Keeping It All Together

Saturday, January 31, 2009
By Jill Earl

When it comes to navigating this writing road I’ve chosen to take (or did it choose me?), I need all the help I can get. So when I kept seeing ads for a calendar tailored to writers, I wanted to check it out for myself. Especially since I noticed that Funds For Writers editor C. Hope Clark featured it in her newsletters.

The verdict? Again, a recommendation from Ms. Clark proves to be a winner. The Bylines Writer's Desk Calendar, created by editor and writer Sylvia Forbes, is a great tool for writers. Besides the prerequisite calendar, you can find weekly inspiration from fellow writers eager to share their triumphs and challenges. You can set up yearly, monthly and weekly goals with ease. There are a number of trackers for your use. You can even become a contributor for Bylines, although the submission deadline for 2010 is February 1st, 2009.

I’m definitely a fan of this little book! Makes organizing my life not only easier, but a bit more fun. Take a look for yourself at

And while we’re on the subject, when it comes to writing, what are some tools you use to keep it all together?
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Friday Speak Out: The Power of Writing in My Life, Guest Post by K. L. Mc Loughlin

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Power of Writing in My Life

by K. L. Mc Loughlin

Baby Steps is the story of one women starting over with a second chance at love and happiness. Lynda Blake is a widow with a teenage son struggling to find room for herself in her own life. From the very beginning I knew she deserved to be happy, I knew I was going to find a way for her to have it all, a happy ending that was really a happy beginning.

Lynda is a character I know well. In many ways she and I think alike. I was determined to give her a life I didn’t think I’d ever have. When I created her, I had two small children, one in pre-school, one in kindergarten and was hanging on in an unhappy marriage. I’d made my bed and for the sake of kids I was laying in it. But Lynda was free and she had her chance, I was going to make darn sure that she made the most of it.

As you can see, my first real experience with the power of intention and affirmations came about inadvertently by writing this novel. Now, I’m not the fastest of writers. From start to submission I spent four and a half years writing and rewriting my novel.

I learned about Lynda’s love interest Dr. Michael Cameron early on in the process. He was tall, dark hair, strong, had the look of a solid man but most importantly he was a man who was honest with himself about who he was good and bad. He was a man who not only knew how to love but didn’t need Lynda to be anybody other than who she was.

By the end of my third draft of Baby Steps, three years later, I had been separated from my soon to be ex-husband for the better part of a year and the divorce was all but signed. I’d dedicated myself to learning all I could about myself so that I would not dare make the same mistakes again. If I was going to get a second chance at love I was going to make all new mistakes this time! I wanted to learn about myself and grow so that I would be ready for love. I woke up every day happy and appreciated that more than I can express. I was lonely but it was so much easier to be lonely and alone than lonely and in a relationship.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever really trust a man enough to be willing to bring him into my children’s life when I met my very own Michael. He is strong and solid. He has black hair. He is honest with himself and knows how to love better than I do. He has an EQ off the charts. For some reason this amazing man fell in love with me and my kids. We became a family and married 11 months later.

I had no idea when I began writing Baby Steps that I was opening the door to my own new happy beginning but if Lynda deserved to be happy then I did too. So even if you can’t see your way out of where you are write it for someone else, someone kind of like you and see what happens. You just might create your own new beginning too!

K.L. Mc Loughlin is the author of Baby Steps and host of PIVTR's Today's Women. For more information please visit her website or

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Can your BlackBerry Help Your Writing Career?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
by LuAnn Schindler

OK, I admit it. I bought myself a "Happy Holidays to me" gift: the latest, greatest smart phone from BlackBerry. At first I considered just the practical aspects: email availability from up to five accounts, Twitter and Facebook applications for promotion and posting of writing samples, video and voice recording capabilities, and a memo program. It also has documents-to-go, including Word and PowerPoint.

I've used it a couple times to jot notes for articles so I don't forget about the sensory details associated with an event. The small keyboard is, well, small, but I can type 120 on a regular keyboard. I'm close to 75 wpm on the BlackBerry keyboard.

Will BlackBerry revolutionize a writer's world? Maybe not, but it is a handy device to keep me organized and close to my work, even if I'm away from the office.
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Interview with Amy Perry, 3rd Place Winner in 2008 Summer Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Muffin welcomes third-place winner, Amy Perry, today to get her insight into her winning short story, "Ueno." Amy is a graduate student of Sociology at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is the mother of three cats: Sing, Neko and Stark. Although her work has been printed several times in UMSL publications, she is relatively new to the world of published work. Her submission to the WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest was inspired by a trip to Japan over the summer, where she had the good fortune to visit both Tokyo and Osaka and observe the differences first hand. (Both were fantastic, but Osaka remains her favorite.) The narrator of her entry is a recurring character of hers.

WOW: Welcome, Amy. We are so glad you could be with us today. So, the idea for your winning short story occurred when you were on a trip in Japan. Describe a little bit of your process from inspiration to final draft.

Amy: It's somewhat difficult for me to qualify the "moment of inspiration" because the process by which I go about writing is often so aimless. Sometimes I go into a story knowing exactly what it is I want to write about; while other times, I'll take the first word or phrase that comes into my head and just start writing. Most of the time when I do this, I end up throwing away what I've come up with, but occasionally it'll take on a life of its own.

With Ueno, I wrote it with the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest--and its size constraints--in mind. Having recently returned from Japan, the sights and sounds of the places I had visited were still fresh in my mind. My trip to Ueno Park was one of the strongest lingering images that Tokyo had left me with. My friend and I had taken the subway to Ueno but, because of the sweltering heat, left after a brief walk through the park. And yet despite the heat, there were these homeless men scattered throughout the park, sitting cross-legged on flattened cardboard boxes. How they were able to do it, I'm not sure, but the human spirit endures.

So, I knew I wanted to write about Ueno, and I knew I had about 500 words to work with. What can you say in 500 words? The narrator of my piece is one character, out of several, with a fairly well fleshed out personality and personal history. It's a voice I know well and can easily write in, which, with the deadline for the contest looming close, was a must. So, I just put the two together. Where could a teenage runaway go the night before hitching a ride out of town? I started with those three pieces--the setting, the character, and the circumstance--and worked from there.

I didn't do a lot of editing between the rough and the final draft. Rather, I edited while I wrote, and I wrote with an understanding of how many words I had to say what I wanted to say.

WOW: Just with your description in this interview, you make Ueno come alive. It makes me want to go there and witness it for myself. That's the mark of a good writer! How did you come up with your title, "Ueno?" Did you have any other choices?

Amy: Titles are always an afterthought for me. I know the titles are often what catch a reader's attention, but I'm not very good at them. Most often with my short stories, I tend to fall back on one or two words that link the entire piece together, usually a word that at first seems random, but after reading the story, gains a new significance.

WOW: I think titles are difficult for many writers, and most of us follow a process similar to what you suggested. Every once in a while, you will meet those people who have a title first. What are a couple challenges of writing flash fiction? Any advice for our readers?

