Jockey Person to Person for Writers: Wardrobe and Income

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Amy Lamphere, writer and senior team leader for Jockey Person to Person, was worried she didn't have a retirement plan, as she supported her writing career--waiting for her big break. She had been working retail to "support that habit" when she decided to go for something with  more security. This is when she got into "social selling" with a company you've probably heard of before--Jockey. I'll let Amy tell you in her own words about her business, about her writing, and about how you can get super comfy clothes or even a new career to support your writing until it takes off.  

WOW: Hi Amy, I know that you have a business and a writing career, so we'll talk about both today. First, please share with The Muffin readers about your business, Jockey Person to Person. What is it exactly?

Amy: You know the underwear company, right? Person To Person is their leading direct-to-consumer division. We have shaken up the social selling marketplace with a super functional, super fashionable line of clothes that women love to layer on. I am a sales rep and coach for a national team of fabulous women who have found great money and great balance between their Jockey business and their life passion--whether that's family, education, volunteering...or writing!

WOW: So, what are some Jockey styles that you can suggest for writers? Do you have any particular pieces that you LOVE to write in?

Amy: My blog is The Lady in Leggings, so you know what I like to wear! Jockey P2P's active wear is simply the best, perfect for yoga class, then settling down to the computer. I love our Convertible Wrap Cardigan--it can be worn twenty different ways, and the fabric is delicious. And our Modern Pants--fondly known as The Butt Pants (because they make EVERYONE's butt look good)--and Jacket are my writing "uniform": I put them on when I need to get some serious pages done, and the fact that I FEEL great really comes through in how I approach my work.

WOW: Some people think it doesn't matter what they wear when they write. Do you agree with this or do you think the way you look and/or feel makes a difference for your creativity?

Amy: I swing a little old school on this topic. I was brought up with "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" mindset, and that sentiment has served me well. I don't think you have to obsess or overdo; but if you are confident in your appearance, it does reflect in your work, whether it's alone with your laptop or at a conference with potential colleagues, readers, or collaborators.

WOW: Or what if some of our writers are also speakers? Do you provide some good wardrobe choices for speaking and presenting, too?

Amy: Crazy good wardrobing--and that is the KEY word. We work with our clients to build ten-piece wardrobes that mix-and-match into thirty-plus outfits, at an average of $40 per three-piece ensemble. Our Smart Casual stretch suiting is incredibly comfortable, professional, and MACHINE WASHABLE. I love it for travel--our pieces can be rolled into a carry-on, and you arrive virtually wrinkle-free. Confidence in a duffel bag! And, frankly, I am a better writer than I am iron-er!

WOW: Me too! As we all know, writing often doesn't pay all the bills. Is it easy to get started as a Jockey Person to Person consultant? Where would our readers go to find more information about this business opportunity?

Amy: I consider Jockey P2P to be my "pocket business" -- it allows me a very livable income on MY time, which balances my writing, my dance classes (I teach four and five year olds creative movement and adults NIA technique in a local studio), and my family. I would love to coach other writers to create their own business: they can look at our opportunity at, and contact me through my website Our Starter Kit goes for $199, but we have a recruiting incentive in play now where a new consultant can get the kit for $19.95 and be instantly eligible for $2,300 in cash incentives. We ask for a commitment of "precious part-time hours," but the payback, both financially and in the areas of personal and professional growth--well, it has been most satisfying.

WOW: It does sound like a great opportunity for someone who is looking for flexibility and an income and who LOVES clothes. Tell us a little about your writing career and what you are working on.

Amy: Writing has been a constant in my life. I called myself a poet in high school and college, worked as an editor for a trade journal in New York, researched and assisted in the writing of four cookbooks, wrote a weekly restaurant column for a Minneapolis weekly, and contribute dance reviews to several papers. I was a prolific grant writer until I discovered P2P three years ago. Sharing Jockey clothes, and supporting others doing the same, allowed me to earn the income I wanted while helping me use a different side of my brain. I have fun with social selling--something ANYone can do with practice, and I am living proof of that--and then go home with laser-focus on my writing. I have two novels in the works and a memoir sitting with an agent in New York. I love taking my P2P business--and ten-piece wardrobe!--on the road to writing conferences and retreats. I love being able to work, write, and travel on MY schedule. It has made ALL the difference in my daily pages.

WOW: How exciting, and good luck with your memoir! To close, Muffin readers, if you are interested in Jockey Person to Person or discussing anything that we've shared here, please feel free to contact Amy. Here's her info:

Amy: You can find me online at a-lamp(at) and on Facebook as Holmes Campbell (my middle names). I am starting my blog, THE LADY IN LEGGINGS, and tweet as ladyinleggings. My Jockey business website is, and readers can learn about the business and place orders there. I would LOVE to answer any wardrobing or sizing questions anyone might have and can travel for trunk shows or fundraising events. I would love to offer Muffin readers 25 percent off their first order, so they can try these great basics for themselves! 

Doing this business has certainly given me a great cast of characters for my writing. The stories I hear, the places I hear about...well, you can't make this stuff up!

WOW: That is so nice of you to offer 25 percent off, Amy! Good luck to you in your writing career and with your "pocket business." Okay, ladies, let's take advantage of this offer and get ourselves a new wardrobe (or business oppportunity!).

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill

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All Tooled Up: Tools, Tips, and Writerly Solutions

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What The Heck Is It?

This is a picture of my favorite writing tool—noise reduction ear muffs. I don’t use them very often but if the television is on in the other room or the neighbors dogs are barking up a marathon salvation is hanging on the wall behind me right next to the calendar.

Writers are natural explorers. We research, we test, we discover, we innovate…and then we share. Today I’m inviting you to share your favorite, most unusual, or most productive writing tool. Perhaps you outline on a dry erase board or rough draft in charcoal pencil. Maybe you’ve found the perfect place to download business templates or can share with us a fabulous accounting system.

Have you found the perfect pen, a terrific website designer, no-hassle hosting or a cost effective solution to any writerly dilemma? Please—do tell! Inquiring minds want to know.

Robyn Chausse

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Any New Books?: Book Recommendations Delivered to You Weekly

Sunday, August 28, 2011
I have often had the experience of walking into a bookstore, passing by the “new” books display, and thinking, “I didn’t know that came out already!” or “Why didn’t I hear about this book yet?” 

There are dozens of new books published and released each week that never make it onto those display tables, but are amazing books worth reading. 

How can I effortlessly discover when some of these new books are released? 

Now there’s an easy answer to that question: Any New Books?

Any New Books? is a “free notification service that was developed to alert you to new books in categories of your choice. You can currently select from 42 categories that span a broad range of subjects (you’re free to pick however many categories you’d like),” explains

After you choose the categories of your choice, you will receive a weekly e-mail digest with hand-picked new book releases for each category you chose.

I signed up for the fiction/literature, teen, travel, and memoir/autobiography categories and just received my first round of digest e-mails last week.  I love new book suggestions, and having new books from my choice of categories sent directly to me each week makes me feel like…well, it kind of makes me feel like it’s my birthday every week. 

