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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giveaway: Bliss Mid-Back Management Office Chair ($263 retail)

As writers, we all know the importance of B.I.C. (Butt in Chair) if we want to get any work done. We spend hours in front of the keyboard on a daily basis, so why not give your behind—and your back—the comfort it deserves!

WOW! Women On Writing is proud to team up with and for this luxurious giveaway. The Bliss Mid-Back Management Office Chair – 7202 by SAFCO features Tilt Tension Control, 4-Position Synchro Lock Mechanism and Height Adjustability, making it perfect for use as an office chair or conference chair for any home office or meeting room. Its comfortable seating and adjustable features create a look that is contemporary and functional. It’s valued at $399 and retails on for $263. It’s available in flowers (as pictured) or plain fabric (your choice!). Full details and dimensions can be found here:

Here at WOW! Women On Writing, we want you to know that we appreciate you! We want you to be comfortable while you are penning the Great American Novel at your desk or typing your next blog post. To express our gratitude, and to encourage great writing, we are giving away the Bliss Mid-Back Management Office Chair to one lucky reader! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. Good luck!

[Notes: This contest is open to US residents only in the 48 contiguous states (which excludes Alaska and Hawaii). If you can't see the form below, click the "Read More >>" link or click here.]

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meet Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest Winner, Suki Michelle!

Suki Michelle is the co-author of the young adult urban fantasy, The Apocalypse Gene (Parker Publishing, Inc. 2011), on which she collaborated with her husband, Carlyle Clark. Their current co-project is a collection of speculative fiction stories set in the town of Redemption, Arkansas in the 1930s. Suki has two novels in progress and is a published poet. She owns a medical transcription company and works as a ghost-blogger for a Chicago celebrity. Suki is most proud of her beautiful daughter, Bree, who will soon complete her nursing training. Her passions include people-watching and chocolate.

Learn more about Suki’s co-written debut novel at:

The Apocalypse Gene Fan Page:

Visit Suki’s blog:

Follow Suki on Twitter:

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Fall 2011 writing contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Suki: Thank you so much for the congratulations. The win was quite a thrill!

I wrote this piece as an exercise to see if I could express the feelings of a highly creative but lonely child. While the facts of the story mostly fictional, the atmosphere and emotional elements are real. Also, I had previously earned an Honorable Mention in an earlier WOW! Flash Fiction Contest, and I wanted to try again after another year of learning the craft. I was happy with the piece after at least a zillion edits (mostly deletes).

WOW: We're so glad that you decided to try again! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "No One Told Me Stories? "

Suki: I was trying to pinpoint the driving force behind my desire to be a writer. It began with a love of stories. My father was indeed a surgeon with an eidetic memory, though he behaved much better than the father in the story. My mother was very engaging, unlike the fictional mother. I was always encouraged to read and had many books. My grandmother often told me stories about her life in Russia during the pogroms and her experiences as an immigrant landing on Ellis Island as a young girl. Those stories were probably the first to both terrify and inspire me.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Suki: Flash fiction poses a specific challenge. Every word must earn the right to live on the page. If you write some scintillating prose, the best ever, but it doesn’t contribute powerfully to the piece, DELETE! If it’s fluff, DELETE! If it’s repetitive or dull, DELETE! What remains must have voice, a message, subtext, imagery, texture, rhythm--all the elements of solid writing, but economical and concentrated. Flash fiction is closest to poetry in that regard--the fewest words for the most impact. These principles carry over into everything one writes. Also, writing flash fiction is great practice for synopses and query letters.

WOW: You’ve co-written a young adult novel that’s received many positive reviews. What do you think makes for a successful collaboration on a big writing project? It seems like it could be pretty tricky making it work!

Suki: Carlyle and I have complementary skill sets - the key to our successful collaboration on The Apocalypse Gene. Carlyle’s forte is plot design. He knows how to unwind a story and where to plant “reveals” and backstory. My strength is in characterization and setting. We both have insane imaginations but very different personalities. I’m outgoing and impulsive. He’s introspective and thoughtful. I draw him out; he reins me in.

The Apocalypse Gene centers around a girl with the ability to see psychic auras. She lives in a world beset by global pandemic, and her psychic abilities make her environment all the more dismal. It was interesting to explore the conflicts she faces, especially when it becomes her mission to stop the pandemic, which she discovers is far more than a mere disease.

As you say, co-writing was sometimes tricky. It was an ambitious project and took three years to write. Did we ever argue? Ummmm no? Okay yes. A lot. But we respect each other, and we were eventually able to reach consensus without compromising our individual visions. Interestingly, we didn’t set out to write for the YA demographic. We just had a story to tell. Genre categorization came later.

WOW: What was the road to publication of your novel like?

Suki: We began by querying every agency we could find that represents writers of speculative fiction. Many requested the manuscript, either partial or full. The rejections poured in. That was a harrowing experience. Sometimes I had meltdowns, which Carlyle refers to as my “mini-Chernobyls.” Carlyle has great equanimity, and he got me through it. Eventually, I toughened up--a little (not enough).

When the agents were kind enough to comment, the feedback was consistent. They found it well written and highly imaginative, but they declined mostly because it didn’t fit neatly into a particular genre. It has elements of fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, mid-apocalyptic, paranormal romance, and cyberpunk. An agent’s primary purpose is to pitch a project to publishers, and there was no proven sales paradigm for such a mixed-genre YA novel. Hence, a slew of “regretful” rejections.

We then began a round of queries to publishers who accept direct (un-agented) submissions. Parker Publishing was very enthusiastic about the project for their newly launched YA imprint, Moxie. Parker focuses on multiethnic literature, and it just so happens that the protagonist of The Apocalypse Gene is a teenaged girl of mixed race. Parker snapped it up, designed a cool cover, and put it out there. Carlyle and I worked very hard to get reviews via blog tours, Goodreads promotions, Facebook, Twitter, and much more.

WOW: Thanks for sharing your publishing journey. That's great that you found a good home for the book and it's doing well. 

 Switching gears a bit, you’ve mentioned people-watching and chocolate as two of your favorite things. Can you tell us what your preferred spots are for observing others? How about your first choice for chocolate?

Suki: I live across the street from a 24-hour Walmart. I like to listen to audio-books on my Kindle and wander the aisles with my headphones on, observing, speculating, and imagining. Everyone is a potential character. I observe their expressions, clothes, body language, what they’re buying, how they handle frustrations, whether they seem kind, belligerent, or utterly mad. (The Walmart regulars no doubt think I’m a weirdo.)

I like to imagine people in strange occupations, turn them into zombies, extra-dimensional visitors, serial killers, drug addicts, superheroes, or just plain folks facing difficult conflicts. I also like to people-watch in hospital lobbies, train stations, and restaurants. I know it’s not polite to stare, but I can’t help myself!

As for my first choice for chocolate - ANY AND ALL, but no nuts, please. I’m a chocolate purist.

WOW: Now all of your fans will know what kind of chocolate to bring you. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Suki! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Suki: Do your best work, and enter. If (and when) you don’t win, produce more of your best work, and enter again. Writing is a tough gig. The only way to succeed is to DO IT. Get better, write, write, write, present your work to readers, judges, fellow authors, and agents. The road to writing success is paved with rejection, reward, disappointment, elation, and constant self-discovery. Keep going, but be aware--the further you travel, the more the road stretches on.