Amy: Just getting started is a major difficulty for me. I can stare at a blank Microsoft document for hours if I let myself. And even if I have a thousand and one things I could write about, my fingers don't move. So with any story, but especially with flash fiction, where and how to start seems to be the key. You don't have the time to build your story up, so choosing the best place to start is a challenge.

Another is, of course, the word length. I have a tendency to over explain myself, in real life and in writing, because there is always this nagging voice in the back of my head that demands that everyone knows exactly where I stand. In flash fiction, you have to trust that your words and your readers can draw the line from point A to point B, without every minute step along the way mapped out in detail.

Advice is difficult for me to dispense because I'm not sure I'm in any position to dispense it. The piece I wrote for the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest was really the first time I wrote with such a short word requirement in mind. Starting out, I even googled "flash fiction" to make sure I had a decent idea of what flash fiction even was.

I guess if I were to give out any piece of advice, it would be this: know your characters. Where they've been, where they're going, and everything in between. Some of the best short stories I've written have come out of tidbits from a character's past that bloom into story lines I never would have thought of otherwise. Another piece of advice is to step outside your comfort zone. One thing I love about writing is the limitless opportunities for research it grants me.

WOW: That answer was full of great advice, Amy! I agree knowing your characters and letting them take you on adventures and places you never dreamed of is part of the fun of writing. This is something non-writers often don't understand, but I bet everyone reading this interview is nodding her head yes right now. In your bio, it mentioned you are fairly new to the publishing world. How did it feel to win third place in this contest?

Amy: It was a shock! Even more so because there seems to be some issue with my email account, so I wasn't even aware that I was a finalist until I was told I had won third place. So, I assumed my entry had been passed on. I want to thank WOW!, the sponsors, and Elise Capron. I am very honored and very flattered to have a place among such distinguished writers. I was new to WOW! when I first entered the contest, having only recently heard of it, but now I visit it virtually every day.

WOW: Well, congratulations to you again, Amy. And we are glad that you got that problem figured out with your email, so we could talk with you today. We are also glad to hear that you are reading WOW! on a regular basis. What are some of your writing goals for the future?

Amy: Basically to continue to get my name out there and continue writing. Between work and school, I sometimes have a tendency to put writing on the back burner (though it's always foremost in my thoughts), and I am endeavoring to give writing the same importance I give school and work.

WOW: I think a lot of writers struggle with those same time issues, and many of us are working on that in the New Year. Good luck to you! What other writing projects are you currently working on even though you are also a graduate student and mother of three cats? (very busy!)

Amy: I have no ambitious writing projects open at the moment. Of course, I have ideas for novels that I plan to use in the future, but right now I am focusing on writing short stories that revolve around a group of characters (the narrator of my piece being one of them) and submitting them to literary magazines with the hope that they will be published. My desire right now is to leak out and expose, little by little, this universe in my head to the world at large.

WOW: We are glad we had the opportunity to read about that world in your short story, Ueno. Congratulations to you again, Amy, and we look forward to hearing your name more in the future.

Interview conducted by Margo Dill,, Read These Books and Use Them blog

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Ruth Hartman, author of My Life in Mental Chains, Launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, January 26, 2009
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Ruth J. Hartman was once “normal.” She perceived the world around her as any other person would--until she turned 27. That’s when Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) dug in its claws and refused to let her go. Her world (and her family’s) was turned inside out.

Working as a dental hygienist was difficult enough, but trying to balance her work life with the challenges of OCD was overwhelming. Ruth’s family, friends, and co-workers didn’t understand why she suddenly acted so bizarre. She wanted to help them understand, but she couldn’t. She didn’t understand it herself.

My Life in Mental Chains is moving and tragic, yet in the end, it’s an uplifting story of personal faith and inner strength. Ruth’s insight will be a great comfort to OCD sufferers, their families, and their friends.

Ruth graduated from the Indiana University School of Dentistry with a degree in Science/Dental Hygiene. Her interest in writing, which began in high school, led her to earn her diploma from the Institute of Children’s Literature in “Writing for Children and Teenagers.”

She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two cats.

Visit her website at, or contact her at

My Life in Mental Chains by Ruth J. Hartman
Published by Pipers’ Ash Ltd., $13.00
Publication Date: November 1, 2008
Non-Fiction, True-Life Story Chapbook
ISBN# 9781906928001

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a signed copy of Ruth's book, My Life in Mental Chains, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Joanne Stacey

WOW: Welcome to WOW!, Ruth. We’re delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, My Life in Mental Chains: My Struggle With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Pipers’ Ash, 2008).

I’m fascinated with authors who can write personal memoirs and share very private events with the rest of the world. How long did it take you to write My Life in Mental Chains?

Ruth: I started writing My Life in Mental Chains in July 2008, and it was published by Pipers’ Ash in November 2008. It didn’t take long to write because I didn’t have to do any research for my subject (me!), so it came together quickly. OCD does have one redeeming quality for an author: you become obsessed with writing, and that keeps you working until the book or story is finished.

WOW: You’re right, that was quick! Did writing in your journal, as prescribed by your doctor, help you with your writing? Do you still write in your journal? Is that what helped you get started with your writing?

Ruth: The writing I did for the prescribed journal was, for me, more of a painful reminder of my daily obsessions than a writing exercise. I don’t keep a daily journal; I’m better off now if I don’t analyze what’s happening to me every day. If I have something that’s bothering me, dwelling on the problem only makes it worse. That in itself can push me into an obsessive loop that doesn’t want to let me go. My best course of action is to either ignore it (tell it “I don’t care”), or to use exposure therapy for the thing that frightens me and immerse myself in it quickly and get it over with.

WOW: I know that for me, sometimes I’m afraid to write down what I really think or feel. Do you think honest journaling helps a writer’s growing process?

Ruth: I think for other writing, honest journaling would be a good thing. It can help you figure out what you’re seeing and hearing, really pin down your feelings about the world around you. I would be able to keep a journal in that sense, as long as I don’t get caught in an OCD “web.”

WOW: Thanks for that advice! I can see the honesty in your book, which I really enjoyed reading! You took me into a dark place I didn’t know much about, and I felt like I was taking the journey with you as you described everything that happened in such great detail. Telling millions of people about a very intimate part of your life must be difficult. Can you give us any advice on how to write a personal memoir?

Ruth: My actual diagnosis was in 1990. I was 27. So to write this memoir, I had to dig deep. I made myself think about things I’d tried to forget. My mom said to me, “You had to go through it all over again to write this, didn’t you?” And yes, I pretty much did. The only difference is, now I have the blessing of medication and therapy to help me. At that time, I was just one big raw nerve ending. All the events in the book are true; they all happened to me. Some of the memories are so painful and permanent, they’re seared into my brain. Some of the dialogue is exact, other dialogue comes from the memory of how I felt that day and how someone else was treating me. On those occasions, it may not be word for word, but I can put myself back there, in that room, in that place, and the feelings all come back.

WOW: People who have OCD or know someone with OCD are very lucky to be able to read your story because you not only tell of your experience, but also tell of the support you had from your family. It’s a story that needs to be out there. Was it hard to find a publisher?

Ruth: I got the name for this publisher from the Magazine Markets for Children and Teenagers. Pipers' Ash is a small non-profit publisher, and they only work with a few authors at a time, which is why my book was published so quickly. I had intended to write a fictional story about a teenage girl with OCD. I submitted a 25-word query, as suggested by their guidelines. The reply, however, was that stories such as mine (or any story about abuse, adoption or other personal experiences) are better told in the “True Life Series.” I re-submitted my query to the “True Life Series”, and over time was asked to submit a synopsis, first chapter, then the full manuscript. My original idea for a fictional teen story has not yet been accepted by any publisher.

WOW: It sounds like Pipers’ Ash is a very personable, author-friendly publisher! What was the publishing experience like?

Ruth: Pipers’ Ash is very kind, patient, and tolerant. I never felt pressured. I never felt insignificant or ignorant, although I was ignorant! With the exception of a short story that has been accepted somewhere else (and hasn’t been published yet), this was my first experience working directly with a publisher and going through all the basic steps for submission and publication. I didn’t even know what a synopsis was! I literally had to go to the bookstore and buy a book on the subject.

WOW: (Laughs) Now that your book has been published, it’s all about getting the word out. I’ve heard that self-promotion is a big part of the process. What are you doing to promote your book?

Ruth: I’ve contacted my local newspaper, bookstores and library. The newspaper article should be coming out soon. My books are at the local Hastings Bookstore on consignment, and my local library wants to buy 2 copies of the book later this month. But I think this blog tour, beginning with WOW! will be the best and most exciting promotion of all!

WOW: Well thank you for taking the blog tour! We’re really excited to have you on board, and wish you all the success you deserve! I hope to see your name in print again and again. Is there anything new in the works now?

Ruth: I’m almost finished with a 25,000-word story. I’m a licensed dental hygienist, so this book is about a hygienist who falls in love with her patient. I assured my husband it truly is fiction! (He wasn’t really worried.)

WOW: I’m looking forward to reading your new book--it sounds like another great read! Have you gotten into any other types of writing, such as poetry?

Ruth: My favorite writing is fiction. Especially short, humorous stories. I love writing quick, funny conversation between two people who truly care about each other. I’ve never had a flair for writing poetry though.

WOW: Humor is such a wonderful way to connect with others. It’s so refreshing to have something lighthearted, especially in these tough times. Ruth, it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you today! Thank you for your time and for your insights. Are there any final golden tidbits of advice you’d like to pass on to our readers?

Ruth: In terms of writing, just keep at it. Write at least a little every day. And be observant. One of my favorite activities is to “people watch.” You can learn so much about human relationships by just listening to conversations of those around you. Don’t give up if the first answer from a publisher is “no.” Maybe, as in my case, they can use your story in a different way, or they can use something else you’ve written or could write for them. Rejections are painful. But keep reminding yourself: absolutely every writer gets them. They’re never fun. They’re never easy. But often it takes the process of going through several rejections before you can get to the right publisher for the right submission at the right time.

And in terms of dealing with OCD, I’m sure treatment can take many different forms for as many different people. For me, it’s a combination of therapy and daily, for the rest of my life, medication. Thankfully, my therapy now mainly consists of a once a year appointment with my psychiatrist (when I began treatment, I saw him 3 times a week.) I know a few people who suffer from OCD but won’t seek treatment. My heart aches for them. My advice for anyone who suffers from this painful disorder is to please seek help and get treatment. Your life will be happier, healthier, and more peaceful.

WOW: Thank you for such great words of advice. You’ve given us a lot of wonderful and useful information. We wish you all the best in your writing journey!

Want to join Ruth on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE. We're always adding new dates that may not be listed, so be sure to check it out.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

JANUARY 26, 2009 Monday
Ruth will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Ruth's book!

JANUARY 27, 2009 Tuesday
Ruth stops by The Mental Fitness Center's blog, Out of Bounds, to talk about the topic, "Symptoms and Treatment for OCD." It sounds like a wonderful and informative discussion.

JANUARY 29, 2009 Thursday
Ruth visits Darlene Devoe's blog, Raising Socially Anxious Children, and talks about how even though she wasn't diagnosed with OCD until age 27, looking back now, she recognizes the some of the symptoms in her youth: worry, depression, separation anxiety, and extreme shyness. This sounds like a super informative post. I can't wait to read it and discuss!

FEBRUARY 3, 2009 Tuesday
Ruth stops by Anne-Marie Nichols' popular blog, A Mama's Rant, to talk about how she discovered she had OCD, and how she managed to cope on a daily basis (at work and at home). Ruth also shares her tips for helping friends and relatives with OCD. Great topics! I'm very interested to learn more and participate in this discussion.

FEBRUARY 4, 2009 Wednesday
Ruth stops by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writer Inspired, for an exclusive author interview! Join the discussion as they talk about the craft of writing, publishing, and more!

FEBRUARY 9, 2009 Monday
Ruth stops by Sher's blog, OCD-Chick: Wiping the Crazy Off My Face, to talk about living with severe OCD. This post is not to miss! Get an inside look and join the discussion.

FEBRUARY 11, 2009 Wednesday
Ruth will be stopping by Whole Latte Life to talk about how overcoming any obstacle can lead to living a choice life. Joanne's blog is very inspiring and the discussions are lively. Grab a cup of coffee and join the conversation!

FEBRUARY 12, 2009 Thursday
Ruth stops by Deena's bookshelf to talk about the signals and treatment for OCD. Ruth lists what symptoms she has, her treatment for them, and some other OCD signals that people experience. Sounds informative! I'm looking forward to this post!

FEBRUARY 17, 2009 Tuesday
Ruth visits Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, The New Book Review, and shares an exclusive review of her book written by WOW! team member, Joanne Stacey. Don't you just love book reviews? I do!

FEBRUARY 18, 2009 Wednesday
Ruth stops by Donna Volkenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub, to chat about working with her book publisher, Pipers' Ash. I always find it interesting to learn about new publishers.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour. Snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Ruth Hartman's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a chance to win a signed copy of Ruth Hartman's limited edition chapbook, My Life in Mental Chains: My Struggle With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
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Been Stiffed? Steps to Getting Paid

Saturday, January 24, 2009
There's been a lot of talk lately about slow paying or *gasp* non-paying markets and what a writer should do when this happens. It's a dilemma that practically every business faces. And as a freelance writer, you're certainly a "business." If this has happened to you, here are a few tips on collecting payment.

** This is an excerpt from a column I wrote for Premium-Green, More Than Your Magic 8-Ball (Sept '08)

Steps to get paid

Step 1: If you have sent an invoice and the client hasn’t paid you within the time frame, send him a notice with a late fee. Include another deadline of 15 days for payment and let him know that he will be charged another late fee if payment isn’t remitted on time. You may also want to remind him that copyright does not transfer to him until the work has been paid for in full. Make sure you include all your contact information: your phone number, mailing address, and email address.

Step 2: If the client hasn’t made any effort to contact you within 15 days, give him a call. Be polite, professional, and firm. Most people want to pay their bills. If he asks to set up a payment plan, make sure you are prepared for this or he may walk all over you. If he wants to break it up into 2 or 3 payments, make sure you calculate your late fee into each payment. Whatever you do, don’t let him talk you into paying $10 a month, or something ridiculous like that. It could take him a year to pay you!

If you are unable to get a hold of your client by phone, send a certified letter with return receipt requested. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it’s good to be prepared. It lets him know that you mean business. Unfortunately, if you did not have him sign a contract before the work was completed, you won’t win in small claims court.

Step 3: If the previous efforts have been fruitless, it’s safe to say that the bridge is officially burned. But don’t worry; there are still a few things you can do.

If you’re a member of a National Writer’s Union or another organization for writers, it’s time to make a phone call. Your union representative can help mediate disputes with clients. You may also want to report his business to the Better Business Bureau.

Another option to consider is hiring a collection agency. If you choose to go this route, there are a few things to look for:

  • Look for an agency that works with small or home-based businesses.
  • Make sure the agency is licensed in the state your debtor is located.
  • Verify that the collection agency employs skip tracing. Skip tracing allows the agency access to various databases to locate the debtor in case he’s moved with no forwarding address (skipped town).
  • Make sure the collection agency has Errors and Omissions insurance. This insurance protects your business and the collection agency in case the debtor decides to sue.
  • Compare costs. Collection agencies earn income based on either a set fee or on a contingency basis. The contingency is based on a percentage of the debts collected. Before choosing whether to agree to a set fee or contingency, find out the collection agency’s success ratio and contingency fee percentage.

Step 4: If none of the above has worked, it’s time to cut your losses and move on. Yeah, it sucks, but without having drawn up a contract in the beginning, there is not much you can do. You’ve just learned a valuable lesson...the hard way.

The best way to protect yourself is to have a contract in place and signed by both parties before you do any work.

Now I want to know: have you ever been stiffed? Do you use contracts?
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Getting People to Your Writing Events

Friday, January 23, 2009
Publicizing a writer's event is something that is on my mind these days as I work as the publicity chair for the 94th Annual Missouri Writers' Guild conference, held in Cape Girardeau on April 3, 4, and 5. I am excited to be involved with this project as we are going to have some WONDERUL speakers, including WOW!'s very own editors--Angela Mackintosh and Annette Fix--as well as TV Writer Lee Goldberg, Simon and Schuster editor Kate Angelella, and Pulitizer Prize nominee Harvey Stanbrough.

It's also on my mind because as I become more involved with social networking, blogging, listservs, and email newsletters, I see several events such as book signings, writing classes, workshops, and conferences advertised every day. On Facebook, I am invited to several different events, and I wish I could attend them all but distance, time, and expense play a factor in my being able to attend.

So, how do you make your event stand out above the rest? How do you get more than just your family to your book signing? This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, and so far I've come up with only a couple answers. I'm hoping some of you, Muffin readers, will have some more ideas.

Here's what I think:

1. You must offer something in return to your attendees for their time and money. One of my writing friends, Alice McGinty, who writes for children, often offers a craft and refreshments at her book signings. Her craft goes along with her books and makes people want to bring their children for an hour or two of entertainment by a children's author.

At the Missouri Writers' Guild Conference in Cape Girardeau, we are offering attendees, for the price of admission, at least one face-to-face meeting with an agent or editor. So, not only do conference attendees get a weekend of writing workshops and networking opportunities, they also get a chance to meet with a professional that they might not normally meet. Many authors have gotten published this way.

2. Another way to make your event stand out is for YOU to attend others' events. It's kind of like that old saying, "If I scratch your back, then you'll scratch mine." Be as supportive as you can of others' careers. You obviously can't attend everything that comes your way, but you can email friends about opportunities or include listings on your blog and so on.

3. And finally network, network, network. If people know you and respect you, they are more likely to attend something you are recommending.

Please share any other ideas you have!

Happy publicizing!

Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them (blog)
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"When the onus falls on you"

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Okay, so this isn't as great as the "prosaic" comment in the last post by Jill, but here is an idea for any and all of you hoping for some inspiration or support when you're struggling with writer's block or self-esteem as a writer.

While this is not something I've personally done, I have done similar things for others. It is completely up to you what way you do it, find some inner creativity in that regard.

Take a blank sheet of paper on a good day and write down some words of encouragement. Pretend they are for someone else; technically, they are. They're for the you who will occasionally need a pick me up. If you want to have lots of them, ask some of your colleagues and friends to join; you don't have to admit they're for you if you don't want to.

Cut the paper so each quote now is a strip of paper. You may fold this in half and put in a box or jar, or if you like this, you could put them on a tackboard next to where you work. If you want you could throw up some quotes from the site Jill suggested or from the multitude of books and websites you have read. Whatever could work for you.

There you go. The cliched saying says "a picture is worth a thousand words," so let those words paint a picture of reality in your head: you can do it; you're a great person in lots of ways; and you know how to work that pen or keyboard in magical ways.

Good luck and sometimes the best support group is yourself. You might be "your own worst enemy" or your harshest critic, but if you detach yourself from the self-imposed restraints, your mind and your craft will be freer than dwelling permits.

P.S. A variation of this that I'm doing right now is using the guise of writing fortune cookie sayings for co-workers. They don't know but they'll get a mini takeout box (craft stores have EVERYTHING!), a fortune cookie, some candy, and all the fortune sayings the group wrote at training. The key is to motivate, whether yourself or another person, and hopefully, this will work. I will acknowledge the icebreaker of writing a fortune cookie expression is something I found online, but I let my mind run loose with this...maybe overboard too, but it was fun nonetheless. I hope you can find some fun in doing something (nice) like this for yourself! Let us know how it works too.
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A Quote A Day Brings Inspiration Your Way

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
By Jill Earl

Found a very interesting blog a few days ago, ‘Quotes on Writing’, created by writer Jim Harrington. Each post begins with a favorite quote of his, then addresses a specific writing topic that he’s used to help him grow as a writer.

Mr Harrington stated in a sidebar on his blog, “My purpose in writing this blog is to clarify in my own mind some of these topics and, hopefully, to stimulate the reader to do the same.” He pulls those quotes from resources such as articles, other websites and books.

In my opinion, he’s accomplished his goal. In the short time I’ve been checking out the blog, I’ve been stimulated by his thoughts and inspired by the quote on a specific day’s topic.

For instance, a quote from Kay Marie Porterfield’s article, ‘10 Reasons to Write Flash Fiction’ is the stepping-off point for the January 14th post, ‘Curing Prosaic Diarrhea’. Here, Mr. Harrington discusses how writing flash fiction helped him write in a concise manner, and he also offers tips to get started. I’ve already bookmarked that particular post for future reference.

