Securing Local Work

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In November's WOW! Premium Green newsletter, I polled our members about whether or not they had a membership in the local chamber of commerce or another business group. Most of those answering didn't have a membership. Some said they would consider joining if they wrote copy.

But writers who limit themselves - especially in today's turbulent freelance marketplace - by not connecting with local businesses are missing an amazing opportunity.

Small business owners need copy. Small business owners also have other communication needs: newsletters, brochures, websites, social media and marketing. Small business owners need writers who have proven they meet deadlines and offer a quality product.

Why not let local business owners know you are available? Let them know that as a professional, you're will develop a strong, working relationship with them and work with them to promote their business. Joining the local chamber of commerce of small business owners group will increase your bottom dollar. And in today's market, writers need to open as many doors as possible. You never know when a connection will land a lucrative contract.

How do you get started?
  1. If you are a member of the chamber of commerce or business group, make a list of potential business contacts. Secure a name and phone number and make the call. For writers who haven't joined a business group, you're still in luck. Look through online business directories for your area. The yellow pages (although I've been told they are so last year) can lead you to local businesses. Many regional newspapers offer online marketplace services that list area businesses. I've added an example from my regional newspaper.
  2. Combine services and offer a package deal. Through a contact I made, I was able to design and edit a company newsletter. If I hadn't offered a combination of services, the business owner would have been forced to hire another person to design their monthly communications.
  3. Offer coupons to new customers. A coupon advertises your services at a reduced cost and is a cost-effective means of advertising for your writing business.
  4. Remember your current clients. After all, they have been the foundation of support for your business. Stay in contact with this group of business owners, even if they currently don't need your services. You can't predict when they will need copy or editing services.

Joining a local business organization will provide writers with yet another resource to draw from for a client base. You never know when the quaint cafe down the road or the local clothing store may need a writer.

Do you have a membership in a local business organization? Ever secured a writing job from a small business?

Post and graphic by LuAnn Schindler. LuAnn is a monthly columnist for WOW!s Premium Green issue and a freelance writer. She writes a weekly newspaper column about Nebraska for several regional newspapers.

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Women’s Memoirs: Helping Every Woman Tell Her Story

Monday, November 29, 2010
In case you haven’t noticed, memoirs are hot right now. From self-help gurus to genealogy sites to love stories—it’s all about the memoir.

Today, I am very excited to introduce you Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett, co-creators of a wonderful website called Women’s Memoirs.

Ladies, welcome to The Muffin! When I first found your website I was so excited. The site is beautiful, easy to navigate and absolutely full of information, products and offers. What is the story behind the creation of Women’s Memoirs?

Kendra Bonnett: Robyn. Thanks for the invitation to join you today. I’m going to turn over your first question to Matilda since she started us on the path to working in the memoir genre.

Matilda Butler: Hi Robyn. I’m pleased to be talking with you. Women’s Memoirs is the outgrowth of my experience interviewing more than 100 women for what became our award-winning collective memoir called Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story that Kendra and I co-authored. The interviews with the women became a life-altering experience for me. We laughed together; we cried together. These women’s stories touched my life. I became so involved in their narratives that I dreamed about these women almost nightly. Some told me parts of their lives they had never shared with anyone. At the end of these long and intense interviews, so many of the women said a variation of, “Thank you, I never took the time to look at my life before. Now I can see what I was doing and I can change as I move forward.”

For the first time, I realized how important it is to tell our stories.

I’m trained as a researcher and like to say that I started work on the collective memoir as a social scientist and ended as a memoir coach. Although I had been involved in women’s issues for much of my career, helping women tell their life stories once again reshaped my professional focus.

I knew that if I wanted to reach women with information about how to write a memoir, I needed a website. The current site, which is actually its third incarnation, is a blog. That has helped us be able to cover many topics on a regular basis -- much easier than in an earlier version where we had to make changes and additions in html code.

I get the feeling that Women’s Memoirs has a mission; would you like to share a little about that?

Kendra: I’m glad that our passion comes through in our website and in the information we provide. Our mission is simple, yet decidedly grand. We want to help every woman tell her story. Women’s life stories have been, and in many cases continue to be, shortchanged and undervalued. We offer women the tools and support that it takes to write their memoirs. Some women, of course, want to write for themselves or for their families. A life story should be captured, considered and shared, even if the message goes no farther than a daughter or grandchild.

For that matter, the very act of capturing the story is beneficial as it often helps the writer resolve issues and heal. It’s important that the process of writing not stymie the process of healing and recovery. We have people in our classes, critique groups and coaching sessions that are learning to communicate through writing for the first time. In truth, we’ve discovered that many of the memoir writers we meet (aspiring as well as published) didn’t start out with grand plans to become writers. So it’s important that Women’s Memoirs be there to help them conquer the writing.

Of course, for those who want to publish their memoirs, writing is only half the battle. A published author is, in effect, a businessperson, and that requires a different set of skills. I have more years in marketing than I care to admit to, and I’m using my expertise to focus on how the best of traditional marketing strategy and new media tactics come together to help author-entrepreneurs succeed.

So whether writing or marketing, it’s our mission to share as much information as we can through our blogs and free eBooks. Given the number of women who thank us for being “so generous” with our content, I think we’re probably achieving our objective of opening the field to all women, regardless their previous experience and skill.

As these women become more focused on their projects and want to work directly with us, we have a number of courses, coaching programs and critique groups. We’re also always adding to our product line of workshops on DVD and in-depth eBooks. In January, for example, you’ll see the first of our new marketing tools, a comprehensive look at how writers can use Twitter to build a platform and promote their books.

You’ve mentioned an important point, and one I would like to call attention to as I feel this is what separates Women’s Memoirs from the other memoir-writing websites I have seen. Writing the memoir and publishing the memoir are two separate acts and require different skills, yet you address both.

Let’s focus on the writing aspect for a moment. Writing requires both inspiration and action. You address this by offering tools and incentive for people at all levels. You inspire your readers through author interviews, memoir book reviews and brief videos with writing tips; then encourage activity through memoir writing prompts, journaling explorations, writing contests and classes. In fact, your classes were so well received that you have created a DVD version; tell us a little about this set.

Robyn, let me jump back in. I started teaching women’s memoir writing in 2006 through local colleges and privately. Not long after that, Kendra began coaching on a one-on-one basis. By 2008, we added online teaching. That took us in the direction that we knew we needed to go. Although Kendra teaches on the East coast and I teach in Northern California, many women contacted us through our website and wanted to study with us but couldn’t work out their schedule or logistics to connect with us either locally or on the phone.

The next logical step was to create a DVD product based on our all-day workshop. We call it The [Essential] Women’s Memoirs Writing Workshop: 21 Steps from Planning to Publication. When we decided to develop a DVD of our workshop, we realized we had to create separate lessons because we couldn’t count on the flow from topic to topic that works in a group setting. The development of the 21 lessons caused us to create more writing exercises as well. The final product includes almost eight hours of video lessons, 40 writing exercises, and the electronic version of our 57-page workbook. Some of the footage for the DVD comes from a class I was teaching at the time.

That leads me to the special offer we’re making to WOW women. Right now and for a very limited time we’re offering our 5-DVD workshop (a $132 value) for $59. And because it’s the season of giving, Kendra and I will give $10 of each order to the Alzheimer’s Association to help support their good work. We invite all WOW women interested in writing their memoir or helping a mother or friend write hers to take advantage of this special offer, go to:

Such a generous offer, thank you so much! I love that you have chosen to support the Alzheimer’s Association. When someone loses their memories they lose everything, their sense of self, their loved ones, etc… I can think of few things worse than Alzheimer’s.

In addition to the memoir how-to, you also offer book business how-to.