Our Winter Flash Fiction contest is open until tomorrow, February 29th!
For information, check out our contest page.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lisa de Nikolits, author of West of Wawa, launches her blog tour

& book giveaway contest!

Remember those car trips of your childhood? Trapped in a vehicle with people (also known as siblings) who wouldn't stop talking or kicking your seat or flicking your ear? Eating cold lunches at picnic tables and greasy fried food at questionable diners? Feeling if you didn't escape the Midwest flatness (or the mountains or the shoreline) you would go crazy? Would you voluntarily take that same trip today?

West of Wawa is about taking that seemingly endless car trip except instead of family you're traveling with a revolving cast of complete strangers and instead of a few days the trip last for weeks. Loveless and jobless, Benny thinks maybe she'll find what she's looking for on a bus trip across Canada. Her adventure—like life—is a mixture of humor, horror, the unexpected, and boredom that readers won't soon forget.

Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Inanna Publications
ISBN-10: 1926708245
ISBN-13: 978-1926708249
Twitter Hashtag: #WestOfWawa

West of Wawa is available online at Amazon and Indigo as well as at your local bookstores.

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of West of Wawa, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, March 1 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WestOfWawa, 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, March 2. Good luck!

About the Author:

Originally from South Africa, Lisa has been a Canadian citizen since 2003—although she still retains a lilting voice that causes fellow Canadians to ask, "You aren't from Canada, eh?" With a Bachelor's of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy, Lisa has also lived and worked in the United States, Australia, and Great Britain.

Lisa thought she was on her way to fame and fortune when the South African edition of Cosmopolitan bought two of her poems in 1986. Sadly, the road to being a published writer was not as easy as she hoped! Throughout her writing career, Lisa has tried her hand at everything from children's picture books to short stories to novellas to feature magazine articles. Her first novel The Hungry Mirror, which won an IPPY Gold Medal for Women's Fiction in 2011, was inspired by her work as art director for magazines including Vogue and Marie Claire. Lisa is now working on her next novel Between the Cracks She Fell.

Find the Author Online:

Author Website:


Twitter: @lisadenikolits

Book Reading:

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

WOW: Often we hear that art imitates life. Did you ever take a trip across Canada? Is that how you got the idea for West of Wawa?

Lisa: Yes. I took a road trip across Canada—and yes, on a bus! I didn't get the idea for the book on that trip though—the idea came many years later after I had just been let go from a job that I thought would be the best job ever and I was feeling really down in the dumps. I remember sitting in a coffee shop and overhearing some trendy young fellows (gosh I sound about ninety!) anyway, they were chatting with great confidence about the manuscripts they were working on and I thought "I used to do that—I used to write."

You see, I hadn't written in ages because I'd been busy; moving from South Africa to Australia and then from Australia to Canada and then I was employed in a job where there was a lot of travel but I didn't write at all—I was too busy working (as an art director) and creating magazines. But there I was, magazineless and jobless and I overheard their conversation and I sat up straight and thought, go home and write a novel NOW!

The funny thing, is really do believe that books and stories come to me, as opposed to me chasing books or plots or stories—because this story came to me. However, in its first incarnation, it was a rather lukewarm offering and subsequently needed to be completely rewritten but as a first draft, it got the ball rolling.

I have visited all the places I mention in the book but not in that order and not all at once. I've also visited other places in Canada which I didn't put in the book because they didn't have a place in this novel.

The interesting thing for me was seeing the trip again through Benny's eyes—it was a different trip really—so I got to do it twice—once with myself and then again with Benny. It was a wild ride, being alongside Benny, there were times I had no idea what she'd do next or where she'd go.

By the way, can I say that I think that one way or another, art always imitates life—even if one is a Salvador Dali kind of writer—our origin of idea is always our experiences but the expression or finished 'painting' has our own individual magic to thank.

WOW: Do you keep a journal when you travel to record all the places you visit and your impressions? Take photographs?

Lisa: I sometimes keep a journal and other times not. For example, I went to Peru for my fortieth birthday and I didn't write a thing—and yet it was a great adventure and I'm sure there was a fantastic story in there somewhere but just not one that called out to me. I photographed everything in sight bit I didn't take a single note. I wonder if perhaps there's something at work in my subconscious that tells me when I need to pay attention and keep a journal, versus the times of just being on holiday for holiday's sake. Because I did take notes of my Canadian adventure and I took notes of my trip to Namibia and they both evolved into novels. Although when I went to Namibia, I decided to write about it en route because I wanted to share everything with my husband who'd been unable to come with me. For the most part, I write about the scenery and I carefully document the weather and hours of travel and such—the characters in my book come from elsewhere.

I'm not sure what my specific motivation was for keeping a travel journal when I took my trip across Canada apart from the fact that it felt companionable to do and also, I thought that when I'm (really) old, I'd be able to reread about my adventures and relive my journey.

When I was thinking about your questions, I dug around my study to take a look at my journals and I must admit, my writing's terrible! I can hardly make sense of any of it—I've got no idea why I wrote with such tiny handwriting—it's all cramped together and it's nearly undecipherable. I also don't seem to have one style of handwriting—I'm not sure what that says about my personality! I write with a backslant, in all caps, then in a sort of forward leaning tiny cursive, then in big upright block letters that seem quite square and mannish—I dig hard into the paper and it's clear that I don't like to leave a single inch uncovered—I also seem to write in a hurry, as if anxious the words will leave me before they become pressed onto the page.

I always take photographs. A camera is a friend, particularly when one is traveling alone. There's a great comfort in the study of taking a shot—it's a creative experience and you focus fully on the task at hand—I find it quite meditative. Your seeing eye is very different when you are looking through a camera and I find it to be a restorative experience. Back in the day though, upon returning home, I'd sort through all my images carefully and send them to everyone and print copies and stick prints up on my walls but these days I have to admit I'm too busy to do most of that—I still take pictures but I don't work on them to the same degree.

I recall, when my now-husband and I were courting, I showed him my pictures of Peru and several hours later he commented that I'd documented the life span of a llama—very true! I loved the llama to the point that I subjected the poor man to a good few hours of looking at them from every angle. I have yet to write about a llama though.

WOW: If you could set a future book in any spot—one you've visited or one you haven't—where would it take place?

Lisa: Ooh, what a lovely question! Hmmmm, let me think. Anywhere? I think I'd like to visit Hungary again (I was there once, briefly) and I'd like to work a novel around that. Hungary is such a rich country and I love the food, the clothes, the textures, the colours, the language (although I can't speak it). My father was born in Hungary (although he arrived in South Africa when he was only six years old) but all our family's traditions—Easter, Christmas, and the like—were all very Hungarian and I love that. So yes, I'd pick Hungary but then maybe make it a train adventure that takes me to Poland and all over Eastern Europe. And what would the story be about? I have no idea! And would it be summer or winter? Winter would be more of an adventure and probably more interesting for a story too...although then again, summer opens up the plot to other interesting avenues too...

