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Monday, April 30, 2012

Mari L. McCarthy, author of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days, launches her book tour

& special giveaway contest!

Journaling, like any writing adventure or exercise program, tends to be cyclical—there are the times when you can’t wait to get-to-it and times when you can’t get started. Mari has the fix! It is her new workbook, Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.

In this workbook, Mari addresses the most common roadblocks we come against in our journaling practice, from writer’s block and lack of time to finding motivation and silencing our inner critic. Whether you are new to journaling or need to climb out of a slump, these seven days of writing prompts will get you moving in the right direction.

While looking through this book, my first important realization was that I relate journaling to assigned writing—it’s a chore. Mari opens the book with a collage project! Perfect for drawing out my inner child and re-associating journaling time with play time. Sue Bradford Edwards tells us more about Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days, and shows us her collage, in her book review.

I haven’t worked through this book yet because I’m waiting to work through it with you! Join me for Mari’s upcoming Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenge June 4-10 and we will re-discover journaling together! Signing up for the challenge is free. See what fellow WOW! team member, Anne Greenawalt, had to say about the challenge in the video below!

Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days is available from Create Write Now as an eWorkbook, spiral bound print copy, or Kindle e-book

Special Giveaway Contest!

Give your journaling a true jumpstart with Mari’s Journaling Jumpstarter Kit and an ecopy (.pdf) of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days! The Journaling Jumpstarter Kit includes Create Write Now's Signature Journal (spiral bound), 85 of Mari's Most Musefull Journaling Tips (spiral bound) and luscious lavender scented pen. Simply leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, May 3 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #7DaysStart, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day--Friday, May 4. Good luck!

About the author:

When Multiple Sclerosis robbed her right side of strength Mari decided to teach herself to write with her left hand. She gained more than strength, she found herself—buried talents, hidden baggage, and a way to heal herself from the inside out.

Now a certified Journal Therapist, Mari shares her knowledge and experience with others by teaching them how to find their own strengths and talents and use them to solve problems and achieve goals.

Find the author online:

Create Write Now website:

Mari L. McCarthy’s blog:


Twitter: @Createwritenow


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

WOW: Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days is like a road map for how to get back on track with our journaling no matter why we’ve wandered away. What are some of the struggles you have faced in your own journaling that pulled you off track?

Mari: My struggles came early on when I was first starting to journal via Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages [The Artist's Way]. Once I started realizing that journaling was helping me access my inner world, I started hearing inner voices telling me that I was so selfish spending so much time writing. This major page fright incident affected me physically: my jaw clenched, my throat tightened, my stomach churned incessantly. So no more Morning Pages. I moved to my computer, and kept a “journal.” a diary really, for a long time. When I came across The Art of Fiction Writing by Emily Hanlon, I discovered that the voices were my inner critics and they no way wanted me to discover my creativity, talents and power. Someone telling me I can’t do something was all I needed to get back to my journaling practice (pen to page everyday) and start tearing down the walls of fear I’d erected and trashing all the erroneous messages I’d been carrying around. Today, if I find myself avoiding the page, I simply ask my Journal a question and free write the answer.

WOW: So many women, myself included, react strongly to the thought of being selfish—we somehow decided that taking time out for our own psyche is bad. Then again, between work and family obligations some of us truly are strapped for time. When someone comes to you saying they are so frazzled and busy that they just can’t spare more than ten to fifteen minutes a day journaling, what is your advice to them?

Mari: Whatever journaling time you can give to yourself is a start. The most important thing is that you journal every day. I’d tell them to grab their journal and pen, and just free write, write, write. I’d tell them to dump all their stresses on their Journal and to ask their Journal to help them in creating the quality self time they need for themselves. We are so experienced in ruminating and processing and over thinking, in stressing ourselves, in being controlled by our inner critics and caretaking everyone else that we’ve lost ourselves. Our Journal is there to guide us home. The best thing to do is listen to your heart and Nike it: Just do it! And you’ll see with daily practice that you manage time; it no longer controls you.

WOW: Sometimes it’s easier to “show up” for a daily practice when other people are expecting us which is why I was drawn to your free Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenges; I signed up for one scheduled in June. What types of journals will people be working on?

Mari: For the Start Journaling Challenge, you’ll just need a journal you love. We’ll be doing all kinds of interesting exercises, like creating collages, remembering how to be kind to yourself, exercises that cover the arts and crafts of a daily journaling practice.

WOW: Sounds like fun! We often think of journaling as a solitary process, what is the benefit of journaling with a group?

Mari: You realize that you have a lot of company on your life and journaling journey. That the group’s love, understanding, and support helps you through your challenges and helps you get to where you need to go next. When you have friends listening to you read from your Journal, they’ll pick up things and be able to provide insight and feedback that you might never have considered. Just their positive, healthy energy means quite a lot!

WOW: You began journaling as a form of physical therapy and began a new journey in your life. What are the top three gifts you’ve received from your adventure into journaling?

Mari: The top three gifts would be: 1) a loving, positive, healthy relationship with my true Self 2) a singer who performs in public and records and sells her music and 3) 24/7/365 internal peace and serenity.

WOW: How wonderful that you share your songs on your website—such an inspiration for your readers to see what talents they too might uncover!

Speaking about uncovering . . . some people are apprehensive about delving more deeply into themselves and the possible shifts that might incur in their relationships. How would you address that? I’m sure you’ve had some shifting to deal with in your relationships with friends and family.

Mari: Journaling does mean major behavior change because you are living your life from the inside out; not responding, reacting, putting all your energy into everyone else. The best way to address those shifts is by more journaling. Talk it out, ask questions, identify your wants and needs and plan out how to handle different relationships and situations. More journaling helps you become more confident in compassionately confronting others. In starting new healthy relationships and stopping unhealthy ones.

WOW: Mari, I know you are constantly working on something! What’s next?

Mari: Well, we’ve just published a new free eBook: 143 of Mari’s Juicy Journaling Prompts  that will get journalers to the page and writing, writing, writing away.

For May through August, Create Write Now is focusing on Journaling for Self-Improvement. In May, we are doing a Pay Yourself First/Money Mastery 7 Days Journaling Challenge and running another Who Are You? 7 Days Journaling Challenge. In June, we’ll be running a Get a Job 7 Days Journaling Challenge. Here’s the 2012 Calendar of Journaling Challenges we have announced so far:

WOW: WOW! Something for everyone…from getting a job to de-cluttering the house!

Thank you for sharing with us today, Mari. I’ll see you in June!

You can listen to/download Mari singing Create Write Now’s company theme song, “All the Time,” and purchase her albums at

Read our other interviews with Mari McCarthy!

Peace of Mind and Body: 27 Days of Journaling to Health & Happiness

Who Are You? How to Use Journaling Therapy to Know and Grow Your Life

Dark Chocolate for the Journaler’s Soul

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

May 2 @ All Things Audrey
Descriptive Journaling--just how do you capture the experience? Mari has some tips...and Audry treats us to a review of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.

May 3 @ Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them
Step over to the silly side! Scribble, draw, make up stories…learn the benefits of playing in your journal. Winner’s Choice Giveaway!

May 4 @ I Was Just Thinking…
Did you know that non-writers can be even better at journaling than writers? Mari McCarthy explains...

May 7 @ Book Bags and Catnaps
In a writer's fog? Mari tells how to shake it off!