Yes, Robyn, we’ve been running parallel content threads on both writing and book business since almost our first day online. The reason is we want women writers to be successful. And if they define “success” as publishing and selling their memoirs, but then either can’t get published or fail to sell more than a handful of copies…well that’s just not going to cut it for them. Even if they just want to share their work freely with other women online, there’s more too it than getting a Facebook page.

The Internet, of course, has redefined the book business every bit as much as it has changed the face of journalism, politics and traditional business. I mean, it’s literally turned convention on its head. While that’s often good, it’s also terrifying. Change by definition closes many doors; the trick is to be able to see the new ones being opened. We see Women’s Memoirs' job to be to point women toward the new opportunities and make it an exciting time for them.

Starting in January, we’ll be releasing a series of very inexpensive eBooks and videos that will guide writers through the challenges (and opportunities) of blogging, social media, publicity/promotion, even self-publishing.

Matilda and I view this as a great time to be in publishing, provided writers can find their way. Our goal is to help writers who are having trouble embracing online marketing tactics make the transition as painlessly as possible. You might say that we’re putting women in charge of their books—from writing to sales.

That’s wonderful! Internet business can be so confusing.
This year you two are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of your professional partnership. Where do you go from here?

That’s a great question. Kendra and I spend a month together once or twice each year. During that time we have some fun and plan our coming year. About 18months ago, Kendra was visiting and our conversations focused on a new approach to writing that would move our students beyond their current level of writing. Our all-day workshop, whether offered in person or on DVD, seemed quite effective in getting women started. However, we found that while our continuation workshops went well, we couldn’t seem to significantly elevate their writing. We knew several components we wanted to emphasize, but we still needed a cohesive approach.

One evening we drove to San Jose for a music performance. The composer strode on the stage and began to describe his approach to the composition we would hear the quartet play. Kendra and I turned to each other and whispered at the same moment, “That’s it.” He gave us an idea that we both realized could help us take our series of ideas and put them into a logical framework.

After developing the concept and teaching materials of what we eventually called Writing Alchemy, we began working with students and conducting workshops. We’ve been doing this now for 16 months. That has given us ample time to see the incredible change in the writing of everyone who uses the method, independent of their initial skill level.

We are in the final stages of completing our book, Writing Alchemy: The Art and Science of Turning Your Words into Gold. We’ll supplement the book with workbooks, videos, teacher handbooks and much more. Writing Alchemy should have been finished this summer except that my husband and I were finally persuaded by two of our sons and two grandchildren to move to Oregon to be near them. That turned out to be a major distraction from writing. As I talk with you, we have movers in the house and we’ll be in the car driving north in a few days. I should be back to finishing my part of the book by mid-December. We’re eager to share our new approach to writing with both writers and teachers of writing. Then while continuing to teach and promote Writing Alchemy, we’ll develop a DVD around the concept.

And...Kendra and I always have more ideas than we can get done. This means that we are frequently vetting our brainstorms in order to find the next idea that will be useful to women writers.

More good stuff on the way!

Ladies, thank you so much for visiting with us today and for the special offer on your DVD class.

Robyn, on behalf of both Matilda and myself, thank you for this opportunity to share this exciting world of Women’s Memoirs with your readers.

Matilda Butler graduated magna cum laude from Boston University. She earned an M.A. in communications from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Northwestern University. Listed in the Who’s Who of American Women since 1975, she has taught and conducted research at Stanford, created the nationwide Women’s Educational Equity Communications Network, and co-founded Knowledge Access International, a software company specializing in CD-ROM information products. Together with Kendra Bonnett, she co-authored Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells its Story which won the 2008 IPPY National Book Award’s Bronze Medal and three national book festival honors. She and Kendra Bonnett now help women tell their life stories in their women’s memoir writing classes online and in person and through a 5-DVD set, The [Essential] Women’s Memoir Writing Workshop: 21 steps from Planning to Publication.

An award-winning author with over 300 magazine articles and seven books to her credit, Kendra Bonnett graduated cum laude from Arizona State University with degrees in history and anthropology, completed a Master’s in history from the College of William and Mary and further graduate studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She was editor of the Women’s Educational Equity Communication Network, designed computer curriculum for secondary school students and co-founded Digit, one of the first computer magazines for children. She later founded Profit: Information Technology for Entrepreneurs and Beyond Computing, a joint magazine publishing venture between IBM and The New York Times and was Profit’s first Editor in Chief. Throughout her career she provided marketing to companies ranging from Fortune 500 to small, entrepreneurial startups. In the late 1990s, she was president of Westchester, NY-based marketing firm Mark Stevens & Company.
Interview by Robyn Chausse

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Tiny Blessings

Saturday, November 27, 2010

We tend to think that blessings drop from the heavens with bells and whistles-- winning lottery numbers and miracle healings. The fact is that blessings don’t shout, they whisper.

A few years ago I was holding down a sixteen-hour a day corporate job when I began to get sick—every time I went to work. The doctor called it Toxic Office Syndrome…seriously (I hear you laughing). He said I needed to either remove the toxin from my work environment or remove myself from the company. After much fretting I decided to quit my job and what seemed to be a disaster turned out to be a gigantic turning point in my life.

I had fallen off course from my original desire to write for a living and didn’t know how to get back on track. The fear of lack, believing we could not survive without that second income, would have kept me chained to that job until it killed me; I’d had several warning episodes of dozing off at the wheel and still I did not listen. During my illness I was able to re-examine my priorities and realign myself. Becoming ill pushed me to a point where I had no choice but to let go. That illness was a blessing; I now spend my days happily writing.

Grace underlines our lives with tiny blessings disguised in frustrating and challenging situations such as:

Receiving a bad review which, after the tears are shed, helps you to see your work with fresh eyes and write something extraordinary.

Not landing that assignment you felt certain was meant for you (and what you never find out is that the contract went sour).

Or that horrible one-night-stand which you end up selling as a short story!

So, give thanks and enjoy all of life, the ups and the downs. Because during those times when you wonder why things are going wrong, they may just be going right! Leave room for tiny blessings.
by Robyn Chausse
Have you experienced a time when tragedy turned to triumph? When life took an unexpected turn-for-the-better? Maybe just a surprise that set your world right. Share your tiny blessings here!
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Friday Speak Out!: What I Learned from NANOWRIMO , Guest Post by Sandy Ackers

Friday, November 26, 2010
What I Learned from NANOWRIMO

by Sandy Ackers

It's that time again, the one month a year when tens of thousands of crazy people attempt to write a complete novel during the month of November, or National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I did it in 2008 and "won"—meaning I completed the first draft of a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

While I usually recommend fitting brief moments of creativity into the stressful busy-ness of life, it can be eye-opening to pursue a large, ambitious project like this and see where it takes you. So, without further ado, here's what I learned from the experience:

• Don't expect to write a masterpiece in 30 days. You've succeeded if you can complete a coherent piece of writing in that amount of time, creating the solid skeleton of a novel.

• You will learn a lot about plotting and pacing a story when you work that fast.

• Forget about intensive character development and lovingly crafted poetic passages for the moment. You can add these elements later.

• Dr. Wicked's Write or Die ( is your best friend during NaNoWriMo. A fantastic tool to force you to meet your word count.

• Don't think, just write. You'll wind up with plenty of less-than-stellar passages, but I bet you'll also be surprised at some gems that arise out of this pressure-cooker situation.

• Don't get stuck in a scene you're having trouble writing—keep moving forward. Sketch the scene out briefly with a few sentences and move on. At 50,000 words, your novel will be short, so it's good to have spots to finish later.

• Include a couple of subplots so you won't wind up finishing your story before you reach 50,000 words.

• Don't fret about the quality of your writing. First drafts are supposed to be rough and unpolished. Getting the plot down is key in this fast-paced exercise.

