Friday Speak Out!: A Little Bit Done, Guest Post by Brittnay Buckner

Friday, September 30, 2011
A Little Bit Done

by Brittnay Buckner

I'll keep it short and sweet: I submitted 21 pages of my work to an online contest!

It's been about two years since I've submitted any of my work to a contest or for a fellowship. Though I can easily blame this on the nine and a half months of pregnancy, the three and a half months of being a new mom, and a 10-month stint at a job where I had the boss from hell, the real reason is that I gave up on myself. Like every writer (I hope), I believe that my writing is good and worthy, however, I never felt like I received enough validation for my writing "out there" in the real world. I was rejected from prestigious writers colonies and fellowships. We're probably talking about 10 attempts.

Prior to my two-year hiatus from putting my work out there, I was also taking writers classes and got positive responses to my work. But because I was not selected for these classes, I just had to pay the fee, I just didn't see the responses as legit enough.

I continued to write, but I gave up looking for places to publish my work. I didn't allow people to see my work in draft form. I never finished anything. Only two 500+ page first draft manuscripts stuffed on an abandoned bookshelf in my office-turned-junkroom to show for it.

This year, when I turned 30 (yes the proverbial 30) I decided it was time to put my work out there. Again. Whether it be through writing this blog, finishing small chunks of work and asking for writer-friends to read it and give me feedback, or submitting to contests, I need to do it --regularly--to build my confidence and to begin moving in my dream as a writer.

The submission to this contest marks an accomplishment for me. As a writer. A real-life writer. Progress.

* * *
Brittnay Buckner is the author of “Singular Beast: A Conversation with Jamaica Kincaid” published in the journal Callaloo in 2008. She recently launched a blog for writer-mamas called "New Mama Wannabe Writer Worker Bee Wife" at She is currently working on a memoir. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and three month-old daughter Zora.

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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Social Networking With a Goal

Thursday, September 29, 2011
I am currently teaching WOW!'s Social Networking online workshop, and it's made me think more and more about how important it is to have goals for your social networking sites. I know what you're thinking: I already have goals for my personal life. I have goals for my novel and some for my daily writing tasks. I don't need another set of goals--especially for Facebook and Twitter. But I believe this is a mistake many of us make. This is why sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook become overwhelming and a time-suck. So, what kind of goals should you make and how do you use them to help you with your social networking skills?

Ask yourself this MAIN question: Why am I signing up for Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/GoodReads/Google Plus and creating a profile?

Your answer may be something like some of my students:

  • I want to promote my book.
  • I want to find clients for my life coach business.
  • I am trying to build a network of writers because I plan to host an online writing conference.
  • I am new to the writing world and am going to be trying to find an agent for a YA book. I need to make contacts and educate myself.
  • I am trying to drive more and more readers to my blog, which is the platform for my self-published e-book.
You get the picture. These are specific reasons why these writers have signed up to use social networking. I'm not saying that they aren't also going to connect with high school friends or follow Ellen on Twitter, but this is the main reason why they are on the sites. 

Once you know WHY you are on, now you can set some goals for the use. If you are on Facebook to promote a book, then contact everyone you've ever known that could be a potential reader and re-connect with them. Create a Facebook business page for your book. Join a Facebook fan page that has members who will want to read your book. Create events that surround your book--either in person or online--and promote them on Facebook. With the goal of promotion in mind when you log on, you will use your time more wisely.

One final note, you should never ONLY promote yourself on any site--even LinkedIn. The best way to connect with others and get them to buy your book/hire you/read your blog is to take a personal interest in others. Spend five minutes one day responding to your friends' Facebook status messages. Spend five minutes another day reading tweets and re-tweeting or replying. This is what causes people to notice you and want to help you with your goals.

To sign up for Margo's next social networking class starting November 16, view the syllabus in the WOW! classroom. It's $100 for four weeks and covers all the major sites.
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Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Mama said there'd be days like this.

Call it procrastination. Call it mid-week slump.

Today is one of those days when I have zero motivation and a laundry list of deadlines, interviews and assignments.

(And it looks like I also have a pile of laundry to tackle.)

How do I recapture my writing mojo on days like this?

I reexamine my yearly writing goals.

Are you on track?

Since only three months remain in 2011, now is the ideal time to take out your list and see how you're stacking up.

When I grabbed my list - which is posted on the bulletin board in my office - I read the seven goals I established at the end of last December. Have I met all seven? Four? One?

I'm happy to report I've completed four goals; however, the remaining three need work...and time.

Why do these matter? Because I want to take my writing career to the next level, and if I don't start working toward those goals, when will I begin? Nothing like a day of procrastination to make you realize how writing is WORK and motivation needs to be there!

How did I fix my Wednesday letdown? I called a writing friend who gave me a much-needed pep talk! A writing partner or critique group provides feedback that can propel you in the right direction.

After the talk, guess what I did? I sat down and started writing. How else will a writer meet her goals?

If your desire is to increase your bottom line, write a hot bestseller, or complete a set number of blog posts each week, you need to take a look at your long- and short-term goals. If procrastination and motivation send you on a detour, grab that list and take note of what you need to accomplish to reach the finish line.

Sure, mama said there'd be days like this, but she also said that if a goal is worth reaching, I need to find the drive to reach my goals.

When is the last time you examined your writing goals? How do you get back on track?

by LuAnn Schindler.  Read more of LuAnn's work at Writing on the Wall.

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Interview with Susan DuMond, Runner-up in the 2011 Spring Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Today on The Muffin, we feature Spring 2011 Flash Fiction runner-up recipient Susan DuMond. Her story, "Lucille's Shoes", will touch your hearts. Once you've read it, come back and enjoy getting to know Susan.

A brief introduction of today's author: Susan DuMond grew up in a children's home in upstate New York. Susan captures her rough and tumble experiences in her memoir, Present Tense. Currently, Susan and her memoir are searching for a literary agent. When Susan was the first "Home kid" to graduate high school, she received an award and ventured to Bennington College. When she arrived via Greyhound Bus, she had only a blue plastic suitcase. Susan received a B.A. in Theater from Bennington and continued her education at Columbia University, where she studied Creative Writing. Susan also has a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. She is a published poet and actor. Susan also owned her own technical writing and information design firm. Susan lives in Oregon with her husband and two cats: Emmy and Chester.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Susan, and congratulations on earning runner up honors. I'm curious. What inspires you to write?

Susan: I'm inspired by situations and experiences that touch my heart. Sometimes these are funny; sometimes they're like bruises that need attention to heal. I write in the hope of gaining some level of understanding about the experience that create ripples in our lives - growing up, aging, losing a baby, you name it. Although my writing is often triggered by an event, the piece that develops may become fiction and take on a life of its own.

WOW: I like your approach, especially using a trigger from real life. "Lucille's Shoes" reminded me of my mom (and my grandmother) and their battles with arthritis. It's often neglected. What's your experience with arthritis or with someone who suffers from it?

