When Did You Start Using the W-Word?

Monday, January 31, 2011

SETTING: Expansive office with a huge desk.

TV EXECUTIVE: God, I hate these pitch sessions for the next season. Next!

ME: Hi, I’m Jodi Webb. I’d like to pitch a reality show called “No Excuses”.

TV EXECUTIVE: Like the title. So what does it have? Bigamy, public drunkenness, backstabbing, romantic triangles?

ME: Writers.

TV EXECUTIVE: Of course, all reality shows have writers.

ME: No, I mean it’s ABOUT writers.

TV EXECUTIVE: OK, this could work. Writers have scandal. Who was that memoir guy who lied on Oprah? Didn’t Poe die in a drunk in a ditch somewhere?

ME: Ummm, the Oprah guy was James Frey and Poe actually died in a hospital but I think we’re getting off track here…

TV EXECUTIVE: OK, rewind. Writers, what about them?

ME: I thought we could follow them around as they go to cocktail parties, the PTA, Zumba class, their class reunion and when people ask them what they do they actually say, “I am a writer.”

TV EXECUTIVE: Because normally they say…

ME: Anything but! “I’m a teacher. I’m a coffee barista. I’m a mom. I’m retired.” Or this is a favorite, “I write a little but I’m not really a writer.” Nobody ever mentions the W-word, especially if they don’t have a book published with a big publisher.

TV EXECUTIVE: Well, if someone hasn’t published a book are they REALLY a writer?

ME: Excuse me, but who was the idiot who drew that line? If you’ve had a hundred magazine articles published aren’t you a writer? If your work is in an anthology aren’t you a writer? If you self-publish aren’t you a writer?

TV EXECUTIVE: Settle down there, missy. But isn’t being paid for your writing what makes you a writer?

ME: Being a writer isn’t about a paycheck. It’s a skill. It’s a state of mind. Those people that sing on American Idol aren’t getting paid—would you argue that they aren’t singers? OK, maybe not the weird people who can only sing in one key but...Then there’s Van Gogh. Didn’t he sell like two paintings while he was alive? He sure didn’t support himself with his paintings. Are you going to tell me Van Gogh wasn’t an artist? Emily Dickinson’s poems weren’t published until after her death? Not a poet? So why do we place a price tag on the label “writer”? People should be able to go out their in the world and say those four big words I – AM – A – WRITER with no explanations, no embarrassment, no excuses.

TV executive stands up and pushes a button that opens the office door.

TV EXECUTIVE: Without any sex we’re going to have to pass but…

Reaches into his bottom desk drawer, pulls out a manuscript, and hugs it to him.


Unfortunately, there will be no open auditions for No Excuses but we’d still like to know when did you start calling yourself a writer? And if you don’t, what goal will you have to meet to start referring to yourself with the W-word?

Jodi Webb started calling herself a writer after a customer told her "if she had stayed in school she'd have a better job". Find out more about that life-changing moment at Words by Webb.

ATTENTION: If you're looking for some exposure for your blog, contact Jodi about participating in the Everybody's Writing About...Surprises on March 16 at The Muffin. You and your readers could win fun prizes! More info at jodi@wow-womenonwriting.com .

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Spread the Word: Do Authors Need an E-Mail Newsletter?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

After you start publishing work, after you begin building a following of readers, you realize you need to stay connected so you can inform readers of what you're working on or offer writing advice or promote your latest book.

Now, you may be wondering what the best method of communication may be. You've got a website, you promote your work on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe your blog allows for an RSS feed. Do you also need a newsletter?

Before you starting penning a periodical, several questions need to be addressed. What reasons drive your desire to begin a newsletter? Who will read your newsletter? And perhaps the most important question of all: Why should readers peruse your publication?

Why Start a Newsletter?
Obviously, an e-mail newsletter can help you stay in touch with readers and grow a larger circulation base. Do newsletters give all writers and genres a boost?
  • Non-Fiction writers - experts on the topic they write about - benefit from this type of promotion. By offering articles, breaking news, and links to other information regarding your area of expertise, readership will increase. In many cases, cross-links with other websites draw additional readers.
  • Fiction writers use a newsletter to update fans about the latest news: book or article updates, blog posts, book tours, speaking engagements. Some authors offer book excerpts or links to video or podcasts.

Who Will Read Your Work?

Determining your intended audience will help you decide what type of content to include in the newsletter. Plus, defining your readership helps you focus on places to find potential readers.

Once you've defined who your audience will be, you need to ask why this audience will want to read your updates. Are they looking for specific advice on the topic? Do they want general information about books, articles, blog posts? Are they interested in personal information?

Sometimes, a writer may try to cover all bases. Trust me, as an avid reader of newsletters from several of my favorite writers, their publications don't always contain the information I'm most interested in. But that may be okay, too, since it forces me to check out their websites.

Formulate a strong mental picture about the type of newsletter you want. Play with several different design ideas. Make a list of potential articles. These strategies provide focus for you and the kind of information you plan to impart to readers. I scoured my favorite writer newsletters and found the following items:

  1. Top-# lists
  2. Features
  3. Reviews
  4. Q & A
  5. Guest Writers
  6. Classified

What Elements Haven't I Considered?

Think you've thought of everything? Think again. Here are a few other considerations:

  • How often will I publish a newsletter? Weekly? Monthly? Only you know for sure how much information you'll have to make a newsletter a worthwhile reading experience.
  • Will I write every article? Depending on the scope of your publication, a newsletter can be a time-consuming project. Can you afford to pay others to write for the newsletter?
  • Should I offer a premium subscription or should my newsletter be free of fees? Once again, the size of the project may point you toward the best answer for you situation.
  • Does the publication need a copyright? Good reasons exist why you should copyright you work: a copyright establishes public record, copyright registration is necessary before filing an infringement lawsuit, and in some instances, a copyright lawsuit victory can include attorney fees and court costs. (No, I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, so you may want to double check with your legal counsel prior to filing a copyright.)
  • What service should I use to distribute work? Some of the most commonly-used programs include Yahoo Groups, Constant Contact and Aweber. Sure, other distribution systems exist. Best advice is to ask fellow writers what does - and doesn't - work, based on their experiences.

Still interested in starting a newsletter for readers and potential audience members? E-mail newsletters make great promotional tools. But, a newsletter also requires a time investment. Make a decision that works best for your writing situation.

by LuAnn Schindler. Check out more of LuAnn's work at her website.

Photo by LuAnn Schindler

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Keeping Your Writing World Straight

Saturday, January 29, 2011
Like me, you probably love the convenience of keeping your writing world straight through various methods such as online calendars, spreadsheets, maybe even your phone. I rely on my MacBook’s iCal and my phone’s calendar myself. Still, there’s an appeal to seeing my daily plans, schemes and dreams written out on the page. As a result, I’ve returned to A Working Writer’s Daily Planner, a helpful resource I first came across last year.