• Approach the month as a giant writing exercise rather than as the chance to write a fantastic novel, and you will learn a lot from the experience.

• Back care is important when you're spending so much extra time at the computer. Be sure to get up and stretch a lot. If you can hire an on-call massage therapist, even better!

• My most important point: forget everything I've said and do it your way. There's no right way to complete a novel in 30 days—if my pointers help you, wonderful. If not, that's fine too.

Best of luck to everyone participating this year!

* * *

Sandy Ackers is a writer and creativity coach. She blogs at Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World.


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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What kind of animal is a NaNoWriMo?, Guest Post by Edna James

Thursday, November 25, 2010
What kind of animal is a NaNoWriMo?

by Edna James

When I first saw NaNoWriMo I couldn't help thinking what kind of animal is that? Curiosity didn't kill the cat in this case, but it sure pushed me into checking out what a NaNoWriMo was.

The National November Writing Month was news to me. I read about the challenge of committing to 50,000 wds. in a month and found myself waffling back and forth as to whether I wanted to do this. So on November first I began clicking away at the keyboard entering the required information and then writing my story.

At first, I thought I would have a hard time keeping at it everyday, with a mental word count I had determined as my guideline. Much to my utter surprise, I have stuck with that word count and then some, everyday.

I wanted to tell you how great it is to be participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time and how it keeps me focused without the worries of punctuation, grammar, run on sentences, the constant use of the backspace key, etcetera.

NaNoWriMo has been the perfect kick in the seat of my pants. This challenge has pushed me to get the story out of my head and onto the page, so to speak. I see myself joining in for years to come, baring external matters, or emergencies, of course. I just wanted to share my experience, excitement and to let you know I am having a great time.

I currently have over thirty thousand words and cannot wait to get back to my characters unfolding drama. That being said, I bid you all a great day and happy writing.

* * *
Edna James lives in Kentucky with her very supportive family. She is a Registered Nurse, a Writer of Fiction, and Non-Fiction. Currently she is working on her second novel, as well as, several short stories. You can find out more on her web site:
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NaNoWriMo Stories: Sanity Check, Guest Post by Amy Mullis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sanity Check

by Amy Mullis

I love November. The month decorated with shades of orange and gold and...wait. That was October.

November is the month we plan a meal that involves more food than a jetliner requires fuel. We must clean the house, yes, even the corner behind the litter box, because it’s a safe bet the baby will find the petrified Snickers bar and spit it out with a flourish, wrapper and all, when you serve the pie.

We need to see if we have 24 cloth napkins to match the tablecloth and they have to be clean because if Aunt Maude gets the one with the wine stain, she’ll convince everyone that we’re a family of alcoholics who eats candy off the bathroom floor.

Oh, and while we’re up to our elbows trying to shove stuffing into a cavity the size of a quarter, lets take on a writing challenge and agree to throw down 50,000 words like they were marbles on the playground.

If I were into role playing games, I’d be rolling for a sanity check right now.

Head down, I’ve been typing away since the stroke of dawn on November 1. By the second week I finally began to pull ahead on my word count.

Before much longer, perhaps I could work in a bathroom break.

Why do life lessons happen at the most inconvenient times?

A call came from my son, who had one of those days at work. On the ten year college plan, he’s hovering between adolescence and adulthood and presently sitting under a cloud so dark that he was willing to talk about it.

I looked at my blank computer screen.

I looked at my phone.

The computer buzzed a faint protest as I turned it off.

We spent the day as a family, eating fresh doughnuts at a bakery shop where the air smelled of sugar and childhood memories and wonder. We took a trip to the local discount theatre, and laughed at the antics of a curmudgeon turned hero. We ate at a local fast food restaurant, sitting on high stools, swinging our legs.

Then came magic words. “Being with you guys makes up for everything that happened today.”

The next day I got up early. In two hours, I made up the word count from the day before. My mind was relaxed; its empty cup filled with new thoughts, new schemes, new ideas. I finished the day with enough words to pull back ahead. And it was fun!

Take a day off? Crazy. I never would have done it on my own. But it increased my productivity and gave me a fresh outlook.

Take a break. It doesn’t have to be for a day; it can be a walk down the street, looking at the miraculous change the seasons have made in the world around you.

And don’t worry about the napkins. If Aunt Maude gets the one with the wine stain, it will make a great story.

* * *

Amy Mullis is a humorist and essayist who hitched her computer to the NaNoWriMo locomotive for the first time this year, and figures she has to hang on until the end of the ride because she can’t figure out how to stop the train. Her work has appeared on the humorous blog An Army of Ermas and in various Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort anthologies as well as The Christian Science Monitor and Sasee magazine. She was awarded Honorable Mention in the 2010 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. Join her for some "Don't let this happen to me!" moments on her blog, Mind over Mullis .
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The Puppy Ate My NANO, Guest Post by Tirzah Goodwin

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The Puppy Ate My NANO

by Tirzah Goodwin

This is my third year doing NANO. I've tried to learn from my earlier mistakes. I don't stress if I don't get the full 1,667 words each week day as long as I'm caught up by Sunday night. But I still make some rookie movies, such as getting a puppy the month before NANO.

I’ve taught myself to hold the puppy with my feet while I type furiously with my fingers. Fred tries constantly to kill my laptop by jumping on it. He really knows how to kill a writing spree but I love him anyway.

My other two dogs have survived previous NANO writing marathons. They curl up on the couch with busy bones and sleep. As long as I walk them once a day, the guys are willing to be ignored for thirty days. And some deli turkey couldn’t hurt. Deli turkey can buy you lots of forgiveness.

The puppy doesn't understand. Of course, he also doesn't understand not to pee in the house and why dryer lint can't be eaten as an after dinner mint either. I'm not sure he's the brightest bulb. I tell him all the time that he doesn’t have to be cute and smart so pick one. Fred better hope he turns out cute though because smart is off the table.

Earlier today I was nanoing my fingers to the bone, trying to catch up from a week’s worth of distractions. I hit a thousand words. I was almost where I should be. Then my computer blinked up a warning "low power." I plugged it in and kept typing.

A few minutes later, my screen went black. I thought, "Whatthebleep!" The knob was in the hole. I was plugged in. I followed the cord back to the wall. And what do I find? A brown and black face staring up at me with the cord dangling from his mouth. I guess he was tired of waiting for his walk.

I only lost 1,100 words. I really love Fred. He still lives. I woke up the other two dogs and we went on a slow walk around the block. My other male dog yawned the entire time, he kept glancing back at me with a dirty look. It's November, he's allowed to nap all he wants on the couch and I was breaking the rules. I shrugged and told him to blame Fred.

I had to crack open the new pack of deli turkey to get myself out of the doghouse.

I get the computer going again, sit down and try to type. No words come to mind. My mind is a blank slate.

Crap. I guess if this continues, I suppose I can say the puppy ate my NANO. Do you think anyone will believe me?

Me either.

Fred's licking my toes and I really need to find something to write. Maybe I should let Fred write something, he seems to be the only one with any bright ideas tonight.

But I don't think he's interested, he just yawned.

I guess I'm on my own but what NANOer isn't'?

