.

My daughter works for our state economic development office and she's always giving me good ideas or tips concerning government publications. I checked out the website, and after surfing for a short time, I found a site where you could check out historical buildings in each state. That's when I stumbled upon an early 1900s single-room jailhouse close to where I lived. That article was published in a regional magazine.

I like cheesecake. No, I REALLY like cheesecake. I've made them for fundraisers, for extended family, and sometimes, for us. After making oh-so-many cheesecakes, I've come up with several methods to avoid having the cheesecake top crack. I wrote those methods as a short "how-to" article and sold it to a cooking website.

My favorite way to keep track of ideas is to use Post-It notes. But every writer should have some kind of idea notebook. I have a small memo pad that I keep by my nightstand. In my purse, a notebook with a sturdy cover--purchased from the $1 bin at Target--lets me jot down ideas as they come to me when I'm away from my desk. I keep a small notebook in the glove compartment of the car, too. Because you never when --or where--the inspiration bug will hit!
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Got Prompts?

Sunday, April 27, 2008
By Jill Earl

Looking for a little something to get the imagination going for a story? A mental poke to jumpstart your writing? How about a prompt for size?

A simple online search will produce numerous links to more writing prompts than you can imagine. Below are some sites to check out for inspiration.

One of my favorites is the’ s Writing Spark newsletter. With a choice of either the paid daily or free weekly newsletter, you can receive prompts ranging from story ideas to conflict situations that will get you back on the writing path. And as a special bonus to paid members of the Daily Writing Spark newsletter, they can enter up to three entries in the bi-monthly Writing Prompt Contest.

Milli Thornton’s site Fear of encourages writers with Fertile Material, sample prompts from her book, Fear of Writing. A subscription to her newsletter, Fear of Writing Gazette, provides free writing contests based either on the Fertile Material prompts or selected writing challenges set by editors Jennifer Turner or Milli herself.

At Writer’s, clicking on the ‘Tips & Prompts’ tab at the top of thehomepage takes you to their Writing Prompts. Selections are listed chronologically and there’s a direct link available to the WD Forum if you want to post your response, giving you the opportunity to see what others have submitted.

Finally, at, pointing your cursor at one of the over 200 numbers listed reveals a pop-up box with that particular number’s prompt. That’s almost a full year’s worth!

So if you’re stuck in your writing, get prompts. They may provide the boost you need for that next story idea.
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To Pay, or Not to Pay

Saturday, April 26, 2008
Today, while watching my three-year-old son push his old, battered, blue engine along the tracks of a train table at Toys ‘R’ US, I ran into an old writing buddy. As her son joined mine at the train table, we started talking about, what else, writing. The topic soon turned to the value of writing classes. Why do we spend money on writing classes or programs?

I’m an ardent supporter of getting all the support that you can use and afford in your writing. I’m currently a student with the Institute for Children’s Literature and have a lot of faith in the program and my instructor. As I spoke with my friend at the toy store, I explained to her why I was willing to shell out the dough for my writing program. Simply put, I knew I wanted to become a professional writer and publish books for children, but I didn’t have a clue of how to do it. Not to mention, the confidence that I had in my writing at that time was at a deficit and I needed the support and eye of a professional. The flexibility that the ICL offers as a correspondence course was also a great selling point. So for me, the choice to enroll at the ICL was easy.

My writing buddy took a different approach to achieving her writing goals. She is reluctant to spend a large sum of money for a writing program. After taking an online course with Writer’s Digest, she opted to enroll in a short-term continuing education class at a local university. For her, the benefits of working with an instructor and other writers are very important. Though the time commuting to and from her class is tiring – she’s a single mom and works full-time – the camaraderie of the group is very rewarding. And the cost of the class doesn’t pinch her budget – too much.

The real test, in my opinion, of the value of writing courses, is whether your writing skills improve as a result of having participated in the course. Do you take away skills that enhance your craft, thus, your chances of breaking into print? Personally, I feel that my knowledge, skills, and confidence as a writer have enhanced tremendously since I started with the ICL last year. As for my friend, she’s happy with her class and the friendships that she’s made, but is looking for a little more – something more concrete – that will help her take her writing to the next level and learn about the publishing world.

So, what do you think about writing programs and courses? Do they add value your to skills and success as a writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences with writing programs of all stripes – MFA, correspondence, continuing ed, online, writer’s workshop, etc Does it pay to invest time and money into writing programs? Are some more useful than others?

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Guest Blogging: Writing in Someone Else's Space

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Today, I am guest blogging at Maggie Marr's blog. She's the author of Hollywood Girls Club and Secrets of the Hollywood Girls Club.

Pop by, check her out, and leave some WOW! blog love.

Writing in Someone Else's Space
Guest blogging can be a great way to get your name out to a new audience. It allows you to promote your product or service, and helps build your platform as an expert in your field. Hosting a guest blogger can add variety and interest to your blog, provide new information to your readers, and give you a break from having to create your own content for a day. Overall, it's a win-win situation.

When you receive an invitation to appear as a guest blogger, there are a few things you need to do to make it a good experience for you, your hostess, and her readers.

Ask Your Hostess
Just like the etiquette for attending a dinner party, find out if there is anything you can bring for the table. Does your hostess want you to write about a topic of her choice? Is she planning to send you a list of interview questions to answer? Is she giving you free rein to write whatever you want?

Research the Space
Read at least one month of previous blog entries. See what your hostess talks about. Is her tone humorous or serious? Does the blog focus on providing entertainment or information?

Who are her readers? Read the comments sections of the most recent posts to get a feel for what motivates her readers and gets them engaged in responding.

What about the use of language? Is it academic, casual, or trendy slang? How long are the posts? Does she include resource links, pictures, or video?

Taking the time to assess her writing space will help your turn out a post that suits her needs and promotes you well.

Content Content Content
This is where you put your fingers to the keyboard. Of course, what you write about will depend on the arrangement you make with your hostess. If you are answering interview questions, keep your answers brief and interesting. If you are promoting your expertise, provide some solid take-away information for her readers. If you have carte blanche, try to find a way to incorporate your promotion with that of your hostess. Using an anecdote to relate your story to hers in some way will help you stay close to the theme of your hostess' blog.