Or you know, I'd love to write a novel set on a cruise ship—sure it's been done but the possibilities for ideas are endless...

WOW: You've traveled to many different spots around the world. Have you ever used your travels in other types of writing?

Lisa: As I mentioned earlier, I went back to find my travel journal for my trip across Canada and I found it in a box with a large number of hand-written short stories about South Africa and my Christmas trips back home—talk about surprises! I had no idea I'd written those short stories (or anything) on those trips. Now I'm inspired to input those and see if they're any good for anything...interesting! And I also found poems—how odd! So, were it not for this interview, I might never have looked in that box. Now I want to go through every piece of paper in that closet in my study!

WOW: Glad we could help you rediscover a treasure trove! Since this is your second novel you must be an old hand a promotion by now! Any useful lessons for us?

Lisa: Well, first off, I did make one mistake—I thought I could do this (promoting) without WOW! Women On Writing—big mistake! The thing is, you make it look so easy and after the success of our tour with The Hungry Mirror, I thought, I can do that, it won't take much time, shouldn't be hard at all... but then I got distracted writing a new novel that came out of nowhere and when I looked up, I'd lost three months and so I thought it's time to call the experts! So I have learned that lesson—that just because something looks easy doesn't mean it is, and that having help from friends, colleagues, and professionals is a wonderful thing. One of the things I love about what we do—the marketing aspects, I mean—is that people are so generous with their time and blogs and support—that's crucial and it validates one's writing too—it's wonderful to get response and support.

I do think it's easier this time around in terms of having people endorse the book for jacket comments and things like that. I have a reading coming up at the Toronto Public Library, at the same branch I read at the last time, and so relationships have been built which is very helpful.

WOW: One piece of advice you'd like to share with us about the writing life?

Lisa: Writing is not for the faint-hearted. You need gumption and determination—you have to keep forging on even in the face of rejection—or worse, in the face of silence. Sometimes you have no idea at all if your work will ever see the light of day but you have to keep on writing, you have to keep the faith in yourself. If you don't stay the long, tough course then you won't make it to the finish line. I hope I'm not alarming people by saying this! I'm just saying most of the time it's you, alone, tired, and not sure if the words will ever find their place in the world but like a pilgrim on a dark road with only a candle for light, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Goodness, I sound apocalyptic!

WOW: So what's next?

Lisa: My next novel is a murder mystery set in Namibia—yes, after four years, this novel is still a work in progress but it is moving forward! I've just received a lot of great comments from my publisher about how to improve the novel and that will be my next goal; to do the rewrites and cutting and then hope that the novel cuts the mustard with my publisher. I feel as if I've been working on this particular novel forever and so now I'm going to approach these rewrites as if I've never looked at the work before. I love this book so much—if everything pans out, this novel will hopefully come out in 2013—something to look forward to—if the Mayan Calendar was wrong, which hopefully it was—I've got to many books to write for the world to end! Thank you WOW! Women On Writing and thank you Jodi!

WOW: My pleasure! A murder mystery...what a new direction for you! I look forward to it. And I'm sure the Mayans will cooperate!

--------Blog Tour Dates

Thursday, March 1 @ Book Bags and Cat Naps
Don't miss Lisa de Nikolits' post "The Road to Publishing is as Long as the Transcanada Highway" as well as a review of her novel West of Wawa. And stop by @wowblogtour to tell us how long you think the Transcanada Highway is—you could win a prize!

Friday, March 2 @ Book Bags and Cat Naps
Interview with Lisa de Nikolits, author of West of Wawa, and a chance to win a Twitter contest by visiting @wowblogtour.

Monday, March 5 @ A Writer's Life
Learn more about author Lisa de Nikolits during an interview today and stop back on Thursday for more fun!

Wednesday, March 7 @ A Writer's Life
Don't miss today's review of a West of Wawa, the tale of a life's bus!

Thursday, March 8 @ Selling Books
Get the insider's scoop on Lisa de Nikolits, author of West of Wawa, a novel about self-discovery.

Friday, March 9 @ Books, Books the Magical Fruit
Novelist Lisa de Nikolits tells readers why Canada should be their next vacation destination...and she should know, her latest novel West of Wawa is about a trip across Canada.

Sunday, March 11 @ Lit Endeavors
Don't miss a review of Lisa de Nikolits' novel West of Wawa, the story of a woman's search for her life along the transcanadian highway.

Friday, March 16 @ Me and Reading
Lisa de Nikolits shares "Five Tips to Make You a Better Writer" and a review of her new novel West of Wawa.

Monday, March 26 @ Selling Books
Don't just write postcards on your next vacation—novelist Lisa de Nikolits tells how to "Weave Your Travels into Fiction Writing."

Tuesday, March 27 @ Lit Endeavors
Today Lisa de Nikolits answers questions about being a novelist, the beauty of Canada, and more.

Thursday, March 29 @ Cathy C. Hall
All your dreams are coming true! They're publishing your book. But before you can pop the champagne the publishing house closes. Sound like a horror story? Actually, it's novelist Lisa de Nikolits' real experience. Stop by to find out what happened next!

Friday, March 30 @ Cindy's Love of Books
Get some insight about the drive to write in this interview with Lisa de Nikolits.

To view all 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 or Robyn at

Book Giveaway Contest:

Enter to win a print copy of West of Wawa by Lisa de Nikolits. Here's how you enter:

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

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

The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, March 1 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day—Friday, March 2, and if we have the winner's email address from the comments section, we will also notify the winner via email.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Noisy Writing?

Noisy writing, courtesy of the washing machine.
Photo | Elizabeth King Humphrey
A washing machine.

That is the image that came to mind when I read the article "A New, Noisier Way of Writing" by Anand Giridharadas in The New York Times. The article details how isolated Jonathan Franzen must be to write. Giridharadas contends that image of writers is an old one, but that we find many disruptions these days and our culture has become much more fast paced in recent years.

That's where the washing machine came to mind. As the article makes its way around to other slow and deliberate writers (Walt Whitman and V.S. Naipaul), I wondered if these writers ever thought that their writing could be produced in cycles: first solitude, then a bit of noise and without interacting with their readers. (Giridharadas mentions Paulo Coelho, Teju Cole, and Salman Rushdie who take the opposite approach by tweeting and appear less isolationist.)

I agree that writing deserves some solitude. However, more importantly, I feel that you can create good writing within a spin cycle. Or a combination of these: A shushing wash and soak in between the thundering spin. A delicate wash some days will do just fine.

When I worked in a newsroom I embraced all the hustle and bustle you can imagine. You get used to it, adapting to the busiest of days and the slowest of hours. Because I am now so accustomed to distractions and noise (a car engine revs, my children's audiobook or music, the creaks of our old home...or even the washing machine going full throttle), there are times my writing craves the slight noise that reminds me of a sense or an idea.

Maybe this environment will assist me with my writing; maybe it will hinder it. I guess my readers will be the judge of that. Unfortunately, at this moment, I don't have an isolation tank to retire to with pen and paper in hand. So, I am all about noisy writing. 