* * *

Tirzah Goodwin is an aspiring fiction writer and published poet. She’s happily single and lives in Kentucky. She loves learning new things including cover design, horseback riding, knitting and, of course, NANO writing. Her current blog is:

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I Want to Be a Writer...I Think

Monday, November 22, 2010
A friend passed along a contact who needed some editing. As I've been putting the word out that I am taking on more editing projects, I was excited to get started with a new client.
The initial conversations, as you would expect with a new client, were a tad long. I was happy to explain some of the ins and outs of publishing. The author of the piece wasn't quite sure what she needed, but she was sure it was a book that every publisher would want. All she knew was that someone had told her that she needed to get it published. She'd never thought much about wanting to be a writer. She had just sat down to write one day. To tell a story, she said to me.
Ah, I wish it were so easy. Write it and they will come. But it is not so fast or convenient for most writers.
The story was about a controversial subject, pushing an agenda. Once I saw the piece, it was clear that the writer needed to expand her story into a novel (or novella) or shorten it to make it marketable as a short story.
She wasn't willing to make those changes. She wasn't convinced.
All she wanted was her work published. Although I didn't feel I was being discouraging; I like to think I'm more of a realist. I happily would have worked to expand the story or help to shorten it into a short story and determine the market she could approach to place the short story. Or to help develop more substance outside of the controversial subject matter. But she wasn't willing to take those paths. After discussing some of the costs associated with the different packages I offer, we amicably parted ways.
My almost-client had wanted to see her words in print, that is all she knew. She wanted a book, even if (according to the publishing world definitions) she only had the beginnings of a book.
The same week, I heard Patti Smith's acceptance of her National Book Award. I wished my almost-client had been with me. I could have used the awards as a starting point to discuss the amount of work involved in getting a book published. The hard work spent toiling in the draft stages. The tireless hours many writers spend at the keyboard putting in, taking out, nipping and tucking. The constant eye on finding an agent or publishing markets.
During one of our conversations, she seemed amazed at what she would need to do to get her piece published by a traditional publisher.
She had written the story that was the end of that. She had wanted me to check her spelling and punctuation. Then she was positive someone would publish her work.
After all, to her, it was a great story.
In the end, she planned to print it from her computer, bring it to a copy center for copies and then distribute it, hopefully making some money to offset the cost of the copies.
Then she would have her book. And I wish her the best.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor, who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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Friday Speak Out!: Escape with NaNoWriMo, Guest Post by Michelle Sussman

Friday, November 19, 2010
Escape with NaNoWriMo

by Michelle Sussman

I won NaNoWriMo in 2009, but it wasn’t a big surprise. I’d written a novel in a month the previous January with a group formed by author Carmela Martino called NYNN, New Novel New Year. It compromised a group of SCBWI writers who couldn’t find the time in November to participate in NaNo. We affectionately referred to each other as NYNNies.

Since I’d successfully completed a novel through NYNN, NaNo 2009 wasn’t a challenge for me. Once I get in the groove of writing, I find it hard to stop. I wrote another novel in May of 2010, so it was a natural for me to attempt NaNo again this year. I thought it would be easy.

I was wrong. It’s been a week and I’m already struggling to keep up. This time I find myself consumed with new responsibilities, particularly PTA. I’m one of those women who’s not happy unless she’s volunteering. I enjoy it. Volunteering fulfills me.

This month alone I have to write and compile the newsletter for PTA, write a column for SCBWI-Illinois’ Prairie Wind newsletter and prep a couple of parenting articles. All this plus days off school for my two kids, a trip out of town to see my husband’s family, Thanksgiving, prepping holiday cards, baking and spending time with my family. Do you see a pattern here? Do you see why it is so difficult to write an entire novel in the month of November? Is it possible there couldn’t be a worse time of year?

In fact, November is the best time of year. When I think of everything I have to do, I feel overwhelmed. When I’m stressed, there’s only one thing I want – to escape with a good book. Luckily NaNoWriMo gives me the ability to escape to my own worlds, my own imagination, during the lead up to the most stressful, albeit happy, time of the year.

Working on my NaNoWriMo novel is a gift I give myself. I might be a bit behind on word count, yes, but when I write I slip into a world all my own. No one bugs me about newsletter articles. No one tells me their perfect holiday cards are going to arrive in my mailbox before December 1st. When I’m in my NaNo novel, I can flee everything.

Is my NaNo novel perfect? Far from it. But it’s my world, my escape. Don’t treat it as another to-do list item because you won’t get in trouble if you don’t hit 50,000 words. Instead look at it as your escape and enjoy the trip!

* * *

Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer in the Chicago suburbs. A successful freelance parenting journalist and columnist for SCBWI-IL’s Prairie Wind, Michelle also aspires to become a published novelist. Visit her on her blog, Reading and Writing by Candlelight or chat with her on Twitter, @michellesussman.


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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A Writer's Thanksgiving List

Thursday, November 18, 2010
Thanksgiving brings thoughts of family, friends and all of the wonderful things in our lives. As writers, we make a list (and share one thing) of things that we're thankful for. We write about turkeys, the first Thanksgiving, our crazy families, etc.

But, I've never given thought to what I'm thankful for in regards to writing. So here's my list of what I'm thankful for. Feel free to add to the list and let's see how long our thanksgiving list can get.

I'm thankful for recognizing my ability to string words together so they make sense.
I'm thankful for seeing my potential as a writer.
I'm thankful for the courage to pursue my writing even when I doubted myself.
I'm thankful for my trusty pen and paper to put my thoughts in.
I'm thankful for my computer without which I wouldn't have found my online writing pals.
I'm thankful for the friendships I've made because of my writing.
I'm thankful for the creativity that I've been able to share with others through writing.
I'm thankful for the authors, bloggers, and magazine writers who've inspired and encouraged me to keep going.
I'm thankful for the communities I've found because of writing.

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Should A Writer Form a Limited Liability Corporation

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Since I began freelancing nearly 10 years ago, I've never separated my writing earnings from other income. I paid the self-employment taxes on those earnings. Honestly, I did not see the need to separate income from a few writing sales each year from my earnings from my full-time job.

Then, I started freelancing full time. For the last five years, as my writing business has grown - along with the income - I've contemplated forming a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), but I haven't determined if it's worth it. Yes, I make a living from my writing abilities, but I don't view myself as a "big-name brand" so I'm not sure if I will be ahead by forming my own writing conglomeration where I can rule the publishing least in my mind....and keep personal and business finances separate.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, an LLC is a type of business structure, allowed by state statute, where owners have limited personal liability for the company's debt and actions of the LLC. The LLC can include several members or it can be a sole proprietorship.

Will it add more paperwork or will it make bookkeeping and tax time easier? What costs are associated forming this type of arrangement? Do other writers use an LLC or is it an unnecessary expense?

I'm still weighing my options about the value of an LLC for a freelancer, and I've scheduled an appointment with the accountant so we can discuss the benefits and drawbacks. Then I will be able to make a sound decision...and continue my quest for publishing domination!

What do you think, writers? Should a freelance writer form an LLC?

by LuAnn Schindler. To read more of LuAnn's work, visit her website.

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NaNoWriMo What? Guest Post by Shellie Bailey

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
NaNoWriMo What?

by Shellie Bailey

It all started last year, the news of National Novel Writing Month filled all my writing friends’ social networking sites and blogs. As a writer I had to check this out, see what it was all about. Quickly I found the site and learned people from all across the globe joined together this one month of the year on a mission. A mission to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days! I started thinking to myself could I do it? In the midst of the busiest holiday season, would I be able to crank out 50,000 words, and coherent words at that. Well the answer for 2009 was a big NO!

Well here I am again in the midst of NaNoWriMo once again. Determined to finish and conquer the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. My plan of attack, you ask? Well it’s simple. Write and write some more. Become so engrossed in my story I must tell it. Keep my MC on the forefront of my mind, constantly calling to me. It will not be easy, but nothing worth doing is easy right?

I have found it helpful to post my word counts on my social sites. It is a way of holding me accountable to my friends, other writers and any fans I may have. I am thankful to have full support of other writers who are participating this year. Writing is a lonely profession with the exception of heated debates with your MC on some occasions. So the support and interaction of the NaNoWriMo community is wonderful.