As a writer, I try to keep up with the market in the genres I'm interested in writing.  So not only does this service benefit me as an avid reader, it also makes my job of staying on top of the market a lot easier.

Also what I like about the e-mails are the numerous links.  There’s a link for each book’s Amazon page, and there are also links to share each book directly with facebook and/or Twitter.  With just one or two quick clicks, I can share these new books on my potential to-read list with my friends, family, and colleagues. 

What do you think about this new notification service?  Is this something you’d be interested in using?  Why or why not?  Let us know!
(Thanks to Cheryl Rainfield, YA author, for sharing the info about Any New Books? on Google+.)

By: Anne Greenawalt. Find me on Twitter, Google+, and my website!
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The Basics For Novice Writers: The DON'TS In Article Querying

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Saturday, everyone! I really wanted to do a post for all of you novice writers out there working so hard to get your fabulous articles and stories noticed. It can be a very tough and frustrating road, can't it? I totally understand.

Not too long ago, I was right where you are frantically trying to get just one editor to take notice of my article and story ideas. Each rejection had me beating myself, wondering whether I was kidding myself of 'making it' as a writer. I kept every rejection letter--both paper and email versions. I know it seemed like I was just pouring salt on the wounds but, in the end, it proved to be one of the best things I've done.

You see, many editors will give you a reason your piece or idea was rejected--at least that's what I was lucky enough to have experienced. Alot of times, it isn't because your writing sucked but more because there wasn't room for the piece or they've covered the idea recently or it doesn't fit in to a particular theme they're going with. I always tucked away any tidbits of advice I was given so I could improve my querying skills (because it is a skill!). Another thing their advice gave me was the ability to look at my rejected offer with a magnify glass to see other possible reasons for it being turned down. And that's what we'll talk about today: The DON'Ts in article querying.

We talk about these periodically here on WOW but I felt it was a good time to bring it up again. We often put out all the 'Do's' to follow but you need to understand those Don'ts too. That way you can side-step all the things editors find most annoying and avoid having your idea turfed right into the rejection bin. These are just a few things I've learned (the hard way):

DON'T query about subject matter the publication doesn't cover. No matter how good your idea or your writing is that would be an instant rejection. Follow the publication's Writers' Guidelines to the letter.

DON'T call the editor by his or her first name unless you know him or her personally. It's a business relationship so unless they put that option out there, always address the person as "Miss", "Mrs." or "Mr." so-and-so. And, while we're on the subject, be sure that you address the person by the correct GENDER. There are many unisex names out there (eg: Jamie, Jordan, Jody, etc.) take the time to investigate whether you're addressing your letter to a male or female. Some editors don't have a great sense of humor about that sort of thing.

DON'T go longer than one page. You should be able to get a good hook in, a short description of your idea and your brief qualifications/contact information in one page. If not, you may not be completely certain about your idea.

DON'T send that letter off without checking it over completely. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, punctuation, and sentences that go on and on. And DON'T rely on spell check to catch everything. As you all know, some words can be spelled right but aren't the right word for what you want to say.

DON'T be over-casual in your email pitch. A business letter is the same no matter how it's sent so always be professional.

DON'T indicate you have no experience if you have none. For some places this doesn't matter but for others it does so no need to bring it up in your pitch. If they ask about it later, you can answer honestly but don't give that up from the get-go. You should be confident enough in your idea and your writing to sell it. Yes, there are some places who say they won't accept work from writers with no experience but if you have an excellent idea and present it strongly enough, you could get your chance.

On the other hand, DON'T, go on and on about your experience either. That can be annoying prattling on about every project you've ever done, especially if alot of it has nothing to do with what you're trying to pitch. Keep it down to a bear minimum or summarize your work as best as you can.

DON'T follow up on your pitch too soon. Most places will indicate in their guidelines how long they take to review and get back to you or if they even will get back to you. Some places state clearly that if you don't hear from them within a specific time frame, to assume your idea wasn't accepted. Editors don't have time to respond to every query or give each of us an answer to, "Why?". Just go ahead and pitch to the next editor on your list!

DON'T pitch more than one idea at a time. Give the editor a chance to read and consider one idea before suggesting another. But DON'T keep firing ideas at the same editor. This will only lead to you being blocked and you don't want to create a bad reputation for yourself before you even get your foot in the door! Unless the editor invites you to try again, don't. Or at least wait awhile before trying again.

And above all else, DON'T give up. Just because your idea doesn't work for one editor doesn't mean it won't for another. If I'd given up, I wouldn't be where I am today. Learn what you can from those rejection letters, absorb knowledge from those editors willing to share their pearls with you and thicken up that skin! The world of article writing is tough but there's enough room for all of us. Keep your dream alive!
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Friday Speak Out!: At My Age, I’m Still Wet Behind the Ears, Guest Post by Becky Povich

Friday, August 26, 2011
At My Age, I’m Still Wet Behind the Ears

by Becky Povich

I never realized I was a writer until I was almost 50 years old. Sure, as a young girl I loved to write letters and had pen-pals all over the world. I was also passionate about reading, due in a large part to my paternal grandmother. Nothing thrilled me more than Bookmobile Day at my grade school. Climbing up those vehicle steps and entering a world of adventures was magical. I always exited with an armload of books.

As a young adult, I still enjoyed writing letters to friends and family. While some women swooned over shoes or purses, I’d be in the local Hallmark store, caressing beautiful stationery, trying to decide which box to buy.

Later in life, my jobs were usually in a customer service capacity. I took it upon myself to type newsletters to the sales crew and office staff, which was the brightest point of my week. I never considered any of this as writing, but since my genre is personal essay and memoir, I realize now it was the groundwork for this journey in my life.

I consider I officially became a writer in 2001 when I received a phone call about my estranged father. Hearing he had a grave illness and may not live caused deeply hidden emotions to surface. I once again felt love for him and wasn’t ready to completely let go. It hit me so unexpectedly, I felt compelled to get to my keyboard and the words just flowed. It was incredible. I titled it “Thoughts on Love & Forgiveness” and because of it, I obtained a position with the Opinion Shapers in the St. Peters (Missouri) Journal. A few years later, an edited version of it was accepted and published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, in their Divorce & Recovery anthology. I believe it’s the only story in the book written through the eyes of an adult child affected by a parents’ divorce.

Thanks to the superb encouragement from other writers near and far, my writing has definitely improved over the past ten years. I love my writing groups and the countless websites and blogs geared toward writers, especially Women on Writing and The Muffin! I’ve been fortunate to have other works published and I’m currently writing my memoir. My publisher is a small press in Missouri, High Hill Press. I’m living a dream I never realized I had!

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:
It's never too late to be who you might have been. -- George Eliot

* * *
Becky Povich began her writing career in her late forties. She’s been fortunate to have stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Thin Threads, Patchwork Path, and other anthologies. She is the current president of Saturday Writers in St. Peters Missouri, and also a member of the Missouri Writers Guild. She is the co-author of the Saturday Writers blog: and maintains her personal blog as well: She’s currently writing her memoir and hopes to finish it this year.