In the end, I agree with Giridharadas that there is a place for those who work in solitude, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of us who don't.

How do you write best--in complete solitude or with noises? Do you think only the best writing can come from a writer who has a quiet place?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in a rather lively (read: noisy) home in Southeastern North Carolina.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

9 Things You Must Do After Signing a Book Contract

  1. Rejoice and celebrate. Truly, there are enough disappointing things in this world and in the publishing industry, you must stop and celebrate. Celebrate each and every step along the way. Pull in your friends and colleagues and make a big deal of this! Take joy!
  2. Grab the domain. Do you have a firm title for the book? Then grab the domain. Even if you do nothing with it for the next year, besides a placeholder page, you must get the domain as soon as possible. Why? Because one way that Google ranks a site is the age of the domain. The older domains get more traffic. Even a year old is better than a month old. As soon as possible, as soon as you know the title, reserve the domain. I use because it is fast and easy. If you're into Facebook, reserve the Fan Page now with the username you want to use.
  3. Schedule. You're going to have deadlines, now. Likely, you'll need to revise your manuscript; if you sold it on an outline, you'll need to write the whole thing now. You need a calendar--online or offline--to keep you on track. I have a small desk calendar and religiously record every deadline and every speaking engagement, so I always know where and when I need to have things done.
  4. Update Bios Everywhere. Right now, while you're still excited and the work hasn't set in yet, continue the celebration by updating your bios everywhere. It is surprising how many I know have to keep updated. Besides the standard bio I send everywhere, I also have bios on Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, SCBWI, my blog and probably a couple other places that I'll find later and wish I had updated. While I am adding the new, exciting info about a new book, I also try to update any photos.
  5. Get set up to work. By this, I mean that I set up folders in my file drawer, folders on my computer storage, set aside a place in my bookshelf for materials related to this book. (Well, really, I sorta say to myself, OK, everything for this book goes right there, on top of that stack of stuff.) By mentally, physically and digitally getting organized, I streamline work later. For computer folders, I might set up a BOOK folder and sub-folders for publicity, art, old files (For old versions of the mss--I find that I can't delete old drafts, I just can't.), and miscellaneous.
  6. Start the buzz. Start talking about the story and why you wrote it. Giving a speech to librarians next month? Put this news as a prologue or a postscript. Talk about it now, so anticipation builds. It's not coming out for two years? Still, talk about it now. Getting people excited about a Forthcoming is very important.
  7. Get to know your editor. No, you're not going to be chummy with the editor. But get to know their preferred methods of communication. Do they like phone calls or email? Are they all business or do they like a bit of humor thrown in or perhaps a bit of family info here and there? Look at them as a person you're going to get to know, while respecting their busy schedule.
  8. Write the next manuscript. While you're still in this honeymoon phase, in between rejections, it's a good idea to write your next manuscript. Of course, you'll be thinking about submitting and selling this to New Fabulous Editor; but keep in mind that it might not fit their needs. So, be ready with Plan B to submit it elsewhere (or have your agent submit elsewhere). If you sold on an outline and are deep into the research, it's still a good time to be thinking about the next mss--if you can. Being a success in publishing is 90% about selling the next manuscript and 10% about delivering an exceptional mss now.
  9. Rejoice. I know I mentioned this in number one. But really. Celebrate.Tomorrow's email may bring a heartbreaking rejection, so you must celebrate this success today. Writers need to learn to live in the moment, celebrating the joy of an apt phrase and a John Hancock scrawled across a legal document.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Speak Out!: Old Dogs, New Tricks, Guest Post by Jo Barney

Old Dogs, New Tricks

by Jo Barney

I’ve sold thirty books. I apparently have taken the first step on my path to fame and fortune. My efforts to format The Solarium have resulted, after weeks of swear words salted with hot tears, and one faulty embarrassing edition, in my e-book being offered by Amazon.

Unfortunately, two friends downloaded the first version which was published without indentations. I hope that reading whole chapters as one paragraph didn’t make them as annoyed as I get when I try to read Kafka. But for $2.99, maybe they were willing to struggle a little.

I managed to get a Kindle helper to put the paragraphs in for me after I had tried to do it myself five times over three days. I think my pathetic email got to him. Seeing them magically appear lifted the heavy cloak of obsession that I had worn for week. The sunlight almost blinded me.

The euphoria didn’t last long, only until I reluctantly began to preview the published second version, as Kindle requests. I couldn’t imagine, now that it had paragraphs, that anything else could be wrong with my perfect story. Just in case, I kept a pad at my finger tips for notes. Seven scribbled pages later, I understood that I couldn’t let anyone else buy what I had twice prematurely clicked the “Publish” button on.

I had left out words and whole lines, missed a couple of blank pages, misnamed a key character, repeated words like “laugh” too many times. Punctuation marks had corrupted or disappeared, victims, I supposed, of an earlier editing session.

However, once I corrected all this and published a third version, my indentations for paragraphs disappeared again. My Kindle helper gave me a solution which wiped out the photo I was using as an inside title page. My efforts to add the photo didn’t work, even after he sent me directions three times.

So I published the book anyway, imperfect like me, but okay, and it’s beginning to sell. I learned a couple of important lessons in this weeks-long process which I’ll pass along to anyone thinking of formatting and publishing an e-book on her own:

     1. Never click the Publish button until you have re-read your manuscript so many times your eyes itch and then wait a day or so and read it word-for-word one more time

     2. When you have a problem, don’t think you have to deal with it alone; ask someone. Kindle help was great for the most part. Just make sure you’ve done the editing before you ask.

* * *
Jo now has two e-books published on Kindle and on iBook, The Solarium and Graffiti Grandma. After teaching and counseling for years, she began to write nearly full time, publishing essays and short stories and winning a few awards along the way. The urge to write a novel led to four of them. The urge to publish led her to investigate the opportunities of electronic books. Now she’s fully into the marketing of these books and she finds this new venture as challenging as any other aspect of writing. Her blog is

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!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Does Point of View Matter?

by raramaurina
A very common mistake writers make in their first drafts is to head hop, or change point of view, between the characters in a scene. This is usually not done on purpose. Here’s an example:

Eleanor wondered what could possibly be in Harold’s box. “That’s a really small container. I thought you were bringing all your old office supplies.”

“I am,” Harold said, laughing to himself. Eleanor was such a busybody. He would teach her to mind her own business.

“So, this is some kind of joke, then?” She asked, knowing Harold didn’t have a very good sense of humor.

In this scene, we are clearly in the minds of both characters. The scene has more than one point of view.

So, isn’t this omniscient point of view then? Can’t the narrator know what both characters are thinking? Some may argue yes. But omniscient point of view isn’t used much today; and when used properly, it has to sound all knowing—the narrator has to know everything about everyone. That’s not happening in this short scene. There’s definitely head-hopping going on.

Why does it matter?
Readers want to connect with the main character in a story. One of the best ways for writers to accomplish this connection is to reveal his or her thoughts and feelings—not just action and dialogue. Most readers love character-driven novels, so writers should strive to create a character that readers want to follow through an entire novel. Filter the story through this character’s eyes, so readers experience life like him or her.