Of course there’s a calendar with space to set up yearly, monthly and weekly goals, but there’s much more. Between the pages you’ll find a selection of upcoming contest deadlines listed on calendar pages, and expanded lists with more detailed competition info. Glance at the reading lists, including the monthly “Read Around the World” list of international writers for your next selection. There’s a easy submission tracker to keep your records in order. And if you need ideas on what to write, try some of the prompts or exercises. All accompanied by attractive, black & white and full-color photos.

Yeah, it’s definitely low-tech, but for me, it’s a nifty way to rein in my writing life. Check it out for yourself here.

So, what ways do you keep your writing world straight? Please share them!

By Jill Earl
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Friday Speak Out!: Endurance, Guest Post by Christina Kapp

Friday, January 28, 2011

by Christina Kapp

When writing, most people don’t think of what they’re doing as a sport or as something requiring a level of fitness, but it’s quite possible that is where they have gone astray. In fact, writing does require a certain ability that is typically associated with athletics: endurance.

Endurance is a funny word, one that is associated both with sports and a general ability to withstand discomfort, as in the idea that “God doesn’t give us more than we can manage.” Endurance implies hardships, struggles, and pain. But if we consider endurance from the athletic side we also know that we can endure challenges, distance, and heightened efforts. It is this sense of “going the distance” that I think applies so well to writing and the writing life.

I took my first fiction workshop in the late 80s as an undergraduate. A friend of mine talked me into it and, as a long-suffering and miserable student, I took it on as the lesser of many possible evils, just one more notch toward being done once and for all with my torturous academic career. I never, ever expected that in creating a couple of short stories I could discover a certain truth about myself. Whether I had any talent for writing or not, I certainly had a taste for it, and became and English major simply so I could do it again.

Writing, however, has proven to be a punishing, difficult endeavor. I have given up in disgust more times than I can count. I have hated it, cursed it, sweated it, and cried over it. Rejections have left me completely hopeless and demoralized. I have equated my inability to stop writing with an addiction that I may actually need a 12-step program to remedy. And yet, when the frustration clears, I sit down and start again.

Which brings me to the meaning of endurance, which has a sense of overcoming and persevering and is certainly applicable to my writing life. Writing, at least creative writing, is less a job than an art, and its achievements often feel less like professional milestones than athletic goals. Writing successes are hurdles to be reached for, personal bests, even if not best sellers. Creative writers can benefit from the notion that art, like athleticism, measures success largely in time and practice. It is in endurance that real achievements are made.

Oxford Online defines endurance as, “the capacity of something to last or to withstand wear and tear.” If you write, you probably recognize something of yourself in this concept. You know, or at least suspect, that the road is not going to be smooth. But these are the times to remember that as a writer you are a marathoner. You are going to have to train yourself to work at it. You are going to have to set goals and work toward them. You are going to have to learn to recognize your own personal bests and celebrate them all by yourself. It won’t come easily, but it will come.

If only we can learn to endure.

* * *
Christina Kapp is a mom, writer, and occasional triathlete who leads the New Jersey Writers Society's Franklin Chapter. Her fiction, poetry and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runnersapt, and Best of Eclectic Flash 2010. She blogs at: http://booksandcrayons.wordpress.com.


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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Dancing with D

Thursday, January 27, 2011
  • Photo by tibchris

    Come on, admit it—it has been awhile. The weather has been cloudy and cold. You have been tied to your desk. Can you even remember the last time you bared yourself to him? The last time you felt his warmth on your face, your arms? When you do see him you hide beneath a hat and sunglasses, turning your back to him as you slather on lotion. They warned you about him. Still, he has something you need, that ol’ Mr. Sunshine, and you must either allow him the occasional dance or find a new partner.

    What he has is “D”, and if you aren’t dancing with D you might be dancing with d-eficiency. Vitamin D deficiency may easily be overlooked. Some of the early warning signs include:

  • low immunity to colds and flu
  • SAD syndrome
  • periodontal disease
  • asthma
  • high blood pressure
  • hair loss
  • digestive problems
  • weight gain
  • sleep disorders and daytime sleepiness
  • diabetes
  • PMS
  • bone pain and muscle weakness
Whew, such a list! Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) is not only necessary for the body’s use of calcium and phosphorous but is also thought to assist with cell division. Most of us have been doing a Waltz with D; we need to step it up to a Fox Trot!

Choose the Steps that Suit Your Style:

The Sunshine Samba

You will need 10-15 minutes of exposure to your face and arms—sans sunscreen—several times per week between the hours of 10AM-2PM. Remember, Mr. Sunshine has a reputation of being unkind to your skin.

D-elightful Tango

Most supplement labels list a dosage of 400 IU daily but doctors now suggest adult dosage begin at 600 IU and may go up to 2000 IU safely.

Foodie Swing

Keep it fun by adding plenty of d-elicious foods! Fish and shellfish are at the top of the list. Egg yolks, fortified dairy, and soy products such as tofu are good. Mushrooms, potatoes and spinach will give you a d-esirable boost as well.

No longer are the wallflowers easily spotted in their coats and galoshes. Too much time indoors, poor diets and the use of sunscreens (although necessary) cause too many of us to “sit this one out.”


Assistance with choreography may be found at:

The USDA National Agricultural Library http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=4&tax_level=1&tax_subject=242

Updated guidelines, reports, charts, etc…

SELF Nutrition Data http://nutritiondata.self.com/

Monitor your diet online, search foods by nutrients or analyze a recipe.

If you have been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, depression, acid reflux or diabetes you may want to request that your level be tested. Talk to your doctor about a 25-hydroxy Vitamin D Test.

Some medications interfere with Vitamin D absorption; please check with your doctor.

By Robyn Chausse

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How to Make Your Writing Resolutions Stick

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
How to Make Your Writing Resolutions Stick

by Marcia Peterson

If you made writing resolutions for the New Year, don’t abandon them now, as the first month comes to a close. Use the following strategies to help you keep the promises you made to yourself. Your writing success this year is worth it!

1. Record your progress. Log your daily word count, self-promotion actions or whatever marker relates most to the resolutions you’ve set. It helps to make it fun, using wall charts, smart phone apps or even a picture of a thermometer that you fill in with colored ink as you make progress toward your goal. Chronicling your efforts is motivating when you’re doing well (it’s so fun to see the path of progress) and also when you’re slacking off (you’ll want to fill in the spaces with good work).

2. Get other people involved. Announce your goals to someone else and now you’re accountable for your declarations. Try to arrange regular check-ins, which will keep you motivated to keep on top of your work. It’s also more enjoyable to work on your resolutions with a friend, or perhaps a team of friends.

