What Does Your Business Card Say About You?

Sunday, January 31, 2010
by LuAnn Schindler

As a writer, you spend large chunks of time sitting in front of a computer screen, maintaining your blog(s), updating your website, and promoting your work via social networking outlets.

But in your rush to effectively market yourself , you may be forgetting one of the most basic marketing tools available: the business card.

A business card is one of the quickest introductions a writer can make. It's also one of the least expensive forms of self-promotion.

Take a look at your business card. What does it say about you as a writer? Does it make a statement about the type of work you produce? Does it let potential clients know you are serious about your craft? Does it provide multiple ways to contact you?

Business cards come in several sizes: the skinny, or 1 x 3 inches; the standard, 3.5 x 2 inches; or the oversized (offered by several printing companies), is 2.5 x 3.5 inches. The traditional or standard size is recommended by industry professionals, but it's clearly a choice you can make that best fits your needs.

Another consideration is font, size, and color. A serif font is easy to read. Make sure the size is large enough for "older" eyes to view it clearly. The color of the type can make a difference, too. Determine if the color will stand out against the background or if it will blend in and be unreadable.

Select the information you want others to know. At the minimum, include your name, title, and contact information, including a phone number, e-mail address, and web site URL. Some authors advise not to place a mailing address on the card because that information should be available on your online site. It's worth thinking about!

Use the back of the card, too! Special services or skills can be listed on the flip side. Use the room and promote what you are able to offer potential customers.

Design your own cards or use templates provided by online vendors. Sites like VistaPrint.com or 123Print.com offer multiple templates. These sites are cost effective, too. Depending on the style you choose, up to 200 cards can be purchased for around $10.

Another site worth checking out is Zazzle.com. You may pay more for the cards, but the site has thousands of designs to choose from and cards ship within 24 hours.

I just returned home from a PR trip in St. Augustine, Florida. As I was going through the stack of business cards I received from businesses, historical sites and fellow writers. The cards that stood out used vivid photography and a heavy paper stock. These examples also used the entire space of the card to promo themselves or their business.

Take a look again at your business card. Does it say all it can about you as a writer?
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The 'Luck' of a Writer

Saturday, January 30, 2010
By Jill Earl

"Luck favors the prepared, darling."

These words were uttered by intrepid inventor Edna Mode to Helen Parr/Elastagirl, of Disney’s ‘The Incredibles’. Here are a few definitions of ‘luck’, according to Dictionary.com:

1) the force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person's life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities.
2) good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance.
3) a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person.

There are those who believe in luck, but I’m not one of them. My problem with the concept is its implication of a chance occurrance, a randomness. There’s no concreteness about it. For me, if you want something badly enough, you got to work for it. This certainly holds true for writing. For every ‘overnight sensation’ or ‘wonder writer’ that appears on the scene, rest assured that that person spent years at the craft, and will continue to do so.

“Luck favors the prepared, darling.”

Let’s take a look at what Dictionary.com had to say about ‘prepared’:

1) properly expectant, organized, or equipped; ready.

The way I see it is that in the process of actually writing, reading, researching markets, taking classes, networking with peers, and doing other writerly things equips me with the skills I need to accept any opportunity that comes my way. I don’t see any randomness here, do you?

“Luck favors the prepared, darling.”

I love Edna, but I think she missed the mark somewhat. Luck won’t make you a writer, diligence at the craft will. That starts with butt in chair and fingers at the keyboard typing out your tale, poem or article, if you will. And with time, those opportunities will come.

And you can quote me on that, darling!
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Friday Speak Out: Use Your Intuition to Reach Your Subconscious Mind, Guest Post by Kelly L. Stone

Friday, January 29, 2010
Use Your Intuition to Reach Your Subconscious Mind

by Kelly L. Stone

"Women’s intuition” can be a useful tool for aspiring women writers because it’s a link to your inner resources of creativity and wisdom. Intuition is your subconscious mind attempting to communicate with you and get creative material or guidance into your conscious mind. You might experience hunches, flashes of insight, or feel you should take some action. Your dreams may give you characters, plot ideas, or entire stories. Some people get a “gut” feeling. You may be guided to do something unusual. The late photographer Dorothea Lange got a gut feeling that she should turn down a deserted road in California while driving home from work one day. Even though she was exhausted, Lange yielded to her intuition and discovered a starving woman and children whose haunting photo became the face of the Great Depression.

Intuition springs from your subconscious mind, and there are several ways to connect to this part of yourself that often goes unheeded and unexplored. You can direct your subconscious mind to give you a dream solution when you find yourself in a spell of writer’s block. Keep a notebook by your bed and tell your subconscious mind before you fall asleep to allow you to dream about the next section of your story. Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night with a sudden burst of inspiration. That’s what the notebook is for.

You can also induce the hypnagogic state to get in touch with your subconscious resources. The hypnagogic state is a naturally occurring phase of sleep that is characterized by altered consciousness; some people hear their name being called, others see flashes of light. What’s important for writers is that ideas that are not normally connected are seen as associated in this state. It’s a time fertile with creativity. To access it, lie down and hold one arm straight up while you attempt to doze. The tension in your arm required to hold it up will keep you on the verge of wakefulness even as your mind slips into an alpha state, which is conducive to creativity. Again, write down in your notebook any ideas or insights that come to you.

Stream of consciousness writing is a good way to access your subconscious mind. I used it while writing my novel, Grave Secret (Mundania Press, Sept 2007). One day, after a period of several difficult writing days, the character of Billy Powers simply walked on to the page. This character was not known to my conscious mind; he sprang from my subconscious. As it turned out, he was so integral to the plot that his appearance saved the story.

Heed your intuition because it is the golden key that opens the gate to your vast subconscious mind. Your writing will thank you for it.


Kelly L Stone (www.KellyLStone.com) is a licensed mental health counselor and the author of three books, including TIME TO WRITE: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Life (Adams Media, January 2008) and THINKING WRITE: The Secret To Freeing Your Creative Mind (Adams Media, October 2009). Her third book for writers, LIVING WRITE: Creative Strategies for Maintaining Your Enthusiasm, Motivation, and Dedication to Your Writing Goals, will be released in Fall 2010.


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Update on WOW! Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest: Top 10 E-mails Sent

Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Phew! This season was tough to judge and it came down to the wire, but we just sent out notifications to the Top 10 contestants of the WOW! Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest. Congratulations to those of you who placed in the Top 10! Please remember to send us your photo and bio as soon as possible.

We will NOT be sending out e-mails to Honorable Mentions since we're working on the February issue of WOW!, but be sure to check back in February to see if you won an Honorable Mention. You can also sign-up for our e-mail newsletter to receive a notification of when the contest winners' page is live. You can easily spot the subscription box on any page of the WOW! website (upper right hand corner, gray box), or on The Muffin (left hand sidebar).

Thank you all for being so patient, and stay tuned for February's issue to read the winning stories and to see the full list of winners. :)

To enter our current flash fiction contest, please visit the contest page. The deadline is February 28th, limit 300 entries. Good luck, and happy writing!
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Interview with Elizabeth Barton - 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Elizabeth's Bio: Elizabeth Barton has been writing stories for just about as long as she can remember. After attaining degrees in psychology and nutritional sciences, she began work as a medical writer and editor. She participated in the Writer’s Loft workshop in Chicago for more than four years and has recently begun seriously pursuing a career in fiction writing. Elizabeth has dozens of short stories in varying degrees of completion and is polishing a draft of her first novel. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Ian, and two cats, Roxie and Gordon. When she is not writing, Elizabeth is an avid reader and enjoys travel, theater, and wine. She also loves to dabble in, but never master, various pursuits including drama, sewing, painting, ceramics, and stained glass work. She believes that every experience can be an inspiration. She recently won third place in WOW’s spring flash fiction contest for her story, The Wedding March.