Dos and Don'ts for a Guest Blogger
  • DO let your personality shine through in your blog post.
  • DO check and recheck for typos and grammar errors in your post prior to sending it to your hostess.
  • DO monitor her blog during your guest day and respond to any comment posts.
  • DON'T get into a flame war with any of her readers.
  • DO promote your guest blog day on your blog and to your list.
  • DON'T forget to thank your hostess for the opportunity.
  • DO reciprocate and invite your hostess to guest blog on your site.
Most of all, have fun with it!

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Your Life, in Six Words

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Talk about boiling things down to their essence. I recently learned of an interesting book called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. Complied by the editors of online magazine SMITH, it contains over 1,000 six-word memoirs, including additions from many celebrities including Stephen Colbert, Jane Goodall, Dave Eggers, and more.

A few examples from the famous, particularly some that might appeal to writers:

"Couldn't cope so I wrote songs"
Aimee Mann

"Revenge is living well, without you"
Joyce Carol Oates

"I asked. They answered. I wrote."
Sebastian Junger

The entries from the "obscure," a.k.a regular people, are equally good. Here's a sampling--some funny, some touching:

"70 years, few tears, hairy ears"

"Naively expected logical world. Acted foolishly".

"Never really finished anything, except cake"

"Joined army. Came out. Got booted.”

"Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity."

"Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends" (from a nine year old)

"No wife. No kids. No problems"

“I like big butts, can’t lie”.

Can you tell your story in six words? SMITH is collecting submissions for their next six-word memoir book. It may be fun to give it a try.

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Authors: Learn How to Be Media-Savvy with Alice Collier

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
An Interview with Alice Collier, the TV Image Coach

WOW: Welcome to WOW! Alice, we're thrilled to be chatting with you today. I read on your website that you worked for 15 years as a television news anchorwoman, and also as a talk show host and producer. That's fabulous! I'm sure our readers would love to know how you got started in such a fascinating line of work.

Alice: It is truly a miracle that I was ever on television. I've never taken a journalism course in my life. I was studying to be a lawyer when my father tragically died in a freak accident in our home. Later that year, my mother was asked to be a guest on a Detroit television show to talk about running his company. I went with her to the television station, and I walked into the newsroom during a breaking news story. I could feel the high energy in that space. It was incredibly exciting to me. I felt like I belonged. There were news crews running all over the place trying to prepare for live shots--producers, anchors, reporters, and photographers were screaming and yelling, throwing papers, and just going wild. I said to myself, "This is what I want to do! I'm going to do this!" You can read whole story in the Success Strategies. It is due for release next month.

WOW: I can't wait to read that! What an amazing story. And I'm sorry to hear about your father. It seems that day in the newsroom clearly redefined your professional focus, but what was it like when you first started out? Were you nervous in front of the camera like most people?

Alice: When I had my first television interview, I was told that I would never make it in the industry because I was too pretty. I am very passionate about what I do, and I give it my all once I make up my mind, so you can imagine how that comment rubbed me. I leaned over, looked that news director in the eye, and said, "Not only will I make it in this business but someday I will have your job." He hired me on the spot.

I am a very outgoing person, and it's almost second nature for me to be in front of a camera. Maybe as a young reporter I would get a little nervous but not now; I do get very excited though when I get to do interviews where I feel my story is really making a difference in people's lives.

WOW: I admire you for sticking up for yourself, and for landing the job. So, did you have someone to mentor you in the early years?

Alice: Oh yes, I have had several mentors help me in different areas of my professional career. One of whom is the investigative reporter who actually hired me for that internship. He is now NBC's National Correspondent out of Washington D.C., Steve Handelsman.

Steve was instrumental in teaching me how to ask even the toughest politician or interviewee the right questions. He taught me how to be dogged about getting an authentic answer, and to be courageous and poised during the most difficult interview.

I then had the great opportunity to interview Barbara Walters while I was working in Cleveland, Ohio. As a young journalist, she gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. She said that I should study the anchorwomen whom I most admired and wanted to be like. So, of course, I studied Barbara, as well as Jane Pauley and Carole Simpson. To me, these were exceptional journalists and outstanding women. They were respected journalists, poised on camera, and were dressed impeccably well, I thought. It's so funny because when I go places, people will say to me, "You know, you remind me of Barbara Walters!" And it's no wonder because she was one of the women that I admired and modeled.

I say that very thing to my coaching clients: watch and study other authors whom you admire on television. Watch them being interviewed, listen to the questions they are asked and how they respond. In doing so, you will develop your own unique style, just like I did as an anchor, and you will become a great success.

WOW: That's good advice. We can all learn from example. And for authors, it's a dream to land a TV interview, but most don’t know how to go about garnering one. Do you have any suggestions for authors who haven't yet booked an interview, but would like to?

Alice: Let me suggest three ways to get media attention. First, develop your image. Find your unique self, the one who wants to be a bestselling author, and I certainly can help you do that. I look forward to working with you to put forth your very best you, the YOU that television reporters, anchors, and talk show hosts will find entertaining and engaging.

Secondly, determine what you want to say on television, and make sure you have defined those message points, and you are able to speak them well. I would happy to go through these with you. We'll break it down so that you are very clear and concise with what it is you want to say and what you believe the TV talk show or news show will enjoy hearing.

And thirdly, find creative ways to get that message out to the TV stations, and this involves publicity. I suggest you start by contacting your local TV stations, but NO stalking though! Stalking is scary. I've had it happen to me, and it's no fun. We can certainly talk about these things and much more because there are many interesting ways to attract the attention of your local media.

WOW: Yikes! I know what you mean. I've even had a stalker...but that's another story for another time. Your points are excellent. Thank you for the advice. So, after an author has booked a TV show, why is it important to know if the interview will be live, live on tape, or taped?

Alice: These 3 formats uniquely effect the pace and content of your television interview. Let me explain:

A "live" show is just that: live. It is being broadcast in the same moment that you are being interviewed. You must be raring to go and maintain that momentum throughout the entire show. There is no time to slowly get your bearings and warm-up to this strange, new situation. You've got to be on point from the get-go. Remember, stick to your message points, stay engaged, and give every second all you've got.

A "live on tape" show is basically a show that is being taped as if it were "live." Just as you would in a live show format, you want to come out ready and raring to go. Know your message points ahead of time and get into the meat of your material right away. Very little editing, if any, is required for this type of program, but as far as you're concerned, this is still a live show.