3. Put up reminders. When building a new habit, such as increased writing output or regular marketing efforts, it helps to remind yourself of what you need to do each day. Put up notes on your mirror, your car dashboard, or your refrigerator. You can also use alarm clocks, online calendars, or cell phone messages to keep you on track. Maybe a friend would even be willing to call or e-mail you at certain times of day to check in on your progress.

4. Take some action. If your goals overwhelm you at any point, remember that small actions amount to big results over time. Can you do one thing today toward your goal? Could you write for just fifteen minutes this evening? Don’t give up on your resolutions when you’re feeling discouraged or time crunched. Take a little step or complete just a part of project.

5. Set up monthly reviews. Just like kids get reports cards, we should too. Periodically evaluate your progress on your resolutions and give yourself a grade on each one. What’s working well? What could you improve on? It’s up to you how often you want to check in with yourself—perhaps monthly to be sure you’re on course. Each time you review your efforts to date, think about how to make the remainder of the year even better.

6. Adjust and adapt. Life gets busy and personal goals sometimes aren’t met. But, it’s never too late to regroup and get back on track if you need to. Just dive back in to the plan you originally set up, or make alterations to your resolutions that fit better. Forgive yourself for any perceived failures and move on. There’s plenty of time left!

7. Reward yourself. On the other hand, be sure to recognize and honor all the good work you’re doing. Create a system that offers frequent rewards, so that doing the work becomes more fun. Small but desirable prizes for reaching mini goals provide extra motivation to get the job done. Acknowledge your good work and treat yourself nicely!


You can maintain your New Year’s resolutions with the right strategies to keep you on track. Keep thinking about where you’ll be at the end of the year, when you’ve reached all of your goals. It’s exciting, and you can look forward to this successful outcome.

Marcia Peterson is a columnist for WOW! Women on Writing and the editor of WOW!’s blog, The Muffin. Her fashion and beauty blog is Style Notebook.

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Karen Simmonds, Double Winner in 2010 Summer Flash Fiction Contest!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Karen Simmonds has always tried to shoehorn writing into a busy schedule which currently includes homeschooling the youngest of her three daughters, running a wedding business with the eldest, and preparing to be a grandmother (in three weeks time!) All of this provides endless fodder and, as a result, thoughts of what she will write about next are rare. The great thing about writing is that you can usually do it until a ripe old age, which she plans to do. Karen has been involved with a writers’ group for nearly thirteen years. She has found that having deadlines, even self-imposed ones, helps keep forward momentum. She is also happy to have found a place like WOW! that fosters that final step in the process for every writer: sending out your work. She is glad to have had the opportunity to participate.

Find out more about Karen by visiting her website: http://www.westminsterhallandchapel.com/.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Top 10 with two stories, an amazing accomplishment! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Karen: Thanks so much! A friend of mine in my writer's group, more fearless than I, told me about the contest and that I should enter. In addition, I was annoyed with myself for hardly ever sending out my work, always thinking it could be better, etc. So what if it can be better--how much better? I have seen stories that are overworked and that flowed better on the second draft than the fourth or fifth. Sometimes the inner critic needs to be bound and gagged.

WOW: Both of your entries were fantastic. Can you tell us what encouraged the ideas behind your stories, 1974 and Vessel?

Karen: "Vessel" was inspired by my twenty-seven yr. old pregnant daughter. Seeing her with her hand on her belly, the devotion already there, made me wonder what kind of person could perpetrate fraud on unsuspecting couples and fail to form such an attachment themselves. It occurred to me that there could be something more going on there, something altruistic. It was an interesting character study, to be sure. Human motivation is such an amazing thing.

"1974" was reminiscent of my childhood years. I was more like the tom-boy character but had a little of the social awkwardness as well. I really wanted to explore those fleeting friendships we all had when we were young and had trouble truly defining. How and why do they start and, even more inexplicably, how and why do they end? It's such a joyful time of life, but also painful and confusing. Whoever says being a kid is easy may have forgotten a few things along the way.

WOW: Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

Karen: I've always been drawn to the challenge of making the most of my words. Flash Fiction is definitely a kind of cross between poetry and a short story. Of course, time was always a factor as well. 'Hey, I'm waiting for a child's lesson to end, let me pick out the shortest piece in this story collection and I'll actually get to finish it.' Same with the writing.

I eventually took a course in flash fiction offered at our local literary center "Writers and Books" (a fabulous course offered by Len Messineo.) We looked at a lot of great, already-published writers but there was a lot of talent in the room as well. It's always nice to get positive feedback and encouragement while learning the craft.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Karen: This question makes me squirm since I still allow my routine to revolve around everyone else. It's something I'm working on. I know Stephen King said something about the closed door which, literally and figuratively means "Leave me alone. I'm writing!" As a mother, and now a grandma, I haven't been willing to do that.

I think we all have to find what motivates us. Sometimes, for me, it's simply wanting to tell a story the way I want to tell it. Or it's a deadline situation and, once I get started, it just takes off. Other times, it's pure drudgery. I try not to let that happen and sometimes it's simply a matter of walking away. I have found that sitting down to write when you haven't truly fallen in love with an idea or allowed it to ferment is, most of the time, a fool's mission. I then take a shower, clean out a closet or do some other mindless thing, allowing my brain to take full advantage.

WOW: I think many of us can relate to that. You mention that you’ve been involved with a writers’ group for nearly thirteen years. What do you like best about your group?

Karen: I like motivating others. I like discussing the plausibility of a character's motivation--arguing about it, even. I like raising my hand and saying "I will complete something and submit it" and then going home and vexing about it. Self-imposed deadlines are a wonderful thing. Also, it's nice not to be alone in this crazy longing to put just the right words on paper. I highly recommend a group to anyone who can find or form one, though that's not always easy. Mine evolved from a creative writing class, so that's a good place to start. Online-type groups exist as well.

WOW: What projects are you working on now? Have you made any writing goals for the New Year?

Karen: I'm busier than I would like to be (aren't we all!) and it's finally dawning on me that may never change. My goal right now is to do something every day; could be reading, could be writing. Commit to half an hour and, surprisingly, it usually turns into more. Again, not making my writing a priority is the biggest obstacle. I am going to tackle the book I have been researching, hopefully, when I get my youngest child well and back to school in the Fall. It revolves around a boating accident that took the life of my father's only brother. I have always been interested in the 50's and writing something set in that time is going to be challenging but exciting.

WOW: Best of luck with the book, and thanks so much for chatting with us today, Karen! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Karen: You should do it! When I first went to the WOW site, I allowed intimidation to get the better of me. I did not enter the contest before the deadline and had to wait for the next. Obviously, I'm glad I ultimately decided to leave my comfort zone. I think testing the waters is a good thing and that includes both contests and publications. How else will you know what to improve on? It may sound trite, but the important thing is not to give up.