If you haven't done so already, you should definitely check out Elizabeth's prize-winning story "Not Tonight." When you've finished reading, return here for a chat with the author.

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the 2009 Summer Flash Fiction Contest! You have managed to pack so much emotion into your piece of flash fiction. Do you believe it’s easier or more difficult to create such vivid feelings under the constraint of a small word count?

Elizabeth: Honestly, neither. I think that one can create vivid feelings in a sentence or two. Of course, it's harder to create a character with depth and tell a complete story when you have word count restraints. On the other hand, it's hard to maintain the intensity you often get with flash fiction when writing longer pieces.

WOW!: Yes, I agree. Despite the word count restraints of this contest, I think you have done a fantastic job of creating a complete story with meaningful characters. In your bio you say that every experience can be an inspiration, and I completely agree. Can you describe or give an example of how some of your other artistic endeavors have inspired your writing?

Elizabeth: I can't think of any specific instances where my other artistic endeavors have directly inspired me in my writing. It certainly could happen, though. For now, I find that it those endeavors allow me to create in a different way. I don't have to think about ceramics or painting in the same way I have to think about writing, so my mind can sort of relax.

WOW!: As an avid reader, I'm sure you’re in the middle of reading at least one (if not two or three) books right now. Are you reading anything interesting? Which writer or story has most influenced your writing?

Elizabeth: Right now, I'm reading Timeline by Michael Crichton, which has an interesting mix of science and history; plus, I've always been a sucker for a time travel story. My all-time favorite book is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Although I enjoy both Crichton and Vonnegut, I wouldn't say my writing really resembles either of them. It's hard to pin down one particular author or story that's influenced me most, but I'd list Michael Chabon, Nick Hornby, David Sedaris, and A. Manette Ansay among my influences.

WOW!: I know, it’s difficult to pin down just a few influential writers because inspiring or helpful attributes can be found in so many pieces of writing. In your interview after winning 3rd place in the WOW! Spring 2009 Flash Fiction Contest, you spoke about working on revisions to your novel. How is your novel progressing? Have you had any breakthroughs or run into any roadblocks?

Elizabeth: No, there haven't been any breakthroughs or roadblocks. I'm making steady progress, but it's always slower than I would like!

WOW!: Yes, I know what you mean! When I'm excited about a writing project, it always seems to progress slower than I’d like. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Elizabeth: I just love seeing what happens when I start writing. There's stuff I never knew I had in me that ends up on the page. Also, when I start a story, I rarely know where it's going to go. Just like with reading, I like writing to see how the story ends.

WOW!: Thank you, Elizabeth, for your time, your insightful answers, and your impressive piece of flash fiction. We wish you the best of luck with your writing in the future!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt
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Update on WOW! Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest

Monday, January 25, 2010
We've received several e-mails from contestants asking whether we've sent out notifications for the Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest yet, so I thought I'd post a little update here to let you all know where we are in the process.

The quick answer: No. We have not sent out Top 10 notifications yet.

Currently, the top 25 stories are in the hands of guest judge, literary agent Noah Lukeman. He is judging them as swiftly as possible.

When we get the results back, we will send an e-mail to the Top 10 winners asking for their photos and bios. We'll also post another update here on The Muffin to let all contestants know that we sent out Top 10 notifications. If you are among the Top 10, please send back your info as soon as possible so we can format it for our February issue.

Our February issue will announce all winners in our contest feature. We are working on editing and formatting articles and interviews for that issue as we speak. It will most likely come out the first or second week of February, depending on a few factors--how quickly we hear from Top 10 winners, how quickly we receive the remaining articles/interviews from freelancers, and, finally, the expedience of our graphic art department and webmaster. It takes a lot of work, and teamwork, to put together an issue. ;) If all factors fall into place early, then we will put the issue up sooner.

One thing that will be processed sooner/faster than usual is our contest prizes for this season. As soon as we announce the contest winners, we will be sending out prizes that week via e-mail. All prizes for the Fall season are digital (cash prizes, Amazon gift cards, e-books, subscriptions, etc.), so there is no waiting for packing and shipping.

Thank you all for your patience, and please stay tuned for the February issue to read all the winning stories! You can view our current Winter '10 contest here (Deadline: February 28th).
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It's time for some exercises!

While interviewing an author recently, she mentioned she had enjoyed Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott so much that she tries to read it each year. That sounded like a wonderful suggestion so, I went to work to find my copy of Lamott's book. Along the way, I found a couple interesting writing books I thought I'd recommend:
One of my favorite books for fiction writing prompts is "What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers" by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. Published in 1990, they released a revised edition in 2009. I like the book mainly because it was one of my first fiction writing exercise books, which I then recommended to my writing students. I've continued to enjoy it because of the approach of the authors as they lead the reader through 83 different exercises ranging from beginnings to mechanics to plot. The book sets out the objective of the exercise and uses examples from either a published writer or from a student. If you are a beginning or an advanced writer, there are element that will keep you busy. Often these exercises seem to serve the author who is writing a story.
Another book that I've started relying on when I feel the need for a fiction exercise is "The 3 A.M. Epiphany" by Brian Kiteley (2005). In Kitely's introduction, he explains that when he uses exercises in his workshops "to derange student stories, find new possibilities, and foster strangeness, irregularity, and non-linearity as much as to encourage revision and cleaning up after yourself." Kitely's 201 exercises guide his students and readers to have a better understanding of why you're writing what you are writing. These exercises--or pairing them up--can be used in the service of a story or not.
Sometimes doing an exercise without having a goal in mind is the best way to release your creativity.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who is still looking for her copy of Bird-by-Bird. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
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New Community: The WM Freelance Connection

Saturday, January 23, 2010
Seven women have joined together to start a blog and a Google group about freelance writing. It's called The WM Freelance Connection; and if you haven't checked them out yet, make some time this weekend! They started out as the "Writing Mommies," that's where the "WM" comes from, but they have resources for anyone who's freelancing--well, anyone human that is. ;) Here is some of the information they have to offer on their site:

  • Daily blog posts: This blog is full of information for freelancers. Here are some of the recent titles: "Tips for Using the Writers' Market," "Increase Your Chance of Winning a Writing Contest," "Let's Talk about Press Passes," and "Writing Opportunity: Plum Magazine."
  • Quick Links: They have several pages to this site, and some of the titles are: "Writing Opportunities: Paying Gigs and Writing Contests," "Money Tips for Freelance Writers," "Social Networking Ideas," and "Freelance Writing News and Ideas."
  • Join the WM Google Group: I like this group because they are very positive and happy! Also, they give you writing prompts, and they hold contests where your work can be shared with other members of the Google group. It is super simple to join the group to see if you like it. Just scroll down on the home page of the website to where it says join the Google group, put in your e-mail, and subscribe!
  • Writers' Unblock Tool: Further on down the left-hand side of the site, they have a "Writers' Idea Bank." This is a tool that randomly generates story ideas from Mode Room Press. If you are ever stuck for a story idea, you could check this out. It may not be the exact story you're looking for, but you just never know what could give you some ideas!
I hope you will check out The WM Freelance Connection, founded by Alyssa Ast and Angela Atkinson. At WOW!, we are all about brilliant women starting supportive and encouraging places for other women (okay and men, too:) to relax and become better writers!

A couple other things. . .

