Using Your Time Wisely on Facebook and Twitter

Thursday, June 30, 2011
You won’t believe how much time you can spend on a social media site if you don’t set a time limit, say 30 minutes a day at the most. One of the problems is you can easily get distracted by personal messages, tweets, and status reports. For example, you might spend 30 minutes commenting on your best friend’s photo album of her daughter’s 4th birthday party instead of finding links about writing and posting them to your Facebook page. I agree that Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but you can make it a point to do these personal interactions on the weekend IF you have a limited amount of time for writing during the week.

So, what are ways to use your time wisely on Facebook?

•    Set up a fan page—this would be a page on Facebook where people could join and become a fan of your work
•    Invite people to an event—events can be real world events such as book signings or conferences. They can also be cyber events such as blog giveaways.
•    Update your status to say something about your writing career.
•    Find other writers and comment on their statuses or "like" their fan page.
•    Post links of writing articles or blog posts that you find helpful.
•    Write notes about writing contests, issues you are having with your novel, or a hot topic such as book covers.

What are ways to use your time wisely on Twitter?
•    Take part in one of the groups/chats such as #amwriting, #writegoal, or #kidlitchat.
•    Tweet about your recent blog post. Make sure to write a headline with your link that catches people’s attention such as: “Here’s a book that kids will talk about long after they’re done reading it” and then attach the link.
•    Find other authors’ and writers’ promotional tweets and retweet them. If you know writers personally, then do an exchange. Ask them to retweet information to their followers, and you will do the same for them.
•    Go to people’s links that you see on Twitter and leave comments on blogs. Always, always, always leave either your blog’s URL or your Twitter ID, so these people can find you and repay your favor. 

Social networking is fun, but it can also be useful for your career--you can network and promote--and it costs nothing but your time. So, learn to use it wisely! 

post by Margo L. Dill; Margo will be teaching the online course, Social Networking for Writers in the WOW! Classroom, starting September 14 for 4 weeks. For more information, to see a syllabus, or to sign up, visit the classroom here.

photo by Candie_N
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The Author in My Tree

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I was innocently researching information for today’s blog post when I came upon a headline stating that Catherine Middleton and Jane Austen were indeed cousins according to The connection may be faint—6th cousins 11 times removed is what I read—but hey, that’s still family! So I began to wonder if there are any famous writers peeking out from the leaves of my family tree. Wouldn’t that be fun! Needless to say the thought of fun trumped the desire to research, so I decided to play a bit of a game today.

The Author in My Tree

Tell us which famous author you are certain you must be related to and why; include a few of your favorite quotes from your adopted ancestor. Of course, if you are actually related to a famous author now is the time to name drop!

I’ll start. I just know that somewhere back there I must be related to Emerson. Like me he found solace in the natural world; had faith in intuition; and spoke his truth though it went against the grain. He also looked after many people who did a poor job of looking after themselves, a role I can relate to.

My Favorite Emerson Quotes:

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence; it can only be attained through understanding."

"It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."

"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."

"The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions."

Now it's your turn! What famous author is peeking out through your branches (imaginary or otherwise)?

by Robyn Chausse

photo credit: Jane Austen Society of Australia
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Interview with Dana Leipold, Runner Up in the Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Good day, Muffin readers! You are in store for a sweet treat today. Dana Leipold joins us for conversation about her story The Search, which earned runner-up honors in the Winter 2011 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had the opportunity to peruse Dana's story, head over to our contest page and read it. Then grab a cuppa your favorite beverage and come back and enjoy the convo!

Dana lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children. By day, she works in corporate America as a freelance marketing writer. The rest of the time, you'll see this aspiring humor writer juggling writing with home and family commitments.

Dana writes a weekly column for The Castro Valley Patch, where she ponders life and other absurdities. Dana has self-published her first book of poems entitled, Stupid Poetry: Volume I. One of her essays, "The Music Plays On and On and On," was featured in the October 2010 issue of Long Story Short eZine.

Dana's blog, Random Chick Blog, is her creative outlet while he furiously completes her first book of humor essays.

WOW: Dana, good morning and welcome to The Muffin. Congratulations on earning runner up honors in our Winter Flash contest. I must tell you, while I read your story, I can feel this current of tension spurring the action and I'm also chuckling about the humor used to portray the situation. Why do these two opposite elements work so well together to create a balanced story?

Dana: Humor tends to draw people in and tension creates anticipation. Those two elements, when used properly, work wonders for any fiction. It's like a funny joke the readers are in on but they don't really know where the punch line is going to come from. It's not easy to do and it takes lots of practice, practice, practice. I wish it were just like "poof" there it is, but it is not like that at all.

WOW: (chuckles) I could use a few of those "poof" moments when I'm writing humor! I agree - it is not like that at all. One of my favorite humor techniques is utilizing the flip or twist to achieve an unexpected response at the end of a piece. How did you come up with this unexpected ending?

Dana: I really don't know. Okay, I do but I don't want to give away my secret formula. Well... since you asked, I tried to think of what the protagonist could be doing that would be perceived multiple ways. I took the commonly viewed situation and switched it at the end.

WOW: Well...your secret formula works! Let's take a few minutes to discuss your writing background. You have quite the resume: marketing copy, poetry, columnist. How have these genres helped you fine-tune your fiction?

Dana: They've given me more opportunities to write. The more you write, the better you get at it. I'll take any chance to write, especially if someone is going to pay me to do it! With marketing copywriting, I've learned how to get to the point fast in as little words as possible. This doesn't always translate well with other genres, like fiction where you need to explore the language in unique ways to build a character or set a scene. I write poetry for fun but it does help me be more precise. With my column, I just make observations and try to come up with a universal theme. They have all helped my writing in different ways. I also get bored easily so switching from the different genres works well for me.

WOW: Switching between genres is a good strategy. It keeps writing fresh! I'm wondering, Dana, when did you first become interested in writing?

Dana: I think I was five years old. I didn't play with toys, books were my toys. I love the written word and how simple letters put together in interesting combinations can take you on a journey. I also love puzzles and to me, writing is like a puzzle. You are trying to figure out the best way to get your point or story across to the reader.

WOW: I like the puzzle analogy. It's the reason I enjoy writing, too. You mentioned you write poetry. Your collection has an interesting title: Stupid Poetry, Volume I. Would you explain the title? What kind of reaction has the collection received?

Dana: I began writing limericks on my blog that were just silly. Written in rhyming couplets, the "poems" sound a lot like a Dr. Seuss book only with adult themes. I gave the category the name "stupid poetry." People started leaving lots of comments whenever I would post a poem so I decided to collect them all and put them in a book. Stupid Poetry kind of stuck so I used that name for the collection. The reaction? Well, people with a warped sense of humor seem to find the collection entertaining. Sales of the book haven't exactly covered my kids' college education however, or helped me fill my car up with gas for that matter.