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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Writing and Publishing E-Books for Charity

Thursday, August 25, 2011
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake jolted Tohoku, Japan’s northeastern region. The ensuing tsunami caused devastation of unimaginable proportions. In the immediate aftermath, many writers around the world looked for ways to help. Among them, long-time Japan resident Annamarie Sasagawa, came up with the idea for Write for Tohoku, a collection of creative nonfiction on the positive aspects of Japan. Annamarie gathered essays by many accomplished expatriate writers including Leza Lowitz, who was previously interviewed in WOW; Holly Thompson, author of the recent YA title Orchards; and Rebecca Otowa, author of At Home in Japan: A Foreign Woman’s Journey of Discovery. The proceeds from this e-book anthology go straight to the Japan Red Cross to benefit survivors of the disaster.

Interview by Suzanne Kamata


WOW: I think that after the recent disaster, a lot of expatriates found themselves more connected to Japan than they’d first thought. Could you tell me a little about your relationship to Japan, especially Tohoko?

Annamarie Sasagawa: I'm originally from Vancouver, Canada. I came to Japan on a working holiday visa just out of university, looking for adventure. I first lived on the island of Shikoku, then one thing led to another, as it seems to do for so many foreigners here. Long story short, I'm still in Japan eight years later with no plans to leave.

I spent four of the eight years I've lived in Japan working as a tour guide for foreign travelers. Tohoku isn't a major tourism destination in Japan, but I did have a few chances to travel there, both with clients and on my own. While people all over Japan are incredibly hospitable, I found Tohoku people to be the kindest hosts I've ever encountered. So many people in the north have offered my tour clients and I conversation, small presents, cups of tea, samples of local food, and introductions to local sights in their best English. It's hard to describe how honest, warm, and proud of their hometowns people are in Tohoku.

Annamarie Sagawa in Japan
In addition to that Tohoku hospitality, there's so much stunning natural beauty up north. It is such a treasure. I'd go there every weekend if I could afford the bullet train fare.

WOW: I know that in addition to being a tour guide, you’re also a writer. What kind of writing do you usually do?

Annamarie: I'm working as a freelance ghostwriter now, so for work I write newsletters, marketing copy and a lot of brochure copy for the travel industry. Outside of work, I enjoy writing narrative essays and creative non-fiction.

WOW: So tell me, how did this e-book come about? Beyond the disaster itself, what sparked you to create an e-book? How did you solicit submissions?

Annamarie: After the earthquake I, like many, wanted to do something to help survivors. Since I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and nauseous as anything, heading up there to help with rescue efforts wasn't an option. (Heading outside our apartment wasn't an option!) My husband noticed I was kind of a mess, desperate to help out and feeling totally unable to do anything. He knows writing calms me down and suggested the project.

A good friend of mine, Rob Morel, agreed to help spread the word and gather submissions. He used Twitter to spread the word that we were looking for contributors, I made a quick WordPress site [], and we both announced the plan on FaceBook. TimeOut Japan advertised the project as well, and from there things took off. We gathered more than sixty submissions in a week or two.

Several contributors are also editors, and with their help I edited submissions and compiled the book in a Word file. Amsterdam-based book designers Hiyoko Imai and Luis Mendo found out about the project, and offered to design the PDF. They did an amazing job, and we got the book out in early April.

I think the final product is a really beautiful collection of non-fiction writing from a hugely diverse group of writers. Japanese writers, foreigners, writers who live in Japan, and writers overseas sent in stories. We asked people to focus not on the earthquake itself but on their memories and experiences of 'non-disaster' Japan, hoping the book would serve as a tribute of sorts to the kindness and warmth we've all experienced in Japan. In addition to raising money for Red Cross relief efforts, we wanted to remind ourselves and whoever reads the book that Japan can and will recover and rebuild.

WOW: As you know, there were a few other e-book projects to benefit quake and tsunami victims. However, yours seems especially feminine, with a lot of women writers. Would you care to comment about that?

Annamarie: That's not something I thought of while putting the book together, but when it was done and released in PDf I looked at the table of contents and realized how many women had contributed. I really can't say why. I can speculate--maybe word just spread through the networks of women writers first? Maybe our focus on non-disaster Japan appealed to more women writers immediately after the quake? Maybe there are just a lot more women traveling around Japan and writing about it? Maybe more women writers than men tend to write in the creative non-fiction genre? I'm really not sure. It could be due to all or none of those reasons, but it's definitely something I wonder about.

Although I don't know why the book ended up containing so many beautiful stories by women writers, the fact that it did was such a reward for me. I find it easy to feel isolated as a foreign woman writer in Japan--I rarely meet other foreign women in my daily life, and rarely read about other women's experiences in Japan. Through the Write For Tohoku project, I suddenly found myself reading dozens of funny and touching stories about life in Japan written by women who sounded a lot like me. It was the first time I've really felt a sense of community with women writers in Japan, and it was a lovely surprise reward.

WOW: Has there been any kind of response to this project from Japanese readers, or the evacuees?

Annamarie: I don't think any evacuees have read it, but;I got a lovely email from a Japanese woman in Nagano named Kaori who had read the book. She thanked everyone who contributed to the book and said that the stories really touched her "because I have the same kind of feeling about life and living." My husband is Japanese, and he loved the book as well (which is good, because it was his idea!). He commented that it was a rare chance to hear the in-depth thoughts and experiences of foreigners in Japan. He said that as a Japanese person it's easy to have surface encounters and short conversations with foreigners in Japan, but not often that you get the chance to hear so many foreigners' personal memories and feelings.

We have just started to work on a Japanese version of the book, actually. A translator who works with my husband volunteered to translate a selection of stories from the English book and a friend of ours who works in Japanese publishing is thinking of how to distribute it. If that works out, I hope more Japanese readers, especially evacuees, can read it.

WOW: Do you have any advice for someone aspiring to raise funds for a cause such as this one through literature?

Annamarie: Be in awe of the power of social media. ;) It wouldn't have been possible to gather so many stories from so many writers without that technology. I also think it helped to have a specific genre (non-fiction pieces under 1000 words) and focus (personal experiences of non-disaster Japan) for the book.

On the administrative side of things, keeping all the authors' email addresses, names, bios, submission titles, etc organized and managing the editing process was a challenge. I found it helpful to track everything in an Excel file. I also used MS Word's outline function to organize the actual text.

Getting money to the Red Cross from PDF sales was not hard with a PayPal account (the Red Cross takes PayPal donations). We were also lucky to find an e-book distributor ( that volunteered to distribute the Kindle/iPad/Nook version of the book and forward proceeds directly to the Red Cross.

WOW: Thanks so much, Annamarie!

To find out more about the project, visit

Suzanne Kamata is the author of Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008) and The Beautiful One Has Come: Stories (Wyatt-Mackenzie Press, 2011), and editor of three anthologies. She lives on the island of Shikoku in Japan.