May 8 @ The World of My Imagination
What unleashes your energy, unlocks your imagination, excites your life and ambitions more than anything? Mari tells us how to find our wellspring!

May 10 @ A Slice of Life
While describing emotions comes naturally to many, some people have a very difficult time writing about how they feel inside. Mari McCarthy shares some tips...

May 11 @ Happy, Healthy, Whole-The Journey to Find Balance
Is your perfectionism getting in the way of your journaling? Mari is here to help!

May 12 @ Barbara Conelli's Chique Show on Blog Talk Radio
Join us for a special LIVE interview on Blog Talk Radio! Barbara Conelli, the hostess of Chique Show, will be interviewing Mari McCarthy at noon, Eastern Time.

May 14 @ Chynna Laird's Lily Wolf Words
The "I Remember …" Prompt: A Technique for Self-Discovery – Applying this simple technique over a month (or a lifetime) is a way to create your own self-portrait, analyze it, and then put your discoveries to positive use in your life.

May 15 @ Lisa M. Buske
Does your journal go all over the place? Mari can help you gain clarity and order.
Lisa offers her review of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.

May 17 @ Dream Hour
How adept are you at accessing the treasures revealed by your spontaneous self? Join Mari for a talk on spontaneity! Also, great fun with a giveaway (your choice of prizes) and Jessica's review of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days!

May 18 @ A Tattered Past
There's a reason your Inner Critic talks the way it does. Mari shows us how to understand that reason and to turn it into a tool that will help instead of hurt you. Rita shares her book review and there's a Winner's Choice Giveaway!! FUN!

May 21 @ NerdFamily Things
Before we can discover Paradise we need to know what Pardise is--sketch out your idea of Nirvana with Mari McCarthy!

May 22 @ Books, Books, the Magical Fruit
Does spring's beauty leave you speechless? Use your journal to magnify the joy. Mari shares some jumping-off places!

May 23 @ CMash Loves to Read
Mari shares some offbeat journaling practices and we have a Winner's Choice Giveaway for you! Come join the fun!

May 24 @ Callie Kingston
We make up all kinds of hairy monsters that threaten our happiness and very existence. Mari shows us how to use our journal to face the enemy and make a deal.

May 25 @ Crazy for Books
Come on by! Jennifer is sharing her review of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days.

Check out our blog tour prizes!

At various stops along Mari’s tour winners will have the choice of either an ecopy of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days, a spiral bound copy, or one of Mari’s signature t-shirts!

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

Get Involved!

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

Giveaway Contest:
Enter to win a Journaling bundle! Prizes include an e-copy of Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days ($19.97), and a Journaling Jumpstarter Kit ($24.95), which includes Create Write Now's Signature Journal (spiral bound), 85 of Mari's Most Musefull Journaling Tips (spiral bound) and luscious lavender scented pen. Here's how you enter:

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

2. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #7DaysStart then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes Thursday, May 3 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, May 4, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Journaling My Way to Voice and Story

Recently I blogged about Mari McCarthy’s e-book Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days. Since then, I’ve used my journal to focus on my audience before I write. Who are they? How are they different from me? What are they going to demand from this piece? How might  this differ from my expectations?

While that works for shorter nonfiction projects, I’ve been writing a longer piece of teen fiction, sending my editor an outline and then a draft. I’d journaled about audience for the outline. When it came time to write the story, I focused on what the story is all about – my characters.

I needed to do this because, based on my outline, my editor found my protagonist unsympathetic. She gave me tips on how to change this, but I had trouble starting the story. Nothing sounded right. I had to find my character’s voice while writing the story in 3rd person. I turned to my journal.

When I sat down to journal that morning, I asked what my character would have to say about being called unsympathetic. I decided to let him speak for himself and write the journal entry in his first person POV. Let’s just say that this particular teen had plenty to say, starting with the fact that he didn’t ask for anyone’s sympathy. He hadn’t created the story problem, but everyone expected him to fix it. We should shut up and let him do it his way. He was freaked out and scared and we weren’t helping.

As the author, I knew most of this. Laying it down in his own words helped me find his voice and get into the story. Soon I had a rough draft, but his brother, the antagonist, was flat.

His story had to come through as well. Sure, he was messing up his younger brother’s life, but it isn’t something he planned to do. He hates needing help from his baby brother. He hates what has happened to him. He’s angry. Who catches the brunt of this anger? His brother. Deal with it.

Again, these were things I knew, but in journaling for him I found the character’s voice. His dialogue tightened to the point of being tense, terse and rude – nothing that would keep him up at night.

If you’re having problems nailing a piece of fiction, journal.

  • Write from the point of view of your protagonist.  Why is his story important?  What does he most want you to know?
  • Write from the POV of your antagonist. Remember, almost no one is a villain in their own mind. What’s his story? How does he feel about being the bad guy?
  • As the story progresses, journal about problem scenes. Why are your characters apprehensive about these scenes? What secrets are they holding back?

Let your characters do the talking and you may be surprised at what they have to say.


Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where are Your Freelance Goldmines?

A writer friend and I recently discussed how she could up her income by $1000 a month. I sat down and tried to document exactly where my income comes from.
As a freelancer, I generate income from multiple sources:
  • Writing
    • Articles
    • Royalty books
    • Work for hire books
    • Blogs – income from GoogleAds, Amazon Affiliates, and self-published ebooks
    • Self-published Ebooks. (Kindle, Nook, iBook)
    • Self-published paperback Books
    • Selling my books at speaking engagements
  • Speaking
    • Teaching writing
    • Teacher professional development
    • School Visits
    • Conferences, retreats or other speaking opportunities
Goldmine in Waihi, New Zealand. Sometimes freelancers need to look afar for sources of income. Photo credit:

Each month, the percentage from a particular source will vary widely. For example, in the fall, I will teach three novel revision retreats and collect a tidy sum for each. Because these involve travel, I only want to do 4-6 a year. The month I teach a retreat, it contributes a large chunk of cash to my overall income. But of course, the months I don’t teach a retreat, the income from this source is zero.

It takes multiple income streams to make it as a freelance writer.

Even if I was only relying on writing articles or work-for-hire books, I would still need multiple income streams. One publisher couldn’t keep me busy and support me. I would need relationships with several magazines or several educational publishers.
And overall, I’ve found that no one income stream can generate enough to abandon all the others.

Multiple income streams protects you from a dry month.

During the months when I don’t teach a novel revision retreat, I could starve. Instead, I’ve learned to focus energy those months on writing articles or developing content for my blog so readership and ad revenue will increase.

Multiple income streams provide fascinating variety.

Someone recently asked me to describe a typical day. Nope. I can’t. The very nature of a freelancer is variety. As I work to meet the needs of publishers I work with, the nature of those publishers means variety. One might want a royalty-based 2nd grade science fiction series, while another wants a how-to article on copyediting an adult novel. Flexibility is required.

Do you ever turn down work?

Sure. But I think hard before I turn something down. Do I want an ongoing relationship with this publisher? Will the requested article, blog post or book fit my strengths and overall goals as a writer? Is the pay enough, considering the time required to do a good job? I tend to say yes. Because, well, I am a freelancer and I need multiple income streams. Who can afford to say no, when the relationship might lead to bigger and better work? In other words, I tend to be a generalist.