How do you fix head-hopping?
To fix the above scene, pick a point of view character and filter everything through that character’s eyes and mind. Pretend to be that character. You know you can’t read another person’s mind. You can only recognize body language, tone of voice, and dialogue. Your characters are the same way. So, try this:

Eleanor wondered what could possibly be in the box Harold carried. “That’s a really small container. I thought you were bringing all your old office supplies.”

“I am.” Harold smirked and shook the box.

“So, this is some kind of joke, then?” She asked, knowing Harold didn’t have a very good sense of humor.

He almost glared at her, and Eleanor shuddered. Maybe he doesn’t like me very much, she thought.

I revealed the same information about Harold and Eleanor in the second example as I did in the first. The difference is in the second one, the reader learns about both characters through Eleanor’s point of view. The second scene also gives readers a different opinion of Harold because they can’t see inside his mind. But thet probably have a stronger connection with Eleanor.

Can you have multiple points of view?
You can have multiple points of view, but these should be done on purpose and in different scenes. For example, when James Patterson writes his Alex Cross series, he often has a chapter in the killer’s point of view and then a chapter in Alex Cross’s point of view. The switching is organized and purposeful—not random or accidental.

Point of view does matter. If you are reading a scene and something seems off, look to see if you have a point of view problem.

Margo is teaching a new class for WOW, "Advanced Class: Writing a Middle-Grade Novel Part 2." This class is for anyone wanting to write a middle-grade novel and has at least three chapters completed. Many first draft issues are tackled, such as point of view switches. For more information, check out the class listing here

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Writing Contest For Your Best Experience EVER!

Normally on my blog days I like to give some writing tips or tell y'all about the new and exciting things going on in the writing world. Today, I have something very exciting to share! I'm hosting a writing contest on my blog, 'The Gift' for my daughter, Jaimie.

As many of you know, Jaimie didn't have the easiest start to her life. But thanks to great therapists, fantastic teachers, empathetic friends and a family who never gave up, she's doing amazing today. At her nine-years of age, she already knows the importance of raising awareness through education. One of the ways she teaches others about SPD and other sensory issues is by blogging every Wednesday on 'The Gift'. She talks about what it's really like being a kid living and coping with SPD on her segment we call, "The Sensational World According to Jaimie". And the idea she came up with last week I just had to share with you.

Jaimie asked me if we could have a writing contest. What she'd like everyone to do is to come over and post about your best experience ever in 250 words or less. It doesn't have to be SPD or Autism related. It just has to be something that you'll never forget and want to share. You have until February 29th and Jaimie is the judge! One lucky winner will nab a copy of Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey With SPD signed by BOTH Jaimie and I. How can you not want to enter? All the details of the contest are in our post HERE.

This contest means so much to both of us. For Jaimie, it's a fun idea she's proud she came up with and is so excited to read people's stories. For me, it's another step along Jaimie's 'sensational' journey that I am so proud to see her take.

Good luck and feel free to spread the word for us!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Meredith Zeitlin, author of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, launches her blog tour

 & book giveaway contest!

Designer clothes. Parties with champagne corks popping. Limousines. Dreamy guys falling at your feet. Oh, the glamour of New York! Isn't that what being a teenager in New York City is all about? After watching teenagers compare their NYC lives to those of the stars of hit TV shows, Meredith Zeitlin decided to write a YA novel capturing what it's really like to live in NYC as a teenager. Sweaty gym classes. Descending into the bowels of the city—also known as the subway. Having people hate you "just because." Living with annoying younger siblings.

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters explores stepping off the precipice from "just school" into "high school." Kelsey decides she's going to abandon her personality from middle school and become a new and improved version of herself. Better love life. Better sports career. Better social life. Better after school activities. But something happens along the way to "new and improved"...and Kelsey has to live with the sometimes hilarious results.

Here's a sneak peek of the fun you can expect! Check out the fabulous book trailer below:

FRESHMAN YEAR AND OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS by Meredith Zeitlin from Anne Walls on Vimeo.

Hardcover: 288 pages (and e-formats)
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
ISBN-10: 0399254234
ISBN-13: 978-0399254239
Twitter Hashtag: #FrYrDisasters

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, Feb. 23 at 11:59 PM PST. For an entra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #FrYrDisasters, 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, Feb. 24. Good luck!

About the Author:

Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with her two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months (we're taking bets on what color it is to celebrate launch day!), and has many fancy pairs of spectacles. In case you're wondering whether any of Kelsey's experiences are based on Meredith's own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times—just ask her mother!—was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.

Find the Author Online:

Meredith Zeitlin's Website:


Twitter: @zeitlingeist

Meredith's voiceover site:

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

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Meredith! Your day job is as a voice over actor. So many writers also have day jobs. What do you feel you've learned in your job as a voice over actor that has helped you with your writing?

Meredith: Well, for one thing I see a lot of terrible scripts—terrible mostly because they feature the same overplayed jokes done again and again. So that's a good reminder to try and stay creative. But mostly I learn from the people I see on my travels in NYC. I see so many different people (and different kinds of people) that it's like a constant opportunity to create characters or latch onto interesting speech patterns (dialogue and distinctive voices are super important to me). On top of that, actors looooove to chat, and voice over artists are no exception. So I hear all kinds of stories, and can also bounce ideas off of people whose lives and perspectives are totally different than mine. For instance, I can make up plenty of stuff about, say, a 50-something father of a teenaged kid (or whatever), but it's a whole different ballpark to consult one in real life in the comfort of a studio waiting room!

WOW: That sounds like so much fun! What a great source of inspiration. When did you begin writing and what made you decide to write a YA novel?

Meredith: I've never NOT been a writer. I come from a family of writers, and always loved making up stories as a little kid. I was the EIC [Editor-in-Chief] of my high school newspaper. I was in a 12-person screenwriting program in college. It was just...something I always did. Since graduating, I've written essays, articles and reviews for a variety of publications and websites, and started a few bigger projects that never really went anywhere because my attention drifted away. (There's my old friend procrastination again!) I started writing Freshman Year... because I was inspired by the girl I used to babysit for, but I think that my personality suits the genre, really. (I'm an adult who spends a great deal of time in PJ pants, watching cartoons and eating candy, after all.) I love books in general, but there's something about literature that's both nostalgic for adults and relatable for kids that's really appealing to me.

WOW: As a YA writer, I'm going to guess you read a lot of YA also. Are there any common mistakes you feel some YA writers make?

Meredith: I think "dumbing down" is the biggest problem I've seen in books for kids—of any age. Good, clean, thoughtful writing is just as important as a great idea, in my opinion. Maybe that's because I'm the daughter of an English teacher, but it makes me nuts when I read books that just...aren't well-written.

WOW: Having a mom for an English teacher is probably the best incentive to write a well-written book! Wouldn't want Mom reading anything that's less than excellent, especially when she's in the position to compare you to every other writer in the world! Before you showed your book to Mom, did you have any young readers read your manuscript to check for an accurate portrayal of the teen life? Any eavesdropping as research?

Meredith: I DID have some actual teens read drafts along the way! In particular, I asked a friend's (gay) daughter to help me craft JoJo's "coming out" storyline. I wanted to make sure it really rang true to other LGBTQ kids who might read the book.