As a full-time working wife and soon to be mother, who can only write in her free time, which is rare I want to encourage other women whose hands are full, but love to write. You can do it! It is not easy, but the satisfaction of accomplishment doing something you love is a great feeling you shouldn’t miss out on because laundry needs to be done.

*   *   *

Shellie Bailey currently lives in Kentucky with her husband Adam. She is an aspiring fiction author currently working on her second novel. You can find out more on her blog at
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The Turning Point

Monday, November 15, 2010

My little brother and I have sons the same age and in the same school. So we spend a lot of time together...we go to PTA meetings, basketball games, school fundraisers, swimming lessons. And we talk. About the kids, about life, about work. So when he began asking me about self-publishing I never gave it a second thought. I thought it was just him searching for a conversation topic. Not exactly.

I got sick lately and, I guess faced with me being sick, he blurted it all out. "I always thought we would write a book together. You would write and I would illustrate. I even have a story idea." My brother has been drawing since we were kids and recently took up oil painting. The book idea has been percolating for a while but he was waiting...for the right time, for me to get an agent, for us to retire...who knows what for?

Now we stand on the precipice. We could become one of the millions of people who say, "Someday I'm going to write that book. I've got that idea. I'm just waiting for...." Or we could write it. Everyone has a book in them. The tough part is getting it OUT.

Getting sick was the turning point for me. It looms behind me, like a towering ogre. Will it change me? Will it make me less creative? Will it steal my energy? Am I writing on borrowed time? What about you? What made you stop saying, "I have great ideas" and say "This is it! It's time to create!"

P.S. I would have liked to include a photo of my brother and me but since we're the family photographers we never seem to be in the same photo together. Enjoy my mom and brother!
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Accept the Challenges

Sunday, November 14, 2010
“Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” - George S. Patton

Writing itself is a challenge. Think about it, you’ve made the decision to pursue a dream, a deep-rooted passion. You want to get your words out in the world. Share your knowledge, broaden horizons, make a difference.

Next thing you know, the challenges appear. One person’s struggle might be balancing family and work. Another person might be dealing with a lack of assignments. Still another person might struggle with the fear of just starting to write.

When you step up and accept the challenge, though, you get to see what you’re made of. You’re stretched, you get out of the box. In the process, you discover new ways of thinking, new skills---and ultimately, “the exhilaration of victory.”

I had that experience earlier this year when I participated in Script Frenzy, April’s month-long scriptwriting challenge, which I did a post on here. I didn’t quite reach the 100-page goal, but I made the attempt, which was a victory unto itself. Many others have accepted the challenge of this month’s National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. They, too, will have their own stories of victory at November’s end.

What about you? Are you facing a challenge---or two? Accept them, they’re waiting. So’s the victory.

by Jill Earl
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How Many Different Angles?

Saturday, November 13, 2010
You've started working on a story idea. How are you going to tell the story? From whose point of view? If you get stuck on how to handle the perspective for your character(s) there can be many ways into figuring out the point of view?
But here's a suggestion to get an idea of how to approach a scene and its point of view. Take out a photograph with several different subjects. Look at the photo as a snapshot of your fictional scene. If you could imagine it as a scene in your writing, even better. (If you don't have a photograph, perhaps you might want to collage the scene from items clipped from magazines.)
What is the action or the conflict of the scene? Think about and determine how would you approach telling the story from each character.
How will does the conflict impact the central character? Then move your view outward. (You could also start with the other characters, but I like to think of the ripple of the actions from the central character and how the minor characters will react to the action.)
Although the minor characters may not carry as much weight as the main character, their reactions might give a good foothold in the scene, giving you an idea of how the main character can or will react to others can help work through the dialogue or tease out more conflict that could be use later.
So, what are the important items that you, as the writer, could pick out from the photograph or collage?
Then consider how will the scene complete itself? Is there a natural finish to the action or an abrupt ending, which might help move the narrative forward.
The photo can help ground a scene, give depth to the scene and help develop the characters.
What are some ways you figure out perspective in your work?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina.
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Friday Speak Out!: My NaNoWriMo Boyfriend, Guest Post by Melissa Gibson

Friday, November 12, 2010
My NaNoWriMo Boyfriend

by Melissa Gibson

National Novel Writing Month hit me like a hot romance.

The first couple days, I spent every opportunity in front on my computer, typing what was sure to be The Next Great Novel. Characters and story lines blossomed. I wrote thousands upon thousands of words. They came to me easily – even with the kids hollering in the background and the laundry piling up.

“This is so easy,” I said. “I’ll have 50,000 by next week. What’s so hard about this?”

On Day 3, I even got competitive. One of my writing buddies was close to my word count.

“Oh, I can’t have that!” I exclaimed and quickly typed up another thousand. I sat back in my chair with a satisfied smile across my face. I slept like a baby.

On Day 4, though, the story was stuck. My brain was exhausted of ideas, my fingers idled over the keyboard. I only pounded out 500 words – and each one was a chore. As Day 4 closed, one writing buddy demolished my word count, two others were hot on my trail. Even the stragglers weren’t looking so shabby. It was like NaNoWriMo was cheating on me.

Now, as the first week of NaNoWriMo wraps up, my inner editor is shaking her head and laughing. What am I thinking? I can’t do this! It’s too time-consuming. It’s too hard. The story doesn’t make sense anyway. It’s going to need so much work. I need a time line. I need to research pharmaceutical sales. I’m just not prepared enough. I should just give up. It’s not good enough.

But some little part of my original NaNoWriMo self is saying, I have five writing buddies who are in this with me. I love watching their word counts grow, regardless of how haphazard and nonsensical their story may or may not be. I want them to get their 50,000, and they want me to get mine. I can do this. It is time-consuming, and it’s not always easy. NaNoWriMo isn’t about ironing out the details, it’s about getting words on a page. That’s good enough. Also, Mrs. Ridiculous, NaNoWriMo is NOT cheating on me!

* * *

Melissa Gibson is a writer based in Shreveport, Louisiana. Originally from Northwest Indiana, Melissa is now a military wife busy with two little boys. When she catches a break from the craziness, Melissa loves to write, craft, read, and try her hand at green-themed projects like raising chickens and making laundry detergent. Presently, Melissa works as a tutor and is active in a local journaling group.


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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CreateWriteNow: Journaling for the Health of It

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mari L. McCarthy is the founder of, home of Journaling for the Health of It™ and the Journal Writing Therapy Transforms You blog. She guides writers (and we are all writers) in starting and keeping a daily Inner Healing Journal Practice that helps them solve problems, cure their dis-eases, and heal their life. A singer/songwriter, she is currently working on her third album--a smooth jazz rendition of favorite Broadway melodies. Passionate about goals and successful in accomplishing them, like getting the beachfront home she lives in south of Boston, she enjoys raising roses and her consciousness.

WOW: Welcome, Mari, we are thrilled to have you on The Muffin today. What is Journaling for the Health of It™?

Mari: Journaling for the Health of It ™ is a daily pen-to-page Journal Writing Therapy Practice where writers (and yes, we all are writers!) write freely about what they are thinking and feeling. JFTH helps writers get perspective on their life; understand why they think, feel, and behave the way they do; reduce stress; heal emotional wounds; and improve physical health. And… cure writer’s block!*

WOW: What great benefits! Sounds like EVERYONE should do it. How did you get started with journal writing therapy?

Mari: About twelve years ago, I had a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) exacerbation, where I lost feeling and functionality on the right side of my body. I discovered Julia Cameron’s "Morning Pages" and thought that would be a good, logical, organized, left-brained approach to teach my left hand how to write legibly. Shortly thereafter, I started remembering bits and pieces of my childhood; I started to hear rhymes and began writing poetry for the first time. I was starting to discover the real me, and it was nowhere near who I had been thinking I was. One day the phrase "Journaling for the Health of It" showed up on my pages, and I decided to create a business around therapeutic journaling and share it with the world.