On the other hand, my friend has found a niche that suits her well and she specialized in non-fiction for kids. You’ll need to decide where your desires as a writer fall and then make conscious choices to develop that type of relationships.
Freelancers, how do you make money from your writing? Where are your secret goldmines?


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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Researching the Picture Book Market

I'll admit, when I first starting to write picture books I didn't approach it from the same angle as I did when writing my nonfiction books. That is to say, I didn't see my stories as a product that had to fit in a competitive market. However, when I finally experienced that light bulb moment I quickly placed my first picture book, A Book For Bramble.

What changed?

I started to research the market. I visited the local library and spent hours looking at picture books. As I read, I took notes. I noted the names used, how sentences were constructed, what themes were covered, how humor was included, word count, etc. I then visited the local bookstore and repeated the exercise (slightly more discreetly) to discover if there were differences between what was being published and what had been published (the books in the library). Armed with these notes, I returned home and tried to discover if I could see patterns in subject matter, in the way subjects were covered, and in the way sentences were constructed.

I discovered:
  •  Humor appears to play an important part in many books.
  •  Tools such as repetition are used to help move the story along.
  •  The magic number three appears in many books (for example in The Gruffalo, you'll discover "'three" hidden all over the place).

I started to use the patterns I'd found in my own stories. Within months of changing the way I looked at my stories, I fulfilled one of my lifetime ambitions of becoming a published picture book author.

Today I still continue to research the market and read picture books as often as I can. The receptionists at my dentist, doctor, optician and vets are used to seeing me rummage in the stock of picture books they provide to keep kids entertained. The assistants in the library and bookstore now take no notice as I read their picture books. Family and friends watch in amusement as I encourage their children to show me the latest addition to their bookshelf. Without this research I'd not be able to keep up to date with a changing market. By keeping abreast of what the reading public wants, I'm able to write stories I can place with a publisher.

So if a new writer (of any genre) wants to become published, my advice is research, research, research.

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US, having over 300 features printed. She has 21 books published; these include 10 craft-related how-to books, working with both publishers and packagers. Lynne designed, produced copy, and photographed many of the craft projects featured on The Craft Ark.


Join Lynne's latest WOW! Women on Writing class:

a five week course starting on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

This class is limited to 15 students and early registration is recommended!


Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm 5 Today...What's Your Story?

My daughter's celebratory birthday hat. 
Credit: Elizabeth King Humphrey

My youngest turned five this week and it made me realize that, just like her writer mom, sometimes her plot narratives are all over the place. (I suppose that is similar to the plot lines for most five-year-olds.) When she tells a story, sometimes I feel as if I am on a wave-rocked boat and unsure of my horizon.

Just like a novelist, she needs to learn to re-arrange her plot. Or she needs to remember to return to her plot line.

Often I am trying to do too much in my writing and I may lose my plot as I progress. Maybe I start writing a little of a character’s background and soon I’m far into a different scene. In honor of my daughter, here are five suggestions on getting your plot back on calm waters.

1. When a five-year-old tells you a story backwards, it can be cute. When a novelist tells a story backwards and with twists all around, it can be disconcerting. If you are telling any stories backwards, make sure you ground your readers in the novel’s scenes. Even if they can’t find the horizon directly, they won’t be too rocked about that they can’t follow your course.

2. My daughter is always mixing her stories around. She’ll tell one person something and embellishing the story to someone else. Make sure you read and re-read your story, but don’t be afraid to shift elements around and embellish, if you need to. What may seem like a great plot twist on the scene on page 45 may have more impact if shifted later in the story. The plot may have shifted some while you wrote your first draft.

3. My daughter tries to tell a story about herself, but halfway through the protagonist becomes her best friend. Is it the same way with your novel? Does your protagonist’s motive still help to propel the plot? Or did another character start driving the plot? Re-read and re-evaluate how your main characters are working to move the plot forward (or not!).

4. My five-year-old has a habit of telling me a story that includes too few actors. She’ll only mention one friend when, in reality, it was five friends involved. Her focus may only be on one person, but your plot should have more than a skeleton crew filling the pages. Make sure that there is enough action with enough people that your plot doesn’t seem too thin or, in the case of my daughter, unrealistic.

5. And, I don’t know about your novel or five-year-old, but they seem to revel in a bit of (mischievous) conflict. Although we try to avoid conflict, make sure you have some turbulence running through your plot. I’m sure you were thinking the same thing as I am...with a five-year-old on a rocking boat, there is sure to be lots of turbulence!

Off to eat some more birthday cake with a lot of people, including a few protagonists, but don’t worry, it’s part of my plot line.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is an editor and writer living in North Carolina. When she’s not chasing around her kids to work of the birthday cake calories, she is working through her pile of to-be-read books.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: A World of Love and Envy by Kathy Handley

& book giveaway

The day is hot and slightly humid, the first triple digit day of the season. Energy bursts in pockets followed by spring-fever longings for iced tea and a short trip to somewhere. I need an escape from my workday—I need a short story with delicious detail to carry my mind away.

A World of Love and Envy does just that. This eclectic collection of short stories, flash fiction, and poetry by Kathy Handley offers thirty-one tales and tidbits rich in detail—a perfect sultry summer read.

Arranged in sections of Love, Yesterdays, Envy, Irish Voices, and California Lost, Handley takes us from California to Boston to Ireland. Along our journey jilted lovers tell us their tales, we catch glimpses of deed done in secret, and wounded hearts find their peace—or their revenge.

Handley’s strengths in setting and character are continually praised—and for good reason. With her we taste the salt of the sea air and the Jack Daniels in the flask. We feel the cool of the grass and the hot burn of passion. We meet a range of characters diverse in gender, race, education and dialect. She possesses a natural talent for getting into a character’s head and living the part.

An orphaned country girl finds abuse at her husband’s hands and solace in the night. A mother waits by the water for her children to re-appear after a storm has stolen them away. Although the characters and the stories are varied, the voice is all Kathy. Many authors struggle to find that unique something that sets them apart, Ms. Handley carried hers through the starting gate.

Kathy Handley expanded one of these short stories into her first novel Birds of Paradise which toured with WOW! in September of 2011. I’d like to see her follow suit with a few others in this collection.

Enter to Win! The author is giving away one print copy of A World of Love and Envy; please leave a comment by Friday, May 4 to enter.

Sale! Limited time only, .99 cent Kindle Edition available at Amazon.

Print version available at Riverhaven Books ($9.95)

Review by Robyn Chausse

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Interview with L.E. Grabowski-Cotton: Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

L.E. Grabowski-Cotton is a freelance writer and a professional writing coach. She holds an M.F.A. in Playwriting and Screenwriting from Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts, an M.A. in English Literature, and a B.A. in Communication from George Mason University. Each of L.E. Grabowski-Cotton’s screenplays and plays won multiple awards. Her monologues and plays have been published in Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays and The Best Ten Minute Plays series. Her columns and reviews have appeared in Memphis Health and Fitness, Memphis Parent Magazine and NorthEastBookReviews. Her short story, The Mourning Dove, won first prize in Literal Latte’s K. Margaret Grossman Fiction Awards and is online at She currently teaches Creative Writing and Literature classes at several private academies and mentors writers online via her website, LauraWriter.Com. Her current projects include a Christmas play, a young adult, and multiple stories.

If you haven't done so already, check out L.E.'s award-winning story "Autumn Spring Together" and return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest! How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it?