Interested? Take a look for yourself at:

And let some quotes a day bring some writing inspiration your way.
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Interview with WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Second Place Winner, Emily Howson

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Emily Howson is a senior at the University of Dayton, the home of humor writer Erma Bombeck. She has been devoted to reading since she was a little girl, but she only recently began to take writing seriously. She finds her storytelling voice in her family--a combination of her grandmother’s approachable charm, her grandfather’s bluster, her mother’s gushing excitement, and her father’s bizarre sense of humor. Her work with professors Stephen Wilhoit and Joseph Pici has nurtured and pruned her abilities. She is interning as an editor with Just Business, Inc. in Dayton, OH, helping to produce performing arts publications. Right now, Emily’s life is full and crazy and wonderful, and she’s spending every moment she can with her roommates and her boyfriend of five years.

Most recently, her stories have appeared in Orpheus, University of Dayton’s literary magazine, and, and the St. Anthony Messenger. She is currently attempting to create a novel for young adults. Emily will graduate in May 2009 with degrees in English and Psychology, and she hopes to pursue a life writing, reading, and editing.

If you haven't done so already, read Emily's award-winning story, Jenny, and then come back and join us for a chat. ;)

WOW: Being the second place winner is a real honor. How did you feel when you found out that you won second place?

Emily: I was actually in a bit of shock, thinking, Me? Really? But then I got very excited and ran downstairs to tell my roommates. This was somewhat early in the morning, so I think my exuberance may have fallen on some sleeping (and therefore annoyed, though not deaf) ears.

WOW: We share a common city. I was born in Lancaster, Ohio. Often we're shaped by the places we're raised. I think of Lancaster as a smaller, less-violent city, but it's been a few years since I've spent any time there. Did Lancaster have any influence on your story? Do you feel that being from there gave you a big town or a small town feeling?

Emily: How cool that we share a city! Most people outside of Ohio (and even plenty inside of it) have never ever heard of Lancaster. Anyway, I don't think Lancaster has probably changed much. It's still pretty small, pretty safe, though it finally has a Wal-Mart which is starting to kill the small-town locally-owned cobble-stone feel to some parts of it--small places just can't compete with 24-hr Walgreens and all that. But I think growing up in Lancaster (we moved there when I was in first grade) has certainly given me a perspective that is small-town and that comes out in my stories, including Jenny. I also think working at a country club for a couple summers had a lot to do with Jenny.

WOW: I remember the cobble-stone streets. I'm amazed that you have any time for writing. I admire your energy. Which do you find most challenging: being a college student, an intern for Just Business, managing your social life or finding time to write?

Emily: Finding time to write ranks second on my list of "Most Challenging Things to Do." It's right below "Dance gracefully" (think puppet in a windstorm) and right above "Eat all my vegetables and fruits." Being a college student and working (along with my internship, I also tutor writing at UD's Write Place) and managing my social life are easier because they involve external motivations (i.e., other people). But writing is all me--I either write or I don't. Unfortunately, actually sitting down and writing usually gets tossed to the wayside. So I do a lot of daydreaming/writing-in-my-head/dreamstorming (whatever you want to call it) and scribble ideas and phrases down all over the place. If and when do find time to write, I try to turn those scribbles into stories. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

WOW: Wow, I thought I juggled a busy schedule. I think you've hit onto something about writing--even when we share what we've written, the creation has to be self-motivated. What did you base Jenny on? Did you have a murder that touched your life? Was the color red representative of her death?

Emily: I'm not sure I really based Jenny on anything in particular. I've led a life pretty untouched by tragedy. There's a lot of stuff I thankfully haven't had to learn about life and about myself. So, no murders. I wanted to use the color red for a couple of different reasons, and one of them had to with its association with blood/injury/death. But it's also a popular lingerie color, and one our society associates with sex, and sexy women. So maybe there are a lot of ways for women to die, and getting shot in a gas station robbery is just one very literal way.

WOW: You really got into the narrator's head. How hard was it to write from the male perspective?

Emily: Writing from the male perspective wasn't too hard. Whether I did so accurately or not is up for grabs. I guess men and women think differently and view the world differently, but I think the degree of difference depends on what man and what woman. The line blurs sometimes, and in some situations. For instance, if a train is seconds from plowing you in the face, man or woman, we'd probably all think the same thing. The narrating voice of "Jenny" is rather simple, but I'm not sure about the degree to which that simplicity is a result of his personality, his socio-economic background, his education level, his male sex, or his masculine gender.

WOW: Women are from Venus, (laughs). Who has most inspired you in your writing? Who is your favorite author?

Emily: Tough question. My family has certainly encouraged my writing, but as for inspiration, I have difficulty pinpointing any one person. At different stages in my life and in my writing, different writers have played a huge role. In 2nd grade or so, for instance, the authors (under the name Carolyn Keene) who wrote the Nancy Drew books were my heroes. I wanted to write books just like them for girls just like me. Then I moved on to a fantasy stage in my teens, and in that genre, Philip Pullman became my new hero and inspiration. These days I am inspired by writers with distinct, humorous, and memorable voices. I like Melissa Bank, and James Thurber, and Oscar Wilde. But every time I read something good, I get inspired. I'm a pushover, really.

WOW: I see you're working on a YA novel, why did you choose that age group? Do you feel it's harder to write short stories or novel chapters?

Emily: I chose the YA age group because I have so many good memories of stories when I was that age. I'd like to enchant younger readers in the same way that I was enchanted. In terms of the writing process, I think novel chapters can be easier, because they don't have to be perfectly complete in and of themselves. Short stories are a fascinating medium, but they challenge me to be to-the-point and use the right word instead of many words. I feel a little more freedom with novel chapters, yet at the same time; I really ought to consider novel chapters more like short stories. I'm going to go back and have to edit a lot of the chaff later on because I just let myself go!

WOW: It seems that no matter how tight we write, there's always plenty of revision that needs done. Thank you, Emily for the interview. You've made me realize no matter how busy I am I need to find time to write. I believe you'll be an inspiration to our WOW readers. Do you have a final thought for writers who'd like to enter writing contests?

Emily: Click send, even though it can be terrifying. Share your writing. The first time I allowed anyone (and I mean anyone) to read some of my writing, I was literally shaking all over. I still get nervous, though the shaking has stopped. But if your story is good, and it fits the contest, by all means - send it in! The worst that can happen? You'll lose a couple dollars and know just that much more about yourself (i.e., you were brave enough to click send!)

If you haven't already done so please read Emily's story "Jenny" at

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Jan Lundy, author of Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be, launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, January 19, 2009
Described by her readers, audiences, and colleagues as “practical and poetic, possessing deep and gentle wisdom,” Janice Lynne Lundy serves as an interfaith spiritual guide to tens of thousands of women throughout the United States through her nationally syndicated magazine column in Women’s LifeStyle, as a professional speaker and retreat facilitator, and as a Spiritual Director. She has been recognized for her sensitive and compelling interviews as well as for her gift for connecting with soul-searching women. Jan is an adjunct staff member for the Institute of Spirituality at the Dominican Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her newest book, Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be, was released in October 2008 by Sorin Books.

Jan is the author of three previously published personal and spiritual growth books: Coming Home to Ourselves: A Woman’s Journey to Wholeness; Awakening the Spirit Within; and Perfect Love: How to Find Yours and Make It Last Forever (co-authored with her husband, Brad Lundy).

The mother of three, stepmother of four, and grandmother of three more, Jan resides on the peaceful shoreline of Grand Traverse Bay in northern Michigan with her husband, Brad, her creative partner and soul’s companion.

Learn more about Jan at her website:,
and on her blog:
Contact her at

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Jan's book, Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.

We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

WOW: Could you tell us about your latest book, and who it's for?

Jan: Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be is “a spiritual journey” book. It has an interspiritual focus, which makes it unique in the self-help/spiritual growth genre. It invites women from all walks of life, all spiritual persuasions, to stop and take a look at how they are living.

Our truest self is a woman who is living from her fullness. She is living large, free from fear to express herself in the world as a confident, glorious woman. She has fully embodied the qualities we attribute to Spirit itself—peacefulness, loving kindness, generosity, and so on. She lives a mature spirituality, not one that has been handed to her without having fully explored it first.

Living as our truest self is a lifelong process. This is a journey, a pilgrimage, into our sacred self. I wrote this book through my lenses as a seeker, but also as an Interfaith Spiritual Director who accompanies people of all faiths as they ask the deepest questions about life. What I’ve come to realize is that there are common threads of truth that run through all spiritual traditions. When we can embrace these—what I present as “Transformational Truths—we come home to our truest selves.

The Twelve Transformational Truths are:

I Am Free to Live a Spiritual Life of My Own Making

I Trust My Body's Divine Connection

I Choose Thoughts and Feelings That Honor My Sacred Self

I Engage in Daily Spiritual Practices That Nurture My Spirit

I Cultivate Compassion for Myself

I Experience the Divine in Everything and Everyone

I Know Divine Assistance is Available to Me at All Times

I Acknowledge that Difficult Times Bring Healing and Deeper Wisdom

I Can Create My Life Anew Each Day

I Trust the Divine Timing of My Own Unfolding

I Courageously Live and Speak My Truths

I Open My Heart and Celebrate Our Oneness

Working through the Truths enables us to let go of old, disempowering messages about who we’ve been told we are. It also empowers us to embrace new personal Truths, to connect more fully with our spirit, and the greater Spirit.

WOW: The book features a variety of interesting women. How did you meet these inspirational people?

Jan: Over the last ten years, as my spiritual path widened, I serendipitously met many remarkable women. I selected twelve of them to help me convey the Truths through the testimony of their lives. They are primarily writers and teachers, activists and artists. Some are well known, like country music powerhouse, Naomi Judd. Others are not. The list includes:

Joyce Rupp, OSM, Jan Phillips, Iyanla Vanzant, Dudley Evenson, Sue Patton Thoele, Daphne Rose Kingma, Doreen Virtue, Joan Borysenko, Frances Moore Lappé, Mari Gayatri Stein

This is an ecumenical gathering of women representing many spiritual persuasions. As for my personal relationship with them, a few have been faithful mentors and friends over the years. Some I have never met, having only savored their books and spoken with them on the telephone. Within my book, I share how I have come to know each one and what their light-filled presence revealed to me.

Ironically, a few of the women I simply stumbled across, exactly when I needed what they had to say the most. Jan Phillips, for example, came into my life when I was writing my first book and the inner critic was being quite vocal. In a particularly bleak moment, I called my editor, desperate for advice on how to continue writing when everything inside me said to stop. “Have you read Marry Your Muse by Jan Phillips?” she asked.“ ‘The Artist’s Creed’ should take care of everything.” She was right. Reading Jan’s inspiring words to the struggling artist within cured my creative woes. So when an invitation came to interview her in 2004 (as a magazine editor), I jumped at the chance. I conducted a phone interview with her first; then we met in person a few months later. Our conversations and my learnings from her work over the years formulated the second Transformational Truth, “I Trust My Body’s Divine Connection.”

WOW: This seems like a book that you could be read straight through the traditional way, or open to a random chapter or essay for a dose of inspiration. What do you recommend?

Jan: This book is a spiritual journey book, a trek inward, with a stepping-off place and a hoped-for destination, and the reader is the pilgrim. By moving through the chapters intentionally, she will begin to unravel old ways of thinking and embrace new ways of being.

I suppose that you could skip around and read about one “Holy Woman” or one Truth, but I do not recommend it. There are some Truths that are more difficult to live out. There is an order to how they are presented in the book. For example, having compassion for others. We can’t feel love and compassion for others if we are not able to feel that for ourselves. Learning to accept and love ourselves as we are must come first.

Your Truest Self is also a “process” book. Each chapter invites the reader to personally reflect upon the Transformational Truth that is presented in two ways. The first is through Reflection Questions that encourage journaling. The second is through “Peaceful Pauses,” meditational practices which enable the her to “practice” the Truth that has been presented. Hurrying on to the next chapter, hoping for the next brilliant awareness to break through, will not help a woman embody her truest self. Sitting quietly, being reflective, taking time for integration, will.

WOW: Could you share a favorite tip or idea included in the book?

Jan: The notion of finding and committing to spiritual practices that calm and center us. Most of us are completely frazzled just trying to make ends meet, get the job done, take care of our families, and more, so we don’t take time to center ourselves, to access our inner peace on a regular basis.

Engaging in daily spiritual practices is key to living as our truest self, a woman who is innately peaceful. Truthfully, I don’t believe anyone can if they have not implemented such practices. We can put our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health on the back burner for only so long before we’re destined to crash and burn. Spiritual practices prevent this from happening. They plant us in our sacred center and plug us into the “God” of our understanding. They offer fuel and nourishment on so many levels. It is vital that we find the practices that suit us. Chapter Four in Your Truest Self shows the reader how—even when it seems as if there is no energy or time in the day to do so.

We are living in very tenuous, stress-filled times. My spiritual practices are my sanity and my sacred connection. Spending time in silence. Walking in nature. Daily writing. Reading spiritual growth literature. Rest. Breath practice. Prayer. I hope that others will seek out theirs, as well, so greater peace can be experienced by everyone, especially in these challenging times.

WOW: One of your Twelve Transformational Truths is about cultivating compassion for ourselves. What are some of the ways we can do this?

Jan: This is a wonderful question because it may be the most difficult life principle for us, as women, to embody—Truth number Five: “I cultivate compassion for myself.”

This Truth is represented by my dear friend and mentor, Sue Patton Thoele. I found her in my early searching years when I was absolutely overwhelmed with life. I was sick and tired—literally—from living on the fast track, trying to be the perfect wife and mother, and just about killing myself trying to make everyone else happy.

It has taken years for me to learn how to be kind to myself, to treat myself as nicely as I treat other people. The journey to living in this way begins by “befriending ourselves.” This is done in baby-steps.