WOW: Sounds like it was meant to be! How can journal writing therapy help a woman writer?

Mari: It helps women writers learn more about the person who really lives in their body. We carry around so much what I call “crazycrap” – erroneous messages we ingested as children (no wonder we have so many health challenges); and therapeutic journal writing helps us purge those voices and messages and live our life from the inside out. Using a journal at your computer when you are working on a writing project helps get through the stress, blocks, and assorted other women writer challenges.

WOW: This all sounds great and like it can really help someone's writing career. So, what are the journal writing services you offer?

Mari: I offer telephone or Skype private journaling therapy workshops dealing with "page fright" or writer’s block or whatever life issues women writers are attempting to deal with. I also offer special unlimited e-mail and telephone mentoring workshops when someone purchases a copy of 53 Weekly Writing Retreats or Peace of Mind and Body: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness.

WOW: So, how much do these services cost?

Mari: The first private workshop is $75, and then each workshop is $85. I offer a three-session package for $225. Currently I‘m running a "Journaling for a Stress-Free Holiday Workshop Package" for $197, where we work on identifying specific seasonal stressors, set goals, and create an action plan for thriving through the holidays.

WOW: What a great idea to help writers or anyone get through the hectic holiday season. When someone contacts you, how do you help them figure out what services they need?

Mari: We have a conversation about what life issues they are currently faced with and where they are on their Journaling Journey (never journaled before, been away from it for a while, and don’t know why or …), then they decide how to proceed. I can be reached at mari@CreateWriteNow (dot) com or 781-834-6331.

WOW: Thanks for the contact information. On your website, you list journaling ideas and journaling tips. What are two or three tips or ideas you can list here for beginning journal writers?

Mari: The most important thing to remember: there is only one write way to start and keep a personal journal—your way! Journaling is a great opportunity to learn how to stop pressuring yourself for perfection and start enjoying your Self. Choose a journal, pen, and writing space that please you. Maybe start with a brief meditation. Maybe use a quote as a journaling prompt. Find a picture, paste it in your journal, and write about it. Ask your journal a question or just start writing for a page or for a certain amount of time.

WOW: Tell us more about your e-book, 53 Weekly Writing Retreats. What will writers learn with this book?

Mari: The book was designed for the Journaler to spend an hour a week with herself and dig deeper into her inner world while working with unique journaling prompts and exercises, like doodling. To help women writers make it a habit of spending quality time with themselves.

*I have a free e-book, How to Use your Journal to Cure Writer’s Block Now at

I’ve just released a new e-workbook, Peace of Mind and Body: 27 Days of Journaling to Health and Happiness, and the spiral bound version will be available by Thanksgiving. Also on sale: Mari’s Most Musefull Journaling Tips.

WOW: Great, Mari, thanks for sharing all this information with us! Writers, e-mail Mari at the above address if you're interested in finding out more about Journaling for the Health of It or check out!

interview conducted by Margo L. Dill,
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Every Picture Tells a Story: Adding Depth through Symbolism

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Movie makers have it easy, it seems. To convey an emotional tone they have sets, lighting, props, music and the ability to show the foreground action and the background action. As writers we need to focus the lens. We don’t have “extras” or lights or music; but we do have symbols.

Throughout the ages storytellers have relied on symbolism to add nuance; images which speak to our subconscious, emotional mind. Too much symbolism and you risk falling into allegory but done correctly your pictures will blend seamlessly adding depth.

Settings are perhaps the easiest place to add imagery. For example, if your MC is upset and running, where she is running can lend additional information as to her emotional state. If she is running through a dry river bed or an empty parking lot she may be feeling lost. If she is running through the forest she may be confused—her thoughts convoluted. The setting and how she relates to it can be just as telling as a string of self-dialogue. Or, perhaps your story is about conflict within a family. A large tree can provide a setting for several dialogue scenes while symbolizing the underlying strength of the family.

Beats are helpful in showing a character’s internal emotional journey when that journey is different from the dialogue. Tommy is visiting Aunt Mabel who has not been feeling well. During their conversation Tommy asks Aunt Mabel if she will be attending his sister’s wedding in the spring. Aunt Mabel assures Tommy that she "wouldn't miss it for the world"—but what feeling do you get if Aunt Mabel turns away from Tommy and tosses out a wilted plant while she says this?

Foreshadow a character’s role with imagery. A possessor of essential knowledge might be associated with light in several scenes--lighting a candle, turning on a lamp or standing under a lamppost.

Colors, seasons, flowers and weather are all examples of commonly used universal symbolism. Black is evil; Red is danger, passion or power; winter is death… What are some of your favorite examples? When has a picture saved a thousand words for you?

Robyn Chausse
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How NaNoWriMo Taught Me To Write A Novel Fifteen Minutes At A Time, Guest Post by Laurie Brantley

Tuesday, November 09, 2010
How NaNoWriMo Taught Me To Write A Novel Fifteen Minutes At A Time

by Laurie Brantley

I've been writing since my childhood. As I entered my empty nest years, I realized that life now affords me the opportunity to write as much as I want.

Frustrated with my writing skills, I decided that this year I would participate in NaNoWriMo. Not really knowing exactly what to expect or how to prepare, with anticipation I created a few character sketches and made an outline, realizing that this must be too easy. I just knew there had to be more preparation, but I wasn't sure just what.

I've never enjoyed writing fiction, which is a requirement of the NaNoWriMo event. The reason I decided to try it was more for the exercise of fiction writing. So, I wasn't very concerned about my preparation, or should I say, my lack of preparation – a recent discovery. I thought I'd try it, see what it's like, and if I enjoyed it. If it turned out to be a purely dreadful event, I could always quit. Nothing would be lost.

With excitement and anticipation, November first, I turned on the computer, pulled up my outline, opened a blank page and began to write. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I realized that I was having fun – and I was writing fiction! I kept writing and realized I'd been writing without reference to my outline. So, I stopped for a minute, checked the outline and saw I was way off base. Now, what? My story had changed and I couldn't think of how to get myself on track. Finally, after several chapters and several thousand words, I got myself back to where I needed to be.

Although I'm having a great time of writing and inventing characters and places and events and being in control of a whole other world, I have some physical battles that limit my writing. I'm unable to sit for long periods of time and I have this little pinched nerve in the back of my neck that likes to keep me from sitting at a keyboard for too long. If I'm there too long, my shoulders cry in pain for me to give up, my arms and fingers rebel in numbness.

I am, however, determined to write a full fiction novel this November and win NaNoWriMo. I set a timer for fifteen minutes and write. When it goes off, I do some stretches and take a writing break by getting some chores done. After doing this about three or four times a day, I meet my daily NaNoWriMo goals.

And I'm learning so much. So far, I've learned I could've used a more detailed outline, that if I get off track, I can always get back on it again, that writing fiction really can be fun and that I can write a novel fifteen minutes at a time.

*  *  *

Laurie Pitts Brantley has two grown daughters and four grandchildren. She and her husband live on the east coast where they enjoy walks along the various beaches. Laurie discovered her love for writing at the age of ten. You can follow her fiction blog at or her non-fiction blog at .
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Staying Productive During Slow Times

Monday, November 08, 2010

As a freelance, especially a full-timer who relies on steady income, it's important to find some kind of balance with my cash flow. If there's one constant in freelance, it's this: some months are busier than others.

How do I handle those slow moments? I tackle my "to do when I have time" list. No, this laundry list isn't filled with household chores. It's not a "honey do" slate of activities I'm unable to execute, like the one I have for my husband.