More from Suzanne on WOW!:

The Art of Embracing Uncertainty: Interview with Leza Lowitz

On the Ball with Topka Press: Interview with Editor, Lucia Moreno

Just Desserts: An Interview with Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

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Do You Need an Author Photo?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Are you one of those people? You're in a book store, randomly grabbing hard covers and paperbacks off a shelf, based on the book cover, and then you either flip to the back cover or crack open the back of the book to sneak a peek at the author's photo?

Truth is, if you answered yes, you're probably not alone.

In today's publishing world, the author photo can be one of the most important pieces of the marketing equation. A 2009 NPR report claims a distinct relationship exists between an author and an author's photograph.

Or maybe not. In a Christian Science Monitor piece from the same year, book blogger Jessa Crispin says it's jarring to meet an author and realize they look nothing like their author photo.

Whether you plan to use a photo on your book's cover, with a freelance piece, or as promotional material, writers have plenty to consider:
  1. Dress for success: Think about the type of material you write. If you're reading a book about investing in today's market, would you trust a photo of a woman in business attire or will the blue-jeans-and-T-shirt gal draw your attention. A photo tells a story in one frame. What story are you attempting to tell?
  2. Black and white vs. Color: Which is most effective? I pulled books off one bookshelf, and came to a split decision. Thirty books showed black and white photos; the other thirty displayed author's in full color.
  3. Professional photo session: More than likely, an author will end of covering the cost of author photos. Do you need a professional photo session? Can a friend or significant other point and shoot your digital camera? Most computers come with digital photo editing
    software, which makes creating, cropping, and perfecting an author photo a click!
Let's dissect an author photo, pointing out the good - and bad - elements. Meet LuAnn. (That's me.)

Two positive elements of this photo exist. I chose to stand next to a noiseless background. It's an accentuating color and offers minimal distraction. Also, I selected to wear a solid color, which again, keeps the photo's noise level to a minimum.

Any negatives? If I could reselect a shirt, I'd choose something besides cream, especially since I'm fair-skinned and blonde. I'd also double check the room's lighting to make sure the shadow doesn't cause problems with the photo.

This was not a professional shoot. A friend snapped the picture with my digital camera and I sent the file to my editor, who worked her magic!

Once you've had your photos taken, ask for digital files in both low-res (72 DPI) and high-res (300 DPI). Low-res works best for online; high-res is used in printed formats.

Also think about updating your photo every few years. It will cut down on those awkward moments Crispin described. This photo is four years old and I've changed - just a bit - since then.

Do you use an author's photo? What tips can you offer?

by LuAnn Schindler

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Personal Essay Writing: Tips for You

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Recently, I judged a personal essay contest for a regional writing group. I love judging contests as it exposes me to some great writing and some not-so-great writing. With most of the entries, I found myself being able to tell in a few paragraphs whether or not to put the essay in the possible winners pile or the sorry pile. Everything I’d heard from editors and agents at conferences was true—in most cases, you can tell whether a piece of writing works or doesn’t from the first page.

While judging the personal essays, I came up with some criteria for the winners that I thought I’d share. Writing personal essays has become popular—so what makes them successful?

The Topic
An interesting and unique topic was one of the first criteria I used to separate the winners from the rest of the batch. Personal essays can be about anything—your childhood playmate, a vacation gone wrong, a favorite teacher. When judging the entries, I found the best essays to be about topics that other writers left alone—a trip into the past that featured an ice truck, a daughter and father that grew grapes for wine, and a summer job in a factory with an opera-singing Sicilian. Sure, all of these were also well written, but the topic caught my attention and kept me reading until the end of the essay.

When you are writing, think of unusual events, activities, and even people in your life—could you write a personal essay about them? If you are writing for a themed anthology—such as Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers’ Soul—then you’re a bit limited on your topic choices; but you can still brainstorm unusual topics or angles within that theme.

The Voice
Like all forms of writing, the voice of a personal essay is extremely important. It is your voice since you’re telling a personal story. It shouldn’t sound stilted or like the reader opened an encyclopedia. It should sound like the writer is sitting on the front porch, telling this story to someone else.

The Structure
When judging the essays, the structure I found that works best is the circle structure. The author starts the essay with a general statement or a scene that leads into the rest of the essay. At the conclusion, the writer wraps up the essay with a mention of or some tie-in to the beginning scene.

Besides the circle structure, another type of ending that works well for personal essays is the twist or surprise. If the writer chooses to use a twist at the end, it’s usually something clever or funny that happened that readers will not expect. These types of endings usually work better with short stories or even children’s picture books, but they can also work for personal essays.

The Universal Theme
Like memoirs, personal essays will often have a universal theme. There’s some point to sharing this story with the world other than just wanting to enter a contest or get published in an anthology. Why should readers care about your topic or story? How can they apply what you learned through this experience to their own lives?

When writing your personal essay, think to yourself—what is my universal theme? What can people learn from my story? You don’t have to hit readers over the head with it or even mention it in your essay—it will come out in your well-written essay.

You can read some examples of personal essays at So, start brainstorming those personal essay topics, use your unique voice, and write, write, write!

Post by Margo L. Dill; To see what classes Margo is teaching for WOW!, click on this link to go to the WOW! classroom.

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Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life by Mari L. McCarthy, Blog Tour Launch and Special Giveaway

Monday, August 22, 2011
Who are you? What are your strengths, your fears, your goals? What have you learned so far and where do you go from here?

Sometimes who we really are is a mystery even to ourselves. As we grow into adulthood and through the phases of establishing home and job, raising families, divorce and loss, career changes and daily life something happens. We are no longer who we thought we were or who family and friends think they see—but who are we really? It is a mystery only we can solve—with some quiet introspection. Mari L. McCarthy’s new e-book Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life was written especially for the purpose of this journey through self-discovery.

Within this 30 page e-book Mari will guide you to:

  • Make peace with the past and gain new respect for the wiser you.
  • Learn to recognize and work with your inner critic and inner coach.
  • Explore your dream language.
  • Develop a new sense of wholeness in the connection of mind and body.

Whether your intent is to invite healing, seek change, or simply discover more about what makes you tick (or ticked off), Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life will help you uncover the answers.

Read Marcia Peterson's review of Who Are You? on The Muffin.

Blog Tour Special! Purchase a copy of Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life by Mari L. McCarthy at 20% off. Who Are You? is available as an e-book for Kindle, Ibook, Sony, Nook and on Smashwords. Download a FREE chapter here.

Special Giveaway Contest—A Book & A Song: We’re giving away a copy of Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life and a download of Mari McCarthy singing "Rhapsody in Truth" from her album "The Barry Thought of You." Please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, August 25 at 11:59 PM, PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhoRUBook, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post on the following day Friday, August 26. Good luck!

About the Author:

Mari states that, “Journaling is unparalleled in its ability to reveal new information about our inner life, conditioning, experiences and thoughts.” Mari knows this first hand. During a Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation Mari turned to journaling to assist in recovery and unknowingly embarked on a new life.