Come back and join us on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews!

The Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
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Get Your Writing Organized in the New Year

Monday, January 24, 2011

One of your New Year’s resolutions may be to get organized. Some people clean out files at the beginning of the year; others go through their closets to make room for holiday gifts received. Many writers take advantage of after-Christmas sales to stock up on much needed supplies such as paper, printer ribbon and pens. Whatever your method, everyone can use some organization tips to get 2011 started in the right way and make it your most lucrative year yet.

Get a Calendar
In order to set goals, meet deadlines, and plan your writing days, you need a calendar—a calendar with lines and large spaces to record all your writing goals and plans each day.

My calendar is big, and I can see one week at a time. Each day, I write down different tasks I need to accomplish such as write a book review column, send out my YA novel to an agent, and work on my blog. If I have a deadline for that day, I highlight it to draw attention to the deadline. However, the deadline does not appear on my calendar just when the article is due. A few days before it’s due, I’ll make a note to double check that I’ve been working on it and am going to make my deadline.

I take my daily tasks on my calendar as seriously as if they were doctors’ appointments or lunch dates. If I don’t accomplish one of my tasks, then I highlight it and work on it the next day or move it to another date to finish. A calendar will keep you organized, on track for deadlines, and give you a plan for each writing day. If you have a plan, you will get more accomplished. If you get more accomplished, you will see more cash flow. If you. . .you get the picture.

Stock Up and Organize Supplies
One way to stay organized throughout the year is to have plenty of supplies available at your home and to keep them handy and easy to find. Some supplies you will want to keep on hand are:

  • Printer paper
  • Ink pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters
  • Stamps
  • Envelopes (business size and manila)
  • File Folders
  • Printer cartridges
  • Paper clips
  • Staples
  • White out
  • Post-it-notes
  • Notebook (for writing notes)

Even though many submissions are done over e-mail today, there are still publications, editors, and agents who only accept snail mail. Make sure you have the supplies you need readily available, so it is easy to send in a submission to a publisher you are interested in working with. Don’t spend time looking for a pen that works or a scrap of paper to take notes. Keep all supplies ready and organized.

One way to keep office supplies neat (if you don’t have a lot of room in your home or office) is to purchase a hanging shoe organizer that can fit over the door. You can use the shoe pouches to hold office supplies, which also makes them easier to find when you need them.

Work Space
With the above shoe holder suggestion, your work space will be neater. If possible, it is important to have your own work space at home. Many writers have found success with the kitchen table as their desk, knowing they have to move off at meal times. This does work. But it’s not ideal. If possible, it is nice to have your own space where you can keep notes, office supplies, your laptop and printer, and even some writing manuals. You feel like a professional when you have an office—especially one that is organized. For some tips on organizing your workspace and making it neat, you should check out these two excellent articles from WOW!

Allena Tapia shows how she redid her office in the photo essay, “Office-ally Fed Up! One Writers Home Office Makeover.” Use some of her tips to set up your office and make it easy to work in.

If you are interested in Feng Shui and getting your creative juices flowing, then you might find some tips to decorate and organize your work space in the article, “Feng Shui for Writers: How to Create a Space You Love.”

Keep Track of Submissions
If you do nothing else to get your writing life organized in 2011 but keeping track of your submissions, then you are off to a great start. This is one of the most important things you can do as a writer. As I tell my students in the Writing for Children class I teach through WOW!, you should record everything you send out and include the name of the person you sent it to, wait time for response, what rights the publication buys, how much an acceptance should pay, if simultaneous submissions are accepted, and whether or not the publication pays on acceptance or publication. You can keep track by using Excel worksheets or using a three-ring binder with notebook paper. It doesn’t matter how you organize your submissions, as long as you pick a method that works for you; and you actually use it!

Every week or two weeks, go through your submissions to check if you need to contact an editor or agent about your submission. Usually, I wait until a month after the usual response time, just to give the editor a little extra time in case they are swamped or have been sick, etc.

Being organized is important. Using the above tips will keep you on the right path and help bring you success. But even the most organized writer will not get published if you don’t ABC. . .apply butt to chair.

article by Margo L. Dill, http://margodill.com/blog/

photo by EvelynGiggles www.flickr.com
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Hocus-Pocus Focus

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Focus is like hocus-pocus. The day disappears before our very eyes. Hocus-pocus and other such charms were words said as a distraction technique ('busying the senses'). 

Writers perform hocus-pocus. Procrastination, not having the desire to write or no time to write are three things that cause focus lost. The goal is fuzzy, like looking through an out of focus camera lens. Make adjustments to bring goals back into focus. Stop busying your senses.

Procrastination (Things not to do)
  1. Check Facebook every three minutes
  2. Play a quick game (or ten) of Bejeweled or Solitaire.
  3. Watch TV.
  4. Count the snowflakes/raindrops/stars.
  5. Take your third bath of the day.

No Desire to Write
  1. Join a critique group.
  2. Analyze someone else’s work.
  3. Read a novel.
  4. Try a new genre
  5. Use a notebook and pen for a change

No Time to Write
  1. Keep a journal of where you spend your time.
  2. Turn off phone.
  3. Don't connect to the internet.
  4. Write in smaller blocks of time.
  5. Make the writing project easy to access.

Anastasia Pryanikova says procrastination can be productive. Use procrastination to organize your thoughts and assess a situation objectively, to create a time-management system for your future actions, to motivate yourself for success, and to create a mind map of your project. To find out more about productive procrastination go to the Five Ways To Procrastinate With Purpose.

 If a writer has the desire to be successful and prolific, a clear focus on writing needs to be a priority. Another way to stay focused and motivated is to take classes, workshops or work through a writing workbook. Find writing exercises and different ways to hone your skills. Work on more than one project at a time. Momentum plays a big role in writing; start it flowing and keep it flowing. Don't let hocus-pocus slip into your writing life. 

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Friday Speak Out!: How to Break a Blog Fever, Guest Post by Joanne DeMaio

Friday, January 21, 2011
How to Break a Blog Fever

by Joanne DeMaio

During these cold winter months, you might experience the virtual version of Cabin Fever. Symptoms include staring at a blank computer screen, fiddling with a pen and looking longingly at Blogger Scheduler. Are Blog post ideas as fleeting as a warm, sunny day? You’ve got a case of Blog Fever, friends.

But for writers, our blogs should consistently shine. Day after day, week after week, no matter what the blog theme, new posts must be written regularly, all while maintaining major writing projects. This is when writer angst raises its head. The cry “What can I blog about?” often rings across the blogosphere.