WOW: My parents told me I would never make a living as a poet, and they were right! So, what's new? What projects are you working on now?

Dana: Right now I'm finishing up Stupid Poetry, Volume 2 NEW AND IMPROVED STUPIDITY! I'm hoping to launch a big social media blitz if I don't get stuck playing Farmville on Facebook. On the serious side, I'm working on my first novel tentatively titled Laurel Lee, which is based on my mother's life struggling with the trauma of incest and battling anorexia.

WOW: Sounds like you have a full plate! Good luck with your projects and once again, Dana, thanks for sharing The Search with our readers!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.
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Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers, launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, June 27, 2011
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

A bout with breast cancer and a betrayal by a loved one encouraged Tracy Seeley to search for her past in what she had believed to be a long forgotten childhood in Kansas. A plan for just one trip back to the past evolved into several trips to the Midwest that revealed her hidden feelings about the meaning of family.

Along with beautiful descriptions of a state most of us know little about and associate with...flatness and cornfields, Seeley paints for us an inner map. The map from the interactions of her childhood family to her present day relationships with the men in her life. Seeley has put away her wandering shoes long enough to join us for a WOW Blog Tour featuring her memoir My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas.

My Ruby Slippers is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and independent bookstores.
ISBN: 978-0-8032301-0-1
Publisher: Bison Books
Format: Paperback, 208 pages

View the fantastic book trailer for My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas below.

Book Giveaway Contest

If you would like to win a copy of My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas, please leave a comment a the end of this post to be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, June 30 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #RubySlippers, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day, Friday, July 1st. Good Luck!

About the Author

With a Ph.D. in British Literature, Tracy Seeley teaches literature and creative nonfiction at the University of San Francisco. She can claim 26 addresses as her own including towns all across the midwest, Dallas, Austin, New Haven, Los Angeles, Caracas, Budapest, and Barcelona. When not tracking down Kansas addresses that no longer exist, Seeley lives in Oakland, California with her filmmaker husband, Frederick Marx. In an attempt to put down roots she has started a vegetable garden and is considering buying chickens.

Visit Tracy Seeley at:

Her blog, My Ruby Slippers at

Her website at

-------- Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: You're a professor of creative writing, so I'm guessing this book isn't your first attempt at writing. Can you tell us about when you began writing and the types of writing you've done?

TRACY: I'm really a literature professor who teaches creative writing whenever I get the chance. Those two parts of my life have evolved together over the past 10 years, but I began my career as a literary scholar, with a PhD in 20th century British literature. That was my route to becoming a professor. But I was always drawn to the literary personal essay, by everyone from Montaigne to Virginia Woolf to E.B. White and Annie Dillard. I first taught and studied the essay as literature and then gradually shifted to writing my own. So I've published scholarly essays on a number of writers, including Virginia Woolf--who's a literary hero of mine. And I've published a small handful of creative essays in journals like The Florida Review and Prairie Schooner. But My Ruby Slippers is the first book-length creative work I've done. I've been riding a big, exciting learning curve.

WOW: What made you decide to take the multiple trips back to your home state of Kansas?

TRACY: I first decided to go back because my mother had written a list of thirteen addresses in my baby book. These were all the houses I'd lived in by the time I was nine. Needless to say, we'd been very mobile, and unsettled, and mostly unhappy because of that. And because I didn't remember many of those houses and towns I was curious. When I was in my 20s, I started to think I'd one day go back, follow my family's wanderings and see what I found. By the time I went--20 years later--I'd also been feeling deprived of a real sense of place. Since we'd moved so often and weren't originally from Kansas, my family never really felt at home there, and I felt disconnected from it. I hoped to address that, or understand it somehow.

At first. I planned to go back only once. Do a quick trip, write a book. But on that first trip, I really fell in love with Kansas and knew I wanted to know it better, spend more time there, collect more stories from people I met and learned about. So I ended up going four more times. The last time, I lived in a tiny town called Matfield Green for ten days. That was one of my sweetest trips, because I could really settle into one place in my favorite part of Kansas, the Flint Hills.

WOW: During your trips were you keeping a record...either a journal or letters or photographs? Your descriptions were so vivid I thought you surely must have recorded your trips with a camera. Do you keep a daily or regular journal?

TRACY: I kept a daily journal, and was very conscious of wanting to pay close attention: to mentally record details, people, and conversations along the way. I also took a lot of snapshots--not great photos, but great recorders of detail. They helped me remember, once I started writing. On my first trip, I also had a tape recorder. I was doing so much driving, I wanted a way to record things without having to wait to write them down.

I don't keep a daily journal--though I know a lot of writers who swear by them. I've tried many times to start a daily journal, but always feel self-conscious and confused about my audience. Who is it really for? Maybe I'm just not disciplined enough. Who knows? I do carry a journal around--and whenever something really interesting crosses my path or my thoughts, I jot them down. I write stuff on my hand, on scraps of paper, on the flyleaves of books...probably not the best approach.

WOW: I'm so happy to meet another writer who can't get the journal thing going and is surrounded by invaluable scraps of paper. I once wrote a plotline on a church bulletin--before church started, of course! But let's get back to the one time you did manage to take daily what point did you see the outlines of a memoir in a trip journal?

TRACY: When I went back to Kansas it was with the intention of writing about it. I wasn't sure what sort of thing it would be, or how long. But then, once I stood in front of childhood houses or schools, and walked down sidewalks I knew my parents had walked on, the idea of connecting childhood memories with the memories of my trip started to take shape.

But it wasn't until I'd written about 200 pages and thrown them away, then tried out various chapters and written some anecdotes that I began to see the shape of the whole thing as the memoir it became. Like most writers, I discover what I'm doing by doing it. I finally settled on the structure of the book on about the fifth complete draft.

WOW: How did you select the memories that would create a flowing story?

TRACY: I chose the childhood memories that wouldn't leave me alone: powerful moments that followed me everywhere. In this way, I think the memories choose us. One was the day we moved from the town where I was in the middle of my kindergarten year. It broke my heart and has a lot to do with how I feel about moving even now. Another was the day I got lost walking home from my new kindergarten. Another was the day my father left when I was twelve. These are all fundamental memories that I knew had something important to offer.

So one of my tasks in writing the book was to do some hard thinking about why these memories stuck with me. What did they tell me about my own emotional life and sense of self- understanding? How could I tell them so that they communicated their emotional power and also gave me a chance as the adult writer to reflect meaningfully on them?

As I worked on My Ruby Slippers, the themes of loss and displacement became pretty clear, even in the stories I chose to write that aren't about me. In the chapter "Sacred Bundles, Secret Maps," I tell the story of a Pawnee girl named Sadie whose parents are killed in the late 19th-century. Her story is also about loss and survival and the importance of family stories--so it felt very familiar to me, and it fit the story I was trying to tell.