Through journaling Mari discovered many things about herself, like her desire and talent for singing! She also found a desire to assist others in how to use this powerful tool. The result is her Create Write Now website where she offers personal journaling therapy sessions, newsletters, eBooks and other resources to help people make their own wondrous self-discoveries.

Interview by Robyn Chausse

WOW: Many people feel we each have two selves, the public self and the private self; but there is another self inside of us that even we are not well acquainted with. In your opinion, what is the cause or reason we have this hidden self?

Mari: The hidden self is our real self, the one we were born with. Then life happened and as children we were influenced by parents, adults, society, and the outside world. Since we were still developing emotionally, we took everything personally and believed that problems or unhappy situations were our fault. We were taught how to use our left brain and think, think, think but not how to access our feelings, our right brain, and live totally in our body, from the inside out. And so we hid our treasures and grew up believing we didn’t have any talents and/or that we’re not that smart…

WOW: One way to communicate with this inner self is through hypnotherapy. Do you feel that, over time, journaling can access those same areas in the subconscious?

Mari: Absolutely! That’s why it is important to put the pen to the page in our journal every day. We’re reconnecting with the subconscious, our spirituality, all the things that we think, and were told, are too “Woo Woo.” It takes a lot of work, lots of writing, writing, writing to get through all the unhealthy, negative, fearful messages we’ve been carrying around in our body for many, many, years. Then, in our journaling practice little by little, we start hearing positive, wise, inner voices. And our subconscious sends us messages on our pages showing us what we need to work on next and giving us all kinds of insights and AHAs.

WOW: Journaling is such a powerful tool; how can we begin to share this tool with our children and at what age do you feel they would be ready?

Mari: I think pre-school age is a good time. Blank journals are really good because kids can draw and express themselves as they learn to write. Parents, adults can print or cut and paste questions and pictures into the child’s journal. Keeping a journal with them is a good idea. Parents can use the questions and prompts they put in their child’s journal. Parents can read them their answers and children can see how happy Mommy and Daddy and other adults feel when they journal. That it’s a fun way to deal with their thoughts and feelings.

WOW: I tend to only write when I’m upset and seldom do I come away with an answer to the heartache. What are some tips we can follow when we are really upset to help us end our session feeling more settled?

Mari: My favorite is to pose a question to my journal, like the one you just posed, and then free write the answer. Keep the pen on the page and write, write and write. Inner critics, goonies and gremlins, etc. hate this because they have a vested interest in keeping you stuck and miserable. There’s always something positive, a learning in every session. It might be “Wow! I’m breathing better” or “thanks, Journal, I needed that.” Maybe it’s setting a goal like “I’m off to a great night’s sleep” or “today, I’m going to…” Your choice.

WOW: You once mentioned you had been experimenting with art as a method of journaling. Have you found any difference in the areas of self you connect with when drawing versus writing?

Mari: I find that drawing is very much like singing…a truly other world experience. It feels like I’m on a Star Trek voyage and though initially scared, I am now curious to see where I go. Like journal writing, it means sending inner critics out to play in traffic. :)

WOW: Tell us a little about your own practice; I’ve heard you keep several journals going!

Mari: I keep several journals because I love the experience of writing and because I’m very practical and have to have things in their place: dreams, songwriting, life, special project journals like the 30 Day Health Challenge I just started. After all, there is only one (1) way to keep a Journal…Your Way!

WOW: What do you feel will most surprise people about their core selves?

Mari: That the person they think they are and the powerful, talented successful person they feel really lives in their body are worlds apart. And that great, wonderful self has been there, as Barry Manilow sings “All the Time.” This is also Create Write Now’s company theme song!

WOW: What are you working on now; what new books or albums are on the horizon?

Mari: My e-book just out is Your Money Matters: Use Journal Writing Therapy to get Financially Fit Now. I’m working on a Jobs Journaling: How to Write Your Way to a New Career e-book that will be out in September. Musically, I’m working on a new album, A Baby Boomer’s Christmas featuring Christmas music I grew up with, which will be released in December.

WOW: Yes, I had the pleasure of reviewing Your Money Matters: Use Journal Writing Therapy to get Financially Fit Now in July (Read the review here). We’re all looking forward to Jobs Journaling and, of course, your album—how fun!

Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, August 23 @ Writing Come Hell or High Water
What gets your Inner Journaler in the mood? Pump-Up your Journaling with Rockin' Journaling Supplies.

Wednesday, August 24 @ Empty Nest
Fly on over for a Nest Full of Fun today! Learn How to Journal Your Way to Weight Loss with Mari McCarthy. Enjoy Pam's review of Mari's new book Who Are You? and Enter the Giveaway.

Thursday, August 25 @ Content Maven
It's Your Own Personal Reality Show! Come Learn More and Enter the Giveaway

Friday, August 26 @ This Mama Cooks! On A Diet
When it comes to Health, Diet and Exercise we all know the Struggles; Come Learn How to Journal your Way Through!

Tuesday, August 30 @ Writers Inspired
Are Old Fears Dragging You Down? Mari shows us how to Break Through! Join us at today at Writers Inspired and while you're there don't forget to enter the giveaway.

Wednesday, August 31 @ Musings from the Slushpile
It's Writer Wednesday over at the Slushpile and the topic today is Journaling Your Loves--Come On Over! Enter to win a copy of Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life.

Thursday, September 1 @ Misadventures with Andi
Because You Want to Remember Every Delicious Moment--Join us today for tips on Keeping a Travel Journal and enter to win a copy of Who Are You?

Friday, September 2 @ Selling Books
It's Fun Getting to Know People! Join us today for an Interview with Journaling Guru Mari McCarthy!

Tuesday, September 6 @ Words from the Heart
Hesitation? Doubts? Feeling Stuck? What are you afraid of? Mari talks about how to answer find the answers today at Words from the Heart. Join the discussion and enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, September 7 @ Beyond Breast Cancer
Some things are just too personal for the Internet but you have to tell someone...what to do? Come on over and let's talk! Enter to win a copy of Who Are You?

Thursday, September 8 @ The Gift
Grab a cold drink and come on over! Today Chynna is interviewing Mari McCarthy and giving away...a song!

Friday, September 10 @ The Gift
Today Chynna offers her review of Who Are You? How to use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life. Find out more about this wonderful book and enter to win your own copy!

Monday, September 12 @ C Mash Loves to Read
Family, Parents, Job, Bills...Feeling Pulled Apart? Find out how to use Therapeutic Journaling to save your sanity! Enter to win a copy of Who Are You? How to use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life.

Wednesday, September 14 @ Mother Daughter Book Club
 Don't Stay Cooped Up! Mari shares how to take your journaling outside! Enter to win a copy of Who Are You? How to use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow your Life.

Thursday, September 15 @ Positively Present
Learn How to Use your Journaling Practice to stay in the Present Moment--that place where magic happens. Last chance to win a copy of Mari McCarthy's e-book Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life!