The answer lies in your camera. That’s right. A picture’s worth a thousand words, or a blog post at the very least. So grab that handy point-and-shoot and step outside. Take a walk through the winter wonderland of your neighborhood, or down Main Street, or along the windswept beach. Snap any images that catch your eye. A colorful window display. Waves crashing on the rocks. Ice skaters at a local pond. Look for whimsy, and charm, and nature.

As easy, and fun, as that, you’ve got several new posts in those images ready to keep your blog chugging along. Here’s how. Take your blog’s theme, whether it’s sharing a writing journey, finding happiness, or learning to cook, and project it onto the pictures. Then ask yourself how some aspect of writing, or happiness, or cooking, is paralleled in the images. When you look at a photograph closely, you’ll be amazed at the connections you can make.

My blog, Whole Latte Life, focuses on keeping our passions, or crafts, a central part of our own perfect blend of life. With that theme in mind, I have built an inventory of photographs to inspire relevant posts. Any subject is game. An overturned rowboat on a sandy beach becomes a post asking if my readers’ passions have ever been beached, and how they handled it. An ancient stone wall bordering a farm suggests that readers build their book, or song, or garden, one stone at a time in small, diligent efforts. A sunflower growing from a hollowed-out tree trunk reminds readers to give their creations a fresh spin.

So the next time you’re blogging and feeling the pressure to post, grab your camera and hit the road. A world of blog posts is poised and ready to be framed in your lens!

* * *

 Joanne DeMaio is a Connecticut writer and founder of the inspirational blog Whole Latte Life. Grab a coffee and stop by for a visit at http://www.joannedemaio.blogspot.com/.


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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Double Marketing--What's Memorable?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm going to a world premiere this weekend. And no, I'm not at Sundance. I wish! This weekend I've been invited to the premiere of a documentary about the local author of three (working on number four) urban thriller books. As authors we've all been told a thousand times "You're job's only halfway done when you finish the book. That's when the marketing begins." What do you picture when you think about marketing a book?

  • interviews
  • reviews
  • book signings
  • postcards
  • blogs
  • mass emailings
That's the standard plan. It's true, interviews reach the people who read them. But if you ask me (a person who's been knee deep in many authors marketing plans through my work with WOW Blog Tours) the best marketing is the double marketing. It reaches your first, intended group and then it reaches a second group simply because people are talking about your wild, crazy, unusual, fill-in-the-blank marketing. Trust me, no one will blog about you because you had a book signing at your local Barnes and Noble.

Stephen Pytak, the author who is the star of the documentary this weekend, is a champion at double marketing. Along with the standard marketing plan he's done several crazy things and each time it gets him a mention in local news or the blogosphere and hopefully, renewed interest in his .40 caliber mouse book series. What has he done? Just dying to know aren't you?

  1. He wrote a song(actually two) that have to do with his books. He wrote the lyrics and a local musician wrote the music.
  2. He had a party at a local restaurant to record the songs. The CDs are now available for purchase.
  3. He has a mask replica of his main character that he takes to appearances and lets people try on. Would you like to guess how many Facebook pages or twitter feeds featured someone in that mask?
  4. He found three young woman that resemble his main characters, took photos of them as the characters and sells posters. The characters also have their own Facebook pages.
  5. He has a logo that appears on all his merchandise. It's such a unique logo people buy his t-shirts even if they haven't read the books--yet.
  6. He had a beautiful young woman walk down Main Street (Ok, actually it was Centre Street) handing out flyers and wearing just one of his logo t-shirts (I believe she had short-shorts on too but it LOOKED like she just had the t-shirt on).
  7. He funded a documentary and three fictional short films about his characters to premiere this weekend at a local theatre. I imagine they'll then run on YouTube, at his appearances, maybe even be for sale
These unusual marketing plans not only reached the people who attended the parties, saw the girl in the t-shirt, or wore the mask but they also got people talking, garnered him coverage in the print media, and ended up online. You're reading about him here, aren't you?

So when you're designing your marketing plan include the old standards but also ask yourself...what can I do that's memorable?

On another note I want to let everyone know that on March 16 WOW Blog Tours will be holding Everybody's Talking About...Surprises to promote Kristina McMorris's novel Letters from Home. To participate blog about surprises and include a paragraph about Letters from Home. You and your followers could win a World War II themed prize. Not to mention the publicity your blog will get on The Muffin. To sign up contact me at jodi@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Related article: Real Stories of Authors on a Budget: Promotional Gimmicks
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Organzing Your Writing on the Fly

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Six hours.
That was how many hours I spent flipping, tossing, filing, perusing, sorting, stapling, clipping, and organizing.
How many of you fall into a trap of new year's organizing? I thought I had been spared this year as I awaited my home office transferring to a different space in the house.
We made dinner plans with friends.
And then I looked at my desk, which had overtaken a large chunk of our dining room.
Saturday was spent with cardboard boxes, the recycle bin and trash can at close proximity.
It was a painful day--I was never sure what works-in-progress-but-not-in-active-progress I needed to delegate to the storage boxes. Research that I hadn't touched since 2008 or notebooks that cluttered my desk found new homes.
It was an exhausting day as I tried to clean up my exploded mass of papers and files before our guests arrived. We even had to call and delay them by an hour.
While launching into 2011, I decided to make more of an effort to say "Yes" with a lot less frequency. Saving the "yeses" for projects that wouldn't crowd my in-box. In the last months of 2010, projects had started piling up, getting buried in other projects. Books for some research towered, competing with my children's building blocks.
Here are some of my tips:
1. Before diving into the pile, make a list of writing priorities. What projects are you really working on? Which deserve the coveted space on your desk? You can still work on other projects, but just don't let them take up the valuable desk real estate.
2. Have your tools at the ready. I know my organizational style, so I knew that I needed a few manila folders here, a couple markers there, and my top filing cabinet drawer in the open position.
3. If you aren't sure what to keep or toss, err on the side of caution. While I have many works-in-progress, I am never sure when to actually get rid of my material. If you have the space, box the project and stow it away for a while. If you don't return to it in, oh, 10 years, you might want to re-visit or re-cycle the material.
4. Find a time with no looming deadlines and no dinner guests planned. Admittedly, I'm afraid to peer into two of the boxes I packed and stored. Towards the end, I was shoveling some items just to get them out of the space.
5. Once you've re-discovered that empty journal you were looking for, use it. Now that you've cleared away some of the clutter, open your mind, sit down at that clean desk and write, write, write!

Based along the North Carolina coast, Elizabeth King Humphrey is a creativity coach, writer and editor.
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Interview with D.E. Gallagher - Runner-Up Summer 2010 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deb Gallagher, a lifelong New Englander, resides in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Deb earned her BFA from UMass Dartmouth and a Masters of Education from Lesley University. For the last 23 years, Deb has served as an art educator. She also writes theater reviews for the Portland, Maine, newspapers, works as a theatrical designer, and directs children's curriculum-based performance pieces.

Deb is now looking for a publisher for her children's picture book, "Long Ago in a Baobab Tree", and is compiling a collection of her short stories for young teen readers.

Deb says she can't remember a time when she wasn't drawing and writing. She shares a hectic family life with her husband Jim, their children, new grandbaby, and an assortment of dogs and cats.

If you haven't had the opportunity to read Deb's story, head on over to WOW! and check it out. You'll be glad you made time to take in this gem of a story.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Deb. Congratulations on earning runner-up honors in our summer flash fiction contest. I enjoyed taking in every word! Your flash piece could be ripped from the headlines: the Jesus grilled cheese or the Virgin Mary potato chips. How can writers successfully incorporate current events or pop culture into their pieces?

Deb: I've noticed that most people occasionally look for "signs" or something that validates their day to day struggles. Life doesn't exactly come with instructions and a road map. A trend or sudden pop phenomenon makes really great fodder for writers because these social and cultural anomalies are fueled by the basic human need to feel that we are not alone and that something somewhere is there to guide us along. It seems to be in our DNA. When a writer taps into this the result is often instant recognition on the part of the reader. I think that writers need to LISTEN and watch. I pay attention when I am out in public, sometimes to the point of shameless eavesdropping. I usually don't know where my car keys are but I can recall an amusing dialogue I overheard in a restaurant 2 weeks ago. Incorporating pop culture topics into your writing, especially in a humorous way, allows you to make intimate connections to readers who will hopefully relate to your story in a positive way.

WOW: I'll admit it: I eavesdrop. A lot. I think it's second nature as a writer and it lets us consider the tone of a conversation. In your story, perception and tone play an important part in the storytelling. Why is it important for writers to maintain consistency in stories?

Deb: A writer needs to engage you, the reader, from the very first sentence so that you are drawn into the framework of the story and stay there right to the end. The story cannot start out to be about a humorous trip to the supermarket and then suddenly evolve into a WWII narrative. Consistency is very important because it allows the story to twist and turn and build to a high point while always staying on track. This is especially true for flash fiction pieces. The reader is simply compelled to stay with the characters for the entire ride. In my story the woman in the market starts out engaging herself in a mind rant and it builds and builds like a huge overblown balloon. Something HAS to happen to stick the pin into the tension and let out the angst. This is the consistent energy of the story and I was careful to never let it get side tracked. Great works of humor have this element of gradually building the suspense until the end of the story arrives just in a nick of time and provides a funny, satisfying conclusion for the characters and the reader. O. Henry and Mark Twain were masters at this technique.

WOW: In my editing experience, I've found that many stories somehow traverse off the beaten path. It's very confusing! Deb, one of the elements of storytelling I enjoyed in your piece is the way you incorporate dialogue. Fantastic job! Would you be willing to share a secret or two about creating a successful conversation?

Deb: I was raised in a large, extremely verbal Irish American family. It was like living in a Marx Brothers movie. Everyone in my family talks over everyone else. this familial environment provided me the opportunity to hone defensive verbal skills at a very early age. It was a means of survival! Writing dialogue is my absolute favorite form of storytelling. It comes naturally. It is the most effective way for me to bring my characters to life. It is very important that the characters are totally engaged in the dialogue and react appropriately to each other. Being an artist I also love to use dashes, dots, italics, CAPS . . . . . any trick in the book to visually as well as verbally illustrate the emotional and dramatic levels of the conversation. Incidentally, my husband is also of Irish descent and our banter is often very similar to that of the characters in my story. When one of us rants, the other assumes a calm, supportive stance and deftly moves all breakable objects safely out of reach. Sometimes life imitates are. I just keep writing it all down.

WOW: (Smiles) I totally appreciate the large family dialogue scenario. In my family, there are 60 aunts, uncles, cousins all gathered around the dining room table. Conversation = impossible. After reading your bio, I noticed we share similar career paths: academia to writing. For you, was it a difficult transition? How has your education background affected your writing?

Deb: Teaching is the act of de-mystifying a certain subject so that your students can take what they have learned and apply it to their own life experience. It is all about communication. You explain, demonstrate, translate, model, capture imaginations and try to keep your audience not only awake but fascinated and curious. I don't see a huge transition here. Writing is, in a way, teaching. You present a story, walk the reader through the plot, reveal the characters and hopefully engage their curiosity so that they think about your story long after they finish reading the last sentence. In the end everyone should feel informed, entertained and a little less alone in the universe. I teach art in an elementary school and I constantly use storytelling as a means to engage students and hold their attention. I see very little difference between what happens in my classroom and what happens at my keyboard. One supports the other very nicely. It is all the same process and I find it all very enjoyable and fulfilling.

WOW: I wholeheartedly agree with you: the transition from teaching to writing wasn't difficult. You've also worked as a theatre reviewer and written curriculum-based performance pieces. What elements do you look for when you write in these areas?

Deb: I am an art educator and an illustrator as well as a writer. I am able to utilize my sense of detail and evaluate the impact of the visual combined with the verbal elements of a staged production. I need to clearly remember and communicate what I saw and how I felt when I write a review. Writing curriculum-based pieces for students is just the flip side of this process. I will write scenes that, when acted out, will communicate a lesson to the audience verbally and visually and hopefully this experience will make the information "stick" on a cognitive level. It's a fun way for the kids to learn. Again, I guess I love telling stories, being told stories, and bringing memorable characters to life so that they can be shared with an audience, be they readers or viewers.

WOW: Making a lasting impression on readers is a writer's ultimate goal. Tell us what you're currently working on.

Deb: Receiving honorable mention in the WOW! flash fiction contest has truly been a thrill for me. I feel very honored and very validated! I intend to enter more contests and keep reading the Muffin. You are such supportive, creative people. It means so much to those of us who love to write. I am teaching full time, continuing my work on a collection of short stories for young teens, searching for a publisher for my two picture books, and I have a greeting card company website called "PAWZABLES" that I am trying to get off the ground . . . in my "spare time"!

WOW: I totally relate to the "spare time" concept! (laughs) Thanks, again, Deb, for sharing your writing ideology with our readers and best wishes in future writing endeavors.

Deb: Thank you again!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.
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The Problem - and Reality - of Adding -LY

Monday, January 17, 2011

OK, I'll admit it: Adverbs bother me.

As an editor, I received daily submissions filled with adverbs. The part of speech attempted to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, but most of the time, the lone adverbs did not add anything to the storyline or article.

"I actually wish I knew what the future holds."

"He genuinely likes me."

See what I mean? The adverbs did not jump out and show me anything except a tired cliche dressed in an outfit that doesn't fit.

Then I'd look at a different manuscript, where the writer tried adding an -ly to every dialogue tag.