Susan: Like your Mom and millions of others, I too have arthritis. You're right, it rarely makes the headlines, but it's pretty demanding. Staying mobile and flexible takes a lot of effort, which is where the arthritis aquatics work comes in. I've been a "Poolette" (my fun name for our group) for some years now. The Arthritis Foundation trains aquatics instructors in special exercises and movements that are designed to help people with arthritis. I highly recommend finding such a program and getting in the warm water and moving around!

WOW: That's great advice! Hopefully, our readers will take advantage of this type of program. While I'm reading your piece, the symbolism intrigues me. Water washes away troubles, but some pains are too strong to bear. How did you develop the setting, which drives home the water symbol?

Susan: The setting was important to me because I both experienced and witnessed the healing effect of exercising in warm water. The pool felt like the right backdrop for the camaraderie, the caring and support, and the pain that brought the women in "Lucille's Shoes" together.

WOW: To me, it's very powerful. I'd like to take time to talk about your memoir. How did your experiences in a children's home lead to you writing Present Tense? What's the biggest challenge a writer faces when penning a memoir?

Susan: We all have experiences that shape us, that stick with us. Some are good, some not so good. Landing in the Susquehanna Valley Children's Home at the age of 11 tore my world apart. It was a rough place - a reform school for kids who were not old enough to be "sent up," as the kids used to say. At that time, all I wanted was to get good grades and learn to play the cello! By the time I left six years later, the Director had restored the Home to its original purpose - a place for children whose families could not care for them. Overall, I guess my experience in the Home is one of those life-bruises I mentioned earlier. Writing Present Tense helped in the healing process, and I believe reading it will help others who've been through some rough times.

About the challenges . . .There are so many when writing a memoir! I can hear my writers group now. "Show us how you felt when she beat you up." "Why do we need to know this?" "Can you drop that? It's maudlin." And so on. One challenge is figuring out whether an event contributes to a story. I probably tossed out as many situations as I kept in because they didn't advance the narrative. Another major challenge is "showing" versus "telling," something writers deal with all the time. I want the reader to share the experience, to be there in the room with me from my first night at the Home when I wake up to the sound of the housemother yelling, "Fire!"

WOW: Your memoir sounds intense! I wish you luck finding a literary agent because I want to read it! You mention your writers group. I'm wondering how your fellow writers help shape your writing?

Susan: I've been a member of a writers group for five years now. There are five of us - four writers and our instructor who has published four books and is also an editor. It's an intrepid bunch! We meet twice a month and each of us reads from a work-in progress. The feedback has helped enormously in my writing. The group was with me every step of the way as I wrote and revised Present Tense.

Some important decisions came out of my experience with the group. For example, I'd written more than 150 pages when they helped me realize that my story would be stronger and a lot more compelling if told in the first person and in the present tense. So the book went from a reflective piece at arm's length to an immediate, first-hand experience that begins with the voice of an 11-year-old and concludes with the voice of an 18-year-old. The group helped me stay on track as I aged the voice - not an easy task. Your point of view and the way you express yourself evolve a lot between 11 and 18!

WOW: I'm searching for a writing group so I hope I find a group who help me iron out a few issues I'm having. Sounds like you found a great group that provides solid criticism and keeps you motivated. Now, writers usually don't spend all their time writing. We also need to read! What kinds of books do you favor?

Susan: As you might imagine, I read a lot of memoir. Right now, I'm going back and forth between two that are quite different. One is Bossypants by Tina Fey and the other is I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl by poet Kelle Groom. I enjoy seeing how writers of memoir "decorate" their stories, if you will; how they design and frame and color the events in their lives. I am also a fan of literary fiction. For example, I'm reading Olive Kitteridge for the second time right now. I admire Elizabeth Strout's ability to weave together short stories into a novel. Maybe someday . . .

WOW: Someday may come sooner than you think! What projects are currently in the works?

Susan: I'm writing, rewriting and revising poems and short stories these days. I'm also continuing in my search for a literary agent for my memoir. That means lots of research to find agents who handle memoir followed by query letters and sample pages as requested. So the left brain gets to do as much as the right brain these days!

WOW: Good luck with your search for an agent! I look forward to reading more of your work.

Interview by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website
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Artfully Editing Your Personal Essays

Monday, September 26, 2011
Artfully Editing Your Personal Essays

by Melanie Faith

Ah, the spark of inspiration—the keys clacking, the ideas flowing, the wind at your back! Shortly, however, the initial draft is finished, and it’s time to begin the more arduous editing journey. Take heart…and these tips to sculpt your personal essay:

1. Division decision— A bit of creative structuring may take a piece to an exciting new level. In Crafting The Personal Essay, Dinty W. Moore notes: “While most of my nonfiction writing follows a pretty traditional path, I have also composed essays that mimic the form of a coroner’s report, a made-for-television movie script, and a Zen koan. One of my favorite experiments, ‘Son of Mr. Green Jeans: An Essay of Fatherhood, Alphabetically Arranged’ borrows a form known as abecedarium from the world of poetry.” Consider unique subject headings or organizational methods. Poem titles, favorite thematic quotations, place names, even times of the day may all structure an essay into an intriguing mosaic.

2. Time, time, time Although writing nonfiction, that doesn’t mean that a writer must adhere strictly to chronological order. Consider flashbacks and flash forwards, mixing chronological time with the more sophisticated timing of personal epiphanies and hard lessons well-learned.

3. Spotlight self—A writer may include many other “characters” within the piece—siblings, neighbors, exes and friends—but the central moments of change must occur for the speaker. Readers want to discover the aha! moment via the first-person narrator; she is the one readers root for and identify with most strongly. Edit or omit sections where discovery takes place through or for another person. An essay will be stronger for narrowing the focus.

4. “You don’t say!”— Dialogue can be a great tool for compression. Are there whole rambling sections describing setting, clothing, or personality that could be expressed more succinctly in a tart remark or an aside? In Naked, Drunk, and Writing, Adair Lara advises, “Dialogue is very readable, makes writing move fast, and is the fastest way to reveal character…Keep dialogue short and punchy. We’re not allowed to say much before we’re interrupted by others or something else is going on.” Characterizations are strengthened by lopping off background fluff. A short interchange between speaker and friend can easily demonstrate more complex conflict. Lara further advises, “Dialogue gets interesting when there’s subtext: what characters are saying between the lines.” Trust that your readers will intuit much from less.

5. Edit details that don’t showcase theme(s). While interesting, does this portion contribute to the whole piece? Ask yourself: would a reader who had not experienced this person/event find a meaningful connection with the rest of the essay?

6. Set it aside. Then trust your gut. When writing truth, a writer’s emotional connection to the material can cloud editorial judgment. Take breaks of days or even weeks to let the material cool. With the passage of time, an essayist often finds the courage and perspective to hit the backspace key.