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 one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email Jodi and Robyn at

A Book and A Song Giveaway Contest: Enter to win an e-copy of Mari L. McCarthy’s book Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life and a download of Mari singing "Rhapsody in Truth" from her album "The Barry Thought of You". Here's how you enter:

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Leave a comment or ask Mari a question to be entered in the random drawing.

2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhoRUBook, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, August 25 at 11:59 pm, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, August 26, and if we have the winner's email address from the comments section, we will also notify the winner via email. Good luck!

Join WOW! Blog Tours on Twitter! Please add @WOWBlogTour. As of today WOW will be sending book blog tour information only through our new @WOWBlogTour feed.
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So, You Want Someone to Edit Your Work?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Choose your editor--and your editing "weapon"--carefully.

So, you want someone to edit your fiction? Do you really?

For most writers submitting their work to a publisher or agent, having several people to read over their manuscript seems enough. Besides, they are over the red marks bleeding over the manuscript pages. Their book is in good shape now. After all, they've spent years crafting your manuscript with care. They've workshopped it and re-written the awkward bits and pieces.

Workshops and having friends read your work is great. Often other writers and your readers and friends will find that you've changed the spelling of Margo to Margot halfway through the book. They can look at the big picture and let you know that you killed off the antagonist in the fourth chapter...and, uh, again, in the seventh chapter.

Sometimes, however, they won't or can't.

Frequently a friend can read something and mark a problematic area with a question mark, but is unable to explain why the section seems wrong.

Those may be enough of a reason to hire a manuscript editor or an editing service, but there are others as well.

You may have read of the importance for your manuscript to be styled properly. A manuscript editor working with a fiction or nonfiction work should be familiar with and know how to edit using The Chicago Manual of Style, which is a publishing industry standard.

Whenever I mention style, writers often get nervous. As a writer, I understand that. I like my own writing style. However, the style guides are created to impose a uniformity and consistency to manuscripts, not kill the writer's voice. Which numbers are written out? Which ones aren't? The style manuals are not to squash a writer's unique style, but to make sure a reader is not distracted by inconsistent styles that bring a reader out of the web of intrigue the writer has created.

Once I was hired to clean up a manuscript just for styling and grammar errors--including the persnickety two spaces after a period. The writer's friends had read her manuscript, she assured me, and they all thought it was fine. But as I read along, there were conflicts throughout the story regarding the point of view. Even though it wasn't what I was hired to work with, I noted each instance of these jarring shifts that had brought me out of the narrative.

Now, true, you'll also encounter an editor who doesn't catch every grammatical error and may leave a number or two inconsistent. That happens. And you'll run across editors who differ in opinions moving a word here or --> there. But an editor works to make your prose better. She's not your high school English teacher who left you nervous each time you turned in a paper. Working with an editor is a collaborative relationship; she wants your work to look good so you can go forth and publish, sharing your unique voice and story with the world.

Have you ever hired an editor for your work? Would you do so again? Why or why not?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, NC. Her piece "Running on Heart" is in the September 2011 issue of
The Writer.
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Fright Factors: Regenerate Decrepit Imagery

Saturday, August 20, 2011
There was a summer storm brewing last night. Although the rain never came the thunderheads gathered across the sunset turning the sky an ominous shade of orange. Visibility was low and as I gazed across the street I thought of sinister plots and London fog. Why is it, I thought, that so many writers still use fog to build atmosphere? Surely creepy things can happen in dust storms as well. An apt conversation as this is the time to be writing Halloween tales.

Part of the charm of the Halloween tale is the nostalgia, a traditional telling of a tale set in autumn. But tradition can border on boredom if we refuse to see it through new eyes and refresh the imagery. The dark and stormy night with the dilapidated old mansion in a heavily wooded middle-of-nowhere place doesn’t reflect our current day experience. What about that creepy foreclosure at the end of the street though? You know, the one that keeps changing hands—people move in, people move out—they’re gone before you can make an introduction.

What are some of the elements we usually use to build a frightening tale? We touched on a couple, abandoned houses and, of course, the fog. What are some other images that might be over used? What can we substitute for them?

A fun exercise is to take your favorite traditional tale and re-work it. What substitutions can you make to bring this tale into modern times? Can you change the elements around so that the story takes place in a different part of the country without loosing the fright factor?

As my mother once told me, “There is nothing there in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on.” Which leads me to my next question… what is that standing next to you?

photos and text by Robyn Chausse

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Friday Speak Out!: Queen of the Nice Rejection Letter, Guest Post by Kathryn Schleich

Friday, August 19, 2011
Queen of the Nice Rejection Letter

by Kathryn Schleich

I laughed at Jackie Bouchard’s post, “Could you please beat me with this rejection letter?” She bemoaned her “thin skin,” which, if it helps, doesn’t appear to be that thin at all.

My problem is just the opposite. The rejections I’ve been getting for Hollywood and Catholic Women have been the nicest rejection letters I’ve ever received. Several editors took the time to pass the proposal along to colleagues or provide information on other university presses for me to contact.

I self-published the original work in 2003 and for the 2nd edition I decided look for an academic publisher so the work could be used as it was intended – as a textbook. I’ve sent out over 25 book proposals and the results have shocked me. While I haven’t found a publisher yet, I can’t get over the fact of editors taking a few extra minutes to send me another possible lead. One editor sent me a combination of two lists – one for university presses with strong film programs and another covering Catholicism. From those I got another half-dozen presses to contact.

Before long, I realized I had become the “Queen of Nice Rejection Letters.” That, of course, begs the question, Are university presses different? Probably not, as one thing I’ve heard repeatedly is that university presses are very limited in the number of books they publish, even more so than larger publishers.

I’ve kept track of every rejection letter, and I recommend all authors do so as well. Not because you want to see how much pain and rejection you can endure, but because those editors may be worth contacting in the future. For example, every editor that has sent me a positive rejection, in other words did something more than simply say “no” will receive a signed company of the book, no matter who publishes it. I want to accomplish two things – say thank you to the editors nice enough to give me the time of day, and get the completed book into the hands of as many interested people as possible.

Like Ms. Bouchard, I’ve had trouble with rejections in the past, feeling as though my skin was pretty thin – more onion skin than flesh. But I have found a solution, at least for me. Instead of beating myself up, (or having someone else do it for me) I log each letter and then I shred it. There is deeply satisfying feeling at hearing the whir of the shredder blades slice up the rejection letter. It gives me a sense of control in the process and I know that I have the strength to keep writing, rejection letters nice or not-so-nice be damned.

* * *
Kathryn Schleich is the author of Hollywood and Catholic Women, published through iUniverse in 2003. She is currently working on a 2nd edition. 

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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Break Through "The Skids"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

As economic times worsen, writers struggle to stay afloat between assignments or book deals.

Competition for assignments is fierce, especially in this age where anyone can think he or she is a writer. One thread of a LinkedIn group I belong to talks about giving up freelancing after three decades in the business because so many newbies (and wannabes) agree to write an article for pennies on the dollar.