WOW: Was it difficult to leave memories out?

TRACY: Once I came to terms with the childhood memories I chose to include, it was easier to make choices about what parts of my Kansas trip would fit the book, and what I'd save for something else. A lot of my travel experiences ended up in a drawer.

Leaving things out just comes with the territory. Memoir writing is an art just as novel or poetry writing is--and the aim is to create a coherent work in which all parts serve a common purpose. So in writing memoir, we have to ask ourselves at every turn, "What is this book really about?" It's not about everything that's happened to us, but is a literary account of some aspect or slice of our life. We leave out far more than we include, but the choice of what gets left out should be about the integrity of the story--not about avoiding difficult subjects.

WOW: It seems every week we read about a different genre that is "dying." Earlier this month, YA was "dying," not long ago experts announced that memoir was "dying." So tell us, do you think memoir is on life-support?

TRACY: Declarations about a genre "dying" are usually about the publishing industry: Will Genre X continue to sell? Once a particular genre seems to have saturated the market, it's often declared dead. Like "vampire fiction is dead." As we know, vampires don't die--and I predict we'll see a new generation before long.

I'd like to think there's always going to be an audience for well-told stories. Some of those happen to be first-person accounts of real experience. We like reading human stories because we're human; and I especially enjoy a human story that's well-written and perceptive, that lets me in to the heart and wisdom and artistry of another person.

Whether the industry will continue to sell memoirs is another question, and this is also part of the problem. Publishing puts a premium on memoirs that are sensational or scandalous in some way, and really cashes in on celebrity memoirs--and I think that's unfortunate, because it saturates the market with books that aren't always artful, and sometimes aren't even true. That's not to say there aren't wonderful memoirs that sell well. But there are also memoirs that don't do the genre justice, and this creates a criticial backlash against all memoir.

Whether it survives as a genre is hard to predict, which is why I'm always skeptical about these death predictions. I'm finding a lot of memoir lovers out there, as well as thoughtful readers who will read good writing of any kind, including memoirs.

WOW: What can we expect from you next?

TRACY: At the moment I'm on a ten-week summer book tour along with my husband, who's a filmmaker. So I'm doing readings and he's showing his new film all over the western US. We're having a blast. So first up, I'm writing about our journey on my blog.

But I'm also starting to cook up a new book which won't be a memoir, but another kind of literary nonfiction. Because it's all new and just beginning to simmer, I don't talk about it. I don't want to talk it away. So stay tuned.

WOW: I'm hungry already and can't wait for a taste of the next creation in your writing kitchen!

-------- Blog Tour Dates

June 27, Monday at Writing Come Hell or High Water
Stop by for a review of Tracy Seeley's memoir My Ruby Slippers. Don't forget to return on Wednesday for a special guest post by Tracy.

June 28, Tuesday at Beyond Breast Cancer
Stop by to learn more about Tracy Seeley and how her battle with breast cancer influenced her to write her memoir My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas.

June 29, Wednesday at Writing Come Hell of High Water
Discover yourself through writing with the help of Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers, a memoir about her journey through Kansas searching for family and memories in the 13 houses she called home during her childhood.

July 1, Friday at Readaholic
Tracy Seeley weighs in with why the world needs indie bookstores. Come share your favorite bookstore experience and win Seeley's memoir My Ruby Slippers.

July 13, Wednesday at Donna's Book Pub
Tracy Seeley offers readers a peek behind the scenes of publishing to learn how My Ruby Slippers went from idea to book. You'll also have a chance to win a copy of her memoir about the search for family.

July 20, Wednesday at A Slice of Writing Life
Tracy Seeley questions why it is we feel drawn to old our homesteads. She's also giving away a copy of My Ruby Slippers, a memoir about her return to her childhood homes in Kansas.

July 21, Thursday at The Cottage Bookshelf
The cottage bookshelf welcomes their first author for an interview today! Don't miss Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers and a big fan of being first!

July 22, Friday at Memory Writers Network
Have questions about memoir writing? Stop by Memory Writers Network when Jerry Waxler is asking Tracy Seeley for her tips about memoir writing.

July 27, Wednesday at Women's Memoirs
Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas, shares the road to publication in her interview about writing memoir. Return on Friday to learn about marketing your memoir.

July 28, Thursday at Steph the Bookworm
Take a vacation to Kansas today with a review of My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas by Tracy Seeley.

July 29, Friday at Women's Memoirs
Women's Memoir is giving you some tips on marketing your memoir with the help of Tracy Seeley, author of My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas.

To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar here.

Get involved!

If you have a blog or website and would like to host Tracy or one of our other touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email Jodi and Robyn at

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Tracy Seeley's memoir My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas!

Here's How to Enter:
1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Leave a comment or ask Tracy a question to be entered in the random drawing.
2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #RubySlippers, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, June 30 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, July 1, and if we have the winner's email address from the comments section, we will also notify the winner via email. Good Luck!

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The Best of...Everything

Sunday, June 26, 2011
A few months ago, my mother sent me a "best of" book, which lists the top 100 mysteries. Well, the top 100 mysteries as determined by a British critic. Uh, the top 100 mysteries by a British critic and crime writer that is only current until the year the book was published (1987). It is Crime & Mystery: The 100 Best Books by H.R.F. Keating. A prolific crime writer, Keating died of heart failure in March.
While Keating's selections seem static, like a phone book or a social media handbook, which are generally out of date by the time of binding, it is a completely useful and I'm glad I have it.
This selection of the best has helped steer me towards some writers I had overlooked--for example, Ngaio Marsh, the author of Surfeit of Lampreys or, even better, suggested books by authors I've read and broadening my reading of these writers--such as suggesting The Franchise Affair, as well as Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.
Dipping into this collection, I can slow down and focus on what one expert appreciates about books that influenced him as a crime writer, what criticisms he has of particular works of crime and mystery books.
While it may seem dated, I often find that there is so much information available that it pays to take a look at a list of award winners, dip into the recommendations of an expert, or focus on the reviews from people who make it their business to know what is a great book--worthy of inclusion alongside the masterful Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, or Agatha Christie--and why.
So this summer, while I'm also enjoying Jo Nesbo's The Snowman, I'll take a look and find out if there are any surprises in this "best of" that might warrant a reading to help me with my craft or simply help me enjoy a good book that I might have missed, had it not been pointed out by a "dated" book of bests.

Are there book lists or award lists that you use to help you decide what to read? Of so, what are they? If not, do you take recommendations from friends? Family? Book sellers?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina and itching for a vacation (and
not itching from mosquito bites).
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Tap Into Your Family: Parenting Publications

Saturday, June 25, 2011
Recently, I taught a telecourse for the Children's Writers' Coaching Club on writing for parenting and family publications. One comment that was made during the course was from a children's writer. She said, "I never thought about writing for parenting magazines as a children's writer, but now I see how it makes perfect sense." 