Melanie Faith is a poet, essayist, and photographer who holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, NC. Her poetry was a semi-finalist for the 2011 James Applewhite Poetry Prize, and she recently had an essay about editing poetry published in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Writers' Journal. Her poetry was published in Referential Magazine (July and June 2011), Tapestry (Delta State U., Spring 2011) and her essay about Thoreau and the Internet appeared in Front Range Review (U. of Montana, Spring 2011). Her photos were published in Foliate Oak (May 2011) and forthcoming from Up The Staircase (November 2011). A travel essay was featured in Quicksilver (U. of Texas, March 2010), and another published essay (Shape of a Box, Oct. 2009) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work won the 2009 Anne E. Sucher Poetry Prize for the Iguana Review. Her current poetry chapbook, Bright, Burning Fuse, was published by Etched Press in Dec. 2008. She has been a small town journalist, an ESL classroom teacher for international students, and (currently) a literature and writing tutor at a private college prep high school. She has enjoyed teaching poetry and essay writing classes for WOW! for two years. In addition to writing two novels seeking representation, her instructional articles about creative writing techniques have appeared in RWR (Dec. ’08) and The Writer (Nov. ’09), among others.

Melanie's latest online class for WOW! Women on Writing starts on Friday, October 7th! Sign up now for Translating a Life: The Art of Personal Essay Writing by Melanie Faith. For details and enrollment, visit our classroom page.
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Getting Personal, Really Personal

Sunday, September 25, 2011
I'm reading some writing which has made me re-consider my own writing about personal issues and how to deliver my feelings to my own readers.

Often a writer is trying to get at a personal truth and hopes and dreams and wonderment. But what is left on the page is one dimensional. The in-depth soul searching is left in the writer's soul or journal. When a writer most believes she is over-reaching, in truth, she is barely reaching out.

Often, as writers, we may take a shortcut. We tell our feelings, but we don't layer them using descriptions that deepen our readers' understanding of who we are.

As with fiction, self-help and personal nonfiction benefits from additional color and description.

We assume our readers will understand what we're saying by just writing "I felt bad." But we leave out the richness and three-dimensional element of ourselves. "I felt so bad that my heart sped up and my stomach churned" or "I felt so bad it felt as if my blood drained from my face and I ran from the room." While these are basic examples, I think it provides a difference that readers can more closely engage with the feelings the author is having and gives the bad feelings a bit more scale. Maybe even accessing an earlier scene that can bring more depth to the scene at hand.

But as writers, as our draft comes to completion, we shouldn't stop there.

We've all done it--given our writing to someone who understands us or who, at least, knows of our desire to be published. We hand over our writing to someone in our writers' group or someone who has read the previous six drafts. Those someones know or can easily interpret our "shortcut" to our emotions. They often understand the scale when we write "I felt bad."

I suggest that those writing about personal struggles and emotions find a reader not accustomed to the shortcuts. Find someone with a gentle yet critical eye who can find the areas of one-dimension. The areas where the writer is not serving the reader.

Why would this be as important to a writer than finding a reader or editor to ensure that the grammar is correct?

This reader is important in helping find where the writer fails to connect--in depth--with the reader. A reader shouldn't be left at the end of a chapter wondering why read more? Or with the worst question, "So what? Why should I care?" When a writer writing about personal issues fails to connect with the reader--leaving the reader with more questions than answers--the writing may be interesting, but it has delivered a one-dimensional character instead of a full-formed, layered journey of self-discovery.

What reading have you done lately that has changed the way you view your writing or revision process?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living along the North Carolina coast.

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Banned Books Week: John O'Hara Story, and Win an Amazon Gift Card!

Saturday, September 24, 2011
To commemorate Banned Books Week, The Muffin is participating in the Banned Books Week Blog Hop sponsored by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. All of the posts and prizes are related to banned books so stop hopping and see which of your favorite reads might have once been banned. So after you enjoy our post, stop by I Am a Reader, Not A Writer and start hopping!

Blog Hop Giveaway:

If you would like to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your favorite banned book, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway contest closes Saturday, October 1 at 11:59 PM, PST. For an extra entry, link to this post with the hashtag #bannedbooks, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We'll be announcing the winner here at The Muffin on Monday, October 3. Good Luck!

John O'Hara -- Banned in His Own Hometown

Small towns are usually inordinately proud of their native sons (and daughters). They name streets after them, they erect statues, they have festivals celebrating them. Pottsville, Pennsylvania does all this for John O'Hara, author of short stories and novels such as Appointment at Samarra, BUtterfield 8, and Ten North Frederick from the 1930s to the 1970s. Pottsville didn't always think of O'Hara so fondly.

You would think an area known as the home of the country's oldest brewery and anthracite coal would be excited to add "home of famous author" to the list. Perhaps...if it had been anything except O'Hara's books. Like William Faulkner, O'Hara wrote novels thinly based on the area where he grew up. Pottsville became Gibbsville, and other towns and businesses in the Schuylkill County area were re-christened with easy to decipher names. Readers around the country loved O'Hara's novels filled with sex, drinking and scandal. The people of Pottsville, certain the characters of Gibbsville were THEM, were not as in love with books they felt were revealing all the town's secrets to the world.

So the area libraries "restricted" O'Hara's books. Yes, they had them but they didn't want them to fall into "innocent hands" so the librarians kept them hidden behind the desk. You had to come up and ask specifically for these books so scandalous they couldn't even be placed on the shelves! It was the 1950's...asking for an O'Hara book was the same as marching up to the bespectacled librarian and shouting, "I'm a sex maniac! Give me Playboy! Give me the Kama Sutra! Give me O'Hara!" And, since it was a small town, within days everyone--including your mother and your minister--would know what book was on your TBR pile. I can't imagine many people checked out O'Hara's books. By restricting O'Hara's books, the libraries effectively banned them.

Thankfully, restriction has gone the way of bespectacled librarians shushing visitors to the library. John O'Hara has claimed his rightful place on our shelves and no one is shocked to see a patron checking out Ten North Frederick. In fifty years I wonder how many of the uproars over books will seem laughable to us?

Tell us, what banned books have you read? Which do you intend to read to celebrate Banned Books Week? You can find a list here.

Blog Hop Giveaway:
Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Leave a comment or tell us what banned book you've read (or intend to read) to be entered in the random drawing.

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

This blog hop giveaway closes Saturday, October 1 at 11:59 PM, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post on Monday, October 3 and if we have the winner's address from the comments section, we will also notify the winner via email.

Good luck!
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Friday Speak Out!: Making It Into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, Guest Post by Cynthia Watson

Friday, September 23, 2011
Making It Into the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

by Cynthia Watson

I haven’t won a lot of prizes in my life, which is surprising, given my Irish heritage. They say the Irish are an especially lucky lot, but not this Irish girl. I remember winning three small items in my entire life. I recollect winning a beige coloured, plastic statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Gabriel’s grade school — grade three, I think — where I came in first in an all-day spelling bee. I was absolutely desperate to get that statue, and I did. Then, there was the time when I won a multi-coloured, crocheted doll at Loretto Abbey Secondary School (yes, I’ve been surrounded by nuns my whole life, but that’s another story!); for what, I can’t exactly remember. I believe it was just a random draw. I also won a gallon of whiskey at a Junior Board of Trade dinner, but gave it to the man who gave me the ticket for the draw.