L.E.: My short story, "Autumn Spring Together," was inspired by my fascination with paradoxes. The idea for "Autumn Spring Together" emanated from my desire to write a romance told in contradictions so that everything in the story, from the time of year (autumn or spring) to the nature of the relationship (romantic or platonic), is indeterminate. The main character is tormented by his desire to accurately describe how he fell in love, but it is this very desire that prevents him from being able to accurately tell it.

WOW: A very unique idea! Thank you for sharing it with us. What do you enjoy most about writing?

L.E.: The freedom that writing provides is phenomenal. Writing allows me to travel wherever I wish and speak to whomever I want. I am thankful that this world is not all that there is for me; that I have an inner world that exists as vividly as the outer one. My writing is the physical part of my inner world that I can express and share with others.

WOW: And which of your current writing endeavors are exciting you the most right now?

L.E.: I am currently in the midst of writing two novels, a young adult novel and a fantasy novel. I am also in the process of transforming my award-winning screenplay, "Recalculating," into a full-length play. In addition, I am a professional writing and editing coach, and I love helping other writers define, polish, and perfect their prose. My website is LauraWriter.Com.

WOW: Excellent! Sounds like you have a busy writing life. How about your reading life? What are you reading right now, and why did you decide to read it?

L.E.: Fairy tales, myths, and fables captivate me because they reveal universal truths about the human condition. As a result, I am currently reading Women Who Run with the Wolves, a non-fiction book by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I am also reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White, and The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection, the latest book in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I also enjoy reading historical literature, and I just finished Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.

WOW: That sounds equally as busy! So if you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

L.E.: We would have to make it a dinner party, because there are so many writers I would like to meet! My favorite writers tend to experiment with form, magical realism, and spectacle. As a poet and fiction writer, I would like to chat with Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Emily Bronte, e.e. cummings, Nick Hornby, Alice Hoffman, and Erin Morgenstern. As a playwright and screenwriter, I would like to dine with Shakespeare, Sarah Ruhl, Annie Baker, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchhill, Steve Martin, and Zach Helm. Oh, and I would love to indulge in a chocolate croissant while chatting with Woody Allen, preferably in a cafe in Paris!

WOW: Yes, that would be exciting! Thank you so much for your answers, and good luck with your writing projects.

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

Monday, April 23, 2012

Karen Kondazian, author of The Whip, launches her blog tour

& book giveaway contest!

Have you ever daydreamed about leaving your everyday life behind? Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst, the woman who inspired the novel The Whip, had that dream. But it wasn't boredom that made her muse about a new life. It was something much darker: revenge.

After her family was murdered all she wanted was to avenge their deaths. To do that she left everything behind: her home, her life, even her sex. She headed West, disguised as a man, searching for the murderer. As a man, Parkhurst found a job as a stagecoach driver, found fame as the killer of an outlaw and even found love in unexpected places. But none of it was as important as the search for the man who had destroyed her family.

The Whip is full of characters that truly show you who put the "wild" in Wild West. It's a book full of adventure, romance, and history that is almost too amazing to believe. It's a book that makes you wonder, how far would I go for love?

Paperback: 302 pages
Publisher: Hansen Publishing Group, LLC
ISBN-10: 1601823029
ISBN-13: 978-1601823021
Twitter Hashtag: #WhipNovel

The Whip is available as a print and e-book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, as well as your local independent bookstore.

We don't have a written interview for you today because Karen is traveling on her book signing tour across the southwest--through various storms, no less!--but we interviewed her for a feature article, It's Not Easy Being a Historical Fiction Writer: Experts' Insight into the Genre, in the latest issue of WOW! And we have a video interview she conducted with NPR radio book critic Peter Robinson, below. They chat about The Whip while sitting in an old Wells Fargo Stagecoach. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of The Whip, please leave a comment or ask a question to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, April 26 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhipNovel, then come back and leave us a link of your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day, Friday, April 27. Good luck!

About the author:

Karen Kondazian’s life dream was to be a CIA spy . . . until she turned eight and she was invited to appear on Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things. After several days of missing school to tape the show Karen realized that acting was indeed her true calling. Karen has an extensive list of both theatre and television roles she’s played and also teaches at the Lee Strasberg School of Theatre and Film in Hollywood. Karen’s first foray into writing also stayed in the acting realm: The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors. But now she’s branched out into historical fiction with a main character that any actress would love to play!

(Photo: Karen at Charley Parkhurst's grave site at Pioneer Cemetary in Watsonville, California. Click to enlarge. Charley was the first woman to vote in the US!)

Find out more about Karen by visiting her online:

Book website:

Author website:


Twitter: @thewhipnovel

-------- Blog Tour Dates

Wednesday, April 25 @ Book Bags and Cat Naps
Are you tempted to add real people to your novel? Novelist Karen Kondazian posts about Writing Historical Figures.

Thursday, April 26 @ CMash Loves to Read
We all deserve second chances! Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst got one in the 1860s and you get one today to win The Whip, a novel based on her life.

Friday, April 27 @ Thoughts in Progress
Women have lived as men through the ages for all types of reasons. Learn about some of these women from author Karen Kondazian. Her debut novel, The Whip, was inspired by the story of one of these women.

Tuesday, May 1 @ I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
Win a copy of the historical novel The Whip, and learn more about the author, Karen Kondazian.

Wednesday, May 2 @ Peeking Between the Pages
After reading a review of The Whip, a novel that takes place in the Wild West, you'll be eager to enter and win a copy of Karen Kondazian's debut novel!

Thursday, May 3 @ Peeking Between the Pages
A real character. Those three words just about sum up Charley Parkhurst's whole existence. Learn more about the life of this historical character that inspired the novel, The Whip.

Friday, May 4 @ Selling Books
Learn more about turning fact into fiction with an interview of Karen Kondazian, author of The Whip: A Novel.

Tuesday, May 8 @ Books, Books, the Magical Fruit
Stop by today for another fascinating interview with Karen Kondazian, and enter to win her debut novel, The Whip!

Wednesday, May 9 @ Musings from the Slushpile
Where do you find inspiration for novels? Karen Kondazian, author of The Whip, shares her map to inspiration. Stop by and never lose your way again!

Monday, May 14 @ Me and Reading
Need to know the secret to novel writing? Karen Kondazian tells you how to tap into your creative inspirations.

Wednesday, May 16 @ Dianna's Writing Den
Learn more about Karen Kondazian and her tips on writing in today's interview!

Karen Signing at Book Soup, Hollywood, CA

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

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog 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 The Whip by Karen Kondazian! Here's how you enter:

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Just leave Karen a comment to be entered in the random drawing.

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

The giveaway contest closes Thursday, April 26 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, April 27, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Giving Back Through Our Writing

As many of you know, I am currently on a book blog tour with WOW for my memoir, White Elephants. To be honest, I was extremely nervous in the days leading up to the tour. By the time the actual day came, I was so nervous I could hardly concentrate on anything else.

What kept me from losing it were my four beautiful kids, turning to my writing and the amazing charity I've connected closely to in the last couple of years.

For those of us who have written memoirs with heavier subject matter, the writing process is actually the easy part (if you can use that word with writing such books). What was difficult, at least for me, was the long editing process. Every round of new edits meant I had to re-read and experience those painful moments again. I found that so much more difficult because the writing process was drawing the feelings out and putting them somewhere safe other than in my mind and body. Editing meant that I not only had to go back to the words over and over again until they flowed they way they should, it also meant I had to relive each scene. Some days, and some scenes, it was tougher than I could bear.

 But I had two things that gave me strength not to fall all the way down: a very supportive editing team over at Silver Boomer Books, who all gave me many cyber hugs, love and courage; and a charity that reminded me why I started on this journey in the first place.

By now, many of you know that I work very closely with a local charity called, Zebra Center. They are a Child Protection Center that helps children who have been abused or otherwise victimized get back on the paths they were meant to be on. I actually 'discovered' Zebra Center during my writing process. I spent alot of time talking and emailing with the CEO, Barbara. In fact, it was my talks with her and learning about what these amazing people do for these kids---who aren't so different from where I was so long ago---that gave me the final spark of courage I needed to get my story out there. Now it wasn't just for me that I was telling my story; it was for these kids (and others the Center hasn't found yet) who aren't able to tell theirs.

After White Elephants finally came out, I had a panic attack. "Oh my GOD!" I thought. "Now everyone is going to know what happened!" I felt like I was walking around naked. I was so terrified and emotionally stretched, I didn't have the energy to market the book. Then I finally got to visit the Center and everything changed.

When I walked around that place seeing the hand-drawn pictures from kids they've helped (or touched) framed up on the wall; when I felt the safety, love and sanctity in that place; when I not only heard but saw the passion Barbara and her team had for what they're doing; and when I got to see "Hope's Closet" up close, a soothing calm blanketed me. It was as though in that moment I just knew everything I was doing mattered. And that's what I draw from to keep going forward.

We have such an amazing opportunity to touch people with our writing. And when you can find that special charity or cause that you can connect your books or writing with, it makes it even more special. Some of us write about some very tough stuff, especially those of us in journalism or authoring personal essays and memoirs. Connecting with a charity, as I have with Zebra Center, also helps us see the issues we've survived through an entirely new perspective. A healthier view where we can use our experiences to help. How cool is that?

I'm not saying it's something writers have to do. But connecting with Zebra Center gave me a new perspective of what I went through and brought me full circle. If you can 'discover' a charity that fills your heart that way, embrace it. It keeps you grounded, keeps things real and may even help you work through something--personally or in your writing.

Happy Writing!

Chynna collects books/journals for 'her kids' at Zebra Center.
For more information about Zebra Center, or Chynna's Gift of Reading, click here. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Creative Writing: Essential Guide - Review and Giveaway

If 90 percent of writers earn just 10 percent of the income generated by all writing, and breaking into that top 10 percent who earn the majority of royalties and fees isn't easy work, why bother putting pen to paper?

Why not?

Because for many of us, seeing our work published - whether it's poetry, creative non-fiction, plays, or fiction - is a life-long goal.

The problem? Getting our work published.

As a creative writing and English instructor, I've utilized ideas from multiple writing sources for years because I've never found a textbook that met the needs of my students.

Until now.

Tim Atkinson generates encouragement and writing prompts, offering tips on the path to publication in Creative Writing: The Essential Guide, which was released by Need2Know Books in March 2012. Need2Know is giving away a copy of Creative Writing: The Essential Guide. If you're interested in winning the book, in either print or digital form, then leave a comment on this post by Friday, April 27.

Granted, I was skeptical at first glance. The book weighs in with 110 pages, including help pages and bibliography. But once I began reading, I realized I found a goldmine of writing prompts and ideas that will guide writers through the beginning stages of the writing process and lead to the possibility of publication.

In the initial three chapters, Atkinson kick-starts the writing habit by making it just that, a habit. He suggests making lists, doodling, and brainstorming as the starting point. He discusses the connection between reading and writing and shows readers how to analyze the meat of the sandwich; the story, setting, characterization, and dialogue.

Atkinson divides the remainder of the book into sections, such as poetry, novels, short story, play, genre fiction, and non-fiction. Within each chapter, he breaks down the subject matter and presents helpful, thought-provoking prompts.

Finally, Atkinson shares publication options and promotional techniques.

While veteran writers may not glean new ideas, novice novelists and primary poets will find adequate information that should transfer ideas from brain to pen onto paper. A useful list of writing websites and organizations is included in the book.

Are you ready to break into the top 10 percent of creative writers? Then give Creative Writing: The Essential Guide a chance.

Need2Know is giving away a copy of Creative Writing: The Essential Guide. If you're interested in winning the book, in either print or digital form, then leave a comment on this post by Friday, April 27.

Review by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Speak Out!: My Name is Jocelyn, and I’m a Punctu-holic, guest post by Jocelyn Kasper

My Name is Jocelyn, and I’m a Punctu-holic

by Jocelyn Kasper

I’m on week four of a six-week WOW! Young Adult Novel Writing workshop with author Bonnie Hearn Hill. She’s got me on a no-exclamation-point diet. Bonnie says I’m in rehab.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke. It’s a substitute for a lively little remark, added to the end of a perfectly good sentence, such as, “Isn’t that special?” Some people would substitute the word amazing to get the same effect. But I hate that word.

Bonnie says I need to use words, not punctuation, to express ideas and feelings. I told her I will lay off the punctuation brew and instead grow my language skills. I think my sentences are actually funnier, friendlier and smarter without exclamation points.

But sometimes I worry someone will think I’m drier than I mean to be. So I’ll add a colon and shift+zero, which, after a thoughtful tap of the space bar in a properly working Word program, turns into a smiley face, which is just as bad. I’m trying to get used to the new me.

Bonnie says get rid of colons and semi-colons in fiction. They’re too authorial. Let the reader get swept away by the writing, not by the writer. I want my readers to fall in love with my characters on their own and not notice there’s an author hanging around telling them how to feel about it.

Punctuation feels like music notation to me. In fact, like interpretation of music notation, it’s almost spiritual. A comma or em dash signals a musical rest of particular length and temper. Question marks and periods convey vocal inflections. But putting a word or phrase in italics or quotation marks (orphan quotes) for emphasis is off limits. Bonnie says not to think of myself as an actor, singer or composer, but as a writer. Again, use words.

This whole anti-punctuation thing is really just what the doctor ordered. You see, punctuation can make me feel like a smart person, even if I’m not. Like all those books on all those bookshelves do, which I haven’t read in years or ever.

Except for when I type smiley faces. I don’t feel so smart then. Just because I like to doodle, I shouldn’t scribble faces, parentheses, dots and other flyspecks all over my manuscripts to prove I’m smart. Or artistic.

Thanks to Bonnie, I’ve thrown my Punctuation Princess crown all the way across the valley. And still, I hear a million echoes of shattering glass, as it bounces from mountain to mountain.

It might seem like I’ve only learned junk about punctuation from Bonnie Hearn Hill. Or that punctuation is junk—on many levels—or both; but that wouldn’t be accurate. Oops. There goes a semi-colon.

I’ve been learning so much more. But you’ll have to wait for another blog day to hear about all the rest. In the meantime, use your words.

* * *
Jocelyn Kasper loves to write. In her spare time, she teaches people how to sing. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, three dogs and one cat. Read more at

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blog Commenting and Poetry

I really wanted to wax poetic today because April is National Poetry Month and I do so love poetry, even if I’m a so-so poet. But I just left a comment on a friend’s blog, and I flipped (my Cathy-the-Writer doll) with joy! So I think I’ll wax poetic about that instead.