I do occasionally eavesdrop on groups of kids on the subway, and spend a ton of time at the school the girl I used to sit for attended. Honestly, though, I try to write PEOPLE, not kids. I think I talk the same way now as I did when I was 14, and I'm 1000 years old. Ditto my friends. Don't you? The differences are really the subjects and circumstances. That's crucial to remember to make dialogue engaging, I think.

WOW: Can you tell us a few of your favorite YA writers?

Meredith: My childhood favorites were—and still are—the classics: Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, and Paula Danzinger. I love Cassandra Clare, who I think is super creative and a terrific writer. I also ADORE the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennison. The thing about visiting all these different YA blogs to publicize my book is that I'm discovering all these other books I never heard of before. Now that I'm really a member of the club, so to speak, I'm going to have to get to know my contemporaries' work better—I have a big list for my Nook already.

WOW: If you could give fellow YA writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Meredith: Don't write down to kids just because they're younger that you are. Try to remember how you felt at that age when people talked down to you. Challenge kids to learn new words, to think, to push themselves. Don't write in a "teen's voice"—write in your character's voice.

WOW: I love that! What can we expect from you next?

Meredith: Well, I wrote a children's book that my marvelous agent is pitching right now. I also wrote a horror screenplay--something totally different!—with a friend of mine that I'd love to see get picked up. And I have a second YA book brewing—it's not a sequel to Freshman Year... but it takes place in the same world, so you'll see some of the characters again.

WOW: You have been a busy girl! I wonder what would happen if you weren't procrastinating! We can't wait to see what comes next for you.

--------Blog Tour Dates

Tuesday, February 21 @ The Fiction Enthusiast
Voice-over actor and author Meredith Zeitlin shares "How the Drama World Helps You Succeed in the Real World." You can also enter to win her YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Wednesday, February 22 @ Candace's Book Blog
Meredith Zeitlin, author of the debut YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, posts about weaving a message into your writing.

Friday, February 24 @ Mother-Daughter Book Club
Cindy Hudson, author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs, interviews the latest author she wants to include on her mother-daughter book club selection list: Meredith Zeitlin, author of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Monday, February 27 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of the YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters and a post from author Meredith Zeitlin about how parents and teachers can use her book to communicate with their teens.

Wednesday, February 29 @ Mom-E-Centric
Stop by today for a double treat! Jerri Ann Reason interviews Meredith Zeitlin in an AUDIO interview podcast, and there's a book giveaway!

Thursday, March 1 @ Buried in Books
Need your YA writing to be convincing? Learn how to channel your inner teen from YA author Meredith Zeitlin. Return tomorrow for more about Meredith's writing.

Friday, March 2 @ Buried in Books
Buried in Books has dug out of her TBR pile long enough to post a review of Meredith Zeitlin's Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Tuesday, March 6 @ I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
Meredith Zeitlin tells all her deep, dark secrets during an interview at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. She's also giving away a copy of her debut YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Wednesday, March 7 @ Musings from the Slushpile
Writing is a full time job...but what if you have another job? Author Meredith Zeitlin writes about managing two full time jobs. Don't miss a review of her debut YA novel tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8 @ Musings from the Slushpile
Don't miss today's review of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, a debut YA novel by Meredith Zeitlin.

Sunday, March 11 @ Writer Unboxed
Meredith Zeitlin, author of the debut YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, stops by with some tips for shaping the lives of your teen readers.

Monday, March 12 @ Reading, Writing and the World of Words
Debut YA novelist Meredith Zeitlin is playing tour guide today as she shares "Five Overlooked Treasures Everyone Should Experience in Brooklyn." Put them on your list for your next trip to NYC.

Tuesday, March 13 @ Writers Inspired
When was the last time you wanted to be invisible? YA author Meredith Zeitlin gives us some advice in "Standing Tall...Even When You Want to Hide." This is also your LAST chance to win a copy of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Wednesday, March 14 @ Callie Kingston
Wonder what makes authors tick? Find out today during an interview with Meredith Zeitlin, debut author of the YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

Thursday, March 15 @ Words by Webb
Stop by for a review and 5Ws on YA author Meredith Zeitlin.

Friday, March 16 @ Reader Girls
Don't miss the final date on Meredith Zeitlin's WOW Blog Tour. Her YA novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters will be reviewed by a teenage reviewer!

To view all 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 Robyn or Jodi at

Book Giveaway Contest!

Enter to win a print copy of Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin! Here's how you enter:

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

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

The giveaway closes this Thursday, Feb. 24 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day—Friday, Feb. 25, and if we have the winner's email address from the comments section, we will also notify the winner via email.

Good luck!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Learning From Mistakes

It’s a fact that I’ve learned a whole lot more from my writing mistakes than from my writing successes. Take, for example, the chapter book debacle.

The first manuscript I wrote was an 8,000-ish word chapter book called, "Eddie’s Chance to Dance." Except that I didn’t really know it was a chapter book. I just thought it was a charming tale that might be a tad short for juvenile fiction.

Then somebody told me it was a chapter book. Well, okay, no need to be all smartypants about it. It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard of chapter books. I’d bought a ton of them for my kiddies. I just hadn’t…what’s the word again? Oh, yeah. Read many of them. So I thought I’d better brush up on chapter books.

I checked out shelves full of these slim books from my local library and read every single one. And what I realized, after all that brushing up, was that my chapter book was not very good. Or to put it another way, Eddie didn’t stand a tap shoe's chance of getting published.

I’d made a big mistake. I dashed off a chapter book before I knew much about what makes a good chapter book. It seems like an obvious concept, to research before you write, but you’d be surprised how often writers (and I’m including myself here) will write something willy-nilly and expect the world (and I’m including mostly editors here) to love it.

I figured out a few things after all that reading, and not just about chapter books. For example, if I want to write for a market, say a webzine like WOW!Women-on-Writing, I’ll read a ton of issues before making a pitch. If I have a mystery novel in mind, I’ll read a couple Edgar Award winners before pounding out 50,000 words. And now that I write fiction for the kiddies, I’ve read picture books on the Caldecott Medal list, and chapter books and middle grade on the Newbery Medal list, and young adult novels on the Printz Award list. These days, I do my reading research.

Lesson learned.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rewriting: The Key to Being a Successful Writer

Whether you write children’s nonfiction or Gothic romance, there is one talent you need to develop.  You must learn to rewrite based on editorial comment.

For some writers, changing anything in their manuscript is torture.  Others do it with ease.  Me? I’m somewhere in the middle.  

My first experience started with an article I read on rebus writing.  A rebus is a short story for pre-readers.  Throughout the story, various nouns are replaced by pictures that represent these same words.  The children “read” the pictures while an adult reads the text.  I wrote a rebus about a kite flying contest.

When the acceptance letter arrived, it hinged on one thing.  The editor wanted to change one character’s gender.  It wasn’t an important detail to the story, but I was curious so I made a call.  Ladybug’s editors strive to balance the number of male and female characters in each issue.  Sometimes that means making a change, and it was easiest to do in my story.  That made sense and I made the change with ease.