So, you can imagine, I was beyond thrilled when I actually won a spot on the 2nd round list of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest list.

I entered my Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel into the contest in February of 2011. I had just completed some final edits on WIND, and figured I could use the publicity and recognition to acquire a much-coveted literary agent.

I began writing WIND in April 2009, and completed the first draft four months later. Then, I promptly made the mistake of querying a handful of literary agents too early — as many new writers do — but was happy when I received several requests for “partials,” and a couple of “fulls.” One request was from a new, young, hip agent who took me under her wing, and gave me some invaluable editing advice. In the end, she didn’t offer representation, but still, I will always remember her kindness to me.

Then, I saw the call for submissions for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest was between January 24th and February 6th. With much trepidation, I decided to enter. I created an Amazon account, and uploaded the entire manuscript (the Manuscript had to be a novel between 50,000 and 150,000 words; WIND is 77,000 words). I also uploaded an excerpt, and a 300 word pitch, as per the contest rules, crossed my fingers (and yes, I said a few prayers), and hoped for the best.

The way the contest works is, they accept 5,000 entries in each of the two categories:

      1. 5,000 entries for General Fiction (general or genre-based literature primarily intended for an audience of readers who are age 17 and older), and

      2. 5,000 entries for Young Adult (general or genre-based fiction primarily intended for an audience of readers age 12 to 16).

Next, they whittle each list down to 1,000 entries which move to the second round, based on three criteria: Originality of idea, overall strength of the pitch, and the quality of writing.

I waited, quite impatiently, for February 24th, the date picked for the announcement of the entries moving to the 2nd round. Not really believing WIND had a chance, I was dumb-founded when I opened the PDF list, and saw among the 1,000 entries in the YA category, “WIND by Cynthia Watson.”

I was beyond excited! I must have opened that list ten times, to show co-workers, friends and family. I emailed everyone I had ever met, including my new writer friends. Needless to say, everyone was thrilled for me, and quite impressed. I received many congratulatory emails, and was on a “writing high” for many days. I promptly changed my profile on Twitter, and my writer’s blog to include my newly acquired credential. After two years of considerable doubt, this was the “sign” I was waiting for; I was really meant to be a writer!

The next date of significance was March 22nd, when the list of top 500 quarter-finalists was announced. I have to admit, I was disappointed when I scanned down to the “W’s” and didn’t see my name. I also have to confess that I looked more than once; just to ensure I wasn’t missing my name.

Okay, so I didn’t make it to the quarter-finals, much less win, and yes, it took a couple of days to get over the disappointment, but as time passed, I realized how lucky I was to have made it as far as I did. Overall, I’m glad I participated in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and highly recommend other debut writers to do so in 2012.

When I first starting seriously writing, I read everything I could get my hands on about the publishing industry, and I was well aware that the highs and lows are all part of the journey, and one must take the bitter with the sweet. I’m still in the query process for WIND, while writing the second instalment of the trilogy, SAND.

As I write this, I have two very high-profile agents looking at the entire manuscript.

The trepidation continues.

* * *
Cynthia Watson’s debut novel, WIND, book one of the Eternal Symmetry Saga, advanced to the 2nd round in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and will be available on in October, 2011! Cynthia is in the process of writing the second book in the Eternal Symmetry Saga, entitled SAND. She lives just north of Toronto, Canada, with her Cocker Spaniel, and five rescued cats.
Cynthia blogs at:

Follow Cynthia on Twitter:

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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We're Celebrating Wicked Good People!

Thursday, September 22, 2011
...Wicked Good People
Join the Fun! It's a mass-blogging event!

When: Monday, October 10th

Where: On Your Blog

Why: Joanne Lewis and Amy Lewis Faircloth’s award winning debut novel, Wicked Good, is about the unconditional love between a mother and her adopted special needs son. It has been dubbed “a different kind of love story.”

In celebration on the rave reviews, The Muffin is organizing a mass blogging day called Everybody’s Talkin’ about Wicked Good People (Special People We Know and Love). Joanne and Amy will be here at The Muffin blogging about their special people and they would love to have some blogging buddies sharing about their own wicked good loved ones!

What to Blog About: The theme is “special people we know and love.” This is open to your own interpretation. Is your “special person” a grandparent who was always your best friend? A mentor who was there when you needed guidance? Your child, who has taught you so much about life? Perhaps your “special person” isn’t a person at all but thinks they are; a seeing eye dog or a cat that slept on your chest for six months while you were grieving. Let your heart speak!

What to include in your post: If you would like to participate please email us and we’ll link to your blog on The Muffin. Make sure you include the following blurb about the blogging day at the top or bottom of your post:

“Today I’m participating in a mass blogging day! WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about Special People We Know and Love. Why? We’re celebrating the release of Joanne Lewis’ and Amy Lewis Faircloth’s debut novel. Wicked Good (Telemachus Press, LLC, 2011) is about the unconditional love between a mother and her adopted, special needs son and the adventure that brings them closer together. Visit The Muffin at to read what Joanne and Amy have to share about their special people and view the list of all my blogging buddies. Then be sure to visit to learn more about the authors.”

How to Participate: Contact Robyn at if you would like to join in the fun and we’ll include you and your blog on the list of Joanne and Amy’s blogging buddies to be posted on The Muffin on October 10th. It’s a fun way to introduce your blog to The Muffin community while helping your fellow writers.

If you have any blogger friends who may be interested in participating, please feel free to forward this post to them.

Goodies: Besides link-love we have books to be given away in a random drawing.

Come Blog with Us!
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Roryism Quote Writing Contest: Win a $100 Prepaid Credit Card!

Pull Out Your Pens, it’s Time for a Writing Contest!

Quote Contest: "Roryisms" - Show Stopping Statements from the Viewpoint of Rory Falcon

Dates: September 12 - November 30, 2011

What is a "Roryism"? Amy Lewis Faircloth, co-author of Wicked Good explains:

A "Roryism" is a statement which makes the conversation stop because it is so unexpected. Joanne, at age 6, might have invented the Roryism when she announced that she wanted to be a bus driver. My son, however, has perfected the Roryism. For example, while at the Bangor International Airport, we watched as army soldiers debarked from a flight from Mississippi and waited for their flight to Afghanistan. Because there were so many soldiers, my son remarked that they must have come in on several planes. When told that they had all been on one plane, he exclaimed, “they flew in the freakin’ Titanic”; a conversation stopper, and funny.

A Roryism can be instructive: “never marry a porn star.” A Roryism can be observant: “there is no woman like the woman you love.” A Roryism can be declaratory: “dogs and cats fight more when there is a full moon because they can see better.” A Roryism can be insightful: “It’s not the fear of dying that gets to cancer patients; it’s the fear of dying alone.”

For this contest, a Roryism must sound as if it comes from the viewpoint of Rory Falcon, a very special character in the novel Wicked Good.

Prize: $100 Prepaid Credit Card and winning quote will be published in Wicked Wise, book two in the Wicked series.