Perhaps you’re wondering how one can make commenting on a blog such a delightful experience. Let me count the ways.

Make it easy to leave a comment.

Most of us use a blog template, so we don’t need to do any fancy HTML stuff to manage comments. We just check a couple boxes. On whatever host you use for your blog, look for Settings. Depending on which boxes you check, you will either encourage or discourage readers to comment.

Here’s the simple way to encourage commenters: Allow a person to leave a name and a link and go. What that means to you, as the administrator of your blog, is this: Don’t check every one of those dang little boxes. The more comment moderation you enable, the more difficult you make it to leave a comment!

Yes, I know you worry about spam. And if you get a TON of visitors on a highly visible blog, you may need to check those boxes that will require commenters to verify (nonsensical) words before they can leave their (honest-to-goodness) words. But for most of us, it’s a matter of trusting the automatic spam detectors to do their job—and occasionally cleaning up when they don’t.

Wouldn’t you rather be slightly annoyed than annoy your readers? I’ve found that folks like me who take the time to read blogs will take a few seconds more to comment. But if it takes up too much time, these same folks (like me) will get frustrated and move on.

So check your Settings. Clear those tiresome boxes. Trust your spam detectors. And your blog commenters will be flipping out (in a good way)!

Now, I realize that I did not do justice to my reference to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lovely sonnet, or even wax poetic. So I offer this:

Roses are red, violets are blue,
Make commenting easy and I’ll flip for you!

Um, yeah. I warned you about the so-so poetry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Five Tips for Making Time to Write

by Lynne Garner

It doesn't matter if you're writing a novel or a book based on your favorite hobby or craft, sometimes finding time to write can feel impossible. So here are a few tips I've used and continue to use.

1. Create an appointment. Put in your diary that perhaps for 20 - 30 minutes every other day you have an appointment to write. Just like an appointment with the dentist or doctor, you can't break it. You will find you can get quite a lot completed and your family and friends soon get used to you being unavailable at these times.

2. Take yourself out. If you find the home environment difficult to write, then take yourself out. Perhaps when you do the shopping, stop off at your favorite coffee shop. Treat yourself to your favorite drink and spend time on your writing.

3. Set goals and/or deadlines. Perhaps you could set yourself a goal that every day you spend just 10 - 20 minutes working on your book. This may sound impossible but perhaps you can implement tip four to achieve this goal.

4. Repurpose your time. I think it's safe to say many of us have time that can be classified as wasted. For example, I used to classify walking the dog as wasted time. Now it's not! Between throwing the ball, I use my phone to make notes. So, do you spend time waiting for the children to come out of school? Do you have to wait for a bus or train? Take a pen and pad with you or even print off some copy and sit and edit. Those wasted minutes soon add up.

5. Use bribery! It's amazing how much time you can suddenly find if you offer a bribe in exchange for a little writing time. It doesn't even have to be something that will cost you financially. For example, agree with the kids you'll cook their favorite meal if they keep themselves quietly occupied for half an hour.

The above tips have worked for me, and I hope they work for you.

Good luck!

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US, having over 300 features printed. She has 21 books published; these include 10 craft-related how-to books, working with both publishers and packagers. Lynne designed, produced copy, and photographed many of the craft projects featured on The Craft Ark.


Join Lynne's latest WOW! Women on Writing class:

a five week course starting on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

This class is limited to 15 students and early registration is recommended!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interview with Shannon Norland, Runner Up in the Fall 2011 Flash Fiction Contest

Meet Shannon Norland. The former molecular biologist left the field to pursue her other love: writing. Shannon writes short stories and she's currently writing her first novel. The Raleigh, North Carolina, resident enjoys gardening and kendo.

Shannon's flash piece, Last Letter, will tickle your funny bone...and maybe even have you shouting, "Way to go, girl!"

If you haven't had an opportunity to read "Last Letter," it's available on the contest page. Then come back and spend time with Shannon discussing the writing process, balancing family and writing time, and upcoming projects.

WOW: Shannon, hello and welcome to The Muffin! Congratulations on the runner up honors you received in WOW's Flash Fiction contest. "Last Letter" is a wonderfully comedic piece. What inspired the story?

Shannon: One of my guilty pleasures is reading advice columns. I was thinking about relationships and regret when I started the story. At the beginning, I only had the earrings in mind. The murder appeared as I was writing.

WOW: Don't you love when a plot device pops into mind when crafting a story! Speaking of plot devices—revenge is a common theme, yet it drives a story. How did you incorporate the usually serious theme into your flash piece?

Shannon: Humans are irrational creatures, so their interactions are already a blend of comedy and tragedy. I attempted to bring the theme of revenge out in a humorous way through the main character's (mistaken) reasoning; when and why she chose to leave, how reacted after learning of her mistake.

WOW: (chuckling) Well, it certainly made me laugh out loud. Shannon, your bio mentions you quit your career in molecular biology to write. Have you or would you incorporate something from that field into one of your stories?

Shannon: It is definitely something I keep in mind. I love reading that type of science fiction. I'm waiting for the right idea and character to appear.

WOW: I can see how that type of expertise would help with storytelling, especially science fiction. Good luck with that! Hope an idea comes to mind soon. One element of writing all writers have in common is the process. Do you have a special place that inspires you? Any writing rituals?

Shannon: I'm an evening writer. When the day is over, I climb into a hot bath, pull up a chair for my laptop, and get to writing. Some nights, I'm so focused on the writing that the water will be cold before I get out. I tend to only do editing and rewriting at my desk.

Before the baby, I was a sporadic writer, writing in big chunks, then not touching a story for days. I had to play catch-up each writing session to remember where I'd left off. Now I write six days a week, and come to each session with a plan and intention. Having to fight for writing time has made it more precious (and productive) for me.

WOW: Interesting. I couldn't write while in the tub! And I agree that when you fight for writing time, it becomes a lesson in productivity. Great insight! I've been reading quite a bit about crafting fiction and how ideas present themselves. When you begin working on a new story, what comes first: character, plot, or specific setting?

Shannon: Frequently, I hear the characters speaking to each other or to themselves. They are arguing or asking questions or taunting each other. Those snippets of dialogue come with a sense of setting and tension, and from there I tease out the story. At other times the seed idea could be a dream image or a theme and mood. So many things can inspire a story that it's hard to pick which ones to flesh out.

WOW: I agree that inspiration is all around us; picking one element to concentrate on is difficult. As a mother, I imagine it can be difficult to manage the best of both worlds. Any advice to other moms who write about how to balance home, family and writing?

Shannon: What worked for me was to write down all the things I thought I should be doing. Then I assigned priorities and cut out everything that wasn't essential. I realized it was okay if the bookcases grew a pelt of dust and the flower beds got weedy while I worked on my novel. It was difficult for me at first, being a perfectionist and neat-freak, but with every thousand words added to my story, it bothered me less and less.

There will still be bad days. Days when the wipes run out at the worst possible moment, and the cats are sick (probably all that dust), and everyone is in a bad mood. Just relax, order pizza, and take a night off. Come back fresh for the next day.

WOW: At my house, I call days like you described as "life." Agreed. You learn to work around things. With that in mind, what projects are you currently working on?

Shannon: Right now, I'm working on two new short stories. One is a speculative piece about a future in which battle and business have merged. The other is a modern fairy tale. I've also just finished the first draft of a cozy mystery novel and can't wait to start the revision process!