"I can't make it!" she screamed loudly. (Loudly? No kidding. She's screaming.)

" Listen to me..." he silently whispered. (Are you telling me there's a loud whisper?)

You get the point.

What's the problem with an adverb? In most cases, the adverb can be left out. If it's not adding a new element to the story, why insult the readers' intelligence by adding a word that makes a poor attempt at explaining the how, where or how much of a story. Readers hear the tone of words in their own minds and do not need an adverb, especially a weak one, to reinforce the author's intent.

Adverbs are overused. Count the number of adverbs in your WIP and you'll be surprised at the number of times you can cut that part of speech.

But I'm also a realist when it comes to penning adverbs. Sometimes, they are necessary. And sometimes, when paired to make an impact, the adverb makes prose pop!

What's the trick? Convert a powerful adjective into an adverb by adding the -ly and pair it with an unusual word. Think devastatingly gorgeous, preciously righteous, drippingly scarce. Each of these examples gives a new sense of meaning to an otherwise tired word.

The end result of strange word pairings elicits a shift in tone, creates a powerful metaphor, develops a rare oxymoron, or stretches the imagination. In some cases, all of the aforementioned.

Adverbs have a place in a piece of writing, but if a writer fails to remove the old and worn out meaning and offer a vibrantly fresh example in its place, the intended effect falls flat.

As a writer and editor, I look for those strange marriages between modifier and modified word. It forms a unique image in the readers' minds. And, it provides a challenge to formulate a refreshing duo of words.

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

Original graphic by LuAnn Schindler.
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Writers Have Trades Too

Sunday, January 16, 2011
Writer’s Digest. The Writer. WRITERS Journal. Poets & Writers. These are the trade magazines for writers, and great additions to your tool kit. With the latest industry news, trends, and interviews with established and emerging writers, they offer techniques and other resources to build your skills. The magazines also have websites with additional content, many times only available online. And of course, they have market listings to submit your work, including the mags themselves. Following is a quick rundown of each.

The veteran of the group, The Writer, calls itself ‘The essential resource for writers since 1887’. One feature,‘The Writer Archive’, focuses on an element of the craft of writing from past articles. There are reviews of newly released books to browse. You can check out their blog to get into the minds of the mag’s staffers. And now, registered users can post comments on any columns or articles in the ‘Columns and Articles’ sections of the site.

With the motto, ‘Write Better, Get Published’, Writer’s Digest (WD) is a favorite of many writers. Highlights include the ‘101 Best Websites for Writers’; ‘Writer’s Workbook’, which covers specific areas of writing; and the WD contests in Popular Fiction, Poetry, Short Short Story, the International Self-Published Book Awards and the annual Writing Competition with multiple categories to enter.

My favorite is Poets & Writers, the largest nonprofit serving creative writers dedicated to taking writers ‘From Inspiration to Publication’. There’s always a comprehensive list of upcoming conferences and residencies, and awards and grants recipients; In addition, there’s a continuing series where agents and editors share their experiences and their wants from writers. And readers can start applying what they’ve learned from ‘The Practical Writer’.

To wrap up, there’s WRITERS’ Journal, ‘The complete writer’s magazine’. Offerings include contest listings, including ‘Write to Win!’; columns on how to break into niche markets, promoting your writing properly, and photography how-tos, among others. And the ‘Books for the Writer’s Bookshelf’ area always has a selection to whet the appetite.

So, if you haven’t already, add one, a couple--or all of these trades to your tool kit. They’re the tickets to equip you to be the best writer you can be.

By Jill Earl

Photo credit: Microsoft
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When the Bookshelves Spilleth Over: Ideas and Links for Book Donations

Saturday, January 15, 2011
They are in neat little piles—on the dining table, the corner of your desk, the floor in front of your desk, and in front of the bookcase (the shelves of which are full)—books! The women at the library see you so often that they have christened you with a nickname. Are there other places where your books could find love? Yes, Virginia, there are!

First, if charity is to begin at home, let’s take a look around your community. In addition to libraries there are other institutions that need books—some you may not have considered.
  • Family Shelters/Women’s Shelters/Homeless Shelters/Teen Pregnancy Homes/ Orphanages

  • Drug Rehabilitation Homes

  • Child Outreach Programs

  • Assisted Living Centers

  • Long-Term Care Centers

  • Hospitals

  • Prisons

  • Juvenile Detention Centers

  • Churches

  • Literacy Programs

  • And charities that operate thrift stores such as Humane Society, Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc…

No time to track down a local charity? Perhaps you would like to act globally. Following are a few links to organizations which may be of interest.

Donation Town


You want to give back to your own community but don’t have time to track down a needy cause— Donation Town can help. Simply type in your zip code and Donation Town will provide you with a list of organizations that want your donation and will even arrange for a free pick-up. You can’t beat that!

Operation Paperback


The men and women of our armed forces like to escape with a good book too! Input the genres you wish to donate and their automated system will generate a list of servicemembers’ names and addresses. Requires a quick, free registration.

Better World Books


This is an online book store with a purpose. Better World Books collects new and used books; some books are donated directly to charities, others are sold with the proceeds helping to fund literacy programs in the U.S. and around the world. This is a socially and environmentally responsible company.

Liberian Development Foundation


Books and educational materials are difficult to come by in Liberia. This organization collects used books, media, and school supplies in good condition.

Books for Africa


Working to improve the literacy and education of African students, Books for Africa accepts donations of educational reference books, fiction and non-fiction suitable for the African student (for instance, American History is not one of their subjects). Donations are tax-deductible.

International Book Project, Inc


Providing quality used books to developing countries; this 501(c)3 organization accepts children’s books, vocational books, English grammar, reference and other educational texts. Based in Kentucky.



Kid Powered! Book Ends accepts children’s and YA books. Students collect, sort, and personally deliver the books to youth centers, homeless shelters, children’s group homes and other places where there is need. Based in Southern California.

The Bookman


A 501(c)3 charity based in San Diego, California, The Bookman accepts all book donations. Books are donated to groups and organizations in need.

Books For America


Donations of books, movies and music CDs to Books for America are tax-deductible. Based in Washington, DC, this organization supplies books to schools, prisons and libraries. Donations must be in near-new condition.

Tax-deductible receipts aside; the true joy is that each book you give away may open up a whole new world for someone else.

Robyn Chausse

What do you do with your over abundance of books? Share your thoughts with us.

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Friday Speak Out!: Getting from Here to There, Guest Post by Angelica R. Jackson

Friday, January 14, 2011
Getting from Here to There

by Angelica R. Jackson

Our critique group has been meeting for over a year now, and we've each had to deal with the realization that we entered the group with the idea that our manuscripts were Here (shows fingers about 2 inches apart) when they were actually There (holds arms out as wide as possible. Or points to a spot across the room. Or unfolds a map and draws a dot miles from the current position.)