A taped format is when your interview is taped to be aired at a different time. You need to be prepared to talk at length and in-depth about yourself, your book, and your experience in writing your book. The key is to speak in dynamic soundbites so that the reporter has a lot of content from which to choose when editing.

It is very important to know the format ahead of time so you can prepare accordingly and make the best use of this terrific opportunity to sell your book! For more information on this, you can download my FREE audio course at

WOW: That's very useful info, and I'm sure our readers will want to take advantage of your free audio course. Alice, in your opinion, what makes for a great guest on a TV show?

Alice: Be yourself. Be truthful. Be authentic, and never, ever try to pretend to be someone you aren't or that you know something you don't. Not only will the interviewer pick up on it, and then bury you in it, but you will lose all credibility with the audience.

WOW: What are some of the ways you help women authors achieve this?

Alice: Empowering you to relax and give yourself permission to be human. Stumbling over words and other unplanned happenstances are all part of normal everyday conversation (at least, they are for me!), and any good TV talk show host welcomes all aspects of one-on-one, human-to-human conversation. Relax and have fun!

WOW: That is the key. But, on occasion, I've seen some not-so-nice interviewers spin topics in an attempt to pry information out of their guests. Is there any way to prepare for this, in case it happens?

Alice: Oh yes. If an interviewer asks a question that you are not comfortable with, it's okay to tell them "I am uncomfortable answering that question," or "I feel that question is too personal." They will respect that. Be graceful, though!

WOW: Now, most authors are shy--since writing is such a solitary endeavor. Is there any hope for the painfully shy author who'd rather be doing anything other than speaking in front of an audience?

Alice: Absolutely! It is in an interviewer's best interest to make an author as comfortable and relaxed as possible before the lights come up and the cameras are turned on. If someone is painfully shy, the interviewer can prepare them as to what they can expect during the interview so they won't be as uncomfortable as they might be if they were not prepared. It does not do an interviewer any good to make a shy person uncomfortable because then they don't get their story, the author doesn't get to tell their story, and the audience doesn't get to hear their story.

WOW: In your opinion, what's the best way an author can sell her book to the audience during an interview?

Alice: Tell a story. People love to hear stories, so tell your story. Tell a story from your book--sort of like a teaser. Don't tell the whole story, but certainly tell a bit of it, and then let them know that they can read all about that in your book.

You can also tell a story about yourself when you were writing the book. Be excited about it; make it very interesting. You must be fascinated with your story in hopes that the viewer will be entertained, and will want to rush out and buy your book.

WOW: I like that idea of the teaser, and the writer's journey. I know it's simple, but just hearing you say it makes me realize that it doesn't have to be as complicated as many think it is. I also noticed on your blog that you have coaching services and workshops coming soon. How exciting! Can you tell us a little about what's in store?

Alice: I have an exclusive TV Smarts for Women Authors Media Training Workshop that will help make you a TV superstar and skyrocket your book to bestseller status coming up this July 23rd and July 24th in Orlando, Florida. There will also be an optional third day for private one hour one-on-one coaching sessions with me for those who attend the workshop, but space is extremely limited, and will be on a first come, first serve basis.

If someone misses the one-on-one coaching session at the workshop in July, they can contact me to schedule an appointment for exclusive coaching with me in Orlando. There are two different sessions to choose from: the half session which is four hours, and a full session which is eight hours. These private coaching sessions are "hard core" and for the author who is highly motivated to be on a national television show, and truly desires to have a bestseller.

WOW: Thank you Alice for taking the time to share your expertise with our readers today. You are doing a great thing by helping women authors! Do you have any inspirational quotes or advice you'd like to leave us with?

Alice: Come out of the gate smoking! I just had a shy client who appeared on a national morning show. He was only supposed to be on for a five minute segment--or so he thought--but because he had worked with me, and had been coached to be his authentic self rather than a nervous wreck, the producers and the hosts of the show became so enamored with him that he ended up being on throughout their entire four-hour long program that day.

I would encourage people who think they want to be on television or have already been booked to be on television to call me. Together, like that client, we can turn a five-minute segment into a huge success.

WOW: Thanks again, Alice. You've shared a wealth of information here with us today.

To find out more about Alice Collier, TV Image and Media Coach, please visit her website: and be sure to sign up for her Free eBook & Audio Mini-Course: “5 Things You Must Know Before You Market Your Book On TV.”

And visit Alice’s blog to keep up with the latest:

And join her on as one of her friends.
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Technical Times

Monday, April 21, 2008

By Valerie Fentress

Whether we like it or not technology is what runs the world, and even more so the writing world: Microsoft and Apple, desktop to laptop, email and the internet. These things permeate our homes, our workplaces, and even our writing. So what are some of the tricks and trends that we writers need to know?


The first thing to understand and be aware of in your writing is the format of your work in progress. Fiction or non-fiction, article or novel, each come down to how they are presented once printed or sent as an attachment. Most publishing companies and magazine editors are usually pretty clear on what formatting to use when submitting work to them, so be sure you check their guidelines before sending anything their way.

But, in general, most want you to use 12pt. Times New Roman font, minus any pretty colors or graphics. The reason for not using fancy graphics and pictures is they rarely transfer well. Pictures have a way of relocating to odd places within a document when you email it to someone, often because of a differing set up between you and the editor you’re sending it to. Even if you print it at Kinko's or some other print shop, it’s hard to ensure that the graphic will remain where you intended. So, if you have unique pictures and graphics that enhance your WIP then attach them as a separate file with insert references in the original document. This way, your WIP goes to them in its purest form, without the editor having to figure out what you were trying to do.

Also, it’s best to have a one-inch margin on all sides of your document. Just so the document comes out uniformly. It’s not recommended to use justified alignment; it creates odd spacing that can hinder the editor reading process. Even though it does make the left and right margins look pretty, it can really mess up a reader's flow. When submitting documents, we want to make the reading experience for the editor pleasing so they choose our piece and want us to write for them again. It’s best to use left alignment, unless otherwise mentioned in the guidelines for that editor.

Also, don’t forget to DOUBLE SPACE (MS Word- Tool bar: Format-Paragraph-Line Spacing) This allows the editor to make notes in the document if they choose, and provides for easier reading, even though it often doubles the page count.

Always look to the guidelines of the publishing company or magazines to double check your formatting before submitting any piece of work.