WOW: Sounds like you're very busy! Good luck with your projects.

Interview conducted by LuAnn Schindler

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chynna Laird, author of White Elephants, launches her book tour

& book giveaway contest!

Once in a while comes a book so encompassing of experience it holds the potential to touch each person’s heart. WOW’s own Chynna Laird has written such a book; today we are very proud to share with you White Elephants, a memoir.

White Elephant is a term used to describe a difficult issue people would rather overlook or ignore. Chynna’s family had a very large elephant devouring their very foundation and the only person willing to name it was a small girl named Tami who stood her ground against the charging pachyderm.

The heart of this raging beast is a mother thrown out of control by bipolar disorder and alcoholic binges. Despite loving relatives and friends, the children find themselves alone in a world of pain and confusion. Where others may have crumbled, Tami raised herself up.

As an adult Tami took on her first name, Chynna; this is her remarkable story of abuse, survival, and triumphant recovery. White Elephants will touch your heart. Within these pages you might see your own story, or that of a neighbor or your best friend.

Chynna couldn't help her mother, but she would consider it worth everything if her family's story helped another. That said, writing a memoir and promoting that memoir are two very separate experiences. It takes a strong soul to reveal what, for many of us, still lies in the closet. We feel honored to launch White Elephants on The Muffin today.

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Eagle Wings Press (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982624328
ISBN-13: 978-0982624326
Twitter Hashtag: #WhtElephts

White Elephants is available in paperback at Barnes & Noble and both paperback and Kindle at Amazon. A portion of every book sale goes to Zebra Child Protection Centre.

Read a chapter here (PDF):

Did you know… April is: Alcohol Awareness Month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Check it out!
White Elephants is #1 on Goodreads Best Books On Recovering From Childhood Trauma

Book Giveaway Contest: If you would like to win a copy of White Elephants, please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, April 19 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #WhtElephts, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day--Friday, April 20. Good luck!

About the author:

Chynna Laird is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters [Jaimie (almost nine), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (three)] and baby boy, Xander (five). Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs.

You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novel (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync to be released March 2012), and a Young Adult Suspense/Mystery/Paranormal/Sweet Romance (Undertow, to be released 2012). She’s also working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues and a few other projects in the works for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers.

Find the author online:

Author site: Chynna Laird’s Lily Wolf Words


The Gift: A place for writers, readers, Beatles lovers, moms, and ‘Sensational’ families…to reach out, to help or just to give cyber hugs. SPD (sensory processing disorder), Autism, and Aspergers are favorite topics.

White Elephants: A Blog About Bipolar and Mood Disorders, Mental Illness and Survival

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

WOW: Chynna, I first “met” you a few years ago via the Longridge Writer’s Group; I can’t tell you how fun it has been to watch you grow as a writer and now to help you launch your memoir White Elephants…who would’ve thought!

In addition to numerous articles you’ve authored an award-winning children’s book, at least one award-winning memoir (so far), a second memoir, some YA fiction, and an adult suspense novella just released (whew!)—when did your writing journey begin?

Chynna: Gosh, I’m reading the introduction and hardly believing that’s me. LOL! I know this is going to sound really cliché but I’ve actually been writing all of my life. I’ve always loved books and started journaling when I was in my single digits. The story I like to share is the first book I wrote…in elementary school!

In Grade Four, we had a publisher visit our classroom. She taught us about the process of writing books, editing, printing and finally holding the books in our hands. She told us about the exciting life of an author. Well, at least I thought it was exciting. Then we got to participate in the most exciting part: we got to write our own books!

My book was called The Adventures of Superbug. He was invincible with the exception of the size 12 tennis shoe that sealed his ultimate fate. We wrote our stories, created the illustrations, bound them and they were ‘published’! Okay, so we wrote them on plain printing paper, the binding process involved lamination and staples and the publishing part was just our books in the school library but, to me, it was the greatest thing ever! I must have checked every day to see how many kids took it out. It did pretty good, actually. We were supposed to take our books home at the end of the school year and, unfortunately, I forgot about poor Superbug.

Several years later, my sister came home from school waving a book she took out of the library. She was hysterical! You won’t believe what book she had. That’s right! It was Superbug! I took it as a sign that writing was what I was meant to do.

WOW: LOL- how fun! I definitely would have checked that one out! So when did you realize the focus of your writing?

Chynna: I’ve always been someone who writes from my heart. Whether I’m doing a nonfiction essay, a journalistic research piece or a fiction novel, my heart is right there. You can’t go through the experiences I have and not write that way. It can be a minus on some level because you can get refusals for jobs for being ‘too personal’. On the other hand, it’s a huge plus because not only can I write great nonfiction that folks can relate to, I can breathe a reality into my fiction characters that some writers struggle to do.

I just decided a long time ago that I would always be true to myself. I may not necessarily stick to what I know (like they often tell you to in writing school), but I will never be told not to write from my heart. I simply don’t know how to write any other way.

WOW: How did you come to write White Elephants?

Chynna: It’s funny you should ask that. I remember having a conversation with my Uncle Craig about how I’d gone through so much and jokingly telling him I should write a book. “You should,” he said. “Your story would really help others. And I’d be first in line to buy it.” And he was!

I actually started writing the first draft the day after Uncle Craig told me my mother had died. I was finally strong enough to sit down and talk to her about how I felt about our relationship and things that had happened. Even if nothing transpired from the conversation, if nothing changed, at least I could live the rest of my life knowing I tried. But she died and I was left with all of these feelings of resentment, anger and other negative emotions I had to release. It took me less than a month to write that first draft and, admittedly, it was awful.

Not ‘awful’ in the sense that the writing sucked but more in the sense that it was a total regurgitation of all of those emotions I’d kept inside for so long. If I’d published that version, it wouldn’t have done my story justice. It was from anger, and you just can’t write these kinds of stories from anger. So I hired a memoir expert to help me edit it (Thank you, Felice!). She helped me shape it, tone the anger down while bringing out more of the ‘real’ stuff I felt. Man! That was so tough.

From there, I had a manuscript that was real. It’s a difficult read but it’s real and, I think, fair. The whole process (excluding the querying process to find a publisher) took about three years. (I actually ‘shelved’ it for a bit until I could handle selling it to someone.)

WOW: Once published, in February 2011, was there some apprehension in actually promoting the book?

Chynna: Yes, definitely. When I finally found the right ‘home’ for White Elephants, the editing process was very draining too. Each correction or re-read was like going through everything again and some chapters were so tough. But the loving ladies at Eagle Wings Press were empathetic. They held my hand through the entire process (thank you Barb, Becky, Karen and Ginny!) and made me feel safe. I remember becoming so emotional when the book finally came out and I held it in my hands the first time. I thought, Wow! It’s real! It’s finally real!” Then I thought, Oh my GOD! It’s real! And people are going to read it!”

I think it’s natural to go through those feelings when you put a book like this out. It’s like stripping down and standing there in front of the entire world naked. You can’t hide anything anymore, you know? Then, of course, you worry about how people will feel about it or if anyone would be angry, etc. The truth is, I wrote this book to help other people and I’m not helping others by going into hiding after putting it out there. If I expect others to stand up and move forward after going through some of the things I talk about in the book (eg: child abuse, rape, eating disorders, etc.) I have to show them I’m doing the same thing.