Contest Run Dates: September 12, 2011 - November 30, 2011

Winner Announcement: One lucky winner will be announced Wednesday, December 7, 2011 on The Muffin in a post highlighting The Top 10 Roryisms.

Judges: Authors Amy Lewis Faircloth and Joanne Lewis; WOW! Women On Writing editor Margo Dill

Rules & Regs: Open to anyone who purchases a copy of Wicked Good either as an e-book or print copy. Book may be purchased at Wicked Good is also available for purchase in both print and e-book formats at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
- You may enter as many times as you wish. Roryisms may be of any length and must be told in the character of Rory Falcon.
- Please include WOW! RORYISM CONTEST in the subject line. Please include your name and email address in your submission so we may contact you if you win. Upon submission you will receive an auto-response that your submission has been received.
- Entries must be received no later that midnight pacific time on November 29th, 2011.
- Winner will receive a $100 prepaid credit card. Winning entry will be published in the upcoming book Wicked Wise.

How to submit: Please submit your quote entries to with WOW! RORYISM CONTEST in the subject line.

Questions? Contact Amy & Joanne:
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Is Your Scriptwriting Guilty of TMI?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Is Your Scriptwriting Guilty of TMI?

by Christina Hamlett

How much do you really need to know about someone before you’re hooked into wanting to learn more? The process of setting up character introductions for your screenplay or theatrical script has a lot of similarities to the 1990’s matchmaking invention of speed-dating. Credited to an L.A. rabbi seeking to provide a social forum for Jewish singles, the concept of investing only a few minutes to scope out potential mates isn’t unlike using a few sentences to bait a reader’s curiosity about why your heroine collects ceramic owls, why your hero doesn’t own a car, or why the villagers never go to the lake after sundown.

Like many a bad first date, though, new screenwriters and playwrights have a tendency to not only spill too much too soon but expect every detail divulged to be permanently stored in the recipient’s memory. The result? Excessive backstory doesn’t just slog the pace of the plot; it makes it hard to distinguish what’s actually relevant and necessary in order to follow the action. In other words: too much information.

The use of backstory as a literary device traces its roots as far back as Greek mythology, was frequently employed in Shakespearean works to explain rivalries and revenge, and has long been a mainstay of soap operas to account for brooding obsessions and family secrets. Whether revealed partially, fully, chronologically or intermittently, backstory elements that are used wisely serve the purpose of lending depth and providing a context for understanding what has brought the characters to their present situations and mindsets.

In fiction – as in life – people aren’t born interesting; they become interesting as a product of shake-ups in the status quo that challenge and transform them. Because the majority of storytelling is linear, however, writer often embrace the notion that viewers of the film or play have to be brought up to full speed on everything that has happened in the past before they can possibly begin to grasp the meaning of the immediate problem. This approach either takes the form of copious scenes that recite highlights of the hero’s life, interactions and influences or an extended prologue that focuses on the era, environment and cultural framework in which subsequent events will transpire. Both of these strategies are guilty of violating the “show, don’t tell” rule and forestalling a plot’s official kick-off. They’re also typically comprised of specifics that never make a second appearance (i.e., Tim’s childhood turtle named Horton), much less have any connective value to the development or resolution of the core conflict.

Viewers today have shorter attention spans and more distractions competing for their leisure hours than prior generations. Accordingly, the first 10 minutes of a story for stage or screen creates an expectation of what will follow. That said, if your contemporary murder mystery set in Hawaii starts out with volcanic eruptions and screeching pterodactyls, it better be pithy and pertinent or you’re likely to lose your audience long before you get to your first dead body floating in the Halekulani swimming pool. By tightly focusing on your characters' relationships to the core conflict and to one another in the now, you're on your way to writing a leaner and more marketable script than one which takes too long meandering through life in the past lane.

Former actress/theater director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, ghostwriter, instructor and professional script consultant whose credits to date include 26 books, 132 plays, 5 optioned feature films and hundreds of articles and interviews that appear in trade publications throughout the world. Website:

Christina is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Visit our classroom page to enroll in either Introduction into Screenwriting or Introduction into Playwriting. Classes begin Monday, September 5th and run for 6 weeks. Class size is limited.
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Lauri Griffin: Third Place Spring 2011 Contest Winner

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Muffin welcomes third place winner, Lauri Griffin, for her story, "The Universe's Weird Sense of Humor." If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, please do so here

WOW: Welcome, Lauri, to the Muffin--for the second time. You were also a flash fiction contest winner in Spring 2007! What gave you the idea for this contest's winning story "The Universe's Weird Sense of Humor?"

Lauri: My boys were watching Transformers at the movie theatre; I was in a coffee shop, waiting for the movie to be over. Three women beside me were talking loudly, complaining about their kids. One had a college freshman daughter who wanted to drop out of school and get married because she had met her soulmate. The other women laughed at that. And one said she wouldn't know what to do with a soulmate if he showed up finally. And my brain said "hmmmm."

WOW: Eavesdropping is a writer's best friend! How were you able to tell a complete story in so few words?

Lauri: Thank you! I tried to just hint at things, so the reader would know this is a woman who has lived a full life. Usually I wouldn't put backstory into flash fiction piece because you just don't really have the time or words. But this woman's past was the story, the hunt for someone she was convinced was there and that full life.

WOW: Why do you enjoy writing flash fiction?

Lauri: I like the challenge of getting a story into such a tiny space, Plus, writing novels is a huge time commitment--you are going to be living with that story and those characters for years. With flash fiction, you can experiment with different characters and types of stories. You can play with it. And I think it makes all writing tighter, when you try to get so much packed into so little.

WOW: All terrific points! You have also written a novel, for which you are seeking representation. Can you tell us a little about your novel?

Lauri: It's about a young woman who wants to save the world's stories, but she doesn't know her own. She has memories that don't seem to be hers and scars on her leg that no one has ever been willing to explain. She doesn't want any more stories to be lost or forgotten because she is convinced that somewhere in our fairytales, myths, and legends are clues to a way of being, a chance for humanity to finally get it right. Her plans for a story archivist internship and her search for her own story are complicated by a mother who periodically disappears, a new boyfriend who sees colors when he hears music and whispers the science of sound to her in early morning hours, inheriting a monster of a dog, and trying to save the vaudeville stories of her landlady before they are lost in a cloud of senility. It's a story about building your own truth and meaning.

WOW: It sounds fascinating. Good luck with it! Tell us about your blog. Why did you decide to start and maintain a blog?

Lauri: A writing friend/mentor told me to start a blog. At first it really scared me, which seems laughable now. I find blogging to be a great way to connect with people. I love to get comments, especially from other countries and people I wouldn't otherwise know. I'm so inspired by other blogs, too. I love to learn about what people are learning, listening to, discovering, cooking, reading, creating, or growing. And I love to share all of that on my blog. We don't always have time to really share all those thoughts in our daily lives.

WOW: So true! Besides writing, you are a mother, a coordinator for a non-profit literacy program, and have a few hobbies. How do you fit it all in? When is your best time to write?