PREMIUM GREEN (WOW!'s Market E-book Subscription):
For just $4.00 a month, you can subscribe to one of the best resources on the market. Okay, so I admit I am a little biased; but seriously, women, who are members and who subscribe to this monthly market book (or win a subscription in one of the contests) and participate in the listserv, rave about it. This is only about $1.00 more a month than a Writers' Digest subscription (which is even more if you live in Canada--PG is the same no matter where you live). But a PG monthly e-book is around 160 pages of markets and articles--much more than WD. When I say markets, I mean MARKETS--fiction, nonfiction, business, niche, contests, anthologies, and women's. Angela does an awesome job. And we recently posted a sample PG listserv discussion. I am just so excited about Premium Green--that's why I always talk about it. :) (One more exciting thing--if you subscribe, you actually have access to all 27 previous issues, full of all those markets for no extra cost!)

WOW! Classes: In February, WOW! is offering these online classes. These are perfect for people who want to improve their writing or marketing skills, but need a flexible schedule!

Okay, ladies, I hope to see you on The WM Connection and Premium Green Google groups! Any questions about the classes, check out the WOW! classroom page or e-mail me at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com (replace the (at) with @).

Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them
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Friday Speak Out: 10 x 12, Guest Post by by Tami Richards

Friday, January 22, 2010

by Tami Richards

There’s a nook off my kitchen that I’ve been trying to claim for myself for over twenty years now. While raising four children, I’d shared that ten by twelve foot space with kids doing homework, playing video games, making Lego masterpieces, and searching the Internet. I thought I’d properly and fully claimed it last summer when my youngest child reached adulthood and I felt that I was free to do as I wished with the house. My husband and I replaced the two windows and laid down beautiful new blonde bamboo flooring. I happily painted the walls, and moved my bookshelves in, loading them up to bursting. I was bubbling over with excitement as I was finally able to organize my own space.

Instead of using a writing desk for the main furniture, I decided to build a heavy-duty craft table for my grandchildren and I to share. The table was a big mistake. I was no longer making the room my own, the craft table made the room everybody’s. I invalidated my own needs. After the room’s completion, I did not spend much time writing in my new office for I’d done the unforgivable and I knew it; I’d forsaken myself.

By the time that I’d finally figured out my error and came to understand that for me to be happy and creative, my office needed to be my own office not a shared craft room, I lost ground on possession. My adult daughter hit a rough spot in her life and she moved back home, bringing my granddaughters with her. Being that they were moving from a fully furnished three-bedroom house it was impossible to find space in our small home for all of their belongings. A barrage of housewares, clothes, games and toys took up the entire floor space of my office.

Being the consummate adjuster that I am, the person who arranges the needs of others to a place above her own, I carried my laptop into our bedroom and set up office on an old desk that I’d set up in front of our dresser. This worked out for me for several months until my husband was switched from swing shift to night shift. Because he needs to sleep before work, my time alone in my bedroom had gone out the window. At this time, I had nowhere else to go but to remove the long ago boxed and stored treasures of my children’s childhood from the storage loft above the garage and hoist my daughter’s and granddaughter’s belongings up in their stead.

Then began the internal battle of the mature and wise woman with the self-sacrificing and meek grandmother. What I have is a war between “why should I move and store all her stuff for her,” and “she’s going through a tough adjustment, my grandchildren need their things.” The bottom line, if I allowed myself to reach it, was that I needed to reclaim that space for my own well being and I needed to take action to get it. I’ve been moving and adjusting things in that ten by twelve foot space for over twenty years in futile attempts to claim it as my own. Having accomplished that, I needed to maintain it and start putting my own needs above those of others.

Yes, I’d brought it on myself. I’d allowed it to happen by not being insistent enough, by not explaining my needs, my rights, my value. The fault lies squarely with me. It became time for me to clean up that room and claim my space. It took a lot of time and energy that I didn’t think that I could muster, but I am typing these words while sitting in my own space.


Tami Richards is a writer of articles and essays concerning women's history, health and social issues. Visit her blog at http://tamilkrueger.blogspot.com/


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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1000 Journals

Thursday, January 21, 2010
by LuAnn Schindler

I started journaling when I was in high school. Actually, it was in 7th grade when grandma gave me a diary in my Christmas stocking. It had a beautiful white cover with the 'diary' embossed in gold on its cover. As the years progressed, I started myriad journals. In our bedroom closet, one box contains seven volumes of my ramblings through the years. Another six sit on my computer desk.

I'm a journal junkie. I'm not afraid to admit it!

One of the most amazing journal projects I've discovered is 1000 Journals, an ongoing experiment that tries to follow 1000 journals. The stories, artwork, collages gracing the pages provide a random glimpse of society and the creative inspiration everyone has within. The project has been bound into a book and a documentary.

If you're interested in becoming part of the journal project, check out 1001 Journals.
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Does Reading Have A Place in Your Writing Goals?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010
By Jill Earl

In a ‘Muffin’ post from a couple of years ago, Are You An Intentional Reader?, I wrote of being inspired to develop a reading plan from an article by author Bob Hostetler. His annual plan includes reading a wide variety of authors and genres through the ages for pleasure and to enhance his writing skills.

At the time, I hadn’t thought about how reading intentionally could help in making one a better writer. Intrigued by the notion, I set about creating my own plan.

That first year’s attempt was a washout, simply because I just threw a list together. Last year’s was much more successful, with more thought going into it. Poetry, children’s books, memoir, new fields/disciplines of interest, authors I’ve never read, books I want to re-read, and so on. I’ve included the same categories in this year’s list.

Why do I do this? Well, I’ve always gotten great pleasure out of reading. With the turn of each page, my horizons expand as I learn more about my world. In addition, studying the varied writing styles of new, well-known and favorite authors, then applying what I learn will improve my own work. One of the goals we writers shoot for in pursuing the craft.

This year’s list will focus on more intercultural/multicultural, photography, travel, filmmaking and memoir, since these are areas I specifically want to pursue in my writing. I also want to include more poetry and biography too. And there will be more children’s books, so I’ll be looking for ‘Uncle Wiggily’, my favorite bunny rabbit gentleman to return for a visit.

You can check out the link to Mr. Hostetler’s article ‘The Intentional Reader’ here.

So in between assignments, my favorite book nook awaits, because reading definitely has a place in my 2010 writing goals.

Does it have one in yours?
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Tricia Bowering: Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Congratulations to Tricia Bowering! She is a runner up in the 2009 Summer Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't read her short story, "Remembrance," yet, then you can check it out here.

Here's a little about Tricia:

Tricia Bowering was born and raised British Columbia, where she eventually studied psychology at the University of Victoria. She now makes her home in Vancouver, where she keeps busy with work and spending time with her family. She recalls writing short stories as early as grade two and all throughout high school, but years of study and work slowly pushed writing aside. Finally, she has returned to writing as a serious pursuit and has enjoyed reconnecting with her creative voice. She looks forward to writing more short fiction and entering lots of contests in the future.

By the way, Tricia's been here before. She also placed as a runner up in the 2009 Winter Flash Fiction contest!

WOW: Congratulations, Tricia, on your second win in WOW!'s flash fiction contests. What made you enter another one of your stories in this contest?

Tricia: It is such an honor to be recognized by the WOW! team for this contest! I truly enjoy the process of writing, and very short fiction is a challenging yet rewarding, medium. Once the story is done, it’s always fun to have your work out there for others to read, and placing in the contest is a bonus. I also appreciate the critique option that’s offered, as it’s always valuable. I took the last suggestions to heart and experimented with a new writing process for this contest.

WOW: Thanks for sharing information about the critique service that is offered with the contest. Many writers have probably wondered if it's worth the extra fee; and obviously, you are benefiting from it! How is this winning story similar to or different from your other story, "When My Grandmother Made Perogies?"