We start by taking small amounts of “Sabbath time” time to rest and restore ourselves. We give up notions of perfection and accept ourselves as being “enough.” We learn to say ‘No’ to what depletes us and ‘Yes’ to what nurtures us. We learn to live in the present moment where peace-of-mind prevails, rather than in the past (with regret), or in the future (with worry or fear). Mindfulness practices help. Befriending is all about learning to honor our spirit so that we live more lovingly, peaceably, with ourselves. Doing so enables us to live more gently with others, as well.

WOW: Writing this book must have been incredibly rewarding. What have been some of your most personally fulfilling moments with this project?

Jan: I view this book as the work of a lifetime. It embodies the “inner work” I have done on myself for the past 30 years. To put it out there for everyone to read has been both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s risky, but I believe taking this risk has provided me with the greatest growth I’ve ever experienced. I feel like a different person than when I began the process of writing it back in 2004.

After self-publishing three books, to have Your Truest Self purchased by a publisher has been a dream come true. And then to have that publisher be one that was so soulful and supportive of my interspiritual focus was an act of grace—Sorin Books (an imprint of Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN). For me, this was an affirmation that a new day is dawning. When a primarily Catholic publisher can launch a truly interspiritual book, hooray for us all!

Other rewarding moments? Having Your Truest Self presented as one of 25 featured books at an “Author’s Feast” at the Great Lakes Bookseller Association Fall Trade Show was very exciting. Standing in front of all those bookstore owners, alongside John Grogan (Marley and Me and The Longest Trip Home) was surreal. Receiving the first 5-Star rating from an “official” book reviewer, Midwest Book Review, was pretty cool, too.

In truth, the most rewarding moments have been those I’ve spent with other people. Sharing this journey with my husband, Brad, has deepened our intimate relationship in wonderful ways. He has been my creative companion throughout and I am grateful for his love. Witnessing joy and pride on the face of my 80-year-old mother has been another. I am so happy she is still walking this earth to share these fortuitous times with me. The love and support of my family mean more to me than anything.

And the women I am meeting along the way. Oh, my, they take my breath away! They are so beautiful and strong and resilient. I feel incredibly humbled when I meet them at book events, or on my blog, or through e-mail. They tell me about their journeys into their truest selves and I often weep with joy at the beauty of their souls. Yes, it is the women who have touched my heart most deeply…

WOW: Do you have any parting words of advice to share with our women writers/readers?

Jan: Keep writing. Keep believing in yourself and the power of your words to heal, to uplift, to inspire.

These are fearful times, dream-dashing times. Yet, you have a boundless future with unlimited possibilities if you can become familiar with fear and rise above it. The deepest, truest part of you, your spirit, wants you to be all that you can be; to live the divine freedoms latent within you—inner peace, confidence, courage, joy, and profound love for others. If you cling to your fears, especially fear of failure, you cannot fly. As the Persian poet Rumi reminds us, “You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?”


WOW: Want to join Jan on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

JANUARY 19, 2009 Monday
Jan will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Jan's book!

JANUARY 20, 2009 Tuesday
Jan will be stopping by Allena Tapia's blog, Freelance Writing.

JANUARY 21, 2009 Wednesday
Jan will be stopping by Joi Sigers' blog, Self-Help Daily.

JANUARY 26, 2009 Monday
Jan will be stopping by Mom's Spark!

JANUARY 27, 2009 Tuesday
Jan will be stopping by Tammie McElligot's blog on Women's Lit.

JANUARY 28, 2009 Wednesday
Jan will be stopping by Cheryl Phillips' blog, The Daily Blonde.

JANUARY 29, 2009 Thursday
Jan will be stopping by The Mental Fitness Center.

FEBRUARY 2, 2009 Monday
Jan will be stopping by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, for a lively discussion.

FEBRUARY 4, 2009 Wednesday
Jan will be stopping by Deena Peterson's blog, Deena's Bookshelf.

FEBRUARY 5, 2009 Thursday
Jan will be stopping by Allena Tapia's blog, GardenWall Publications.

FEBRUARY 6, 2009 Friday
Jan will be stopping by Darlene Devoe's blog, Raising Socially Anxious Children.

FEBRUARY 9, 2009 Monday
Jan will be stopping by Allyn Evans' blog, Happily Ever After Today.

FEBRUARY 10, 2009 Tuesday
Jan will be stopping by Donna Vokenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub.

FEBRUARY 11, 2009 Wednesday
Jan will be stopping by Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

FEBRUARY 11, 2009 Wednesday
Jan will be stopping by Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

We also have several more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Jan Lundy's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Jan Lundy's latest book Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be.

Free Ebook: Visit Jan's site and sign up for her newsletter to receive a FREE copy of her ebook The Awakened Woman's Guide to Life. 90 pages of inspiration and practical strategies for experiencing more peace, confidence, courage, and joy in your day-to-day life.

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The Writing Help Line

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Every morning for the past 5 months you've gotten up at 3 a.m. to work on your novel before you head to work. You awake refreshed, humming, ready to meet the page and never whispering one complaint about the process. Words have flown through you effortlessly, your plot is flawless, and your characters are foolproof. On this particular morning you hum a little louder as you finish the very last paragraph of this book -- your third-- and your editor is eagerly awaiting for it but not for another week as you are ahead of your deadline.

Sounds perfect doesn't it? It's a good thing we all realize that the writing life doesn't typically look like this fairy tale. Refreshed every morning at 3 a.m.? I'm lucky I can form words that early, nonetheless complete sentences, so pass me a large pot of coffee please. Humming? Not on your life and anyone that chipper before the sun rises will be shot on sight. No complaints? Don't bet on it! I'm not even trying to hide my grumbles under my breath. I want to get this novel written and know it takes dedication and desire, but some days, I just want to throw my hands up and say "Why can't I just be satisfied to read the words? Why do I insist on writing them?"

It's the mornings when I just don't want to leave my cozy warm bed that I wish I had a buddy to call, someone to coach me to my MacBook and remind me that I'm not alone in this world of novel writing. Is there such a thing as a writer's help line? Can I call up at 1 a.m. and let them know that I just don't know where this story is going and they can talk me through a rough patch? Can I call and let them know how frustrated I am and that I'm ready to through my entire manuscript in the fireplace and they'll help me put the lighter fluid down?

Sometimes I wish finding the help was that simple and I could have the number on speed dial. I have a feeling this would be one very popular service. Maybe I'll start one (ah, the writer in me finding ways to procrastinate once more!).

Where is it that you find support? What serves as your personal help line?
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The Dictionary

Saturday, January 17, 2009
So many times we try and stress the importance of words and how to make sure we get our point across to our readers.

We look through dictionaries and thesauruses to find just the right word with just the right meaning to make our point valid and stand out. You all know how important it is to use these tools.

But, I'm not here to talk about that. Besides that could get a little boring. Instead I have a story to tell.

Senior year of high school, final week. The day my adolescence was ending and my young adulthood was beginning. I was receiving gifts just like all of my friends. Pretty cool, people I didn't even know where sending me things.

The last day of school, as I arrived home, there was a package waiting for me on the kitchen table. I was excited, it was from the "Cool Aunt" that I had. I called her this because she was a go getter, she always got what she wanted and didn't let anything stand in her way. I saw her as someone I could look up to.

I ripped open the package, I couldn't wait to see what she sent to me. The excitement kept building, she had wrapped the gift in some really cool blue paper. I smiled, she remembered my favorite color. There, lying among the torn shreds of blue paper, was a dictionary. I will admit I was disappointed. How could she send me such a lame gift, I had thought. I sat there scratching my head. Then I opened it, on the inside cover she inscribed "Carrie, Words are the key to your future. Aunt Pat"

I shrugged and set the dictionary aside, I was still a little disappointed in the gift. Then I thought about it. What the heck, I can use it when I go to college and have it for quick reference.

I admit that during elementary, I hated taking English, I hated having to sit down and figure out the proper way to put a sentence together. During Literature, I would attempt to hide--to avoid the teacher from calling on me. I hated reading in front of the class. When I read out loud I read with a stutter. A bad stutter. This caused other children in my class to pick on me. I couldn't stand it. My parents talked to the school I attended and found that there was a special reading class that might help me.

At first, I felt embarrassed, I had to go to a "special class." Just great. More cannon fire for the kids in my class. But when I walked into this room for the first time, I was shocked to see a number of kids from my own class sitting in there. Some of them actually picked on me about my stutter. My cheeks flushed as I went to the seat that the teacher was pointing to. I buried my face in my arms on the top of the desk and began to cry. But, it was more a cry of relief, knowing I wasn't alone. This class helped me a lot. When I went back to my regular class, I was able to relax.

After a while, I had enough confidence and knowledge that I could read out loud and not stutter. The teacher was able to help me. This was the first step for me into the world of literature--a world that started to peak an interest for me.

As the years passed, there were times when a teacher would pull a book that was so utterly boring that I didn't finish it and I would set it aside. Only reading small pieces of it, enough information to hopefully help me pass tests on it.

A couple of months after graduating from high school, I enrolled in college. The dictionary still sat on my shelf in my bedroom. I would glance at it once in a while. I felt that what my Aunt had written on the cover was a puzzle in my life somehow. Her words, the words in that dictionary, were the key. But, the key to what?

Over the years, I have taken the dictionary with me, to sit on another shelf in another home. It wasn't until I was pregnant with my oldest son that a light shined on me. It was as if someone finally turned on my switch, those words on the inside of the dictionary finally meant something. There was a story inside me, just waiting to burst, waiting to jump onto paper.

During this pregnancy I was living with my parents, my husband was out to sea with the Navy. I opened a drawer that the dictionary was in, and all of the sudden, my heart began to race, I rushed around my parent's home looking for paper and a pen. I had a story idea. I had something to write about. My future, my future was right there, right in front of me. I sat at the kitchen table scribbling out a story. I sat there for several hours writing. And ever since, I have unlocked that mystery. That one sentence that my Aunt Inscribed for me. "Words are the key to your future." She knew, she knew back then that when she gave me that dictionary that it would forever change my life.

Today as I sit here telling this story, my "cool Aunt" is dying. She is terminally ill. There may be only moments for me to tell her these special words. Aunt Pat, thank you. Thank you for opening up that special part of me. Thank you for opening me up to a world of imagination, a world of suspense and excitement, a world of adventure, hope, peace and serenity. Thank you for showing me my future.

If someone special has touched you in such a way, let them know. Let them know they helped to mold and change your life.
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The Muffin Receives the Premio Dardos Award

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Jessica Aday Kennedy of "A Writing Playground" ( honored The Muffin with the Premio Dardos Award. Thanks Jessica!

About the award: "Premio Dardos" means "prize darts" in Italian, and the award is given in recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing.

The rules are:
1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award along to blogs you find worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Here are my choices for the award:

Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them - this is a great blog that not highlights wonderful children's books, but also provides interesting activities for children, teachers, and parents who read the book. I haven't seen a blog out there like this one!

Joanne DeMaio's Whole Latte Life - this blog is one of my favorites because it's so inspirational and positive! The mission of this blog is to notice and appreciate how people live their choice lives.

Allena Tapia's Freelance Writing - I love Allena's voice and her perspective on the publishing business. This blog provides great takeaway for freelancers in the form of news, resources, tips, and tools. It's definitely not cookie-cutter.

Donna Volkenannt's Donna's Book Pub - this is a fairly new blog, but it's already proven to be packed full of information for writers. I love how Donna starts all her posts out with a weather forecast! It sets the tone for the day's post.

Janet Reid's Query Shark - this blog provides insight into a literary agent's thoughts and critiques on queries. Need I say more? Simply awesome.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers - Debbie's comics are my favorite! Her outlook on all things writing is spot on. She tells a whole story with so few words.

Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants - this is a fantastic blog run by literary agent Kristin Nelson where she shares her insider thoughts on the publishing industry. A fantastic resource with great attitude!

Anne-Marie Nichols' My Readable Feast - this is a wonderful blog that covers children's lit and brings families together with a pinch of cooking. Books + food = yummy content!


Congrats to all those listed! There are so many great blogs it's hard to choose. We also have another award that I've been meaning to distribute. Stay tuned for that one! Your blog might be on the list. Cheers and happy blogging!
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Wonderful Writing Books Recommended by Your Peers

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This is the last of my posts about the survey I did at the end of 2008 on the best and worst things for writers. This question about best books got a huge response from writers because writers love books, and we seem to especially love books about writing. The problem with this is there are so many writing books on the shelves; and if you talk to five or your writing friends, you will get five different recommendations for the book that changed the way your friend thinks about writing. The book I always recommend is On Writing by Stephen King, which I was glad to see make the list of "Best Writing Books" and recommended by someone besides just me. And don't worry, if you don't like horror novels, his writing book is completely different, funny, and full of practical advice you can start using today. But anyway, here are some more books that writers recommended:
**Write Right by Jan Venolia "is everything you need to know about punctuation, grammar and style in an easy to take-along book."

**What It Is by Lynda Barry

**Dare to Be a Great Writer by Leonard Bishop

**Plain English Handbook by J. Martyn & Anna Kathleen Walsh, copyright 1959
**Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

**Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan "for inspiration and to reboot"

**Business & Legal Forms for Authors & Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford. "If I could only have one book relating to writing in my library, it would have to be this one. It literally 'saved' me when I was trying to negotiate my first contract. It explained what the terms meant, which ones to make sure I deleted from my contract (or changed) and which ones were 'standard' to the industry so I didn't waste time, energy, and mental stress over things that I wouldn't be able to get changed. I recommend this book for EVERY serious writer's library!"

**On Writing Well by William Zinsser
**On Writing by Stephen King
Happy reading and happy writing! (add one of your own if you want. . .)
Margo Dill
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