In the dark ages before the group, we had each worked on our books for years (some of us nearly a decade) and were convinced that our stories were this close to being finished/publishable. That they were as good as we could make them.

Once we formed our group, we arrived flush with excitement, expecting to hear, "This is perfect! I'll bet this will be snapped up by a publisher or agent!" But instead, we heard, "The character's motivations are just not believable" or "We never really know how the character feels about all the things happening around her" (both examples applied to mine).

In other words, the writing "just wasn't there yet." And for each of us, you could see it in our faces--the crushing realization that there was still a lot of work to be done. We thought we were Here, when we were actually nowhere near There.

We went home and processed all the suggestions (and some of us fessed up about having a good cry about the whole thing) and the scale of the changes was nearly overwhelming. But once you've grieved for your idea of perfection, you're faced with a decision--will you quit now, or keep at it, and keep growing and learning?

For me, I needed to set the project aside for awhile to come back to it with fresh eyes, but giving up on the potential of my story just didn't sit right. I believed the idea was sound, that it was the execution that needed work. So I worked some more, and lo and behold I'd learned a few things in the meantime and the manuscript got better (and still is getting better). But once I'm past a roadblock it's exhilarating, and I see the road open up in front of me.

But you want to know a secret? No matter where you are in your writing career, you go back to the starting line for each and every project. You may have learned a few shortcuts that get you on the expressway, but at some point you're going to realize your writing is not there yet. Whether a beta reader calls you on your unresolved issues, or you've signed with an agent and she has a list of rewrites. Or an editor needs you to cut 5,000 words.

It's going to come up again. So just learn to appreciate it as part of the journey. That's not to say you won't occasionally hear, "Are we there yet?" from the back seat—so make it a motivator.

* * *

Angelica R. Jackson took 3rd place in WOW! Women on Writings Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, Ebb Tide. Current projects include a young adult novel, poetry, children's picture books, and more short fiction. Keep up with her latest writing news at her blog, http://angelicarjackson.blogspot.com/ and her art at http://www.angelicarjackson.com/ . In her spare time (ha!), she has started a blog for Fat Kitty City, a sanctuary where she volunteers, at http://fatkittycitynittygritty.blogspot.com/ .


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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Interview with Nicole Amsler: Summer 2010 Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Nicole’s Bio:
Nicole Amsler makes her living as a writer, by writing press releases, magazine articles and web content for business clients. She owns Keylocke Services, a copywriting and marketing consultant firm for small businesses. Her business allows her to write copy for clients from her home office—squeezing in short stories and full-length novels in her spare time.

Fiction is her first love—from her first handwritten novel in 2nd grade to her many “drawer novels”—not yet fit for human consumption. Nicole has published a handful of short stories and is an avid proponent of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). She has won NaNo four times, including last year’s novel “Dismantling Spider Webs” about forgiveness. This year’s novel is titled “Zone Trippers” which examines identity.

Nicole speaks regularly on editing, the writing process and marketing. She currently lives in Ohio with her family, where she runs a book club, stalks her favorite authors, teaches improv acting to elementary students and seldom sleeps.

She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, her personal blog and in the local coffee shop.

If you haven't done so already, check out Nicole's award-winning story "Looking for Death" and then return here for a conversation with the author.

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! Fall 2010 Flash Fiction Contest! How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it?

: I’ve had a reoccurring dream for about 30 years. I am standing in my Dad’s backyard and I see a plane crash. Of course, I have never actually seen it happen but it remains very vivid to me.

The story started out with a child’s difficulty understanding death and the planting of the body. But as I wrote the first draft, I realized it was the father who was grappling with a pointless death. I kept the son in a longer version but found the story was stronger if it was just Mason’s story. Trying to bring the story down to 750 words ended up crystallizing it.

WOW!: We’re glad you’ve had a positive flash fiction writing experience. It’s certainly different than novel writing. What, if anything, did you learn about yourself each time you’ve completed a novel for NaNoWriMo?

: I have completed several and I find it very similar to birthing stories. There are no two experiences alike and the birthing process has no bearing on how your child turns out. My first novel (Holiday Cards) was pure magic—the story flowed, my characters were vivid and well rounded, and I found surprises around every corner. Sadly, though, it was entirely plot free. I still have hope for it though. I just think I need to be a better, wiser writer before I can do it justice.

Another year—Dismantling Spider Webs—was a complex, detailed character study. It is completed and is being work-shopped but I know it is still missing something.

This year’s NaNo novel was pure inspiration. I imagined the catalyst act in about two minutes and suddenly I had a whole book. It has been a rollercoaster, trying to write outside of my genre about topics I don’t understand but I embraced the NaNo challenge of just getting words on paper. I consider this year’s book—Zone Trippers—to be more about discovery writing than even a first draft. I have high hopes for this book but it realistically has a full year of revisions before I will have a readable version.

WOW!: Good luck with the revisions! How do you balance your time writing for your business and writing for pleasure or other purposes?

: Not well—if you want the honest answer. I work from home and my kids are in school all day so I have 6-1/2 hours to write client copy as well as any revisions or short fiction I want to hammer out. It’s amazing to see how fast the time can evaporate.

I am a terrible procrastinator and I have to trick myself to get the words flowing. I live by Write or Die as well as my egg timer. I have one computer with no internet connection so I can work without temptation. I also switch modalities—if I have stared at the computer screen for hours with no result, I will switch to paper and pen.

Balancing the two—writing that pays and writing that doesn’t—will probably always be a struggle. I will continue to strive towards balance.

WOW!: A computer with no Internet connection…great idea! I think I need one of those. What do you enjoy most about writing?

: I enjoy writing for a living because it leaves me with a very flexible schedule, so I can attend field trips, school parties and have lunch with my husband.

I enjoy fiction writing because I can get lost in my own worlds. I have only recently begun sharing my work so to get compliments or comments is amazing to me. To realize that your words have been read, pondered or discussed is humbling. It makes me want to be a better writer.

There is also something very satisfying about printing out my book and seeing it as a tangible product. I can only imagine the joy of seeing it printed and bound on a book shelf.

WOW!: If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

: I will be liberal with my definition of author and say Joss Whedon, the TV and movie writer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, Toy Story, etc.) He writes all the scripts and creates the worlds so I am going to firmly place him in the writer camp.

I love his brilliant use of back story, his quirky but believable characters, his rewording of clichés and how he always—always—breaks your heart. By writing a character who is believable and dynamic, you hold the power of emotional resonance.

I have found screenwriting books and classes to be tremendously helpful to the writing process as well. So who better than to lunch with than a brilliant screen writer?

WOW!: Thank you, Nicole for your insightful answers to our questions! Best of luck with your writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt www.annegreenawalt.com
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