Exactly. There are two things we can learn from her comment as freelancers. 1. We often get stuck in one genre or with one age group, and we don't think about how we can expand our career. 2. If you are a children's writer, there are a lot of magazines that seem to be folding up; but parenting, family, and teaching magazines are a natural audience, too. This is especially true if you are a children's book author. Who buys these books for children? Parents, teachers, and librarians--the same audience you are writing to in these magazines. 

No matter what kind of writer you are, parenting and family magazines are a big market. Go to, and click on this category to check out the most well-known and national magazines. But besides these, almost every region has a parenting magazine like Indy's Child or Georgia Family . Here's another website to check out: Parenting Publications of America. You don't want to subscribe to the organization necessarily, but look around the site to see different names of parenting publications. Once you find some you are interested in writing for, do a Google search and find their websites to find writers' guidelines and past articles. 

Once you have your market, what do you write about? Look at your own family--you could write a how-to article about a recent problem you and your toddler solved. How about a travel article on a cheap but fun vacation in a magazine's region? Does the publication take book reviews? Do you like to read new parenting books? Then this may be the niche for you. Study your potential market carefully, and then make a list of the types of articles included in the magazine as well as topics. Use these as a starting point for brainstorming ideas. 

You have an idea, you have a market, so write that query. Make parenting publications a part of your resume, starting today!

Post by Margo L. Dill; 

Margo will be teaching FREELANCE WRITING: Querying and Writing Non-fiction Articles through WOW!'s online classroom, starting on August 19. For more information about the class and to sign up, please visit the classroom here. 
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Friday Speak Out!: Who's Running Your Show?, Guest Post by Sandy Grason

Friday, June 24, 2011
Who's Running Your Show?

by Sandy Grason

You may have heard me say “your Inner Wisdom whispers and your Inner Critic yells”. What I mean by this is when I first heard the whisper of my Inner Wisdom it said “write a book”, but immediately my Inner Critic piped in and said;

“You can't do that, who do you think you are? Who wants to read your book? What are you going to write about? Who really cares what you want to write about? Everybody wants to write a book, what makes you so special?”

That's just a tiny, tiny snippet of what my Inner Critic was yelling in my ear. I often joke that my Inner Critic is very mean, she says things like “You suck!”

I wish I could tell you that I've conquered my Inner Critic, stomped her out, smashed her with my powerful-Rock Star-Hot Mogul-ness. I hate to report that she is alive and well and she usually is loudest when I'm standing in the wings getting ready to head on stage, the person introducing me is reading my fabulous bio, listing all the wonderful things I've accomplished, blah, blah, blah.... all I hear is “If they could have seen you having a meltdown in the parking lot with your kids last week, oh they would be REALLY impressed...”

I'm not sure you ever really get rid of your Inner Critic, but I have found ways to turn up the volume of my Inner Wisdom and to live my life from the guidance of my Inner Wisdom rather than from the fear of my Inner Critic. I can also happily report that I no longer allow my Inner Critic to stop me from pursuing things I really want to do.

Yes, she still says things like “What will other people think? You don't know what you are doing, what if you make a fool of yourself?” And my personal favorite “You're doing it wrong.” Fortunately, even if I might be “doing it wrong” I'm committed to do it wrong with style and in the biggest way possible. :-D

Here my tips to turn up the volume on your Inner Wisdom and start living your most magnificent life:

1. Be Willing to Suck. As I mentioned, my Inner Critic likes to tell me that I'm doing “it” wrong. It doesn't matter what it is, there's that critical voice, always chiming in, judging everything, looking for the problem or the reasons why I'll never be able to succeed. I got a note from a reader recently telling me the story of her sister who finally, finally finished her screenplay. When she asked her sister how she managed to accomplish this her sister replied “I was willing to suck at it!” That's the game your Inner Critic plays, judging you harshly until you just give up rather than doing something that is less than perfect. So go ahead! Be willing to Suck! It will change your life!

2. Shut Your Mouth. And your phone, your television, your radio off for a little while. Be quiet for at least 10 minutes every day. You don't have to DO anything during this time. Reconnect with yourself. It's hard to hear your Inner Wisdom when you've got lots of other voices competing for air time in your head. Shut everything off and just sit quietly. Or listen to some favorite music. Go outside and put your feet in the sand or the grass (or the snow?). Stare at the sky, move clouds with your mind, rock in a rocking chair, swing on a swing. Do this everyday for 10 minutes. Watch the magic unfold.

3. Follow Your Fun. I'm a firm believer that our Inner Wisdom sends us messages in the form of FUN. If you are having fun you are connected to your Inner Wisdom. When you are excited and passionate about a project, there is an energy you are tapping into that is connected to all of life. You are more connected to others and to your own “flow”. I know there are always tasks and projects that are waiting on you and they might not seem like much fun, but make sure you are building in a bit of the Fun Factor into every single day. Your Inner Wisdom can be silly as well as wise- go find some FUN today!

* * *
Sandy Grason is a Rock Star Author, Int’l Speaker, Radio Talk Show Host & Hot Mogul. Get on the Guest List for Sandy’s next Virtual Cocktail Party®, or book a private one-on-one lifestyle design strategy session today at>
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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30 Blog Topics For Writers

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Owning a blog seems to have become a 'must-have' for writers these days. It keeps us in contact with our readers, gives us a platform to display some of our great work and it's free marketing tool. But when you choose to blog every day, you can run out of things to talk about. I know it's happened to me on occasion.

My blog, The Gift, used to target a specific audience: special needs children and their families. I loved it but I realized I was running the same topics over and over and I missed chatting about the other passions in my life. In the last few months, I've given my blog a more general feel to it. I still talk about living in a special needs family as that's where my heart is but I also have days devoted to writing, music, gardening, cooking and other interests. And you know what? My followers have doubled, my daily hits have skyrocketed and I've even been approached for some pretty cool writing gigs!

I thought what I'd do for today's post is share a few ideas you can try when your blogging topic well runs a bit dry. Here's a short list of 30 you can try out:

1) Do a book review. And don't do what everyone else is doing. Choose a book that's controversial, edgy or just different.
2) Interview an author.
3) Interview a magazine or ezine editor about what's hot, what's not, the Do's and Don't's for their publication and what they're looking for right now.
4) Highlight a new writing opportunity.
5) Do a giveaway.
6) Get another writer, author, editor or publisher to do a guest post.
7) Review a writing resource.
8) Do a 'Top ____' list. Choose a subject such as best/worst books, best writing tools, etc.
9) Do an interview with a character from either one of your works or someone else's.
10) Post a picture and have followers write short story about it.
11) Do a weekly writing prompt.
12) Start a story and invite followers to keep the story going by adding their own scene.
13) Interview a child about his or her favorite books and why they love them. (Kids are a GREAT resource for writing ideas!)
14) Flip through a book, read the sixth sentence and write something based on that sentence. You can choose whichever numbered sentence you fancy! I just chose sixth.)
15) Share a short story, article or chapter from your latest work.
16) Participate in Six Sentence Sunday.
17) Write a post about your favorite song and why it means so much to you.
18) Put another author's blog in the spotlight.
19) Discuss a media tool (eg: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) or give some tips on how to use it most effectively.
20) Have a 'Writers' Treasure Hunt' where readers have to go to fellow writer's blogs for clues to win a prize.
21) Participate in, or organize, a writer/author blog hop with a specific theme.
22) Share a special childhood memory.
23) Talk about an issue that needs to be in the spotlight.
24) Highlight one of your other favorite creative distractions.
25) Have another writer join you for a post where your readers come up with three (or more) prompt words you have to create a story with.
26) Discuss a specific genre.
27) Talk about how you broke into a specific market and share a few tips.
28) Interview a publisher and get some tips for submitting to them.
29) Open the discussion about what a certain celebrity is doing.
30) Give a list of writing opportunities or writing contests.

These are just a few I came up with off the top of my head. What would you add to this list? We'd love to hear how you keep the subjects coming on your blog.

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Judy Beaston, Third Place Winner, Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Congratulations to Judy Beaston for placing third in WOW!’s Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest! If you haven’t had a chance to read Judy’s prize-winning story, Chance Encounters, head on over to the winner’s page then hurry back to enjoy an interview with Judy.

Judy Beaston lives in Beaverton, Oregon, drawing inspiration from the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Retired, as much as any parent can be, she now spends her days penning tales short and long. Chance Encounters is her first flash fiction publication, though WritersType recently published her short story, Jason’s Triumph.

Judy hones her flash fiction skills in an online workshop at Writers Village University. In addition to short fiction works, she has a YA novel in process and enjoys spending hours on poetic compositions. When not lost in the words of her stories and poems, Judy enjoys the creative connections found playing tenor saxophone. Two grandchildren help round out her enjoyment of life.

You can visit Judy at her blog, Judy’s NW Notes, or enjoy some of her poetry at Judy Beaston’s Writing Life

WOW: Hi Judy, congratulations! Flash fiction is a new form for you; what are your thoughts on winning third-place in our Winter 2011 contest?

Judy: First words out of my mouth: “WOW!” I put a lot of hours into editing and revising this story. I’m delighted by the strong response Chance Encounters generated, and inspired to continue sending my writing into the world.

WOW: The time and care you put into the entry was apparent and really paid off; well done! Will you share with us the inspiration behind Chance Encounters

Judy: I was not consciously aware of a specific inspirational spark for this story, though it did take form the day before Valentine’s Day, a day given over to special relationships. Over the years, I have grieved the loss of several close relationships. Where those relationships were intensely intimate, the grief at times manifested with an intensity that baffled logic. So, I think you could say that grief and love inspired the unfolding of this story.

WOW: I enjoyed your description of Amy’s physical sensation while being in the presence of Connor’s apparition as an “embracing stillness.” How did you come to choose that particular sensation?

Judy: In my own life, I have experienced many moments when I just knew something enveloped me, or walked with me. The sensation varies though the sense of being embraced, held, connected beyond and within is always present during those moments. I wanted to convey this energy to my readers without telling them precisely what to experience. I wanted my readers to draw from their own grief experiences and with the power of emotional energy to project those emotions on current circumstances. I believe what we most want projects upon our present reality.

WOW: Very effective, it alludes to a universally recognizable experience. Tell us how you came to the decision to follow your writing muse, was it only after retiring?

Judy: I think there comes a time when the muse says, “enough is enough – no more silence!” The year 2009 was that year for me and the event was National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). The actual path went something like this:

Prior to the birth of my children, I explored creative writing through classes and workshops. When family arrived, I wrote about my children, the challenges of family relationships and even wrote special letters to my children – my photo albums in words. I suppose if blogs had existed several years ago, the way they do now, I would have been blogging my life daily instead of keeping all those experiences hidden in notebooks and computer files.

In 1999, I found a link to a free fiction writing class and my muse insisted, “Do it!” My fiction writing remained sporadic and hidden (just for me) for a few more years. Through Writers Village University classes, I discovered that poetry could be more interesting than school ever taught me and that became my entire focus. Then in 2009, I read about Nanowrimo and dove in. The experience gave my muse what she needed to make writing my number one priority.

WOW: I noticed on your website that you enjoy writing different forms of poetry, how does your poetry feed your fiction?

Judy: Composing poetry taught me the importance of active voice, active verbs and showing over telling. I learned to consider the necessity, benefit and layered meaning of every word and phrase. My poetry is not about flowery language but aims to bring the reader into a fresh view of life or self. In my fiction, all of these factors play a role, especially when I am editing and revising.

WOW: This practice of mindfulness regarding the use of words really lends itself to flash fiction in particular where you seem to be on a winning streak. You won first place in March at WritersType with Jason’s Triumph and now third place at WOW! with Chance Encounters. What do you feel are the benefits of entering contests?

Judy: In these competitions, I know my story is read and not just shuffled to the side. I believe I will get a fair shot at being evaluated for the quality of my writing and not ignored because I don’t have a lengthy publishing resume. In addition, for both of these contests, the deadline intensified my editing focus.

WOW: I heard you were working on a YA novel, would you like to tell us about it?

Judy: The story takes place during Cassie’s senior year at Montrose High School. Though she transferred to the school her junior year, she earned the role of co-editor for the school’s newspaper and yearbook publications, much to the chagrin of Michael, who assumed he would be in charge. As end of year approaches, mysterious images and bogus stories sabotage Cassie’s efforts to help the school win the statewide publications’ awards. The culprit remains elusive but Cassie comes under fire. Can she stop the sabotage and prove her innocence, or will she be forced to accept failure? And what about Michael? If she quits, he wins the scholarship she desperately needs in order to attend college.

WOW: Ooh, perseverance and morals wrapped up in a whodunit! Keep us posted, we have a lot of YA enthusiasts here who will be looking forward to reading that one.

Interview by Robyn Chausse
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Create Your Own Opportunities: Thinking Outside the Box

Monday, June 20, 2011
Use What You Know to Land a Column and Generate Extra Income

While I was leading a workshop called “See My Byline: Writing for Newspapers and Websites” for a St. Louis writing group, a workshop attendee came up with the perfect example of thinking outside the box and creating her own opportunity in a specialized newspaper. It was almost as if I'd planted her in the audience.

This hockey mom, Linda, who is also an early childhood teacher and writer, sat through her son’s hockey practices a few times each week at the local ice skating rink. She often flipped through a free hockey newspaper at the rink, and then one day got a brilliant idea. She noticed that many of the other hockey parents were also bringing young children to the rink and might like tips on parenting or how to entertain these preschoolers. So, Linda contacted the editor of the hockey newspaper, pitched a monthly column on tips for parents with preschoolers, explained how many parents she had seen at her local rink pick up the newspaper. . .and guess what? She got the column and is paid for it!

I interviewed another writer, Sara, who is a stay-at-home mom of two and is also a coupon queen. She’s one of these people who buys $400 worth of groceries for $5 due to coupons and rebates. She decided to pitch a money-saving column to her local newspaper. She told the editor that she could write one column a week, pictured it in the Wednesday Food section, and would be able to include several money-saving tips and local deals each week. She explained to the editor that when people bought the Wednesday paper and followed her tips, they would make back the money they spent on the paper and more with their savings. Guess what? She has that weekly column now.

Neither one of these ladies waited for an opportunity to come to them. They didn’t see these openings on craigslist or on job boards. They had an idea, and they ran with it.  You can, too.

Be creative with what you know. Linda knew hockey, parenting, and early childhood. Sara knew coupons and newspaper readers. They both took ideas for their columns from their daily lives. Look around you. What are you doing that other people could benefit from? Who would want to read these tips or musings you could provide? What publications are you currently reading that you could contribute to? Ask yourself these questions, and write down the answers! It’s not enough just to think about them in the shower or while driving to work. This is the time for action. Make your ideas concrete by writing them down (or typing them—that will do, too). 

Take fifteen minutes every day for an entire week (or maybe even two weeks) while you’re waiting in the kitchen for dinner to finish cooking or after the kids have gone to bed, and write down some ideas for a regular column, blog posts, or series of articles. You might have to explore your ideas further once you make your list, or even investigate the places you frequent to see if there are any publications you’ve been missing. But that’s okay—you know, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be observant of your surroundings, and what’s being offered in your community. Take notes, brainstorm, and give yourself time to think if nothing pops into your mind immediately.

Thinking outside the box can be scary—I agree. Someone might not like your idea and reject it. Someone might read your column and disagree with you. Do you think Linda or Sara were worried about these concerns? Nope, and that's why they're columnists. 


Margo L. Dill is an instructor for WOW! Women On Writing as well as a writing workshop leader  for both adults and children. You can find out more about her at her blog,
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How to Manage Freelance Writing Projects

Saturday, June 18, 2011
by Nicky LaMarco

Many freelance writers lack organization and this can cause lost income, which no one wants. Learning how to manage your freelance writing projects is vital to your business since you are working on several different writing projects at a time.

Use a Template

Start with inbound client paperwork. Keep it on your desk at all times. When a client calls or emails you with a new project you will be able to ask all of the right questions and get it all on paper. Templates save you time and energy. You can create them for invoices, project outlines, e-mails, interviews, articles, and just about anything. To get an idea of what freelancers use them for, check out these helpful templates for research on WOW! You can get some other helpful templates on Jennifer Mattern's blog, All Freelance Writing.

Coordinate Calendars

You should have a desk calendar, a home calendar, and a daily planner. Keep them updated on a daily basis. Write deadlines and appointments on your desk calendar. If you need to go to a business meeting write that on all of your calendars. Use your daily planner to write out the tasks you will need to complete every day in order to meet your deadlines and make the money you need to every day. Before the start of your work week pull all three calendars together to ensure you have everything written on each one. And if you don't want to lug around printed calendars, you can always create calendars online with Google or get an app for your smartphone.

Use a Schedule

Create your own schedule and stick to it. If you plan to work from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, then do it. Work when you are scheduled to work and do not work when you are not scheduled to. This will help you manage your freelance writing projects and avoid overworking.

Determine Your Limit

How much can you write every day? What is your limit? Knowing this will help you manage projects because you can immediately accept or decline new freelance writing projects. For example, if you mainly write articles and you can write 10 articles a day, but no more, you will know that you can accept more if you are currently writing 8 articles a day. Use a little math to determine how many you will need to write each day in order to meet the deadline. If you can write 2 articles a day to meet the deadline you can immediately accept the new project. If you can't you will need to have a later deadline or decline the project. Don't be afraid to say, "I am sorry but I am currently booked until March 1st," for example. Overworking yourself on too many freelance writing projects will cause burnout and may end up in broken contracts and projects that do not get finished. This results in lost money and a client that will probably never contact you again.

Managing your freelance writing projects will help you become more successful.

Image: digitalart /


Nicky LaMarco has been a freelance writer since 2001. She specializes in ghostwriting and copywriting. She enjoys helping new writers find success with her website and blog, Writing Pays, as well as with this class.

Nicky is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop GET PAID TO WRITE: BECOME A FREELANCE WRITER! YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO FREELANCE WRITING BASICS  starts Monday, June 20th. Click here for more information and to sign up!
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Friday Speak Out!: Being a Real Writer!, Guest Post by Rochelle Melander

Friday, June 17, 2011
Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.
--Norman Mailer

I live in a college neighborhood. On any given night, I can hear the voices of partying college students until into the wee hours of morning. Most days, the neighbors blast their music at a decibel beyond my comfort level. As I write this tip, I have both kids home with me. One is in the back room, just a few feet from my office, watching television while she gets her early morning bolus of Pediasure. My son bops in and out of my office with questions about the day, the week, the universe and rock music. I have five of these tips to write before we leave for vacation. I hope to get at least two done today, despite the noise. No problem. Really.

It used to be that a little noise felled me. Poor sleep and constant interruptions gave me good excuses not to write. Almost any distraction could give me a fresh case of writer's block. No more. This summer, I decided to take a no excuses approach to writing. I write at least twenty minutes a day, five days a week. Whether I write writing tips, scenes for my new novel, or a poem--I write daily. No matter what. This commitment to no-excuses writing has cured writer's block for me. (No kidding!)

Writers write. You do not need the perfect office space, a huge stretch of time, or complete silence. All you need is twenty minutes and the desire to put words to paper no matter what. No excuse is good enough to keep you from writing what is inside you. My challenge to you this week, dear readers: accept no excuses from yourself. Write every day no matter what. Make writing something you do without bother or brouhaha, like brushing your teeth or having breakfast. Once you can manage that, you'll be the "real writer" Mailer talks about.

* * *
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander supports people in writing to transform their lives and businesses. If you're ready to establish credibility, make more money, and market your work by writing a book, blog, or Web site, get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at
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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Why Writers Need Lists

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Writers....they're free spirits that blow where the winds of creativity take them. Right?


You can be as free a spirit as you like when you're writing. [Didn't the Muffin just run a post about outlining a novel vs. writing by the seat of your pants?]But for most of us being a writer involves another job. Selling.

Sadly, free spirits aren't that great at selling. People with lists sell. I write. But I also sell my writing. I have many lists:

  1. The Daily To-Do List
  2. The Weekly To-Do List
  3. The Things-That-Are-Coming-Up List
  4. People to Interview for a Local Blog I Write
  5. Children's Agents to Contact for a Picture Book I Wrote
  6. New Markets I Want to Query
  7. Old Markets I Want to Query
  8. Ideas for Articles
  9. Ideas for Fiction
  10. Invoices I Need to Send
  11. Jobs I Haven't Been Paid for Yet
  12. Ideas for My Blog
All my lists are contained in a huge three ring binder. They're also online but I like to have them somewhere I can carry with bed, to the playground, on vacation. I think of it as "guilt to go". A small plastic boss that keeps saying, everytime I look at it, "What did you do today? Have you forgotten anything?" He's an annoying boss but effective.

I recommend lists for many reasons but mainly because it's too easy to forget things and MUCH easier to prioritize when you see everything written down(or listed on your computer). That and the satisfaction of crossing something off the list! Oh, the joy! Of course, you're always adding something new to the list but when you look at the lists at the end of the day and see the lines through some items it reminds you that in between running the kids to play dates, making supper, and answering emails you actually accomplished something.

Excuse me while I go cross "Muffin post for June 16" off my list.

Jodi Webb has a multitude of lists to help her accomplish her many jobs: organizing WOW Blog Tours, writing Schuylkill Matters and Words by Webb blogs, writing magazine articles, teaching writing workshops, writing books(sadly unpublished so far), and more. If you're interested in a WOW Blog Tour contact her at and she'll put you on the list!
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Fueling the Block

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I believe I am regularly visited by the dreaded writer's block. But, for me, it rarely looks like what a block might. Do I have writer's block because it can be a part of the natural creative process--a nonlinear path to creativity? Yes, I believe so. But I think I try to handle writer's block creatively.
For me, I often question if I have a block or if it is writer's block masquerading as procrastination (or sheer laziness has crossed my mind)? Sure, I could get up and write each morning before my children are up...but maybe I'll just read more of this book into the wee hours and sleep through that productive morning quiet. Or I'll eat up my creative writing time bu making a list...or two. Over the years, I have convinced myself that my writer's block is essentially productive. After all, on a regular basis, utilizing the "writing" techniques that I've mastered, I've straightened my desk, organized and re-organized my files, and run all sorts of virtual clean ups on my computer. My favorite technique at putting off a writing project is looking for the one book I can't live without at that moment. If I didn't seem so desperate, I think my husband would find a comfortable corner and just watch me run about, looking for where I may have squirreled this "essential" book of the moment.
But it serves my purpose, most of the time. Instead of staring at a blank piece of paper, my mind is whirring, trying to help me figure out a way to approach the subject I want to write about.
While my writer's block is real, it fortunately looks more like I'm being productive and not blocked.
How about you? Do you have writer's block and what do you do about it?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor in North Carolina. She is the Wilmington-area representative for the NC Writers' Network.
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D. L. Diener, Second Place Winner, Winter 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Congratulations to D. L. Diener for her second place win in the Winter 2011 Flash Fiction contest. If you haven't had a chance to check out D. L. 's winning story, "The Unexpected Burden of Hope," you can read it now.

D.L. lives in northern Indiana with her husband and three children. She feels called and equipped to do a few things well: to be a partner to her husband, to be a mother to her children, to be a friend, and to be a writer. She got her writing legs wet by participating in the weekly challenge over at Then she eventually took a plunge into a bigger pond and entered a short story into the Writer’s Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition. Not only did her story receive an honorable mention in the Genre Short Story category, but it also placed 3rd in the Inspirational category. Lynn is completing edits on a novel and hopes to have it submission-ready soon. When she’s not beating an editing path through the jungle known as her novel, she’s blogging at her website: You can also follow her on Twitter:!/dldiener and Facebook:

WOW: Welcome, D. L. What a beautiful and touching story! Congratulations on your win. Where did you get the idea for your story?
D.L.: Thank you. I’m honored to be counted in this winning lot.  I’m a little embarrassed to confess my penchant for Internet searches here; but the truth is, that’s what I used as my inspiration. I don’t like digging up old stories (it’s too easy to see faults instead of potential), and I wanted something fresh. But with the open prompt, I had no idea which way to go, so I decided to let some photography guide me. I did an image search, and there were two images that collided in my mind. One photo was of a canoe leaning against a tree, and the other was one of a woman staring out a screen door with her hand resting on a baby-rounded belly. I wondered what happened. Why is she alone? Why does she look so sad? What does the canoe have to do with it? And my story was born.
WOW: That is so cool--what a great idea to use photos for a story idea. What are some challenges that writing flash fiction presents? How did you overcome these to create an award winner?

D.L.: I think the key to flash fiction is to pare the story down to the right moment. The moment is different for every story; but for me, it’s often the part of the story where things are about to change. I love it when a story feels so much bigger than what you’ve just read. My dream for any flash fiction I write is for it to be a story boiled down to its best elements, like a painting capturing the essential moment in one time and place.

Where I struggle in flash fiction is having too many details, funny lines, or clever scenarios, and they don’t move the story along. So now I keep a spare document to hold my deleted treasures, where I can revisit them. That way, it’s more like not getting picked for the story team instead of certain death for my words.

WOW: I know a lot of writers who keep separate files on their computers for their brilliant deleted scenes! You have had some success with contests. Why do you think entering contests is a good idea?

D.L.: Contests are a great way to let you know, sometimes bluntly, how well you’re writing or how far you’ve missed the mark. The judge doesn’t know if it’s your first entry or your hundredth. It levels the playing field and lets you know where your writing stands.

If your piece does well, it’s an affirmation of your writing skills. It validates your own claim that you write well. And if your piece doesn’t do well, you gain that valuable outsider’s perspective from which you can revise and rework your writing until it is accolade-worthy.

WOW: You are also currently working on a novel. Can you share with us a little about it? What genre? What's the premise?

D.L.: I’d love to share about my novel. It’s the story of young woman in 1968, who is forced to surrender her baby for adoption. She’s not able to go home and pretend nothing’s happened, so she sets off on a journey that will help her rediscover who she is, what love is, who God is, and she hopes it might reunite her with her daughter.

The novel is women’s fiction, but it’s also based on the tragic phenomenon that occurred in the post World War II/pre-Roe V. Wade years, deemed the Baby Scoop Era. It’s a sad piece of our history in the United States, of which most are still largely unaware.
WOW: I am unaware of the Baby Scoop Eara, and now you have really caught my interest. I can't wait for that book to be on the shelf. Besides creative writing, it looks like you are involved in blogging and social networking. Why do you think having a web presence is important?

D.L.: I think as social networks grow, and I don’t strictly mean the social network but networking socially on the Internet, it will become not just a plus for writers, but it will be a critical part of how they connect with their readers, other writers, agents, and publishers. It allows writers to mix with people they wouldn’t have the chance to socialize with in person. It’s just a new way of doing something people have always done, in much bigger circles. And it’s great for us shy types who aren’t so good with socializing in person.

A web presence is important because the first thing most folks do when they want to learn about a writer is to do an Internet search. So if you’re a writer, and you’re serious about the business of writing, you need to make some connections on the web. You don’t need to be all things to all people on the web because it can be overwhelming, but have something out there for people to find when they want to know more about the author behind that great short story. Ernest Hemmingway would have a tough time getting started now, unless his cabin in the woods had an Internet connection.

WOW: (laughs) So true! According to your bio, you are one busy lady! How do you balance your family, your friends, and your writing career?

D.L.: Well, you know that social network thing? It’s not just good for writing. As a mom to three little ones, I’m grateful I can catch up with my friends in a few clicks and get back to my real life. I have a monthly playdate with a group of friends, which is as much for the grown-ups as it is for the kids. My best friend and I have been calling each other once a week for the last fifteen years. And it’s taken me twenty minutes to write this paragraph due to the little people crawling in and out of my arms. I try hard not to invoke the “not now, Mommy’s working” line unless I’m desperate and have a hard deadline.
I am a strong believer in flexibility and in trusting that God will string together the pieces that I offer in good faith. I can’t be rigid about any one part of my life. At this stage, there is no telling which aspect of my life will be demanding attention. So I do my best with the moments that are in front of me. It is always imperfect and could always be better, sometimes much, much better. But it is what it is. And I trust that, because I believe in a God who is in the business of making perfect what I’ve screwed up. That eventually, the loose ends will be tied; and in the mean time, grace will hold us all together.

WOW: Well said, and something that really hits home for me being a stay-at-home, writer mom, too. Congratulations once again on your win, and it has been a pleasure to talk with you today!

D.L.: Thank you so much for the interview. I love the chance to get to talk about this side of writing and what a treat that it came as a result of placing in the contest. You can bet I’ll be tossing my pen back in the ring, and I am already pushing other friends to give it a try.
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, 

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Why Plan Your Novel?

Monday, June 13, 2011
All of you pantsers out there have probably asked this question, "Why should I waste time planning my novel?" You may have even stated, "I could never spend all that time on outlining my novel or doing character studies. I just write what comes to me." This is a fine and dandy way to write a novel. Poll 100 successful novelists, and a large majority of them will state they write by the seat of their pants.

But one thing I've discovered lately while teaching the writing the middle grade novel class for WOW! is that doing a little pre-writing really does help your novel. It, at least, makes the turmoil of getting your first draft down on paper a little easier.  Student after student has written to me and said that they enjoyed the weeks of pre-writing, they felt they knew their characters and plot better, and they actually had new ideas for subplots. 

What type of pre-writing did we do? It's nothing groundbreaking. We spent a week discussing our favorite middle grade novels and why they are our favorites. During this week, students wrote a summary of their novels like it would appear on the back of a book jacket. This exercise made writers focus on who and what their story was about. 

Next, we did a character study on the main character and an important minor character. I let students choose what type of character study to do, as I feel some writers need to answer questions to build a character like, "What's her favorite food?" or "What's a happy childhood memory?" Other writers build characters better if they can write about them in paragraphs with prompts such as, "What are your character's hobbies?" or "Who is in your character's family?"

Finally, the middle grade writers in my class made a list of problems or issues a child the same age as their main character could have. We shared these lists with each other, and then students created an external problem, an internal problem, and subplots. Once all these pre-writing activities were completed, writers started chapter one. 

So, why plan a novel? I wasn't convinced that it was a good idea before I started teaching this class. But now, I believe it makes a novel easier to write. I believe we'll have less backtracking later on. I believe we'll know our characters inside and out.
But what do you think? And do you have any methods that work best for you?

Margo L. Dill teaches the online class, "Writing the Middle-Grade Novel" for WOW! Women On Writing, which starts Monday, July 25 and lasts for six weeks. To see the syllabus and sign up, please visit the WOW! classroom page. Margo's first middle-grade novel will be published by White Mane Kids. To find out more, visit Margo's website, 

photo by Pink Sherbert

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My Not-So-Secret Writing Tool for Generating Picture Book Ideas

Sunday, June 12, 2011

by Lynne Garner

A friend recently asked me where I got my ideas. "Everywhere," was my reply.  She looked a little confused so I explained about the three picture books I’ve had published. The first A Book For Bramble evolved from my work with a not-for-profit organization that rescues sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs. I began to wonder what (if any) dreams hedgehogs have whilst they  hibernate. Slowly the story of Bramble the hedgehog and his friend Teasel the mouse evolved.

My second book The Best Jumper grew from a conversation with a friend. We were discussing putting on weight and no longer being able to wear that favourite garment. We agreed at least we had the chance to lose the weight and squeeze back into that garment. Unlike a child who would never be able to squeeze back into their favourite piece of clothing because they’d grown out of it. From that conversation came Spindle and his shrinking jumper.

My last book Dog Did It came from owning a dog. Anyone who lives with a canine friend will know they can sometimes suffer from flatulence. This aromatic problem can sometimes result in a statement along the lines of “the dog did it!”

So my three books have come from:

·         An idle question

·         A conversation

·         A life experience

Now, although I have taught myself to ask questions my secret tool as a writer is my notepad and a pen which I take everywhere with me. In this way, when I see, hear, read or am told something I feel I could use in a story I write it down. Now that small spark of possible inspiration is not lost. So, if you want to be a writer, arm yourself with that secret tool. Pop it into your bag and get into the habit of jotting down all those little things that pass everyone else by.


Whilst you are buying one notepad buy yourself a second and place it beside your bed. So next time you wake up with a dream still fresh in your mind you can quickly jot it down before it retreats and is lost forever.


My family and friends have become so accustomed to seeing me reaching for my not-so-secret tool that each birthday and Christmas I receive the most gorgeous notepads, which will one day be full of notes, ready to become part of a new story.

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US. She has 21 books published; this includes three picture books, with a fourth to follow shortly. Her first title ‘The Best Jumper’ was recorded for the CBeeBies children’s radio channel (part of the BBC) whilst ‘A Book For Bramble’ has been translated into five languages including Korean and Indonesian.

Lynne is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop HOW TO WRITE CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS AND GET PUBLISHED starts Friday, June 24th. Click here for more information and to sign up!
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