I guess you could say that it’s sort of like going through everything all over again—as I talked about how I felt during the editing process. But there’s are reason I wrote White Elephants—to heal, to raise awareness and to let others in similar situations know that they aren’t alone. That is what I think about if that panic feeling tries sneaking back in.

I was strong enough to write it and allow others to read it. I was strong enough to put it out there for the world to read. I am strong enough to make those steps to get it into the hands of those who need it the most.

WOW: I admire you for undertaking this incredible healing journey and having the strength to follow all the way through.

After reading White Elephants, I can see your experiences imprinted in your fiction such as Blackbird Flies; tell us a little about your experience transitioning from non-fiction to fiction.

Chynna: Yes, Blackbird Flies is sort of a loose take on one part of my life with my mom. The story is very special to me. Actually, it was a very natural transition from nonfiction to fiction. Both genres are very similar in that you have a story to tell that need engaging characters, a good plot, catchy dialogue and keeps the reader wanting more. The main difference, of course, is that I can channel everything through my characters without putting myself out there as much.

I thoroughly enjoy writing fiction and have several projects on the go. My readers will recognize a few main staples I have in each book: a musical element (a tribute to my mom), grandparents somewhere in the story (a tribute to my grandparents) and one of the characters struggling with some sort of issue, whether it’s a special need or a tragedy they’re trying to cope with (a tribute to my kids and my past). And there is always a sprinkle of humor because life is better with laughter, no matter what else is going on.

I still have a few nonfiction projects in the works but I like being able to go back and forth.

WOW: In addition to being an award-winning author you are also a psychology major; how do your psych studies influence your writing?

Chynna: Great question! Ironic that I ended up being a psychology major, huh? LOL! My studies affect me a lot, actually. Not only does it give me answers to questions I come across along the way but it helps me understand people better. It helps me see more than just a label or behavior but what’s going on underneath. Honestly, I went into psychology to understand my mom, myself and my children (who have special needs) better. And that brings another element of realness into my writing, I think.

WOW: So, here you are… award-winning writer, wife, mom to four beautiful children—if you could go back and hold a conversation with your young, frightened, punked-out self what would you most like to tell her?

Chynna: Oh Robyn. You’re going to make me cry. I think I’d give myself a hug (which I would have hated but really needed) and I’d have said something I always say to my oldest daughter Jaimie and my son, Xander, whenever they struggle:

You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. (Christopher Robin, Pooh’s Big Adventure)

I’d probably look at myself like I had three heads but I know I would have ‘gotten’ that.

WOW: You give a portion of all your book sales to a charitable cause—would you like to share some words about that here?

Chynna: Thanks so much for asking about this. A portion of every book sale goes to a local charity called, Zebra Centre. A few years ago, I was doing research for a paper and came across this amazing place. It’s a Child Protection Center that helps children who have been abused or otherwise victimized. What drew me to them the most, aside from what they do, is their mandate. They are strictly a child-focus center and they do everything they can to help these kids define their own paths in life, rather than being defined by what’s happened to them. I so appreciate that.

What I love the most is why they call themselves Zebra Centre. In nature, zebras will form a protective circle around their young when faced with danger or predators. They put their lives on the line for those babies, and do it as a community. I can’t even tell you what it meant to me to find such a tremendous charity.

In addition to donating proceeds, we’ve also created ‘Chynna’s Gift of Reading’ where I donate books to these kids. They have absolutely nothing when they’re removed from their homes. One thing that always gave me comfort was reading and writing. So I give books and journals to, hopefully, give back. I guess you could say, things have come full circle.

You can read more about Zebra Center here.

Learn more about Chynna’s Gift of Reading here.

WOW: What’s Next?

Chynna: I love that question. Let's see....I am working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues where I pick up from where I left off with Jaimie and move more into what it's like raising two kids with SPD. Craziness. I also have a sequel in the works to the YA suspense paranormal coming out in the summer. AND my big goal is to get into screenwriting.

WOW: You’re just having all kinds of fun! I think I’d call that a very happy…new beginning :)

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

Tuesday, April 17 @ Journal of a Male Childhood Abuse Survivor
It's hard enough to be a parent but what do you do when your own parents were either absent or abusive? Join Chynna for a talk about being a mother in the absence of mothering.

Wednesday, April 18 @ The Guilty Parent
Join Nichole for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird and a chance to win a print copy of this touching memoir! Return to The Guilty Parent on April 30th for a special guest post by Chynna Laird.

Thursday, April 19 @ Meryl's Notes Blog
Join award-winning author Chynna Laird as she shares her top 10 writing tips!

Friday, April 20 @ Words from the Heart
Bad, difficult, or moody... is that child a handful or is she crying out for help? How can you tell? Join us today and find out!

Saturday, April 21 @ All Things Audry
Join Audry Fryer for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird!

Monday, April 23 @ Cheryl Loves to Read
Bad Childhood? Don't let it hold you back! Join Chynna today for a talk about moving from abuse to ability. She'll be giving away a copy of her book White Elephants and our host, Cheryl, will share her book review!

Tuesday, April 24 @ Empty Nest
Chynna Laird is a mom, a student, and an award winning author--whew! Come by today as she shares her thoughts on how to stay motivated. Also, Pam reviews Chynna's memoir White Elephants.

Wednesday, April 25 @ A Slice of Life
Come have some fun! Award-winning author Chynna Laird has a special writing challenge for you. You might win a copy of White Elephants!

Monday, April 30 @ The Guilty Parent
A "white elephant" is something that people know exists but choose to ignore... Today Chynna talks about writing on "taboo" subjects.

Tuesday, May 1 @ This Mama Cooks
Dealing with a mentally ill family member or one with substance abuse problems can be exhausting and stressful. Come by for a talk on how to keep yourself healthy while under emotional duress.

Wednesday, May 2 @ Thoughts in Progress
Chynna is an award-winning author and mother of four--how does she do it all? Come on over for a talk about balancing life as a writing mama!

Thursday, May 3 @ Stacy Eaton, Author
Join best-selling author Stacy Eaton for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird.

Friday, May 4 @ Mom~E~Centric
Award-winning author Chynna Laird talks about living with and educating on mental health issues. Don't miss this chance to win a print copy of her straight-forward memoir White Elephants!

Saturday, May 5 @ Callie Kingston
Join Callie Kingston for a review of White Elephants by Chynna Laird!

Monday, May 7 @ Writer Inspired
You are not your past! Today author Chynna Laird talks about defining our own lives.

Tuesday, May 8 @ Dream Hour
Love It, Share It! Writing about what you love is the topic today. Join award-winning author Chynna Laird & her host, Jessica for a guest post and book review.

Wednesday, May 9 @ Workaday Reads
Get to know award-winning author Chynna Laird. Come by for a chat about how and where she started out. Enter to win a print copy of her fantastic new memoir White Elephants!

Friday, May 10 @ Happy, Healthy, Whole--The Journey to Find Balance
Yes you can...make it through the rough times, heal your scars, and carry on. Join us--Chynna Laird shares her knowledge and encouragement and our host shares her review of White Elephants.

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

Get Involved! If you have a website or blog 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 White Elephants by Chynna Laird! Here's how you enter:

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

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

The giveaway contest closes Thursday, April 20 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, April 20, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.

Good luck!