Instead, this list pertains to my writing business. Here are a few ways I keep occupied when I'm between assignments:
  • Contact editors at places I've been published. If I haven't written for a particular magazine or newspaper for a few months or even a few years, I draw up a list of ideas and pitch them. Immediately.
  • Review old files. What articles can I update for a new feature? Which articles can be revised and sold as a reprint?
  • Update my portfolio. I like to add my latest work and hopefully, my portfolio shows how I've expanded my expertise.
  • Revise my website. Now, don't make this task more difficult than it sounds! Remove old articles and links, add new clips, update news. This process can be a time sucker! I just finished scanning 10 years of clips and am going to finally add my best pieces in a variety of formats.
  • Clean the office. Or, as my husband says, rearrange the junk. It's organized chaos, but I know where everything is located. I give my desk a thorough cleaning, file paperwork, and rearrange the furniture. Change does a writer good! :)
  • Research. I've mentioned it before, but I'm a Post-It note queen. When inspiration strikes, I jot it on a post it and stick it to any available space on my desk. This is when I begin grabbing those individual notes of goodness and decide my strategy for my next project.
  • Network. This task isn't just for down time. Writers should always be networking and promoting their work.

At some point, every writer will experience a slow down. It's the natural ebb and flow of the writing business. Having a plan of attack for those calm moments will keep you focused on the writing bottom line.

Blog post and photo by LuAnn Schindler. Visit LuAnn's "I-need-some-down-time-so-I-can-update-my-website" website at

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Sometimes in Writing, There IS Something New Under the Sun

Saturday, November 06, 2010
A couple of days ago while reading an online writing newsletter, I came across the following headline : ‘Car Handbook Publisher Publishes Service Guide to USS Enterprise’. You know, that iconic ship that’s flown across TV and movie screens for over 40 years, the one with the captain of your choice at the helm: Kirk, Sisko, Picard, Janeway, Archer. Yeah, that Enterprise.

According to a UPI report, seems that British publisher, Haynes Publishing Group, known on the continent for producing consumer-friendly car manuals has truly gone ‘where no one has gone before’. The U.S.S. Enterprise Owners' Workshop Manual, written by Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley, with contributions from NASA engineer Michael Okuda, who’s been involved on a number of "Star Trek" projects for over 20 years, comes complete with instructions and diagrams so sci-fi fans the world over can learn how to disassemble and reconstruct their own starship.

Think what you will, but I find the idea intriguing. These two writers found a niche, did their research and came up with a an interesting way to attract their audience. Isn’t that a goal we writers aim for in getting our work published? And there are more than a few Trekkers out there.

Check out the rest of the story here.

Think this Trekker will see if I can find a copy herself. I’ve always been fascinated by the Enterprises’ transporters.

By Jill Earl
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Want to contribute to The Muffin?

Friday, November 05, 2010
Friday's are "Speak Out!" days. We allow posts from contributors for promotion. If you'd like to submit a post, please make sure that it's about women and writing.

For November and December, we would love to hear from you about your NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) experiences, tips or stories about writing during the holiday season, or setting New Year's writing resolutions. Other posts about women and writing are welcome too!
Please make sure that there is take-away value to our readers. No press releases please. We're more interested in hearing from our core audience—personal essays and humorous anecdotes are encouraged as well, as long as they provide something useful to our audience—including a good laugh! ;)

How To Submit: Submit your 250 - 500 word post in the body of your email to our blog editor Marcia Peterson: Upon acceptance, we will ask for your bio, links, bio photo, and any other pictures to illustrate the article. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Writing for Free: Does It Pay?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Since my writing pays the electric bill(and all the other bills)I’m not a big fan of writing for free. Instead of working on a free project my time is better spent searching for the job that does pay. But occasionally a project comes along that even I can’t resist. Several months ago a member of my writer’s group told us about a family that had recently lost their son. They wanted to know if our group could write a children’s book for them, a sort of memorial. We were given some details: his name, the names a few of his friends and his dog. They also had a plot in mind. Ever since he was a little boy he had wanted to build houses. They wanted the story to be about a little boy watching a house being built and what all the different workers did to create the house.

It sounded sweet but I had work lined up, a novel to finish, children to raise. I had no time for free work. Not to mention I had never published a children’s story. Was I really the best writer for the job? But I couldn’t resist. I found myself volunteering to complete the electrician section since I just happened to be married to an electrician who spent many years doing “new construction”. So I wrote my short section(with the help of my in house expert) and submitted it to our editor.

After several months of pestering, the editor managed to collect all the book’s sections from various writers. We received our first drafts back with a few notations and then disaster struck. The editor received a huge paying job and couldn’t continue. The project would have to be abandoned unless someone else took over. Again, I had some experience with editing but no experience editing children’s books. But again, there I was raising my hand. After all, I did have my in house expert to help correct any factual errors made by a bunch of non-house building writers.

It took just a couple of “breakfast meetings” with my hubby/expert to iron out any mistakes and a bit more time to ensure that the sections written by different writers were all consistent. Truthfully, the original editor had done all the heavy editing(not to mention the tough job of corralling a handful of writers and convincing them to meet deadlines). Now the manuscript is with the family and we’re all hoping to hear their reaction at our writer’s group meeting this month.

Sure, my bank account would be in better shape if I had used that time on paying work. But in a world where I spend much of my time on boring but profitable assignments this book made me excited about writing. It also gave me the opportunity to branch out into writing specialties I don’t usually delve into: children’s writing and editing. Maybe I am a fan of writing for free. Sometimes!

Do you ever write for free? What do you write and who do you write it for?

You can get updates about the children’s book Jodi contributed to at her blog Words by Webb. Stop by for her book giveaways also. This week she’s giving away Bill Bryson’s At Home.

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Tension over Tenses

Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Literary prizes normally seem tame affairs. Well, at their outset, perhaps. This year, the Booker prize seems to have attracted controversy as various authors debated the use of present tense. (Three of six books listed on the Man Booker Prize are written in present tense.)
Admittedly, I have yet to read any of the Booker prize books in question. But the debate did get me to open several of my books stacked at my bedside. I was seeking out their tenses. I wanted to figure out if I have preponderance to present tense books or to past tense books...or if I had even noticed. In the debate, present tense is considered more "fashionable," although it has been used for centuries.
I know I've tried to carry off present tense in some of my fiction and find it much more difficult. The immediacy present brings to a scene often dissipates the nuances I like in using past tense. But frequently I've been won over by my characters wanting to speak in present tense. In those instances, I try to let the story tell itself, without criticizing it for being in present tense. Just as a story of mine might lend itself to a certain point of view more than another POV and only trial and error (read: revision, revision, revision) will tell. Unfortunately, I don't believe I'm as skilled at writing in present tense as I am in past tense.
It was mentioned that maybe the use of present tense comes from creative writing classes. Maybe so. But I've found that I may have practiced and learned various crafts and techniques in my MFA classes, but, as a writer, I need to stick with what works. Right now, past tense works for the stories I’m trying to tell and it’s what I will gravitate toward.
However, the debate certainly makes me want to seek out these books and take the present tense writers for a test drive.
What about you? How do you feel about the present versus past tense debate? Are you feeling any tension one way or another?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer who lives in North Carolina.
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Interview with Patricia Sands-Anis: Runner-up

Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Patricia’s Bio:

Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada when she and her husband are not off on one of their jaunts to other parts of the world. She has degrees from the University of Waterloo and York University. With a happily blended family of seven adult children and, at last count, six grandchildren, life is full and time is short. Beginning with her first Kodak Brownie camera at the age of six, she has told stories all of her life through photography. Much to her surprise a few years ago, she began to write and her debut novel The Bridge Club will soon be published through iUniverse. Patricia joyfully admits the writing muse has possessed her and looks forward to a long and satisfying career as an author. She is particularly drawn to the rewarding friendships of women and the challenges many embrace once their families are grown. It’s never too late to begin something new she enthuses. As Nike says, just do it! Her website is under construction but you will soon be able to visit Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

If you haven't done so already, check out Patricia's award-winning story, and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest! Can you tell us how you created and developed your story, “Notes from a Rooftop in Andalucia”?

Patricia: My sister moved to Andalucia, just south of Granada, twenty years ago and I have visited with her on many occasions. The piece is a combination of the two of us and the strong feelings we share for that beautiful part of the world. She will never leave as her heart and soul truly have been captured by the culture as well as the magnificent surroundings. I go back as often as I can and my camera is always with me. I am someone who has told stories through photography all of my life and the rooftops of her village called to me from day one.

WOW!: In your bio, you say that you are a frequent traveler. How have all of your world travels inspired your creativity?

Patricia: I feel very fortunate to have had opportunities to travel the world beginning as a twenty-year-old with a backpack and Europe On $5 A Day as my bible! Whether my trips have been across oceans, within Canada and the States, or simply an hour's drive into the countryside, there is always something to take your breath away - if you are looking. My eyes are like the lens in my camera and in my mind I often hear a click like a shutter as I take in a view. Thank goodness for digital photography! In one week in Venice I snapped almost 800 shots!

WOW!: Sounds like you have many more possible stories within all of your travels and photos! If you could have dinner with one published writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Patricia: Now that's a difficult choice to make. There are so many writers who have influenced me and whose work I enjoy for a host of different reasons. I'm going to say Jane Austen. I really enjoy the period she covers in her work as well as the realism she so accurately portrays. Along with a biting social commentary she manages to inject a gentle sense of humour. I admire her style immensely. But, as I mentioned, if she can't make it to dinner, I have a long list of alternatives!

WOW!: I know that’s always a difficult question for writers and avid readers, but you can’t go wrong with Jane Austen. What is your strategy for finding or making time to write with a busy schedule?

Patricia: Once I get hooked into a piece, the writing takes over - sometimes for 12 or 14 hours a day. But often there are days when I simply have to put it aside and take care of other matters. Being retired is a huge bonus in terms of deciding what I'm going to do with my time.

WOW!: What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

Patricia: The best advice I received was something I was told at a number of writers' workshops I attended when I first began to write seriously five years ago. The advice was to read Stephen King's book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft." I highly recommend it to everyone. His advice gave me the confidence to begin my novel, The Bridge Club, which has just been published. I referred to his book many times over as I crafted my own.

WOW!: Congratulations on the recent publication of your novel. Thanks for the good advice and for your great responses!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt (
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Welcome to the November Blanket Tour

Monday, November 01, 2010

Today is the first day of November. Before we know it Thanksgiving will be here, a day to celebrate family. We at WOW-Women on Writing are celebrating family all month long with a WOW Blanket Tour. Each day a different blogger will be posting their thoughts about family. We have a few dates left, if you’d like your blog to be a part of this month’s Blanket Tour contact Jodi at . Today we’ll hear from our featured blogger Chynna Laird author of Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder.

Chynna Laird started as a loving mom of four who knew there wa

s something more to her daughter’s behavior than just being “spirited”. Eventually her daughter’s condition found a name: Sensory Processing Disorder. Chynna found herself thrust into the position of becoming an expert on SPD. First, to help her daughter and second to educate the public. Chynna has penned three books about the topic: I'm Not Weird, a children’s picture book; At-Home Strategies for Managing Sensory Processing Disorder: A Guide for Parents, a resource book about SPD; and Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey with Sensory Processing Disorder, a memoir of her family’s experience.

Each time you post a comment at one of the blogs on this tour you enter to win a copy of Chynna’s book!

The list of blogs participating follows Chynna’s post.

Job Well Done


Chynna Laird

I remember watching Oprah a while back for one of her Angel shows—you know, where she helps make people’s dreams come true? She helped this one single mom of three kids who was jobless and almost homeless find a job, got her a furnished house, bought them all new clothes and a new car. Before introducing the woman Oprah said, “I believe parenting is the toughest job in the world. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to have immeasurable hurdles to get over on top of the regular parenting stuff. It seems so unfair. But there are many parents going above and beyond the job of regular parenting—no matter how high their hurdles—a

nd they should be commended for that.”

The significance of Oprah’s words didn’t hit me until I had my own children. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world. You are completely responsible for the well being of another life—that’s a lot of responsibility and, also, a little scary. And when your child has higher needs, it can be even more overwhelming. Depending on the severity of your child’s needs you’re not only worrying about the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and nurturing but also therapy, nutrition, assessments, diagnoses, different sorts of professionals to organize treatments with plus coverage for all of that.

We aren’t just worrying about whether we can get our kid that Hanna Montanna backpack she wants so much but more if we remembered to put the medication she needs in her school bag or which aide needs to work with her today at home or school or biting our nails in anticipation of when the phone will ring next with another test result, assessment report or the school needing our help. We are more than ‘just caregivers’ we are protectors, teachers, ambulance drivers, pharmacists, counselors, advocates and we do it all on very little sleep or concern for our own needs. The job is hard, long, unappreciated, under paid, emotionally draining and frustrating…but you know what? It can also be the most rewarding experience.

We appreciate all the little things in life because those little things can often be very difficult for our kids. We applaud the things that most others take for granted, like being able to swallow a bite of food or picking up a toy or uttering a single word or even just making eye contact. We get to see the world from different perspectives and learn that there are many different ways of doing a single task. We learn to have tremendous patience as something that may take me two seconds to do may take my child 10 minutes and that’s okay because he’s trying! And

we learn to appreciate life so much more because we know that it can be much more difficult for our kids or, more devastating, shorter than we’d like it to be.

Yes, our jobs can be frustrating, overwhelming and extremely emotional some days but I know I wouldn’t trade my job title for the world. Now we don’t all have Oprah knocking on our door offering to buy us a new house or a car. But she’s right about one thing: These parents do often go above and beyond the duty of ‘regular’ parenting and should be praised for their never-ending, tireless efforts.

And it is to those caregivers I say, “Thank you. Job well done!

Check out what writers have to say about parents, children, and everything in between. We hope you find information, inspiration and a few chuckles. And remember, we’re still looking for a few good bloggers for this month’s Blanket Tour!

Nov. 1 – The Muffin

Nov. 2 – Mom Blog

Nov. 3 – Read These Books and Use Them

Nov. 4 – Meryl’s Notes

Nov. 5 – At My Breast

Nov. 6 Sheila’s Serendipity

Nov. 7 – Reflections with Coffee

Nov. 8 – No Thanks I’ll Work for Myself

Nov. 9 – Susan’s Thoughts and Ramblings

Nov. 10 – Musings from the Slushpile

Nov. 11 – House of Burning Bras

Nov. 12 – A Writing Passage

Nov. 13 – Mom-e-centric

Nov. 14 – Words by Webb

Nov. 15 - Words from the Heart

Nov. 16 – Comeback Woman

Nov. 17 – Writing in the Buff

Nov. 18 – Big Red Says...

Nov. 19 – Inky Fresh Press

Nov. 20 - PM Poet Writer

Nov. 21 – Beverly’s Bookshelf

Nov. 22 – My Thoughts On…

Nov. 23 – Born 2 Be Mom

Nov. 24 – Slightly Hyperbolic

Nov. 25 – The Globe and the Arts

Nov. 26 – Schuylkill Matters

Nov. 27 – Laura + the Voices

Nov. 28

Nov. 29 – Tanya Valentine

Nov. 30 – Inspired by Real Life

To learn more about WOW Blog Tours contact Jodi at

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