Lauri: I so wish I had good advice for people on how to balance it all. I know I'm always looking for those answers. The truth is that writing gets pushed aside a lot. My plans for anything at all pushed aside a lot. With kids, there is always something--a project, supplies to buy, places to drive them, a doctor's appt, a test to study for, and yet another meal to cook. I often use the Pomodoro technique, basically you work on one task for 25 minutes, have a five minute break, and then move on to the next task. It keeps me focused, on task, and it doesn't leave time to be perfectionistic or obsessive. You do what you can in that time.

I carry little notebooks everywhere, and I try to be open to inspiration. Like eavesdropping at the coffee shop, or listening to story on NPR, or just really paying attention to the world around me. This summer, I saw a young woman downtown carrying a shiny pink Christmas tree. Don't you know there's a story there? Was it a gift, or a joke, or for a play, or was she just moving and it wouldn't fit in her car?

My best time to write is when I'm by myself, but that doesn't happen all that often. Now that my boys are all teenagers, I use my noise canceling headphones a lot. You can't do that with little ones, but it's a great way to tune out their tv shows and games. And yet I'm still there if they need me.

WOW: Thank you, Lauri, for taking time out to talk with us today and share your ideas. What's next in store for your writing career?

Lauri: I had a very short story being featured at on September 16th. The challenge for this site is to write a story in 140 characters or less. And I have a few other projects in the works. 

This interview conducted by Margo L. Dill ( .
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Kathy Handley, author of Birds of Paradise, launches her blog tour

Monday, September 19, 2011
& book giveaway contest!

All hearts long for home, but home is more than a place--it is a sense of belonging. This search for belonging curves through Birds of Paradise like Route 66, allowing us to feel the unique way it touches each character’s life.

The story begins with a lonely trucker named Joe-Mack who gives a lift to Freddie, a runaway from Las Vegas. He drops Freddie in Hollywood with a wad of cash and a phone number, urging him to call if he ever needs help. Freddie finds refuge in a squat house with other runaways. There is danger in this lifestyle though, and when his friend Starlet disappears Freddie calls in Joe-Mack.

Of Birds of Paradise, the poet Kevin Donahue said “With their insides bleeding out bad memories, the runaways in Birds of Paradise are not only fleeing their past but also seeking their elusive threads of future happiness. Their griefs will break your heart, and their triumphs will restore it.”

Kathryn writes her settings with a skilled hand, those readers who have not traveled from Las Vegas to Hollywood will gain a clear sense of place; feeling the breeze, smelling the city grime. For those of us who have lived there, the road just slips away.

Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Riverhaven Books (April 15, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1450761771
ISBN-13: 978-1450761772
Twitter Hashtag: #BirdsParadise
Birds of Paradise is available at Amazon in print or as e-book for Kindle.

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of Birds of Paradise, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in a random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, September 22nd at 11:59 PM, PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #BirdsParadise, 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, September 23rd. Good luck!

About the Author: Kathy first became fascinated with truckers and their CB radios in the 1950s when the family would travel on vacations. Later, her son-in-laws work with homeless children in Los Angeles inspired her to write Birds of Paradise with Joe-Mack as a trucker who picks up a runaway and later helps him out in Hollywood.

Kathy's empathy for kids who, underneath their bravado, want to be loved and accepted, lead her to her quirky characters in Birds of Paradise. Her goal was to have readers see beyond the kids’ crazy green hair and goofy attitudes to the thread of love and dignity in each of them.

Besides her passion for writing and connecting all kinds of friends, Kathy is all about family. Pictured here are: Kathy, Ed, Elizabeth, Carolyn, Mariana, Eric, Grace, and Le’o--while loving all of them she gives special attention to her grandson, Eric Nightingale, seated in front. Kathy and Eric have been giggling together since he was a tiny boy. One of his first huge chuckles came when he saw her in a 50s flowery bathing hat. He just cracked up. Kathy is involved with the planning of activities for Eric and his special needs pals and families and will donate a portion of book sales to organizations providing experiences for these wonderful children and their peers.

Kathy loves fiction of any length! She recently won Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen Contest (2011) and currently serves as Prose Poetry Judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. A collection of her work has just been released under the title A World of Love and Envy (short fiction, flash-fiction, and poetry). She credits the folks at Grub Street, the creative writing center in Boston, for offering her the classes, encouragement, and schmoozing opportunities she needed to finally become a published novelist. Read Kathy's Grub Street post here.

Author Websites:

----------Interview by Robyn Chausse

WOW: You taught elementary school in California then moved to Vermont where you finally decided to write. Tell us about how your inner writer emerged.

Kathy: I loved reading in high school and college--from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Simone De Beauvoir. I’ve always loved stories, written and oral. After a few attempts at poetry, I began writing fiction at the age of 58 when my mom suggested I join a writing group. My experience since then taking classes, meeting authors, and continually learning more about craft and publication has been so very rewarding. I honor all my fellow writers, whether they are beginners or successfully published authors.

WOW: In Birds of Paradise you seem to have a good grasp of the issues facing young people. To what do you attribute that kind of insight and cultural tolerance?

Kathy: I attribute my interest and understanding to my family background, and personality--Irish, friendly, open, loving a good laugh, caring, spiritual, helpful, sensitive, and totally curious; my children and their friends; my own challenges as a teen. Also, teaching and living in L.A. for twenty years taught me the beauty of multicultural kids.

WOW: On your 60th birthday you received a very special gift—tell us a little about Eric.

Kathy: On my 60th birthday, Eric Nightingale was born at two pounds. After three months in the hospital, he came home and we began his journey with him towards a healthy and happy life full of wonderful experiences and great love. Eric’s courage and laughter has taught me and my whole family many life lessons. We set new goals and also began to reach out to other families with special needs children.

WOW: You mentioned that you will be giving a portion of the proceeds from Birds of Paradise to help children like Eric...

Kathy: My hubby and I are paying for book expenses out of pocket. The proceeds will go to organizations that sponsor activities for children with cerebral palsy and their typical peers. Activities will include dance parties, bowling, swimming, trips to Disney, skating parties, Read-A-Thons, etc. We are open to suggestions...

WOW: It’s so wonderful to offer these children opportunities to laugh, play, and be carefree. Kathy, you actually have two books finished, Birds of Paradise and A World of Love and Envy which is a collection of poetry and short fiction. What’s next?

Kathy: In tandem with promotion for my two books, I’m considering three projects:

- A nonfiction book that is kind of a light self-help manual called The Hotel Cure. It was inspired by Jamie Cat Callan, author of Bonjour Happiness.

- An expansion of the short story in A World of Love and Envy, Short Fiction, Flash Fiction, and Poetry, called “Up, Baby,” into a novel length story.

- A book project with my grandson, Eric, about a boy who challenges the world to know him and his ability although he has Cerebral Palsy.

WOW: Eric is ready to write a book, how wonderful! And what a heartwarming experience for a grandmother and grandson to share. Speaking of sharing, what is the most important lesson you have learned about life or writing that you can share with us today?

Kathy: Live, love, laugh and learn--forget sadness.