Tricia: The stories ended up having very different styles. In my previous entry, "When My Grandmother Made Perogies," I started with a memory from my distant childhood and developed that idea, so that imagery took center stage. The description of the event (the sights, smells, and feel of making perogies), became a central feature; and the interaction between granddaughter and grandmother was almost secondary. With "Remembrance," I started with a pivotal event: a public health nurse’s visit to an elderly client in the community, suffering from dementia. I tried to use description effectively once again to evoke setting and character; but this time, I focused more intensely on the interactions between the nurse and her elderly client. I also tried to develop a coherent plot with beginning, middle, and end.

WOW: And that's not easy in under 750 words! In this season's story, "Remembrance," you explore the theme of dementia in the elderly. Why did you write a flash fiction story on such a complicated and heartbreaking issue?

Tricia: Indeed, this theme resonates with me; both in my career and personal life, I’ve known individuals who have dementia. This illness forces us to confront our feelings around loss, and it is not easy. I hoped to show that there is so much value in a person’s life (as Anita can see as she tours around the house and sees clues of a life well-lived) and not to forget that when confronted with a person who may need help in the face of this devastating illness. I was also taken with the way that Anita had to confront her fears and sadness over her own mother’s illness, leading to a real sense of connection between Mrs. Simpson and Anita. Their roles as nurse and patient were briefly reversed when Mrs. Simpson comforted her.

WOW: It's easy to see, even from your description here, why this was a winning story. It's a well-crafted story with a well-developed theme. When you sit down to write a flash fiction piece, what is your process?

Tricia: I’m not sure I have one process. Occasionally, the writing flows naturally from a scene in my mind, or a memory; and I sit and write the whole story in one sitting. Other times, like with "Remembrance," I take my time, lingering over each sentence. Often, the hardest part is to get the first draft onto paper; but after that the editing process can be fun--shaping the story into what may turn out to be something quite different than I first imagined.

WOW: I agree 100% that editing and revising your work can be fun. I am always saying to myself, "Just get it on paper. You can do it. It doesn't have to be good." (Smiles) Flash fiction writing usually takes a lot of revision and a lot of word-cutting. (Sometimes, it's harder to write a short piece than a long piece!) What is your revision process like? How do you decide what to cut?

Tricia: As I mentioned, I find self-editing a fun, but challenging, process. In the first draft, I let all my ideas flow freely without much thought to the final product, and that’s a crucial part of my creative process. However, when it comes time to edit, brutal honesty must prevail. For the second draft, I concentrate on story essentials: plot, character, setting, and how description and dialogue help those elements come together. Once I have the story that I want, I pick through the draft several times for unnecessary words, such as those pesky adverbs. Any sentence or description that doesn’t directly serve the story is cut. Flash fiction is good discipline! I usually agonize over the last two or three words for a couple of days before I finally send my submission.

WOW: Let's repeat that quote for all to read again: "Flash fiction is good discipline!" I love how you mention those pesky adverbs and how you agonize over two or three words. It shows in your writing that you're carefully choosing your language and sculpting your work. Have you made any 2010 writing goals or resolutions that you could share with us today?

Tricia: Absolutely. I took a writing course last fall; and now I’ve become a part of a writing critique group. It’s a great development because making a commitment to submit writing for the group every month keeps me motivated. I may take another course later in the year (perhaps on self-editing!), and I’d like to enter another WOW! contest. Thanks again for giving emerging writers this opportunity.

WOW: You're welcome, Tricia, and good luck with your goals. We wish you much success in 2010.

Interview by Margo L. Dill

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Got Scene Problems? We've Got Quick Solutions!

Monday, January 18, 2010
If you're in the process of editing your NaNoWriMo manuscript, novel, or short story and find that a scene isn't working, it may have one of these problems listed below. See if you can pinpoint the problem and apply the quick-fix solution!

Scene drags at the beginning
Problem: Too much exposition
Solution: Get your characters interacting right away--at least by the second paragraph. Provide them with a conflict. The story of how they got there and why can wait.

Scene has too much dialogue
Problem: "Talking head" syndrome
Solution: Break up dialogue with actions, gestures, or character's thoughts. For example, instead of having a character say, "I'm so sorry," have them place a hand on the other character's shoulder. Instead of having a character say, "I'm so angry!" have them throw something. Remember, dialogue is a vehicle for moving the plot forward--for characterization, background information, description of other characters, and for creating suspense and building tension. If you allow dialogue to fill a whole scene, most likely, your characters will end up talking all over the place about anything and everything, and your action and narrative will suffer.

Reader can't visualize the scene
Problem: Not enough setting description
Solution: Add descriptive details to the setting to ground your reader. You don't want these characters in a blank room. Your reader needs to know where they are--just a few descriptive sentences. Choose descriptions that enhance the mood of the scene.

The scene is...(yawn) boring
Problem: The scene doesn't advance the plot
Solution: Cut it! If there are some parts of the scene you really love, you can combine those ideas with one of your existing scenes to make it more vibrant.

Tension has waned
Problem: Too many slow scenes in a row
Solution: If the scene is still good for character development, you may want to keep it, but you should consider rearranging your scenes.

Scene starts off strong but fizzles out at the end
Problem: Misplaced climax
Solution: Rewrite the scene and put the emotional high point at the end.

Good luck!
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Pushing past...and getting to the good stuff

Sunday, January 17, 2010
Recently, when I was working to finish revisions on a long project I started thinking about how a writer sometimes need to push past an area of revision or of writing that isn't working. Just getting to the next page, paragraph, sentence or word can help bring clarity to what the writer is working toward.
But what happens when nothing is coming? When you just can't think about it anymore?
Often what works for me when I'm stuck within a piece of writing is to stop in the middle of the process and to give myself some distance from that particular piece.
But I don't move away from my computer. I pick up another piece of writing. One I've been procrastinating getting into and start working with it. Ideally my first project is, let's say, nonfiction and the second project is completely different, perhaps fiction or poetry or corporate writing.
I find the change in the projects can be refreshing to my brain. The shift in gears helps me delve back into a project I've been putting off, whereas my brain also gets a different workout for a while.
In the end, I feel productive, regardless of how many words actually stay on the page and in the draft. That peace of mind, knowing that I've continued working, helps me return to the first project with less resistance.

What helps you to push past resistance in your writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she viewed a a lush forest from her writing window. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
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Goals for 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010
Have you ever felt like you were on a roller coaster ride that didn't want to stop? Well, I have to admit with my ever changing work schedule and other things going on in my life, I feel that way on a daily basis.

Today I realized how many things have been neglected recently in my life. I can't really use the holidays as an excuse either, because, well, they just weren't in the way for the most part. I had things pretty well organized, no real stress about what was going on. I planned ahead to some degree, although I did feel like I was struggling to finish the last gifts that needed to get out the door.

I hear everyone talking about setting New Year's resolutions. To be honest, I have never done so to this day. However, I do set goals for myself each year. This year, my biggest goal is to find more writing time and to expand on many of my story ideas.

To date, I have published over 400 articles, but alas, it isn't where my true passion lies, my true passion is in the heart of writing stories for children. I have several in the works and only one completed and ready for editing, but now I have hit the point where my fear is holding me back. This leads me to one of my first goals for the year.

1) Pushing past my fear

With this goal, I plan to attempt to once again get this story published. It has gone through hundreds of hands over the past 5 years, many saying that it wasn't time, that this story would be better produced in the future. Well, it is now the future and I feel it is time to give it a go once again. Many of the publishers I had contacted stated that because of the huge craze with a very popular young wizard, they felt that my story shouldn't be left in the shadows and there was tons of potential that would help this story shine through.