Those of us who have been in the business for years - and who expect to fairly compensated for our skills and time - understand the ebb and flow of the publishing industry.

Sometimes, we simply hit the skids.

But it doesn't mean we like it.

How can a writer protect herself when the phone doesn't ring and your email inbox is as desolate as a lonely stretch of highway?

Let's look at five ways to straighten out your career when it hits the brakes.
  1. Query: You won't make a sale if you fail to pitch ideas. I'm lucky to have developed an ongoing relationship with a regional newspaper so I usually have a steady stream of sales, but I still take the time to submit queries to other newspapers and magazines. And I still receive the occasional rejection letter or email. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard came from Hope Clark from Funds for Writers. She talked about the rule of 13 and having 13 queries in play. I took her advice. It works. I like to have 13 queries out at a time, and if I receive a rejection, I fine tune the pitch and find a new market. It's common sense. Each query ups your odds of a sale.
  2. Observe: Keep your eyes and ears open. You never know when you'll hear a snippet of conversation that sparks an idea. Take note of what's going on around you, too. You may hit on the latest trend, and that can lead to a possible sale.
  3. Recycle: In the land of home staging, this may also be called repurposing. If I find that I don't a lot of new assignments coming in, and especially if the ideas just aren't flowing, I go through my previous articles and see if I can reslant it for a new market. Reprints require a minimal time investment but can lead to load of extra cash.
  4. Chill: At some point, you will hit a dry spell. It's the law of averages. Although you may find it difficult to relax, you really need to take a chill pill. Find new scenery. Do something just for you. Embrace these moments from the writing world. Your creative muse will thank you.
  5. Stay positive: Easier said than done, right? A positive attitude will make life - and writing - easier. When assignments come in, tackle them immediately. It's a boost to your creative mind. I've noticed that the quicker I turn in assignments, the faster I get new assignments. At least it seems that way. Plus, not procrastinating helps me keep a positive mantra.
Writing, like the economy, make hit the skids. But by taking a proactive attitude, you can help yourself break through the tough times.

Blog and photo by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.

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Security For You and Your Writing ( In an Insecure World)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I'm not the kind of person who generally worries about security or fraud. I always think, That will never happen to me. I listen to authors who are afraid their work will be stolen when they send it in and wonder how I can get that kind of confidence. They are basically saying, "My work is so good, people will want to steal it and claim it as their own." WOW! That's a statement. I know this kind of stuff does happen, but as I said--not to me. 

But then. . . the other morning, I got up at 5:00 a.m. to write; and instead of writing, I spent my time dealing with an iTunes mess. Someone used my iTunes account to purchase $80 worth of video game crud. My iTunes was connected to my PayPal, and there weren't enough funds in my PayPal, so my back-up method was used to charge these items. I was LIVID. I was SICK. And I was basically watching it happen right in front of my eyes because the person just happened to be hacked into my account, while I was also on the computer. He/she had changed my address to theirs and my security question and my password. LUCKILY, everything worked out--I was reimbursed almost immediately, and now NO payment method is connected to my iTunes. (By the way, I suggest if you have an iTunes account, that you do this immediately--have nothing or an iTunes card with a low balance connected to your account--lots of people are a victim of this iTunes/PayPal fraud right now.)

Then I read an interview with a screenwriter (that will be published in the next issue of WOW!). In the article, she discusses how to protect your screenplay or play with the U.S. Copyright Office before you are submitting it. I never really thought that was important until what happened to me the other morning. Once you've had anything stolen--money, words, Facebook password, ideas--you become skeptical--and maybe that is a good thing for me.  I have changed my passwords to all my accounts and made them more secure with capital letters and numbers. I have checked my privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, and my e-mail accounts. I will make a note to be careful of the  kind of information I post on my blog. I will consider registering manuscripts with the copyright office, depending on what it is and where I am sending it. 

Basically, I plan to be more secure in my writing life and personal life--and especially my social networking life. When I teach the social networking class for WOW! (starting September 14) , I always bring up ways to protect your privacy with social media, and I plan to do even more of this now. 

How do you make sure your writing and personal lives are secure in an insecure world? Any tips to share? 

Post by Margo L. Dill
photo by Sh4rp_i
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Writing Resources on Google + (aka Why I'm Using Google +)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
photo by basketman @
Google + is quickly becoming my favorite social media site ever! I know, that’s a big claim, especially since there are plenty of social media sites I’ve never used, and some I’ve never even heard of.  But Google + is the all of my favorite aspects of facebook combined with all of my favorite aspects of Twitter. 

Facebook Similarities/Differences
I like using facebook because it’s easy to communicate with other people.  I like to write on a friend's walls or share links with all of my friends.  But facebook is my connection with personal friends and family, and I deliberately don’t have many writing connections there.  Sometimes I share links about writing or my writing, which would be appropriate for sharing with professional writing “friends,” but sometimes I also like to share stories about my puppy or what I made for dinner, and that wouldn’t be professionally acceptable.

On Google +, you put your “friends” into different circles (aka groups).  So if you have writing news you want to share with everyone, professionals and family, you can create a public post.  If you just recorded an adorable video of your toddler pulling all of the toilet paper off the roll and running down the hall naked, you have the option of sharing that with just your close friends and family. 
Twitter Similarities/Differences

I like Twitter because I follow a lot of professional writers, agents, publishers, and other writing professionals who give great tips and links.  I can follow any of these people or companies, but they don’t have to follow me in return unless they want to. 

The condensed, 140-word posts make the messages easily digestible, but I find it more difficult to make comments and have conversations.  Although I have caught on to the @ symbol, I haven’t yet fully learned the etiquette of hash tags. Many Twitter posts look like a foreign language to me.

On Google +, I have discovered a huge community of writers and others in the writing business who share great links and writing tips. I feel comfortable adding strangers to my circles because I know there’s no pressure for them to put me in their circles in return, unless they want to. 
It has been easier to have discussions with other writers because of the more straightforward, facebook-like wall discussions that aren’t riddled with cryptic symbols. Although I have not yet done this, groups of writers can “huddle” and speak in real-time with multiple people at once.
What Do You Think About Google +?

Google + is still in beta testing, so there are occasional glitches, but overall I'm very excited about it.  Have any of you tried it yet? I’d love to know what you think!

And I’d love to add more writers and aspiring writers to my circles!  Check out my profile here and add me to your circles, or leave me a message below and I'll circle you.  Feel free to ask me any questions about Google +. I've only been using it a few weeks, but it’s fun to figure out new Google + functions and capabilities together.
Lists of Writers on Google +
These writers are already using Google + and seeking new writing connection.

GalleyCat's List of Writers
Novelist and Aspiring Novelist List
Literary/Book People List

Other Google + Resources

Guides and Tips for Newbies on Google +
How to Share a Book on Google +

Connect with Anne Greenawalt
Google +
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Call for Queries/Submissions: Niche Writing

Monday, August 15, 2011
Have you found your niche in the writing world? Or do you know someone who has? We want to hear about it! Our October issue will focus on niche writing. This theme is open to interpretation. As always, our mission is to help and educate other writers, so keep that in mind when you query. We are open to both how-tos and interviews.