When you feel yourself slipping into a funky mood, remember “Life Starts Every Day,” this is according to my lovely friend, Diane Biggs.

Glean insight into life and situations by listening and watching for tiny details when in the company of brilliance (ex. grandchildren). Take a lesson from their capacity for curiosity and unconditional love.

WOW: I can almost feel the silence as everyone takes in those beautiful thoughts. Thank you, Kathy, it’s been a pleasure.

----------Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, September 20 @ CMash Loves to Read
Guilty pleasure reading! Join the discussion and win a copy of Birds of Paradise.

Wednesday, September 21 @ Choices
Come on over to choices and meet Kathy! Today Madeline hosts an interview.

Thursday, September 22 @ Words from the Heart
It's all about the power to give. Today, we discuss supporting others. Join the discussion and enter to win a copy of Birds of Paradise.

Friday, September 23 @ Lori’s Reading Corner
Passionate about something? Pass it on! We'd like to pass a book on to you--enter to win!

Tuesday, September 27 @ Mom~E~Centric
Did you know that writing a book can be heroic? Find out more and enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, September 28 @ Tracy’s Treasure of Books
Pull your reader into your story! Let's talk about writing the setting. P.S. You might win a book!

Monday, October 3 @ From the TBR Pile
Let's go visit Autumn! Today she shares her review of Birds of Paradise and offers a copy to you.

Tuesday, October 4 @ Meryl Content Maven
Readers want them, are you prepared? Today we discuss book club questions. Enter to win a copy of Birds of Paradise.

Wednesday, October 5 @ White Elephants
Runaways and homeless teens are today's topic over at White Elephants.

Thursday, October 6 @ The Gift
Get to know Kathy! Join Chynna & Kathy for an informative interview.

Saturday, October 8 @ The Gift
Pour a cup of tea and settle back as Chynna shares her review of Birds of Paradise.

Monday, October 10 @ Selling Books
Come by for an interview with Kathy Handley.

Tuesday, October 11 @ Thoughts in Progress
Today Kathy talks about writing...from a certain perspective. Enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, October 12 @ Writer Inspired
When it comes to contests--go for the big ones! Kathryn shares her experience, and enter the book giveaway.

Thursday, October 13 @ The Nostalgic Librarian
What does the librarian think about Birds of Paradise? Come find out and enter to win a copy!

Friday, October 14 @ Capability Mom
Come join the fun! Today Kathy discusses indie publishing, Nancy shares her review of Birds of Paradise and someone wins a book!

Sunday, October 16 @ Thoughts in Progress
Come to the Sunday Salon! Mason reviews Birds of Paradise.

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

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Birds of Paradise by Kathy Handley. Here's how you enter:

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

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

The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, September 22nd, at 11:59 pm, PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, September 23rd, 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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Reasons To Use Video to Enhance Your Blog Posts

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Every Monday on my blog I have a segment I call, 'MUSIC MANTRA'. Sometimes I review newly released CD's by different musicians or I have interviews with different people in the music industry. But one of my follower favorites has to be when the day's post focuses on a video I share. I even had new followers join my blog based on the addition of my MUSIC MANTRA posts. How cool is that?

After awhile, I started adding video and video links to some of my other regular posting days and I noticed that the view hits were much higher on the days I added a video than on those I used just pictures or nothing at all. That told me alot.

Now I know many of you already add the video features to your blog posts or online articles but for those who haven't tried it, or wonder how using them can help, I thought today we could talk about some good reasons for using video.

Here are some I realized from my own experience:

  • They breathe life into your words. Just think of how much brighter a story shines when you use strong verbal imagery.

  • Video can often bring a new emotional level to your piece. Visual cues, especially music videos, are deeply connected to our memory bank. Think of what happens when you watch a video of one of your favorite songs or bands. It pulls you deeper into the precious memory you hold for that song--at least it does for me.

  • Many of us are visual learners so when you add the video, your words make more sense to this group. (My daughter, Jaimie, is a visual learner and often absorbs things better with some sort of visual cue.)

  • Video can help stimulate discussion on specific issues or subjects your covering.

  • It can give the writer inspiration for an article.

  • For those writers wanting to do more journalistic-type pieces, you could do your entire article as a video. This is also a great promotional tool!

  • Authors who use video trailers for their books can often trigger a higher interest and achieve higher sales because they are making the book 'real'.

  • Video helps target those groups who actually prefer watching a story rather than reading it.

  • You're likely to have more readers sharing your story when it's been enhanced with video.

The one word of caution I should bring up is that if you aren't using your own video clips in your blog post or article, just be sure it's okay with the creator to use the video in your piece. Most times, people are cool with it as long as you give credit and/or links. But it's very important to get that permission, especially with personal YouTube videos. For example, my videos are unlisted and private because many of them are of my children. I use them for family purposes as well as for highlighting articles I write about certain therapy strategies we use. I don't want people sharing them without my permission (if they actually found them) so I always make sure I give that courtesy to others before sharing theirs.

Okay. That's it on the subject of reasons to enhance your posts with video. What are your experiences with using video clips or links in your posts?

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Friday Speak Out!: Writing From the Heart, Guest Post by Christine Molloy

Friday, September 16, 2011
Writing From the Heart

by Christine Molloy

I am a writer. There, I said it. It has taken some time to come to that realization as becoming a writer was something that I thought would happen, someday. What I didn’t quite realize is that as I was trying to become a writer, I already was one.

I dabbled in writing when I was younger, writing a poem here and there or writing meaningful, heartfelt messages in greeting cards to my friends and family. One time I wrote a personal essay about a patient I took care of when I was working as a nurse and miracle of all miracles, it was actually published in a popular nursing magazine. I enjoyed the writing process but never took the time to fully devote myself to it. Other things got in the way such as work, friends, home improvement projects, and my marriage.

Then everything changed several years ago. I lost my job, my home, and my marriage. I was battling some very complicated health issues which recently were correctly diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s syndrome. It took over twenty specialists and three and a half years to get an official diagnosis. During a lot of this time, I was unable to participate in life as I was used to. I was unable to work. The result of all these events was that I had a lot of free time on my hands. Stress and frustration over my health and limitations consumed me on a daily basis.

That was, until I started to write. In April 2010, I began a blog entitled Thoughts and Ramblings on Life, Love, and Health in which I wrote about a variety of topics, mostly life lessons that I was learning along the path of my life falling apart and then the journey of trying to rebuild it. It was then that I REALLY found my passion for writing. When I was putting down my thoughts, feelings, and opinions, the words would flow from my head onto the paper. I worked very hard to keep my blog posts realistic, but yet with a positive message. What I found was that by doing that, it helped me to keep an optimistic attitude about my own situation.

My passion for writing was further fueled by my reader’s responses to the various blog entries. Whenever I would receive a comment or feedback about how what I wrote helped a person in some way, I felt like my life had a purpose again. Finally, my life consisted of more than doctor’s appointments, tests, and phone battles with insurance companies. Through writing, I have been able to do some healing emotionally, physically, and spiritually from the chaotic circumstances of the last few years.