I have to admit after reading those encouraging words, I'm still scared and ready to hide under the blankets, but, I will attempt once again. Yes, I admit just like all of us in the writing community, rejection is harsh, but we must go through it in order to continue on with our goals as writers.

After everything that has happened in 2009, I am anxious to even think about 2010. I am worried that I won't be able to find enough time to write. This is my second goal for the New Year. Finding more time. With an ever changing work schedule, sports, and other activities for my teenagers, I am now striving to find enough time to write.

2) Find more writing time.

My goal is to sit down daily and see where I can squeeze in even 10 minutes for writing. Hopefully, time at work will help, when things are quiet and there isn't a huge need for a lot of paperwork, or needed in other departments to complete tasks.

How about those minutes waiting in the doctor's office that I rave about using; oh wait, I don't get that time because I am hardly at the doctor's office.

My schedule shifts daily so I must shift my writing times and make sure that I schedule myself a writing appointment on the calendar. I hope that this goal can be met.

Another goal of mine is to get more involved with the writing groups that I have been in contact with and help others as much as they have helped me with my writing. This is another goal that I am striving to meet. Right here at WOW we have such fabulous women that have each helped me, throughout the past year, meet my writing goals even if they don't realize it. Thanks to all of you for doing that for me. :)

3) Get involved with my writing groups!

This goal should be easy to do; however, again, time may be the issue. I am going to strive to be in better contact with the groups that I so love and want to work with more closely once again. But, please everyone be patient with me. I am sure there will be times when you will need to take and beat me with a wet noodle.

Although I currently only have 3 main writing goals established for the new year, this is a good start and will help me to find my way into the future of my writing.

By attempting to not only work more on my stories but also to continue to write more articles, I am striving to stick to these goals that I have set forth.

For each of us, as writers, time is one factor that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Getting into a new groove after major changes in your life can really put huge strains on your writing, and it is hard to let life do this to each of us.

Have you set writing goals for the New Year? If so, what are they and how do you plan to meet these goals for yourself?

Just remember, it is okay if you don't meet one of your goals. At least you tried. There have been many times when I have attempted to meet many goals through out the year that involve my writing and, no matter what, something ended up on the floor behind the stove.

Happy Writing!
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Friday Speakout: Surely You Just, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Friday, January 15, 2010
Surely You Just (Cheesy, I know)

by Michelle Dwyer

Okay so, I recently received my contest critique for the WOW! Summer 2009 Flash Fiction Contest. Not too shabby I must say. I guess the past critiques have allowed me to refine those blunders called adverbs. Toning down these dust mites (as I now call them), has taken effort. But seeing less green (you know, the highlighted adverbs) in my critique is worth it.

Why was I using adverbs ALL the time? I was addicted to making a point—a point I never had to make.

I thought using “punch” words such as just, always, really, very, and some quantified my thoughts, made them more tangible for the reader to measure. For example, “I just got a request for a partial!” (That hasn’t happened. Just let me have my moment), is no more intense than, “I got a request for a partial!” They express the same joy. The “just” adds no value to the excitement that hopefully one day I will experience.

I took me a while to get it. In my mind, the reader had to know what had just happened, or what simply had to be a certain way. It made the stakes higher. Made those words very, very important, right? No. It just made me look like an amateur.

But I’m hard-headed (really, really hard-headed), so I’m still learning to give up the dust. Sometimes I leave particles in my stories. And guess what? Adverbs in moderation can actually add depth when done right; however I’ve learned that overall, readers don’t need to know that a car can go super fast or that my protagonist is immensely hot.

I can be defiant, refusing to let tried-and-true principles trump my need to be right. I needed proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that most adverbs are in vain.

I opened the file belonging to my 113,000 word manuscript. Blindly, I searched for and deleted every just, always, really, some, and very. I didn’t care about sentence structure or meaning. After this, I re-read the story.

What do you think happened? I put a handful of these words back into the story because the impact legitimately called for them. The remaining adverbs were never seen again because they’d added no value and would never be missed. I now have a leaner, meaner manuscript.

How cluttered had my manuscript been before the changes? In other words, how many adverbs didn’t make the cut?


Pretty, very, really, amazing…don’t you think?

Wait. Start over.

Amazing, right?


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Book Contest News!

Thursday, January 14, 2010
Well, I’m smack-dab in the middle of my Book Blog Tour for Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). It’s been so much fun so far! And I had a new experience yesterday: My first radio interview. =S I’m not feeling 100% stoked about how I did but they said that I did great for a first radio interview. I guess factoring in that I had Xander and Sophie fighting like dogs over crayons in the background, and I wasn’t able to concentrate on every word I was saying, I did pretty good.

My advice on the entire situation? NEVER give an interview with kiddos in the background unless there’s someone to distract them. =)

While on the subject of books, I came across a great book contest to share with all of you. Hope someone out there manages to score big and get her book out there! (I think I may even try this one out.)

Let us know if you enter and how you do. Good luck!


2010 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and RFK Journalism Awards: The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was founded in 1980, with the proceeds from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s best-selling biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Each year the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights presents an award to the book which "most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy's purposes -- his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity." The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award has been recognized as one of the most prestigious honors an author can receive.

The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards were founded in 1968 by a group of journalists who covered the Senator's presidential campaign. The awards honor outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy's concerns including human rights, social justice and the power of individual action in the United States and around the world: insights into the causes, conditions and remedies of injustice and critical analyses of relevant public policies, programs, attitudes and private endeavors. The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards program is the largest of its kind and one of the few in which winners are determined by their peers. Past winners include The Washington Post, National Public Radio and CBS's "60 Minutes."
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Marketing Self-Published Books: More Advice From Joy Wooderson

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last week, we talked with Joy about her self-publishing journey for her memoir, Finding Joy. If you are struggling with whether or not to invest in self-publishing, her interview might give you some answers you've been looking for.

In this segment, Joy discusses how she is marketing Finding Joy: One Woman's Journey Back to Faith. As we all know whether you self-publish your book or publish at a small or large house, the marketing falls on the author. So, grab a cup of tea, and take a few minutes to learn some tips from Joy.

Margo: Welcome back to The Muffin, Joy. We learned a lot from you last week about self-publishing and the choices you made. Today, we're exploring marketing your self-published book. What types of marketing are you doing for Finding Joy?

Joy: It had become increasingly clear to me that authors are now pretty much on their own when it comes to marketing their books, whether they are self-published or not. So I began by creating postcards on my computer, showing the cover, and “I’m pleased to announce . . .” on the front with distributor and contact information on the back. I mailed these to friends and other parties whom I felt might be interested. I also e-mailed the information to everyone on my contact lists.

I had compiled a list of people to whom I wanted to send a copy of the book in addition to close friends, relatives, and those individuals who had played a major part in the development of the book. My hope is that these people will be willing to read it and share their comments.

I also created bookmarks on my computer, showing the cover, a brief synopsis, distributors, and contact information on the front. On the back, I listed excerpts from two or three reviews. I included several copies of the bookmark as handouts with each sale.

A neighbor organized a community book-signing which was not only enjoyable but highly successful. I also participated in the Author Open House at the library. I joined Facebook, SheWrites, Women On Writing, and other social networking websites in order to spread the word through these avenues.

I contacted two independent bookstores and placed copies on consignment in each.
My package with BookSurge included a review by Kirkus Discoveries, which was forwarded to their distribution listings. Regrettably, most newspapers will not review self-published books.

Margo: WOW! You gave us a lot of great tips here. I like how you've tried many different types of marketing ideas, and you are getting out there and meeting people. You're not waiting for people to come to you! What are you finding to work the best?

Joy: What I knew would be the best avenue for Finding Joy: word of mouth. My top sales have come from people who know me and who, in turn, have purchased copies for others. I knew going into this project it would not be a speedy process, given the nature of the book. However, I feel I have planted seeds and now wait for them to germinate and grow.

I am grateful for the excellent review on A Book A Week Blog, for this interview opportunity, and the positive comments I continue to receive from readers.

Margo: Your attitude is so awesome! I love how you are being patient, as hard as that is (I'm sure), and continuing to pass the message on about your book. What are future marketing ideas you have or would like to try?

Joy: I’m feeling my way in this new venture and am open to any and all suggestions. I am exploring meeting with small church groups, donating to the local library district, setting up additional book signings, and taking advantage of whatever opportunities may arise.

Margo: Those all sound like great ideas. Hey, maybe a church group could even Skype you into discuss your book with them! I've heard of some authors using Skype to visit with book groups and school groups that are reading their book hundreds of miles away. So, update us: besides marketing Finding Joy, what are your current projects you are working on?

Joy: At the end of the section on “Self” in Finding Joy, I write: “My daily prayer for wisdom led me to the inescapable conclusion that, like it or not, I was going to have to delve into my emotional and psychological background, to examine the developmental rings of my own ‘tree.’ I had no idea at the time that this exploration would be so wide-ranging it could fill another book.”

I’ve decided to complete the manuscript for Recovering Joy: One Woman’s Journey to Personhood and Place.

Margo: A sequel of sorts! That's great. Good luck to you while you market your current book and work on another.

Here's more information about Joy Wooderson and her book, Finding Joy.

Ladies, if you have any questions for Joy, please feel free to leave them here. We hope you have some new ideas and/or inspiration for marketing your work. Also, if you have a great marketing tip for us, please leave it in the comments below.

Margo Dill
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Interview with Evelyn Addison Ray, WOW! Summer ’09 Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Evelyn’s Bio:

Evelyn Addison Ray, retired from training and development and community education, has written job materials as a matter of course in all her career, but never fiction. Now, having written two short stories for WOW!, she is proud and delighted to be in the finalists and motivated to continue to write short fiction. She earned a B.A. in Journalism and English and an M.A. in Education Leadership. She and her husband, Gary Holloway, live in Foley, Alabama and are avid travelers.

If you haven’t read her entry, please check it out here, then come back and settle in for our chat with Evelyn.

Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: First of all, welcome to you, Evelyn! How does it feel to be a runner-up in our Summer ’09 contest?

Evelyn: Motivated, absolutely motivated! Of course, I was excited to think that I might have an opportunity to write, and, with humility, I am very proud.

WOW: And you should be, your story was wonderful! Please tell us what was the inspiration behind your story and its title.

Evelyn: In the Seventies, I lived in a large, two-story older home and, then, needed to be extremely thrifty. As a result, I learned to shop at yard sales and estate sales. In that neighborhood, many of the residents were elderly and many sales resulted from their having passed on or been forced to seek institutional care. I think this story started then.

WOW: It’s interesting the varied ways writers become inspired to write their stories, isn’t it? In reading yours, I appreciated its contemplative nature, especially how your character gravitated towards memorabilia such as photos, cards and letters of the estate sales she haunted. What made you take this direction in your piece, as opposed to having her attracted to other antiques?

Evelyn: I believe that for many of us, those whose mark on the world is not evident in visible works or buildings or things, our stories are told in such detritus or remnants. I have often seen boxes of photos in antique stores and at estate sales and wondered how it is possible they are no longer important to anyone. Once, I was at an estate sale and only when I read discarded letters and postcards, did I know that the estate had belonged to a former teacher at my high school. The box of cards and letters told me more about her than any of the furniture being sold.

WOW: I’ve often found myself drawn to the same items when at yard sales and the one estate sale I’ve attended---for the same reasons you’ve mentioned. Reading through this material can stretch the imagination, and serve as a good source of inspiration.

Let’s move to your writing routine. Have you established one, and if so, what’s it like?

Evelyn: Unfortunately, it is very erratic now and one of my 2010 goals is to set a routine and stick to it.

WOW: I think that’s a goal that many of your peers share with you, so you’re not alone! Now, in choosing the writing path, did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

Evelyn: Yes. I always wanted to write, but believed that my niche would be journalism, particularly news features and editorial writing.

WOW: In your bio, you formerly worked in community education and training & development. How did you make the transition from more technically-oriented writing to fiction writing?

Evelyn: I never considered fiction because I did not see myself as creative. When I retired, WOW gave me the opportunity to take a shot at fiction and get some feedback to test my perceptions of myself.

WOW: We’re glad that WOW! was able to help you explore your creative side, Evelyn, and that it paid off for you!

How about your reading preferences, do you have a favorite writer?

Evelyn: Not one, but many favorites. Among the contemporary writers, I read and re-read are Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rick Bragg, and P.D. James. ‘Hall of Fame’ writers for me are Ayn Rand, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Isabel Allende. and on and on. I love to listen to books on tape, as well are read the written word.

WOW: That’s quite a list there, Evelyn! I see we have similar tastes. I think being well-read contributes to making a writer more well-rounded in their work.

Your bio also mentions that you and your husband are avid travelers. What are some of the places you’ve visited and have those experiences found their way into your stories yet?

Evelyn: We are foremost now U.S. travelers, with a couple Caribbean cruises during the year. In the past, we typically vacationed in a major city such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Bar Harbor, Seattle and Key West. However, we now have begun volunteering twice a year as park hosts for state and national parks, traveling in an RV and living the immersion travel story. By volunteering, usually two to three months each place, we provide services for three days a week and travel locally the other days. We go home in between. Because my experience is limited in fiction writing to three attempts, travel experience has surfaced only briefly, primarily with regard to referencing a road and city.

WOW: You’re really well-traveled and your work as volunteer park hosts sounds fascinating! We wouldn’t be surprised if you eventually tackled travel writing and some of your experiences found their way into your work! Do you have any projects in the works and can you share some details with us?

Evelyn: Other goals are to participate in some of the writing courses offered, for example, by WOW, and to look for a local writers’ group for writing conversation and feedback when we are not travelling.

WOW: Wonderful! Glad to see that you’re planning to take advantage of WOW! course offerings and hope that you’ll find a writer’s group soon.

One last question, Evelyn. What advice do you have for our aspiring writers?

Evelyn: Be confident. Just write whatever comes to mind and then do the hard work of determining if it has promise. Edit, edit, edit and find someone or some source for feedback.

WOW: Such wise advice for writers of all levels and duly noted! Evelyn, it was a pleasure chatting with you today and best of luck in your writing endevours!

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Still Time to Set Resolutions

Monday, January 11, 2010
by LuAnn Schindler

We're not quite half way into the first month of the new year, so if you haven't taken time yet to develop a list of writing goals, don't worry. There's still time. But instead of procrastinating (do writers do that?), take a good look at what you accomplished last year and where you want to direct your energies this year.

Unsure where to start? Here are a few ideas I implemented last year and a couple I plan to complete in 2010. Consider it a productivity map.
  1. Submission / Time Tracker: I used to keep track of submissions and queries by creating a folder in the document section on my computer. Sure, it showed who I sent it to, but I wanted to be able to use a tracking system so I could list experts and interviewees, possible publications for submissions, type of submission (feature, how-to, FOB), time spent on research and writing, and publication and payment info. I revamped a query tracker previously posted on Premium Green (WOW!'s premium subscription newsletter) and it makes my life so much easier! I've used the system to come up with new article ideas based on information from experts, which increases the bottom line. It's a win-win! How do you keep track of submissions and amount of time spent on each article or work?
  2. Data Backup: I need to work on this one. Do you? I have CDs filled with photos and flash drives loaded with documents. Now, I need to get it all in one place. Thanks to the data backup program that came with my laptop, I will now be able to keep all my files safe and accessible. What do you use to backup photos and writing files?
  3. Project Deadlines: Do you have a large project that seems like you'll never complete? Don't worry. You're not alone. Unless we writers set a deadline for major projects, we'll likely let them continue throughout the year. That's not healthy for a writer's bottom line. Set deadlines, whether it's writing a set amount of words per day, a certain number of pages, or a certain amount of time. Use a planner or calendar to mark the deadlines. The brain makes a stronger connection and gives a stronger sense of urgency to those tasks we note as being important. How do you track deadlines?
  4. Network: Establishing relationships with other writers and editors is important. It's also important to continue to make new contacts. I plan to send three queries to new markets every week in 2010. I also plan to step up my social networking campaign. How will you build or increase your network?
  5. Website: Do you have a web presence? About four years ago, I started a website, but I wasn't happy with the design and eventually, I quit adding material to it. And then, I got married and I never updated the site to include my new last name. In 2010, I will create a new website and keep it updated. I'll keep my blogs updated, too. Do you have a website to promote your skills and expertise? If so, what's one new element you can add to market your skills and reach new audiences/clients?
  6. Skills: As a teacher, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach students. As a writer, I have to update my repertoire of skills and learn new methods to reach editors and readers. I'm enrolling in a one-hour credit class for web design and animation. I'm also teaching a writer's workshop for a local community college. How will you improve your skills?
  7. Fresh Ideas: Ever feel like all your articles/blog posts/storylines are the same? Challenge yourself by tackling a new subject, writing from a different perspective, or trying a different genre. I've already written a piece and submitted it to a market I never would have considered before. But, once I saw the potential for earning money, I decided to try. And guess what. I enjoyed it! How will you challenge yourself in 2010?

Having a road map for the new year will keep you on the "write" track, push you to try new ventures, and make you accountable for your successes and failures. Set goals for a productive 2010.

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Gemini Magazine’s 2010 Short Story Contest

Sunday, January 10, 2010
Ready to sharpen your story story writing skills? Take a look at the competition listed below.

Gemini Magazine, which bills itself as the place for “fiction, poetry, a little craziness & more”, is looking for entries for their 2010 Short Story Contest. The First Place winner will receive $1,000, Second Place gets $100,and there will be three honorable mentions.

They’re looking for all kinds of short fiction, such as novel excerpts, flash fiction, experimental, etc. There aren’t any restrictions on content, style, genre or length. There’s a fee of $4.00 for each entry you submit.

New and established writers can enter, and all finalists will be published in the June 2010 issue. Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2010.

Go to the magazine’s site here to check out the magazine and for additional contest guidelines. They accept both online and postal mail contest submissions.

Check it out and best of luck to all who enter!
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Learn to Write for Children: Tips from Margo L. Dill

Saturday, January 09, 2010
I've never tried writing for children's publications but I've always been intrigued by the idea. It must be so rewarding to reach out and entertain a child through your writing. I still remember all the articles and stories I read in magazines, such as Cricket, as a child. Maybe it's because I was so young that the stories stuck with me, or the fact that I was reading something I wanted to read for the first time.

So to gain a bit of insight into this market, I caught up with Margo L. Dill and asked her a few questions on the subject. Margo teaches the e-course Writing for Children. The course begins next Wednesday, January 13th. If this is a market you've been thinking about writing for, I urge you to visit the classroom page and sign up today.

Welcome, Margo! Like I mentioned above, I'm new to children's writing. So tell me, what are the different types of manuscripts children's magazines accept?

Margo: Children's magazines accept short stories, poems, and articles. They also accept fillers, which are pieces like recipes, puzzles, quizzes, and arts and crafts.

That's a wide variety, and it sounds like a lot of fun. If a writer wanted to craft a short story for a children's magazine, what things should she keep in mind to better target her market?

Margo: I teach about the characteristics of a children's short story during the fiction lessons because writing a short story for children is very different than writing for adults. The age of the main character is very important and should be the same age or older than the target age range. For example, if you are writing a short story for readers between 8 and 12 years old, the main character should be 11 or 12. As a rule, children don't like to read about kids younger than them or adults as main characters. The other big mistake I see made in many children's stories, and we cover this in the class, is that the child protagonist does not solve his own problem. An adult swoops in and saves the day. Children want to read about other children solving their own problems.

I never thought about it, but that makes complete sense. I think it's a good lesson too for children to learn how to solve their own problems. In your class curriculum you recommend sending a cover letter with a short story submission. Are cover letters important? Shouldn't the story stand on its own?

Margo: Writing for children is a business. If you want a magazine editor to take you seriously, then you need to learn the business. On cold submissions, magazine editors expect to see a cover letter with your submission--this includes e-mail and snail mail submissions. The cover letter should be short and simple, just like you were sending a cover letter with a job application. The job application speaks for itself, but the cover letter highlights some important points. Same is true for a short story cover letter. It should briefly explain the story, tell the word count, why the story fits in the magazine, and a few of your credentials. That's it!

Great advice, and it sounds simple enough. Let's talk nonfiction articles. You mention that it's easier to break into the children's magazine market with nonfiction. That's also true with the adult magazine market. In your opinion, how do these markets differ?

Margo: The biggest difference is that there are fewer nonfiction children's magazines than there are adult magazines, so the competition is fierce. Therefore, you have to know how to research your market and your topic to give yourself an advantage over other freelance writers. You also must write a killer query letter, which we work on in the online class. Many children's magazines have theme lists; so before you send your query, it is important to see if your idea will fit in any of the themes. Some magazines will invite queries that do not fit in any themes for possible future consideration. Writing for children is similar to writing for adults, and it should be taken just as seriously.

I bet your students love the query letter part of the class! And you seem to have had a lot of success with queries. You've had articles, short stories, poetry, activities, and recipes published in various children's publications. Quite an impressive list too, I might add! I'm sure writers who are interested in your class would love to break into these publications. But what if they don't have any clips? Is it just as important to have clips in the children's market as it is in the adult market?

Margo: Thanks, Ang. I thought the different types of manuscripts I've had published showed I was a bit scattered, but I appreciate the compliment. (Laughs) Clips are not as important in children's magazines. If you are writing strictly fiction or poetry (which I don't recommend to ONLY write these), then you don't need clips. Editors want to see the entire manuscript before they make a decision. As for fillers, you also need to send the entire manuscript unless the guidelines say otherwise. Every once and a while, a magazine editor will ask for a query for a quiz idea, instead of seeing the whole quiz first. For nonfiction articles, clips can help you get published; but in general, children's magazine editors will accept a query idea on speculation. This means if you don't have a lot of clips, you will write the article because they like your idea, but they may or may not purchase it until after they read the complete article.

That's great to know! I'm sure some of us are breathing a sigh of relief on the clip thing. So what do you ultimately hope students will learn from taking your course?

Margo: Children's writing for magazines and websites is just as tough (or maybe tougher because there are less markets) than writing for adults. It is so important to have markets in mind before you write a story, article, or poem if you want to publish your work. Creativity is important, but published writers must use their creativity to craft a publishable manuscript, or it is a waste of time. I will show my students how and where to search for markets, how to target markets, how to craft a short story and submit it, and how to write a great query for an article. I also want them to see how fillers can be quite lucrative and motivating! When I taught this class in the fall, one of my students got an acceptance for a filler from a website during the class and became an educational writer for BrightHub.com.