Please review our submission guidelines on our Contact Page (scroll down to "Submissions") for guidelines and how to submit or query. Pay is $50 - $150 per article, on publication.

We'll also be reviewing past queries/subs to see if they are a fit with the theme.
Deadline for queries: August 26

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. :)

We look forward to your ideas!

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About...Social Media

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A few years ago, I thought the most exciting thing I discovered I could do with my computer was chat with people in 'real time' anywhere in the world using a fantastic new Internet tool called "ICQ". That was over ten years ago. Nowadays there are so many sources of social media--the name given to all of these fascinating Internet tools we can use to connect with people anywhere, anytime--it makes me dizzy.

As authors and writers, we're strongly encouraged to sign up for these tools because they help us connect to readers, give us access to people who can further our marketing abilities or even give us primary access to new and exciting writing opportunities. But, really. How useful are they? Do we really need all of them? Which ones are the most user friendly? Let's do a segment of Chynna's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About....Social Media".

THE GOOD: It's true--social media helps us get the word out about what we do. We can post links to articles, blog posts and interviews we've done. Authors can keep their readers posted on what they're doing as far as book promotions go as well as releases and upcoming projects. It also gives readers a chance to interact with their favorite writers or authors in ways they couldn't before. Plus to save some time, there are ways you can connect all of these medias in one place (eg: TweetDeck) so you can make one update post to all of your most used media forms at the same time (eg: Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn). And, on the personal side of things, you can hook up with friends, family and loved ones you aren't normally able to. Considering all of these points, I can see how these tools can be useful.

THE BAD: Okay, let's get down to it. With all of the good things about these Internet social tools, there are downsides. First, let's be honest here. How many of you out there are Facebook or Twitter junkies? C'mon! Own up now! How much of your free time/work time do you spend on these things? THAT is the number one bad point about having these tools: they are time suckers. No matter how many times I tell myself I'm going going to spend a couple of minutes updating my Facebook profile and author pages...then send an update Tweet and reply to tweets and retweets...then respond to questions, etc. half an hour to an hour has flown by. Nothing ticks me off more than wasting my time that way. The other thing is you truly can be out there too much. Trust me. Then not only are you wasting time keeping up with all your accounts but you're making yourself vulnerable to spamming, stalking, identity theft and other nastiness (we'll cover that stuff next!)

THE UGLY: Not all of us experience the ugly side of social media. I have. I've been stalked, spammed, had a few of my accounts hacked into, been accused of putting stuff out there that I haven't and other ickiness. You put yourself wide out there and some folks think it's their right to know every single thing about you. Or they think you're buddies because you're writing about issues they've experienced too. Now I have no problem being contacted by those who've been touched by my work or feel that something I've written has helped them in some way. That's why I do what I do and it truly means the world to me when people reach out to me. But there are some people who don't understand where that line is between what they are allowed to know or do and what they aren't. And with places like Google and Blogger that keep your stuff 'searchable', it makes it all too easy for folks to have access to you.

Now, bearing all these points in mind, here's a few ways I've stayed 'connected' but from an arms length:

  • I picked a few of the tools I've gotten the most use from, are the easiest for me to utilize and the best choices for what I do. For me that's Facebook, Twitter, Author's Den, LinkedIn, Goodreads and MySpace. I'm thinking of getting rid of MySpace because all of my friends/connections are on Facebook now. My advice is to pick and choose the tools that are best for what you do. Remember that places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads have groups where you can meet and chat. You can also arrange live chats on Twitter. You don't need them all. Trust me.
  • Jacked my privacy up as much as I could. Don't give the option of allowing people to try 'friending' you on Facebook, for example. Have them message you first so they can explain how they know you and why they'd like to connect. Better still, have a personal account that you keep completely private and unsearchable then a writing/authoring page.
  • Change my passwords periodically and do not click on any links that aren't from a trusted source. In fact, don't open them at all until you've asked the sender if they sent it. I had my Twitter account broken into because I was sent a private message from a trusted person with a link. She never sent it to me but had her account broken into. All of her contacts got spammed and, because I opened the link too, all of mine were too.
  • Interact but be selective of what I share. These tools are all amazing and useful but bearing the 'need to know' rule on what you put out there keeps you safer.
  • Made my friend list (particularly on Facebook) private. That way people can't 'Friend Poach' plus it gives your friends some privacy too.
  • Don't let people post on your Wall (on Facebook). I haven't done that yet but if it becomes a problem, unfriend abusive people and block them. Then switch up your privacy to be safe.
  • Don't 'follow' people just because they follow me. You don't need to be friends with everyone. And on Twitter, people can't send you messages if you don't follow them back. If you don't trust the source, don't follow them.
  • 'Google' myself from time to time. It's interesting what you find. I've been fortunate in that I've only ever found good stuff. I haven't found my head photoshopped on a porno queen's body or anything yet but I have found reviews or blog posts about my work. I like to reach out and extend a big thank you for these things because that's what helps get our work out there a bit further. But if you do find yucky stuff, you can try nipping it in the bud before things get worse.

So, there you go. That's Chynna's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About...Social Media'. Feel free to share your own thoughts, experiences and insight. We love comments. =)
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Is She Someone You Want to Meet?

Saturday, August 13, 2011
I was fortunate to hear my friend Michelle Boyajian speak on characterization at a recent event. An energetic speaker, Michelle never fails to deliver enthusiasm packed with wisdom whenever she speaks about writing. (We were in graduate school together.)

The author of Lies of the Heart, Michelle discussed how we maneuver in real life and how that should be reflected in how our characters develop in our fiction. It was one of the best definitions I had heard for show-don't-tell. For some writers, "showing" means pages upon pages "this happened and then this happened and that's why he does what he does."

Trying to explain show-don't-tell often turns into a strange discussion because when a writer describes what happened, isn't that showing? That's why Michelle's working definition rang so true. (Hopefully I am able to do it it goes!)

We all have them. Friend A and acquaintance B. One day, friend A complains that acquaintance B is too full of herself. (Raise your hand if you've been at least on the listening end of that kind of conversation. Wow, that many?! Okay, now put your hand down.)

But, you, the discerning, watchful writer want to meet B again to make your own impression. Maybe A was jilted by B's brother or B bought the last scoop of A's favorite ice cream. So, you want to see B's actions and interactions unfold before your eyes so that you can decide on your own if B really is conceited and snooty or if she is just shy. And you also want to be able to see how A acts in relation to B so that you become more informed about her motivations. You don't want someone to summarize the action in exposition.

Your readers also want the action. They want you to show the bits and pieces of a character that come together to make that person who she is. You, as a reader, like to establish your own idea of who someone is and not rely on what someone else may say.

When you write characterizations, how do you tap into your character's motivations? How do you make your characters tick?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in Wilmington, NC. Her piece "Running on Heart" is in the September 2011 issue of The Writer.
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