Becoming a writer has filled the voids of space in my days, my mind, and my heart. Through words, I have been able to reconnect with life and myself again. For that, I am quite grateful.

* * *
Christine Molloy is a writer and registered nurse who lives in Massachusetts. She is a member of the Northern Connecticut Writer's Workshop MeetUp Group and enjoys writing essays and short fiction. More of Christine's work can be seen on her blog: Thoughts and Ramblings on Life, Love, and Health (


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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Knowonder! A Wonderful Opportunity for Parents and Children's Writers

Thursday, September 15, 2011
knowonder! is an online magazine that has been in existence since 2009. Our goal is to provide a quality story daily for children ages 3 to 10.

Jane Johnson is the editor of the magazine, and she had this to say: As the editor at this magnificent children’s magazine, I have the pleasure of working with founder Phillip Chipping as we search through submissions looking for creative stories that will encourage imagination and wonder in children. I’ve always loved reading and telling stories to my own children. As a special education teacher I get to read with amazing kids every day. I love it when a story engages them, holds their attention, provokes conversation. My original bachelor’s degree is in English literature. I love to read; some of my favorite characters include Stanley Yelnats, Silas Marner, a little known Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione, Mr. Bennet, and many other men and all of the women created by Jane Austen.

WOW: Jane, welcome to The Muffin. knowonder! provides a FREE story daily to read aloud or with children ages 3 to 10. How do parents access this story? Are there illustrations with it?

Jane: Stories can easily be accessed at; or if parents join our e-mail list on the “join us” tab, we’ll e-mail the stories to them each day. I hope they’ll have a look around our site. They will find more worthy reading under the “For You by You” tab, and artwork and stories from children under the “By Kids for Kids” section.

Our stories will include one illustration. We’re glad to use illustrations submitted by the author if they are well done like the Tucker the Turtle illustration on day two of September’s issue. We even link to other works by the artist.

WOW: What type of stories are on knowonder!? Are they all different genres?

Jane: Absolutely! We will consider sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction, and any other original work of fiction. We are looking for really fun stories with lots of action, humor, suspense, and other elements of quality fiction. We want our writers to create imaginative works of art; stories with plenty of description, imagery, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and my personal favorite-- onomatopoeia. We want to give parents plenty of wonderful words and sensational sentences that flow together smoothly as they read them aloud, plenty of opportunity to really get into the characters in the story and have fun with their children while reading with expression. We will only occasionally print non-fiction. We’ve had a few submissions that treat a non-fiction topic cleverly disguised as fiction, and we are seriously considering including them. We are having a load of fun seeing what comes out of the creative minds of those who submit. We will also print first chapters of books and link to places where the rest of the book can be purchased, just as we did with the story on day eleven this month.

WOW: What a great opportunity for a children's book author! You are looking for writers to write these stories. Please give us some tips on how to get a story accepted at knowonder!.

Jane: Make me smile! Make me cry! Make me laugh! I’m a teacher and a child at heart still. If you have the basics of grammar and composition down, and can incorporate the elements I’ve described above, you’ll hold my interest to the end of the tale. Then, if you’ve really created a good plot that flows well, following the rules of POV and tense, you’re one step further. My favorite thing, though, is when an author creates a character that I absolutely love! One that children can relate to. I have six children, and have spent very few days of my life away from children. Children want to have fun. One of my favorite sounds is the sound of a child’s giggle. Make them giggle, and you’ve got a great story! What we don’t want to see at knowonder! are preachy, didactic works that come completely from the adult who has lost the essence of childhood. Also, if you are going to write about something like relationships or moving or any other possibly overdone topic, please do it with a twist. Add some flair!! Lastly, please show-don’t-tell! If I read, “The boy was sad,” I’m probably going to stop reading. What did he do to show me he was sad? Cry? Turn his head away with a tear in his eye? Show me, don’t tell me.

WOW: Thank you for those specific tips! You are not a paying market, so what benefits do you offer writers?

Jane: A few years ago when I first heard about knowonder! magazine, I was thrilled! I remember thinking: What an innovative fun idea!! Genius! So many of us have stories inside us wriggling to get out! Mr. Phillip Chipping, founder of knowonder!, had the incredible idea to not only provide a story a day to read aloud to children, but also the wonderful idea to provide a place for writers to publish their work. Phillip’s dream is to keep this magazine free so that as many children as possible can have access to it. We hope those who submit will feel as strongly about literacy as we do. Many years ago, parents, children, grandparents, and friends would gather around and tell stories, share experiences, and weave fantastic tales. At knowonder!, we hope to keep this practice alive. Of course, we offer the benefit of two contests to our writers, as well. Hopefully, that will spur them on until the day that knowonder! is making enough money to pay each and every writer for the stories that are published. That is our goal.

WOW: That's a great philosophy. Literacy is the key to life! Please share information about your two writing contests.

Jane: These contests make it even more fun to have a story published on knowonder! Each month, we have a People’s Choice award; the story that receives the most comments and/or links within the first seven days of its printing will be awarded a $100.00 prize. For the Editor’s Choice award, we will choose one story a month also; our favorite or the favorite of a guest editor will be chosen and receive $100.00. We are hoping to hear from authors and editors who would like to serve as guest editor. Our payment to them will be links to their work and websites. All the guidelines and more info on the contests can be found at

WOW: What wonderful opportunities you provide for writers (and readers!). If writers are interested in submitting to you, where can they find submission guidelines? Do you accept e-mail submissions?

Jane: Submission guidelines can be found here, , or by going to and clicking on the submissions tab. We do accept e-mail submissions. I’d like to draw attention again to the "For You by You" and "By Kids for Kids" sections. We’re looking for all kinds of submissions and the guidelines, can be found here at the submissions tab.

WOW: Thank you, Jane, for sharing this information with our readers! Is there anything else you would like to add about knowonder!?

Jane: We hope you will all become daily readers at knowonder! Share our site with the children in your lives, and spread the word to everyone you know who loves to read to children. As a school teacher, I know that many times children are expected to read twenty minutes per night or so. Reading at knowonder! may invoke various emotions, spur conversations, or be so much fun, kids and adults alike will enjoy fulfilling that requirement for homework with us! There are so many agencies, groups, clubs, etc. that talk about the importance of reading twenty minutes each day. We are talking the talk and walking the walk. We are not only talking about it--we are going to the next step by enabling it. We hope you join us.

Also, for writers, you may find a home for your short story at knowonder! We print more stories than any other children’s magazine out there. A story a day! Please submit your best woven work. We’ll be looking forward to reading the stories you’ve masterfully spun!

WOW: Thank you so much, Jane; it has been a pleasure interviewing you. I am so glad you told us about knowonder! I hope some of our readers are already thinking about what stories to e-mail you.

This interview was conducted by Margo L. Dill. If you are interested in writing for children's magazines like knowonder!, Margo teaches an online class on writing for children: short stories, articles, and fillers through WOW!'s classroom. The next start date is September 29, and this fall there is a discounted price of $25 off the regular classroom fee. For more information or to register, please click here:
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