Saving Files

Now, most writers I know are paranoid about saving their documents while writing, but I’m sure there have been moments of terror when the computer freezes or shuts down and you don’t know if those last few perfect sentences were saved or lost to the void. One saving grace is to set your save function to automatically save every ten, five, two, or every minute if you’d like. In MS Word, you can go to Tools: Options and click the Save tab. In the middle of the prompt is the option to automatically save at whatever increment is in the box. I set mine to save every two minutes, just so that I hopefully don’t loose a single perfect word.

Another important thing to remember when saving your work is to have a backup. Don’t just rely on your computer’s memory to hold all your precious pieces of wisdom. Be sure to make a back up CD, or use a back up flash drive to hold on to those precious works in progress. You can back up monthly, weekly, or daily depending on the amount of writing you do in those time periods. Backing things up will make sure that your words will be kept safe if your computer decides to rebel against you.

One note on working with flash or thumb drives: NEVER work directly off your thumb drive. Meaning: if you open your flash drive file and then open the document listed and then begin working and editing in it, you are in danger of not being able to save your work properly. A flash drive is only a storage device it is not another operating system like your computer. It’s almost like your computer is translating the information off the drive into the PC’s actions, so if your computer acts up in this process, your unsaved work can be lost in translation. There are file recovery programs that can help, but even those rarely are able to maintain the integrity of your document. So, if you use a flash drive, it’s usually best to make a copy on the immediate computer you are using, and work off of the copy before saving your final work back on to the flash drive. I know many writers who have lost several chapters of work by working from their flash drive instead of a copy on the computer, so be careful.

Internet Resources

Always be careful when using referencing from the internet. While it is a great resource, there is very little monitoring as to the truth/fact that is posted. There is only so much faith we can put into the information we are basing articles and plot lines on. It’s always good to double and triple check your information through hardback information at the local library, before submitting a piece of work based on poor information. Researching takes time and the more thorough you are the first time, the more the editor or publisher will appreciate it. This even goes for fiction writers, because the greatest fiction comes from the re-imagination of real events.

Happy Writing!
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The Birth of the Digital Newsstand

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Did you know that digital magazines are booming? It’s a market that has been out for less than five years, but it’s just now beginning to take off, and I can understand why. Have you ever wanted to read a magazine right now, at the very moment you think about it, but you can’t get to the bookstore, newsstand, or market? I know I have. Well, now you can go to a virtual newsstand and purchase that publication to view immediately. Not only can you read your favorite magazine right away, you can also interact with the content. Some magazines even go a step further--adding video and audio to the mix. I know nothing beats sitting down with a magazine and leafing through the glossy goodness, but it’s great to have that option available at your fingertips.

One of those sites is, which calls itself "The World’s First 24/7 Global Newsstand" and has over 850 titles from 20 countries to choose from. Readers can purchase single issues or subscriptions, and read the magazines anytime, from any location, and in any language. Here’s a screenshot:

What does this mean to freelance writers?
In my opinion, I don’t think it will affect us at all. In fact, it may help. Statistics from "Digital Magazine Study" show that readers are more likely to visit advertiser’s sites on a digital version as opposed to print. That means that publishers can track the effectiveness of ads in real time--and we all know that a magazine with a lot of ads has more money to spend on freelance writers. In addition, writers may also receive extra payment for publishing the same piece online. Bonus!

What does this mean to publishers? By going digital, publishers lessen print and circulation costs, gain real time statistics, interactivity, and strengthen their brand. They also have the ability to tap into markets that may have been out of their reach before, such as international. On the production side, it’s not that much different than putting out a print magazine. There are companies that will take the print files that are done in programs such as InDesign, and convert them to a web friendly version, complete with analytics, rich media, and social capability. Sites such as:

But are readers willing to make the total switch? I still enjoy curling up with a good book or magazine, but like the idea of being able to view something immediately if I’m researching information. What do you think?
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Journal Insights

Saturday, April 19, 2008
Many writers keep a diary or journal, even if they don't write in it consistently. I try to update my journal at least once a week, but sometimes, I only write in it when I'm having a horrible day and I need something to vent to that's not going to judge me or gasp at my choice of bad language. When I have time, I read my old journals and am often surprised by things I had forgotten about or by how much I've changed over the years.

Recently, a friend of mine said she was feeling unmotivated and uninspired to write, so I encouraged her to journal. What she wrote wasn't important, just the fact that she wrote. She could ramble and go off on tangents and not make any sense at all--it's her journal and no one has to see it.

I've found notes for story or novel ideas in mine; life goals I set for myself; resolutions; and a whole lot of rambling nonsense that must have made sense at the time. I love being able to express myself with no reservations in my journals. I write a lot of things in them I wouldn't say out loud. Just writing it down really helps. It's like having a personal therapist, except you don't have to pay by the hour and your appointment is anytime you feel like it. Instead of a therapist offering insights into your personality, however, you have to discover those insights yourself.

If you've kept journals for a long time, go back and read your early ones. You might not only find some ideas and inspiration, you might also find out some things about yourself you didn't know.
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Finding Inspiration

Friday, April 18, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

It seems that prior to quitting my full-time job, writing ideas easily entered my mind.

And now that I'm writing full-time, there are moments when the inspiration folder remains empty. How do I generate ideas? I step back and take a look at the world around me.Here are some surefire ways to jump start the idea machine.

Did you know the Smurfs turn 50 in 2008? Anniversaries can add clips to your file. Check out Chase's Calendar of Events. Available at most libraries, Chase's lists a multitude of anniversaries and holidays in key years: 10, 25, 50, etc. Chase's is a great place to brainstorm! Thanks to this book, I sold a story about turkeys to a regional magazine and a local daily paper.

Any "hot-off-the-press" news in the wonderful world of science can generate ideas. Sites like Science Daily - - offer daily email updates containing the newest research. By subscribing to this type of service, I sold an article concerning Female Athlete Triad Syndrome to a national fitness magazine.

My great-grandfather immigrated from Sweden and my grandmother used to make the best Swedish meatballs. Explore your family's cultural background and you'll find a hope chest of ideas. Or what about the local watermelon festival held each August? How does it impact the regional identification? Festivals, food, and fun associated with cultural events or local color can start a story. I checked into Swedish wedding customs when I got married and that led me to write a series of articles about wedding customs associated with different cultures.

Do you keep a file of ideas, articles, or essays? I admit it: I am a clip freak, constantly cutting articles or essay that intrigue me. I file them away - along with thousands of ideas written on Post-It notes -and bring out that folder every few months to sort through those ideas. The last time I flipped through the congested file folder, I came upon some literature I'd received from my doctor about the benefits of cinnamon. I did some additional research and sold an article to a local newspaper.

Ideas are everywhere, and even when you aren't looking, inspiration will plant the seeds for writing and nurture them until they unfold in front of you.
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41 Blog Success Tips You Can Learn Today

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Blog days. They are a great opportunity to put your voice and your thoughts out into cyberspace. Some writers are so excited to connect to their readers that they blog daily and sometimes more than once a day. For others of us who haven't yet hit our blog stride, blogging seems more like a pesky morning chore with one looming question, "What the heck am I going to write about?"

If I ever figure out the answer to that question, you'll be the first to know.

While I continue trying to work that out, I'm always on the lookout for tips to help make blogging easier and more effective--which
is good for you because I love sharing when I find good information and inspiration. Today, the tips come from Susan Gilbert, AME's Search Engine Marketing Expert and the Web 2.0 company owner of, who provides Social Networking websites and services.

Susan offers up some great ideas to boost your blogging success...

41 Blog Success Tips You Can Learn Today
1. Read - The more you read the better writer you will be. Being a blog reader helps you understand the mind of the blog reader. What they want, how they like information to be presented, what turns you off. Read good blogs and note your thoughts.

2. Take one step - Chunk it down. Don't be overwhelmed, take one step at a time and keep going.

3. Be interesting - Readers want to find fresh, valuable, entertaining, remarkable information. Make an effort to deliver more than just facts. Make it about them, not you.

4. Get your point across - Style, grammar, spelling all count for nothing if your audience doesn't get your meaning. Make sure you are understood.

5. Deliver the goods - Being valuable is more important than following any rules.

6. Be consistent - You are only as good as your last post.

7. Prioritize quality over quantity - Fewer kick-ass articles are better than many so-so posts.

8. Develop expertise - You might not be an expert now but you can be. Dive into your subject and become the go-to person.

9. Hold on to passion - Keep the fires burning, don't let your subject turn into a chore.

10. Communicate fascination - If you love your subject then let your readers know, share your enthusiasm, make it contagious.

11. Write better - All of us can improve our writing but it takes effort and motivation.

12. Grow your experience - Do new things, broaden your horizons, stretch yourself.

13. Share your experience - When you learn something new, tell your readers about it.

14. Explore and experiment - Keep trying new things, never stagnate.

15. Be unique - If you are the same as everyone else, why would anyone visit your blog?

16. Look good - Appearances count, both in terms of your blog design and your posts. Make your content zing!

17. Make a great first impression - Do new visitors know what your blog is about in under 10 seconds? Can they navigate easily? Where is your best content?

18. Build momentum - Keep pushing every day, do not be content, it takes less effort to keep going than to stop and start over.

19. Optimize - Keep tweaking, continuously improve.

20. Write with focus - Don't squander your readers' attention, give them what they came for.

21. Build your reputation - Know what you stand for and deliver it consistently.

22. Go for keywords - Find out what your readers are looking for and write about it.

23. Write compelling headlines - Get attention, promise a benefit, provoke interest.

24. Offer full feeds - Attention is more important than page views.

25. Interview - Supplement your knowledge by interviewing experts.

26. Break news - Be first to a story, let everyone know and see the links flood in.

27. Run contests - Contests are fun and build awareness.

28. Research, survey and poll - Research results are newsworthy and differentiate.

29. Toot your horn - Celebrate successes, send out press releases.

30. Monitor your stats - Stats tell you the health of your blog. Where is traffic coming from? Can you do more of what works? Is your blog growing or sliding? There are many free services.

31. Comment and answer comments - Nurture your audience, make them know they are valued. Comment on other blogs.

32. Link generously - If you want links then you have to first give them.

33. Join forums - Break out of your bubble, meet people where they are.

34. Give stuff away - You get what you give. Free downloads get rewarded with links and traffic.

35. Make friends - One of the pleasures of blogging and also a route to success.

36. Guest blog - Write brilliant content for other bloggers and see your brand grow.

37. Ask questions - Curiosity is a virtue.

38. Twitter - Constantly communicate and get to know people. Anything too short for a blog post can be delivered in 140 characters.

39. Stumble - Train yourself to discover, recognize and share brilliant content. What you can identify you can imagine, what you can imagine you can create.

40. Rebel - Break the rules, go against the flow, zig when others tell you to zag, do your own thing your own way.

41. Enjoy - Keep doing what you do until it stops being fun. When it is no longer fun, bring the fun back and your energy will be infectious.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

Share your blog link and/or links to some of your favorite blogs in the comments section. We'd love to check them out!
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Writing Book Reviews

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Do you have a desire to break into print, but don’t know how? Are you an avid reader? Do you enjoy sharing what you read with others? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then writing book reviews may appeal to you!

Simply put, a book review is a short summary of a book – don’t give away too much of the plot, readers hate that – that includes several important elements. A good review discusses the strengths and weakness of the book, if any. It may also compare and contrast the book. If it is work of fiction, the reviewer may draw comparisons with other books written by the author or with books of the same genre. For nonfiction, a reviewer may draw comparisons and contrasts based on the topic.

Good reviews gives readers an idea of which audiences will find the book most appealing. In my experience – I read a lot of book reviews – reviewers often do this using some variation of, “if you enjoyed _______________, then you’re sure to love ________________________,” or “ If you’re a fan of _____________________, then you should try ________________.” Of course, there are many other ways to wet the palate of readers. Be creative.

Book reviews should be short and to the point. Most vary in length from 150-500 words. Feature length book reviews may average 1000 words. To be a good book reviewer, i.e. one who is paid to write reviews and is asked to write again, knowing how to write short is a must. Before entering this market, I suggest reading reviews written by well-respected reviewers such as Anita Silvey, Roger Sutton, and Kathleen Horning. I also suggest checking out a book on writing book reviews from you local library – you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

The market for book reviews is smaller than it was around twenty years ago. Many national publications have cut their book review sections in half or eliminated them. But the book review is making a comeback. Most local publications have book review sections. You can find them at you local library or at public newsstands. Magazines for children and adults also publish reviews, though the competition may be more intense because these markets usually pay well for them. And don’t forget the online market! Many websites and e-zines are in need of great reviews.

So again, if you enjoy reading and love to write, why not get paid for it! The book review may be your vehicle into print.
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Do You Offend When You Hit 'Send'?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008
By Jill Earl

In ‘The Freelance Union’, WOW!’s April ’08 issue, columnist Hope Clark strikes gold once again by offering valuable advice to new writers making their way through the writing business in her column, Funds 4 Writers: Dodging The New Writer-In-The-Headlights Look. What really opened my eyes was the section entitled, ‘When to Argue’, for when you’re online.

How many times have you received an email or found yourself scrolling through your favorite forum or chat and someone posts something that leaves you speechless, in a negative way? And, baby, you’re ready to rumble, typing up a response guaranteed to sear eyebrows! But, should you jump into the fray?

Hope's answer is no, that it’s never a good time to argue, and offers solid reasons for putting careful thought into your comments before you send them out. For me, a key reason for holding your cyber tongue is to keep from destroying a budding career.

Nowadays it takes nothing to Google a name and come up with links to everything that person’s name is attached to, even negative content. That could be a possible turn-off to potential editors, publishers, even future readers.

Check out the rest of Hope’s column by surfing over to

Thanks, Hope!
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By: Carrie Hulce

I was looking through one of the many magazines that my wonderful mother-in-law shares with me when I came upon a very interesting article.

The article was actually about Books as a form of art. Which as many of you know with the numerous pages we all have written that writing, is an art, it is the art of bringing to life the imaginations of many, putting down our thoughts, our stories, new worlds, so much more. But, what about books that don’t have pages that you can actually read. As of today, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England is opening a new exhibit called “Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book”.

This particular exhibit will not only show case pieces by several early masters such as Joseph Beuys and Henri Mattise, but also some very well known contemporary artists as well like Anthony Caro and Anish Kapoor.

The books will be on display from April 15 through June 29, for those of us that can’t hop on the nearest plane and jet off to London, you can view some of the books via the wonderful web. Just to You will be whisked away to London and see the all new exhibit.

The site gives information about each of the pieces in the show. The pictures are astounding.

If you are interested in reading the article, it can be found in April 2008 issue of Town & Country. The article is called “Look Books” written by Anthony Gardner. Unfortunately, you will not find the article on their website, I have looked. I was hoping that for those of you who would rather save a few trees by reading the online version of a magazine like I do, I could give you a site to check out the full article, but unfortunately, I did not find it on Town & Country’s website. I do apologize for that.

Happy Writing Everyone!!!

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Mom Writer's Literary Magazine Contest

Monday, April 14, 2008
We received a contest listing call from our friends at MWLM that we thought you would enjoy!

From the Editors:

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine is currently accepting submissions for our first-line writing contest, from 3/31 - 5/16/08, with a $10 entry fee. It may be creative non-fiction or fiction and should be between 700 - 1,200 words.

The first line of your entry must be, "I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but my desires distracted me..."

The work will be judged by MWLM Editors, and they will choose one grand prize winner to receive $100!

Please visit their website for more details:

Good luck and happy writing!
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SEO Sundays: Referral Traffic from StumbleUpon

Sunday, April 13, 2008
I knew about the social networking site StumbleUpon, but I didn’t know about the tremendous traffic it could bring. In the past two days, we’ve seen a huge number of referrals—close to 8,000 MORE Unique Visitors than normal. Well, that definitely caught my attention!

You may be wondering, how did you do that?

Actually, I didn’t have anything to do with it, but it sure did make me want to find out what people were looking at. From what I gather, one of the members of StumbleUpon added a page from our website to their favorites, and their friends checked it out, and so on. And while that’s fantastic and all, if I didn’t take the time to figure out why this was happening, it wouldn’t teach me anything.

Are you in the same boat? Have you noticed traffic to your website/blog from StumbleUpon and didn’t know where in the heck it was coming from?

I don’t know about your stats, but I use awstats, an open source standard, and the only thing I could see from the referring address was: If you follow that, it ends up going to a page that pushes for advertising sales.

Here is the screenshot:

But, if you really want to find out more, I discovered this link:

Follow that link (above) and enter the specific URL that is getting the highest traffic and referrals from StumbleUpon. Then you can track who recommended that page, why, and see all their friends, their profile, and whom you are going to need to connect with if you want to keep getting that kind of crazy-awesome traffic.

How StumbleUpon works:

When you discover (or stumble) websites that you like, you vote for them or give them a review. Other users who have similar interests connect to your votes and/or pages and follow those links. You either “discover” pages—meaning you visit websites directly (on your own) and rate them—or you “stumble” on pages—by hitting a button that randomly takes you surfing to a website and you get to choose whether you like it or not. It’s that easy!

STEP 1: Join StumbleUpon

- Go to the StumbleUpon homepage
- Click the Join StumbleUpon Link
- Enter your email address, birth date, and choose a username
- Verify and click on the Join and Download Now button
- Install and restart
- Go to your email and click the verification link
- You’ll see the toolbar and you’re ready to start stumbling

The Toolbars look like this:

STEP 2: Customize Your Interests

- Click on the Home tab
- Click the Preferences link in the sidebar
- Click My Interests underneath the Preferences Header
- Select subjects that interest you and hit save (for instance: writing would be under the “Media” category tab on the left-hand sidebar)
- Click Save My Interests

STEP 3: Drive Traffic to your Website/Blog

Make sure you fill out your profile and add your website/blog URL. This will be displayed above your main image (your icon, picture of yourself, logo, etc.) and identify you as the owner of that website/blog. This will also help identify you to others when you are recommending them. Get it? Be nice. Get reciprocation.

When you visit a website that hasn’t been voted for before, then you “discover” that website. You hit the “thumbs-up” icon in your toolbar, and a box will pop up asking you to fill out a review for that site. Your review then appears on your profile.

TIP: don’t vote up your own sites—as much as you’d like to, that’s pretty obvious! So, vote on other sites where you really, truly like the content and the good karma will come flowing back to you. Trust me! By choosing great content, you are driving people to your profile because they know you have good taste.

You can also find websites by clicking the StumbleUpon icon. You then find sites according to your interest categories and can vote on them, or write a review. Of course, you don’t have to give it a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, you can simply hit the StumbleUpon icon again and keep cruising. But the more sites you vote on, the stronger your profile will become, and the more reliable you will become when you vote on sites that are relevant and popular with others.

Pretty soon you’ll have a network of sites that you recommend, or don’t, and have a preference list that matches your choices and your target audience. From there, you can enter groups of like-minded individuals—writing groups, blogging groups, etc.—and connect with people who share your interests.

Why is StumbleUpon different from other social networking sites?

Unlike or other networking sites, you don’t have to ask for friend approval. You simply add friends if you like their content. You can also import friends from your email address book and ask them to join. You will find out all the options after signing up with their site.

Now, this isn’t a comprehensive guide by any means—it’s simply just my findings through research of a new phenomenon that has been gracing our website in the past couple of days. So, I’m going to share with you some great links to explore further information: (Bits & Pieces of this post have been gleaned from these wonderful sites, or some of them are just sites that have great information I haven't covered!) Be sure to check them out if you're interested.

Search Engine Land
Social Media Trader
Pro Blogger

One thing I’ve discovered about StumbleUpon is that it’s an incredibly fun site! By tapping one button, you move from one site to the next and get to share your opinion with others. It’s inspirational and a unique venue for exploring content on the web. Even if you aren’t interested in traffic to your website/blog, I urge you all to take it for a spin and see what you find! And if you like one of our articles or blog posts here on The Muffin, or on WOW! Women On Writing, hit that little link at the bottom of the post to submit it to StumbleUpon. I bet you’ll have the favor returned.

Happy writing, blogging, and social network-swarming!
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Roller Coaster Reviews

Saturday, April 12, 2008
No matter how serene and unaffected you think you'll be, when the reviews of your debut book start rolling in, you need to be ready for a wild emotional ride. I don't think there's a roller coaster theme park in the world that can match the highs and lows.

As many of you know, my memoir, The Break-Up Diet launched on Valentine's Day. Over the course of the first month, I watched Amazon like the future of my writing career depended on it. It was a lot like waiting in a long line for the best ride. The anticipation. The excitement. The waiting. Then...

Woo-hoo! Readers say the book is "compulsively readable," "clever and entertaining" and they use words like "superb," "witty," "fascinating," "endearing," and "terrific."

You're in the front car, front seat, with your hands in the air, on The Slingshot--rocketing toward the stars with the wind in your face, laughing, flying, and about to take a second lap around the moon.

Then, before the exhilaration cools, more reviews come in: "disappointing," "not much substance," "forgettable."

Welcome to The Death Drop--where you are the only rider aboard, frantically trying to brace yourself in a seat with a broken safety buckle. The car is pushed to the edge of a precipice and you find yourself free-falling with your stomach lodged in your throat and no chance to catch your breath.

And so it goes on The Yo-Yo ride. Up and down: happy, sad, elated, depressed, confident, worried, thankful, irritated--until finally, you decide to trade in your E-tickets and climb on the Whatever Tram. It's not an apathy ride; it's smooth and Zen-like in its simple acceptance and understanding that you can't please everyone.

All you can do is put your story out into the world. Some people will embrace it, others will not, and that's okay. You have new stories to tell and your characters need your emotional attention.
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Finding Time to Write

Thursday, April 10, 2008
A number one complaint I hear from my writing friends is, "I don't have enough time to write." I wrote an earlier post about the ABC's of writing--Apply Butt to Chair. This time, I have a couple suggestions on finding time to write, and these may seem strange at first. But please, read on, and maybe even try one.

Are you a morning glory or night owl? Do your creative juices flow with the rays of the sun or the glow of the stars? If you can figure this out, you could produce more quality work and probably more words per minute. The Internet is full of quizzes on finding your right time of day as well as articles with research on honoring your internal clock. Just go to any search engine, type in “morning person,” and check out a few of the sites.

Writer Lou Turner prefers to write at night because it’s quiet. “I live in a house with two sons, one husband, one grandson during the week, two male dogs, and one male cat. And none of them can find the kitchen or laundry rooms by themselves. When they go to bed, I turn off MTV, the golf channel and rock station, put my ceiling fan on low, open the window a crack so I can hear the fountain outside, and I write.”

Night writing doesn’t work for everyone. Writer Amy Harke-Moore says, “At night, a brain fog sets in.” When working on a deadline, she has written at all times of the day and found the morning to be her favorite.

Everyone is different. Taking the time to figure out when you are the freshest and when your creative juices are flowing can produce more quantity and quality in your writing.

What does the E-word have to do with writing? Believe me, sometimes I wonder the same thing.
In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wellness, authors Patricia Smith and Muriel MacFarlane tell us, “Working out can improve mental vigor, reaction time, acuity, math skills, creativity, and imagination.” Scientists have conducted studies on the connection between individuals who exercise and their response time to mental challenges or their improved scores on intellectual tests. With a healthy flow of blood and oxygen, the brain is protected and works better.

I have to admit when I exercise, I have more energy in all aspects of my life. If I have more energy for everything, that means I have more for my family and friends and job, but most importantly—my writing.

Exercise has a fringe benefit, too. It gives you time to think about those parts of your story, article, or poem that are driving you crazy. During a set of jumping jacks, you can rescue your hero from the villain. While racing around the track, you may create the perfect title for the love poem you polished off the night before. Cycling down a forest trail allows time to discover another spin on a nonfiction article about spider webs. Besides more energy and time to work out plot points, the fat will fall off, muscles will tighten, and you can eat more chocolate whenever you get writer’s block.

**A portion of this post originally appeared in Beginnings Magazine, Summer/Fall 2004

by Margo Dill
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Fueling the Fire: Conflict

by Valerie Fentress

What makes you read fiction? Is it the pretty cover, the back cover copy, or the characters and plot? Most would answer the plot, and what makes up a good plot; conflict.

All great novels contain strong conflict. It’s the internal and external conflicts the characters are facing that drive us through to the last page. But how do writers keep the conflict strong and realistic through the course of a novel?

Conflict first starts with knowing your characters. Even if you don’t outline your novels before you write, you at least need to know who’s going to take you on this 300 page journey. It’s important to know their history, even if you never tell the reader. Know their fears, hopes, and insecurities. Being able to know what drives your characters is how you will know what events will lead to the greatest conflict and change in your characters

The second key to creating conflict is dialogue. My husband and I get into more arguments over how we speak or interpret what we say to one another than anything else in our marriage. This is because individuals bring their own experiences and expectations to any conversation, and if people don’t understand each other that can cause endless pages of conflict.

In Donald Maass’ book Writing the Breakout Novel, he spends a lot of time discussing conflict, because it is the driving force behind plot. In one of the exercises Maass asks you to take your character and define what that character wants most. Then he asks what would happen if your character didn’t obtain his goal? Then taking it further, ask what would make this worse, and what would make this loss of goal matter more than life. These are great questions to ask when trying to develop conflict. Maass also assigns a test to the flow of conflict in your novel. The test being once you’ve printed out your completed novel throw all the pages in the air and let them scatter to the ground. Then sit down and pick up page by page and see if that page has conflict. If not consider cutting that scene. Cause if conflict isn’t driving your plot forward than your novel will fall flat and not engage the reader.

One thing to be weary of when developing conflict in your novels is to keep things realistic, even in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. No reader enjoys cliché conflicts, or the situations that always lead to the worst that can happen. You have gauge your WIP so that your conflict makes sense with what your trying to accomplish and not just constantly creating the worst case scenario.

Remember conflict is what is going to drive the reader from page one to the end, so keep it real.

Happy Writing!
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Pushing All the Right Buttons

Wednesday, April 09, 2008
As women, we already have a corner on the emo market. Actually, if you are anything like me, you can pretty much set a clock (or at least a calendar) by exactly when your mood swings are about to reach E-ticket carnival ride proportions. Something someone says, something you read, something you see, can trigger an emotional response. The key is to find a way to understand and use your emotional hot buttons. Once you recognize what stirs your thoughts, your ire, your passion--then you can begin to craft those emotional hot buttons into your stories and use them to create the same feelings in your readers.

The same technique with a slightly different angle can be used when you apply it to marketing. Analyze the things that make you respond positively and negatively to things like advertisements and book cover copy. Once you figure out what makes YOU want to purchase or read a book, then you'll be able to craft your marketing materials to appeal to other readers in the same way.

Marketing expert, Penny Sansevieri explained it well in a recent article that I will share with you.

Tapping into Emotional Hot Buttons
I talk a lot about "tapping into emotional hot buttons"--so much so that in a recent class I taught an author stood up and said: "Ok, enough already! Everyone talks about emotional hot buttons but what are they?" Good question and I suspect it's one many of us in marketing forget ourselves from time to time. So let's look at some of these emotional triggers. What makes people buy, read, or join whatever it is we're selling.

We want what we don't have. This is pretty basic. We want what we don't have. We want more money, we want to be fitter, healthier, sexier, smarter. Some of us (ok, most of us) want more time. We also desire to be popular (come, admit it, even the most modest of us desire popularity). We want more security but we also want to have more fun. We want to be smarter and with all the data out there, we want to be "in the know."

We want to keep what we have. Once we have whatever it is we desire, we want to keep it. Books on keeping relationships strong, keeping marriages working, staying on your diet, keeping the weight off, keeping your job, whatever it is—these thousands of books are a testament to the fact that once we have what we want, we don't want to lose it.

We want to avoid stuff we don't like. Let's face it, we've all 'copped out' at some point or another. We want it the way we want it and the icky stuff, well, let's avoid that altogether. How can you help someone avoid doing stuff they don't like? Thousands of books have been written on this topic. Everything from reframing, to repositioning a particular topic, even less painful ways to end a relationship.

We want to be liked. It's a pretty standard human emotion. We want to be liked, or at the very least respected. Being 'in the know' makes us liked, doing and saying the right things in social situations makes us likable. While some would argue "I won't sell my soul to be liked," it's still a very strong thread in our culture. From buying the right shoe, to purchasing the right house. We want to be liked or rather, like everyone else.

We want to be unique. On the heels of the above statement this may not make sense, but in a world of sameness we also want to be unique. Not so unique that we're walking down the street with pink hair (with all due respect to my fabulous hairdresser who from time to time dons a pink-do), but we want to be seen as individual, and independent. You'll see a lot of this in car commercials. The next time one of the car manufacturers is trying to sell you a car on TV, watch the ad closely. In not so subtle ways they'll tell you the car is what everyone else wants or has, and yet at the same time it has your own personal thumbprint of uniqueness.

So now that you know what emotional hot buttons are, how to do you tap into them? Well, first off find out what your book does for the reader. Whether fiction or non-fiction it doesn't matter. There's always an emotional trigger that gets someone to buy something. We all buy from emotion, it's that simple. So figure out what the emotion is (and there might be several), and then tap into that emotion. You can tap into an emotion through engaging words on your website, through blog postings, ads, a video trailer of your book, whatever it is, if you're not pressing their buttons you're probably not making the sale either.

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.


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Liquid Clarity

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
You've heard this before: Drink more water. I know, boooring. But after trying a little water drinking experiment, you may find that it actually helps with your writing!

I stumbled upon this benefit by accident. One of the books on my nightstand is Julia Cameron's The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size. A chapter called "H2O" inspired me to drink up.

First, there's the supposed weight loss benefit. Even if you're eating right and exercising enough, water consumption can be the missing link to success. Cameron claims that a successful diet is one-third diet, one-third exercise and one-third water intake. She quotes nutritionist Sara Ryba, who says, "If you are stuck and the scale won't budge, try upping your water." Ryba has often seen water "melt" away the final stubborn pounds a client is striving to lose. Sounds good to me.

She also writes about water washing out waste materials and toxins from our bodies. "Within in few days of high water consumption, our skin tone improves. We also seem to 'wash away' any lingering bloat from our sugar consumption." Well, that's something I could definitely use, especially with my sweet tooth, and who doesn't want a nice skin tone?

Finally, the clincher, for me. Cameron writes about a hairdresser who claims he can always tell when his clients are on a water regimen. "It shows on the skin, and a sparkle in the eye," he says. "They look like they've had some work done, but it’s simply water that's rejuvenating them." Oh vanity, you got me.

So I've started to drink a bottle of water first thing in the morning, before teeth brushing. I take a tall commuter mug of water in the car with me on errands. I drink water with lunch and dinner, keep a glass with me at my desk, and play games with myself to finish a glass at certain intervals throughout the day. Aside of the near constant bathroom breaks, it's going well.

The surprise has been how clear-headed I am. I feel awake and alert when I drink a lot of water. A sharp mind certainly can't hurt when your goal is to write well. Writers, you may want to give increased water drinking a try.

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