Thank you, Margo, for sharing some great tips with us today!

Readers, if you're interested in breaking into children's writing, remember, Margo's class Writing for Children: Everything You Need to Know About Short Stories, Articles, and Fillers starts next Wednesday, January 13, 2010. It runs for 7 weeks. Visit the classroom page to view what you'll be learning week by week. Enroll today to reserve your spot. Happy writing!
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Friday Speak Out: "From Block to Blog (in 0-60 minutes)," Guest Post by Lisa Ricard Claro

Friday, January 08, 2010

From Block to Blog (in 0-60 minutes)

by Lisa Ricard Claro

“Sabbatical from Writing” is the lofty label I plastered on any period of time during which the most imaginative thing I wrote was a grocery list.

I was delusional, of course.

Writer’s block is more akin to a death-hungry dragon that must be slain using words as a fiery sword!

Or. . .you could start a blog. Blogging is a great way to overcome that dragon beast and turns the compulsion to write into a reason to write.


• Most blogs have a theme. Choose something about which you are passionate (child rearing, embroidery, Johnny Depp). Writing about something that matters to you makes it easier to banish the block.

• Loyal readers. It doesn’t matter if your first blog followers are your mom and Aunt Gladys. The more you blog the wider your circle of readers will become. Readers = motivation. Really.

• No pressure. You are the boss of your blog. There are no rejection letters. Just write.

Blogging is fun, but it will help you with other important aspects of writing as well. Some things to keep in mind:

• Brevity is a virtue. Keep your posts to 500 words or less. Short posts are, by necessity, sharp and focused.

• Post as if submitting to an editor. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Treating your posts as professional pieces encourages solid editing.

• Commit to frequent posts. This requires discipline, creativity, attention to deadline, and increased readership. And if readers = motivation, then motivation = banished block!

• Internet presence. In this electronic age, an internet presence is not a suggestion but a necessary tool in every writer’s kit. A blog is an easy way to get started.

There are a number of websites that offer easy, free blogging. MSN and Google are two with high visibility. In less than an hour your blog can be up and running. It is this simple: Choose a theme about which you love to write and get started; then send the link to everyone on your email list.

Some contend that blogging is detrimental because it leeches creativity away from other, more important writing pursuits. But if you’re already being burned alive by the block dragon’s fire, you aren’t writing anyway. Blogging may be the jump start you need.

In 1295 Dante Alighieri wrote: “It seemed to me that I had undertaken too lofty a theme for my powers, so much so that I was afraid to enter upon it; and so I remained for several days desiring to write and afraid to begin.”

Seven hundred years later not much has changed. Too bad Dante didn’t have a blog option. But you do. Start now and be ready to write in less than an hour. You will zoom from block to blog in 0 to 60 minutes.

Now go slay that beast.


Lisa Ricard Claro is a freelance writer whose humor columns and stories have been published on-line, in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and in anthologies Chicken Soup for Beach Lovers and Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers. (Watch for her story, “Angels Afoot”, in Cup of Comfort for a Better World, due on shelves March 2010.)

For more of Lisa’s writing, please visit her blog, Writing in the Buff: www.writinginthebuff.net.


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Self-Publish or Not? Advice From Joy Wooderson

Thursday, January 07, 2010
Many writers have this goal on their 2010 list: "Find an agent or publisher for my novel." Joy had this same goal one year after working on her memoir for eight years. As you'll hear in her own words, she'll tell you why she decided to self-publish: Finding Joy: One Woman's Journey Back to Faith. And let me tell you, this is a well-written, excellent book--full of ideas, situations, and questions that will make you think about your own life. Here's a brief synopsis:

Finding Joy: One Woman’s Journey Back to Faith is an
irational book offering a strategy to lead the reader toward building an authentic, living relationship with the invisible God. Drilled in rigid religious beliefs from childhood, Joy Wooderson found herself trapped in a state of confusion, held hostage to the expectations of others. Sitting atop awe-inspiring Mount Sinai on a vacation trip, she wondered what it might be like to have an unhindered, one-on-one connection with God. Finding Joy tracks the quest triggered by a desperate desire to break out of her mental and emotional prison. The book explores the Biblical design for balanced living and offers pointers for the spiritual journey. Joy discovers that God’s desire is that we experience a life of joy and security in relationship with Him.

Margo: Hi, Joy. Thanks for talking to The Muffin readers about self-publishing. Why did you decide to self-publish Finding Joy?

Joy: I went the usual route of contacting publishers and agents who might be interested in an inspirational book. In most cases, the editors said I had a fascinating story, and my writing was good—but I was a “nobody.” I had no speaking or media platform, and the competition was too fierce (think Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). No agent expressed interest in battling this level of competition. I realized I had hit a brick wall. But I could not bring myself to give up after eight years of thinking, learning, planning, writing, and editing. I had a worthwhile book that I wanted to get “out there.” I had also become increasingly wary of some young editor getting hold of my story and tearing it apart.

At the urging of my cousin in Spain, I began exploring the idea of electronic publishing, specifically getting the book on Amazon’s Kindle. I researched several publishing options, and determined that Amazon’s Print-On-Demand division, BookSurge (now part of CreateSpace), offered what I wanted.

Margo: I think it's great that you went for it, and you have a beautiful book now! What did you look at when you were deciding who to self-publish with?

Joy: I liked the fact that BookSurge expected me to take an active role in the publication process. Several things were nonnegotiable: total control over the manuscript, input on the cover design, flexibility of custom interior design, including page header layout, sub-headings, and font variations. Cost was an important consideration, and BookSurge offered a cafeteria menu of services and a range of prices. Since I am very computer literate, I was able to do much of the manuscript and file preparation myself. This made the cost of the BookSurge package I chose affordable. I also wanted technical support and advice from the company with whom I worked, and BookSurge provided this throughout the process. Further, they handled the transfer of the files to Amazon and sent me a converted file which I uploaded to Kindle. I particularly liked their royalty rate of 35% on Amazon sales.

Margo: Sounds great, and of course, you made very smart business decisions. It is so important to know your nonnegotiable points, too! Who did you use as an editor and why?

Joy: I had been fortunate to meet Amy Harke-Moore of The Write Helper at Saturday Writers in O’Fallon, MO several years ago. She not only provided excellent editing, but also gave invaluable guidance through the development process. A crucial element in working with Amy was her ability to edit, offer suggestions, keep the pace moving, and still allow my “South African voice” to remain intact. BookSurge required that manuscripts be professionally edited, either by one of their editors or an outside service, so I was ahead of the game in having utilized Amy’s expertise.

Margo: Amy is a great editor, and it shows in your book. And like you said, your South African voice comes through! Explain to us how you got such a wonderful cover.

Joy: Coming up with a cover design was daunting as I am not artistically creative. One day, as I reflected on the story and my life experiences, the concept of an awakening came to mind—perhaps a lovely flower emerging out of snow or ice. I spent hours looking at pictures on the Internet and trying to visualize what the cover could look like.

When I forwarded my suggestion to the design folks at BookSurge, they pointed out that snow and ice would never show up as an online cover. However, they captured and modified my concept, and the daisy emerging from parched ground was the result. I had the cover I wanted—one that “speaks.”

Margo: Thanks, Joy, for sharing your self-publishing journey with us. If you have any questions for Joy about self-publishing, feel free to leave them here.

Interview by Margo Dill


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