Other rewrites are a struggle.  In another instance, an editor asked me to add examples throughout my article and started the process to show how she wanted it done.  I had to fight the urge to cross her examples out and replace them with my own.  The examples that she included were so different from anything I would have chosen.  To me, they stuck out.  I showed her changes to a few trusted readers who couldn’t pick out her examples and actually thought the additions strengthened the article.

I took a deep breath and made the changes.  But I also learned to ask myself a series of questions when facing editorial comments.  Why does the editor want this change?  What problem does it solve?  How?

I write a lot of nonfiction and I’ve been asked to change specific vocabulary in a way that would make a piece less accurate, but I never just say ‘no.’  Instead, I try to figure out what is wrong with the original text.  Is something unclear?  Above the target reader?  Then I come up with a fix that addresses this situation and is still 100% accurate.

Rewriting.  Editors don’t expect you to make every change verbatim.  But if you are going to have a career in writing, you need to learn to look at what you’re being asked to do.  Good editors always have a reason.  Its your job to find a fix that works for both of you.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Speak Out!: Blog Away the Blues, Guest Post by Catina Tanner

Blog Away the Blues

by Catina Tanner

Just six months ago, I was sinking fast in a quick sand of poop diapers and the everyday frustrations of motherhood and I was too sleep-deprived to pull myself out. I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with two little ones and thousands of miles away from my support network of family and friends. I was desperate and needed some way to set my frustrations free. I needed an outlet where I could be honest and try to connect with other mothers in hopes to find support in these challenging times.

It wasn’t until I reached my breaking point that a solution presented itself. I called my best friend from home crying in desperation. She immediately threw me a life raft to help pull myself out of the funk: She suggested continuing with my blog. My blog, I had forgotten all about it. I started it a few years ago, but I never managed to write more than a few posts. I abandoned my writing thinking how could I find time to blog if I didn’t even have time to brush my hair. But a stomach virus, 10 loads of laundry and 100 poop diapers later I decided I had to make time. I had to find a way back into the world of the sane.

So I began blogging and I didn’t hold back. I also decided in order to save myself, I had to be honest in my writing, no matter what the subject. Also through my writing I tried to find the humor in each disastrous situation and embarrassing moment that seem to follow me everywhere.

What a creative freedom you have when blogging, no rules! In the beginning, I took baby steps, posting every other week. I then began to post the blog post links to my Facebook page. That is when the magic happened. My other mommy friends thousands of miles away began to comment on my posts and to my surprise I was not the only crazed insane mommy in the world. Now even mommy colleagues following my blog come up to me in the halls at work and we compare our experiences.

And believe me, now it’s easier to make time for my writing. Some people might have a glass of wine or a warm bath to wind down at the end of a stressful day. Not me, I just grab my laptop and I type my troubles away. I reflect, I complain, I make fun, but always, I am honest. And it feels good. It can take me 10 minutes or a half hour, doesn’t matter as long as I am able to express myself and share with others. Writing has always been a love of mine and now it is my salvation, linking me to my support network and keeping me out of a straitjacket!

* * *
Catina Tanner lives in Amsterdam, The Netherlands with her two small munchkins working part-time for an international court in the media office. She just recently took up writing again and once she gets over her NaNo hangover hopes to finish her first novel and two children's stories this year. The link to her mama blog is

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!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Did They Say?

Happy (belated) Valentine's Day!
Photo credit | Elizabeth K Humphrey
On February 14, I took my 10-year-old to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the local university. The performance, by the New York-based Aquila Theatre Company, moved the classic to modern day by adding a couple fun elements, such as inserting cellphones and contemporary music (where appropriate).

But, having seen the play before, it seemed to have remained true to the script.

If you're not familiar with the Oscar Wilde play, it premiered February 14, 1895, and turns on many social conventions of the day and two characters inventing fictitious people to avoid social events.

Initially I was concerned that because it was written so long ago, I would spend my time explaining the plot to my daughter. Or worse, answering, "What did they say?" in the crowded and darkened theatre. But not only did she laugh at most of the appropriate times, she seemed to get the story through the characters' dialogues.

Since the play, I have marveled at Wilde's ability to make his dialogues seem so timeless. In the same week, I have heard an interview with local actors about another performance (a David Mamet play) and read Vanity Fair's article about the movie Diner. (Note, however, that not every line was scripted in Diner.)

Dialogue reverberates through all the pieces and are essential to their successes.

In our own writing, dialogue is often the most difficult to capture, make so effortless, and stand the test of time.

Is there a movie or a play you admire for its dialogue? Then pick up a copy and pick it apart. Plays and screenplays can introduce you to many different types of dialogues and each line counts.

Important lessons when applying them to your own fiction.

What plays/movies/TV shows have you seen that capture strong dialogue and character interaction? What about a book? What books have the best dialogue in your opinion?

Elizabeth King Humphrey, a writer and editor, wishes everyone a  belated Happy Valentine's Day with hopes your holiday festivities produced as much chocolate as you desired. Have a writing or editing question--"tweet" me your question @Eliz_Humphrey and I'll do my best to answer it next time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What Am I Writing? Children's Books Defined

by purpleslog
It seems we've gotten a lot of e-mails lately asking us which one of the online classes we offer for children's writers is appropriate for the e-mailer's project. Writers will then describe their manuscripts and ask us to tell them what they are writing--whether it's a picture book, chapter book, or middle-grade novel, for example. This is an important question, and one that you should definitely be able to answer as you finish up your first draft and start working on revisions.

So, what type of children's books are out there? How do they differ from one another, and who is your audience? One great way to figure out what you are writing or what you want to write is to spend time in the children's and young adult section of your public library as well as talking to the children's librarians. They are in the know and want to spend time helping others in the community, so pick their brains if you struggle with this topic. Here is a quick list to refer to with an example of a current title to go with it:

  • Concept book:  This is a picture book or even a board book for very young children, preschoolers, that teaches them something, such as colors, counting, or opposites. An example would be Pirate Nap: A Book of Colors by Danna Smith.
  • Picture book: The audience for this book is usually preschool through second grade. It is a story that is told with text and illustrations, with an illustration on each page, such as Olivia by Ian Falconer.  
  • Chapter book: These are for those primary elementary students who are transitioning between picture books and novels. Series like Junie B. Jones and The Magic Tree House are considered chapter books. These books average about 70 to 80 pages and have a couple illustrations in each chapter. 
  • Middle grade novel: This is a novel for children in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. It generally has between 35,000 to 45,000 words. A couple of examples are the first Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, or Holes by Louis Sachar. 
  • Tween novel: Although this is not an official term, many middle-grade writers are writing a little older than their upper elementary grade school audience, but not old enough to be considered YA.  These books would have 40,000 to 50,000 words and deal with a lot of middle school/junior high pressure. The Giver by  Lois Lowry is an example of a book perfect for tweens.
  • Young adult novel: These are usually considered for children 14 and older. They often deal with tough subjects and teenagers trying to navigate through their adolescent years. Books by author Ellen Hopkins would be YA.
 So, what are you writing? Where does your project fall?

If you are interested in taking a class on writing middle grade novels or writing for children's magazines, Margo teaches both, and they are coming up at the end of February (2/22) for Writing a Middle-Grade Novel and the beginning of March (3/5) for Writing for Children's Magazines. Classes are also offered in writing a picture book and writing for young adults at different times throughout the year.  For more information, go to this link and click on the class you want to register for. 

post by Margo L. Dill

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mari McCarthy Asks: WHO Are You? (Review)

Well, Mari McCarthy has done it again. In the newest book in her journaling series, WHO Are You? 7 Days Self-Discovery Journaling Challenge, she gives writers the perfect head-start to writing, journaling, or just discovering who we are beneath the surface.

She starts by sharing us the aim of her book which is to answer questions we often avoid answering such as, "What kind of person am I?" and "What are my dreams and fears?" or even "Where have I been and where am I going?" The only rule Mari has is that we need to go through each of the seven days consecutively, doing all the exercises. Other than that, there is no right or wrong.

Each chapter is set up with an introduction to the chapter's theme, a couple of exercises then tips on how to 'Focus on YOU'. She even gives you a few sample sentences to prompt your creative juices. Each chapter leads into the next, which is why Mari stresses the importance of doing them in order.

The chapter I found most difficult to tackle was Day 5: Courage. You'd think that a person who has two memoirs under her belt would have no trouble writing about things like why I avoid the truth or why I think I shortchange myself or what I'm afraid of. But it was both terrifying and refreshing to complete this section. "Courage can be found in the folds of your beliefs," Mari says. "What do you believe?" It was tough to start but as I wrote, I felt myself opening up.

I won't ruin the joy of this book for you, but I will say I think every writer out there should pick up a copy. It helps get the words out using the art of free-flow writing--that's where you're writing without thinking or trying to be perfect (which many of us writers tend to do). It's all about learning about our inner selves and bringing that into our writing.

I sure wish I'd had Mari there with me when I was trying to get the words out for my memoir White Elephants. Initially, I had so much trouble bringing the words--the right words--out. Without even knowing Mari, I used the very same tactics to help me calm down, work through the anger and tell the story the way it should be told.

Thank you, Mari, for sharing yet another helpful tool to keep our writing strong and keeping our words flowing freely. And, as you always say: WriteON!

Writers, join Mari's next 7 day journaling challenge here:

Monday, February 13, 2012

All I Ever Needed to Know About Personal Essays...

...I learned from Erma Bombeck.

When I was about twelve years old, one book on my Nana's shelf always intrigued me. Red cherries splashed across the cover and the title was If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? Huh? Finally, she offered to lend me the book. That was my introduction to Erma Bombeck. Erma wasn't like any of the moms I knew: she was grumpy and funny and occasionally wore her pjs in public.

About a decade later I still had Nana's old Erma Bombeck book, one new baby, and no career. Then the bat got into the house. After rendering our house bat-less, with the help of a crabbing net and one maniacal cat, the story poured out of my pen. I sent it off to Central Penn Parent without much optimism. After all, I only spent 20 short minutes writing it. Perhaps that's fitting since it only took them two short weeks to buy it.

That sale began my life of writing essays and Erma taught me quite a few things:

1. You might think you lead a boring life, devoid of adventure, unworthy of being captured in ink. But millions of people are leading that same life and would recognize themselves in your slice of life essay.

2. A story about "the funny thing that happened today" isn't an essay. Essays have hidden meanings. After they read it people have to think, "that was really about..." You're the writer. It's your responsibility to make the connections between real life and deeper meanings.

3. It's harder to make people laugh than to make them cry. And they'd rather laugh.

4. Dialogue is invaluable to an essay. Nothing can get your point across like a quote from a four year old.

5. Kids see through all the politeness of life to what's really going on. And they are infamous for coming right out with the truth everyone is thinking. It's OK to steal ideas from your kids. After all your writing is keeping them supplied with ice cream and juice boxes.

Erma Bombeck recorded the foibles of her life for 30 years in her syndicated column At Wit's End and several bestselling books before her death in 1996. But her spirit lives on in the Erma Bombeck Writing Contest. If you have any humorous or human interest pieces of 450 words or less you still have time to enter. The deadline is tomorrow! You can learn more about the contest here.

Jodi Webb's essays have been published in national magazines and books. Recently she even recorded one for National Public Radio. She will be teaching "Let Me Tell You a Story: Personal Essays for Beginners", a WOW class beginning on March 20. When she isn't writing essays, Jodi writes magazine articles, organizes WOW Blog Tours, and shares her favorite authors at Words by Webb.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

5 Publicity Tips I Learned from Watching the Super Bowl

Lately, I have been doing publicity for a new book and I have been comparing publicity to the Super Bowl.

Asking people to care about your book is like being in the stands at the Super Bowl and right after a tremendous touchdown play, when the crowd is the loudest, you call out, "Read All About It! Get the latest info on my new book right here! Read All About It!"

Impossible. Right?

But that's about the way of it.

What we all want is to be one of those million-dollar TV ads that will be talked about for days. Or, you want to grab the PA system and make a long announcement over the loud speakers, with the instant replay screen showing your book. All out of my league. But let's carry the Super Bowl analogy further and find 5 tips for book publicity.

1. Wise timing. Time your publicity efforts to times when people are likely to notice what you are doing. Before the game, after the game, half-time--these are times when people are not engrossed in the game itself (or in the game of life) and might pay attention. For book publicity, look for quiet times in your community, when you can make a splash. Try the Summer Reading program at the public library, or a neighbor's book club. These "quiet" places are ideal because you'll capture people's undivided attention.

2. Do a fly-over. (Photo:, modified.)

Notice those planes that fly around the stadium carrying a big banner? What you want is something that makes people look up from their game of life and take notice.

Think about publicity that will allow you to make people look up. A party, a whacky ad, a hilarious book trailer. Make your audience look up from their busy lives.

3. Go with the situation. What entertains people at the Super Bowl. Well, yes, the game and the pageantry. But what else? The Beach Ball. What can you do that will take very little effort, but can be seen from across the stadium? What is the situation you find yourself in and is there something fun and simple to do? A big beach ball with your book info on it, would have been great at the Super Bowl. Maybe, you can do a Facebook quiz that is equally fun and simple.

4. Build your Network. If you are standing at the SuperBowl, and you choose a quiet moment to lean over and tell someone about your book, great. You reached one person. But if you Tweet and ask your friends to tell just one person about your book, how many do you reach? Depends on your Network, or how many people are following you. Start immediately to build that network!

5. Giveaways. There are giveaways and then, there are giveaways. If you stand outside the stadium with a box of books and tell people that if they stop and talk to you, you'll take down their name, then call two people and give them a free book--well, not many takers, right? Giveaways can be effective, though. GoodReads runs a Giveaway program for new titles that can draw as many as 1348 entries. And Amazon is now experimenting with giveaways through their KOLL (Kindle Owner's Lending Library) program and for books enrolled in their Amazon Prime promotion. See what one author has done here and here.

Don't get lost in the noise and hubbub of the Super Bowl. There are better ways to shout out online and offline, "Read all about it."


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes.