Need to Rekindle the Spark? Tips for Staying Creative

Saturday, June 30, 2012
Yesterday, as I perused a few education sites for writing tips to implement in my classroom, I stumbled upon a great list offering ways to stay creative. (Unfortunately, I don't remember which site I was on and I forgot to bookmark it. Don't you dislike when that happens? But, I did print the PDF file offering the tips.)

At some point, we all need a creative boost. We slide into a routine, thinking the work we produce is good enough, and then BAM! The creative brain waves halt. Know the feeling? C'mon, raise your hands, because it's happened to you, too.

The good news is simple: rekindling the creativity spark can be as simple as taking a common object with you wherever you go or working with other creative types.

While these are geared to high school students, the ideas perfectly fit writers of all ages. Let's see how they apply to a writer's life.

  1.  Become a risk taker. Remember that routine I talked about earlier? Don't fall into that trap. Take a chance instead. Want to publish in a NYT? You won't ever see it in print UNLESS you submit. Have an idea for a breakout book series? Until you put the words on the page, it won't happen. So, take a risk. What are you waiting for?
  2. . Break rules. Sure, it's a bit of a conundrum - the whole "rules are meant to be broken/follow the rules" debate. When I started freelancing, I broke one publication's "don't call the editor" rule. Guess what. I landed five additional assignments.
  3. Do more of what makes you happy. For me, that's cooking and writing. I do a lot of both.
  4. Don't force it. So true! I worked on a chapter of a YA novel for a month, trying to get it to flow. I took a two -week break from it and when I returned to it, clarity. It's amazing how that happens.
  5. Read a page of the dictionary. I find this happens quite a bit...although not on purpose. I'll be checking out a word in Flip Dictionary and I'll realize I've been perusing page upon page. The best part, I'll find a word, key in on it, and begin word association. It's amazing how one word can spark an entire page of writing!
  6. Build a framework. Can you work without one?
  7. Stop trying to be someone else's perfect. Enough said.
  8. Write down ideas. You never know when - or where - inspiration will hit, but I've had brilliant ideas surface, only to forget all facets of the idea later.Take it from someone who learned the hard way: Write it down. Now.
  9. Clean your workspace. Agreed. If I would clean my office more often, I do think I'd be more productive. While the organized chaos theory works for me most of the time, sometimes, it becomes an obstruction to accomplishing a goal.
  10. Have fun. Laugh. Live. Enjoy yourself. Then, return to your writing. You'll sense a new attitude.
  11. Finish something. Nothing spurs creativity than finishing one project so you can begin brainstorming for another.
The next time you feel the spark burn out, try one of these surefire tips to rekindle the flame and renew your writer's spirit.

How do you rekindle your creativity?

Post and photo by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of her work at her website.

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Friday Speak Out!: Truth At Heart, guest post by Anju Gattani

Friday, June 29, 2012
Truth At Heart
by Anju Gattani

A writer’s life is hard. A woman’s life is tough. But a woman-writer’s life is grueling. I’m not saying this because I’m a woman or a writer--in actual fact, I’m both. I’m saying this because I’ve watched my children grow, get better and stronger with age, and have pretty much always been there for them 24/7. I’m saying this because I’ve watched my manuscript grow from one story to a series of books, become better and stronger with age, and have pretty much always been there for it 24/7.

I pack (and still do) my kids’ lunches every morning. I listen to their problems, their issues at school, and wave goodbye with promises of “Today’s a new day!” I listen to my husband’s problems, his issues at work and empathize with the tiring routine (now) of flying out every Mondays, returning on Thursdays and wave goodbye on Monday again with promises that “Today’s a new day!”

For nine long years I waved everyone off with enthusiasm, encouraging them to make the best of the rat-race in life. It didn’t matter if we were living in Australia, Singapore, India or the US, the walls and decor simply changed. The neighbors and friends grew with each move. But the door I’d close, the burden of a lonely manuscript waiting to be completed and the uncertainty if I’d ever become a published author were constants. I’d sit with my characters and wonder… will they ever be real like the family I waved goodbye to every morning? Would they also have stories of their own to share? Would they raise issues that would need thought, analysis and empathy? Would they ever become real or remain cardboard?

The more I rewrote and shared this with women friends, the more I realized DUTY AND DESIRE, the debut in my ‘Winds of Fire’ series, wasn’t just fiction but women’s fiction. But when women, I barely knew, came up to me at random and repeated the dialogues and themes underlying my fiction I realized I wasn’t just writing women’s fiction, but realistic fiction. I waved new friends off with the promise I’d let them know when the manuscript was finally a published book.

The manuscript is now a published book, in hardcover, digital format and available worldwide.

I still pack school lunches. I still listen, empathize and preach “Today’s a new day!” I still have another manuscript – another constant – waiting to be completed. And I have come to realize this is the burden of being a woman. We don’t just carry our stories but the stories of those around us.

Some are able to put the words on paper.

Others choose to keep them inside.

But no matter what the decision,

women are the same world-wide.

* * *

 Anju Gattani, fiction author, freelance journalist and former news reporter, has been published for over 2 decades in leading Asian and US publications. DUTY AND DESIRE, her debut novel, is available worldwide in hardcopy and on: Kindle, Nook, Sony, Kobo and all Apple products. Visit Anju at:, Twitter: @Anju_Gattani, Facebook: Anju Gattani Author ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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The Very Visible Jeanne Ray's Latest Novel: Review and Giveaway

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jeanne Ray's been around long enough that Calling Invisible Women: A Novel might seem slightly autobiographical. Ray wrote her first novel at sixty-years-old and there is no stopping her now. Calling Invisible Women is Ray's fifth, after Julie and Romeo Get Lucky, Eat Cake, Step-Ball-Change, and her New York Times bestselling work Julie and Romeo.

Just like Ray, Clover Hobart is not willing to let a little bit of age—or, in Clover's case age and invisibility—get in her way to become a source of inspiration to those around her. Well, at first Clover is a little hesitant about her invisibility, but who wouldn't be? She's a fifty-ish mother of two who has been feeling a little invisible since she stopped being a reporter (she's downgraded now and simply writes the newspaper's gardening column) to take care of her family.

Besides the gardening column and figuring out how to re-use poinsettias, her unemployed son, Nick, has returned to the family nest and her doctor husband, Arthur, has a busy practice. This pair keeps Clover seemingly in domestic handcuffs. While Evie, her overly dramatic daughter, is busy at college until heartbreak hits and she, too, heads home.

Clover's story seems like an imperfect, everyday suburban tale. It's nothing out of the ordinary. Imperfect and ordinary, until Clover wakes up one morning and can't see herself. But Nick and Arthur don't seem to notice. For. Weeks. Gilda, Clover's next-door neighbor and best friend, and her mother-in-law notice, but then they always notice everything, don't they?

Clover can keep filing her newspaper column and keep the family running, even as an invisible person. Then, one day she notices a want ad "Calling Invisible Women" and Clover knows that she is not alone. And, although it is tricky to find another invisible woman, Clover manages to find them and Clover starts to learn how she ended up invisible. But they also teach Clover a more important lesson: how to live as an invisible woman. In turn, Clover's ability to deal with her invisibility helps to drive her to become more visible, in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways.

Ray does a believable job of showing Clover among others—those who can see her and those who can't. As Clover becomes more comfortable in her invisible skin, she can take on all kinds of jobs and chores—even snooping on husbands or kids who might be up to no good.

Clover starts connecting and learning from the group of invisible women, which gives them all the support mechanism they need to re-enter society as teachers and nurses and reporters. Clover is challenged in many ways she never thought possible and along the way, she becomes a source of inspiration, albeit invisible.

Even if not familiar with Ray's other works, Calling Invisible Women is approachable. Sure, it's hard to imagine how the invisibility concept may work, in practice, Ray may have been smiling when she wrote it. But, yes, she brings her readers in on the jokes, which makes Calling Invisible Women a fun summer read.


We also have a giveaway from the publisher! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win a hard-cover print copy of Calling Invisible Women: A Novel (list price: $24). If you have problems using Rafflecopter, be sure you are running the latest version of your web browser and have javascript updated. Please also leave a comment!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be picked. By entering you agree to the rules of the contest. Good luck!

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Can You Plagiarize Yourself? Conversations about Copyright

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The issue of copyright has risen again in a controversy from The New Yorker blogger, Jonah Lehrer. The basic story is that Lehrer, who just moved his blogging to The New Yorker’s site, has been copying sentences, paragraphs and passages from previously published work and using them in new posts. Is this plagiarism?

Copyright and Rights

This accusation sent me to my dictionary. Plagiarism is “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd edition. New York: Random House, 1983. P. 1479.)

How can this be plagiarism, when he is quoting himself and not another author? Let’s get our terms right. Lehrer misrepresented the rights available for his work. By definition (see above), he can’t plagiarize himself.

This Slate article about the controversy says, "On Tuesday morning, media watcher Jim Romenesko caught Jonah Lehrer stealing. The victim: Jonah Lehrer."

That is incorrect. Instead, the victim was The New Yorker, who thought they were buying an original article, and instead got a partial reprint.

Copyright is the legal protection of a creative work. The rights to use a creative work can legally be licensed, sold or assigned, and can be sub-divided in many ways. Some traditional rights are First North American serial rights (first time an article/story appears in a magazine), or book rights (often the territory for the rights may be restricted). In other words, the venue for the publication, the geographic location for the publication and almost anything else is negotiable. If both parties agree, it's a deal. If Jonah Lehrer told The New Yorker that his blog posts were part reprint and part original, there would have been no problem. Instead, he misrepresented his material and sold rights that he no longer had. But he did not plagiarize himself.

The General Conversation about Who Owns What

Photo copyright Darcy Pattison, 2012. All rights reserved.
Lake Ouachita, Arkansas. 2012.

This situation with Lehrer has sparked other conversations about copyrights. Kids and teachers freely copy music and text online. The addition of Creative Commons licenses makes it trickier.

But let’s be clear: the intent of the copyright laws are to protect the material created by authors, musicians, videographers, artists, etc.

This is necessary because without the ability to sell their work and make money, the level of creativity dies. Why should I work for three years on a novel that I just give away free? It makes no sense. Compensation for creative works is essential so we can live and eat and pay bills. The intent of copyright isn’t to deprive others of using something, it is to protect the possibility of creative people making a living from their creativity.

Depending on the source, researchers say that 1-5% of people actually create content online and the rest consume it. Those of us who create, spend our lives trying to be original, to entertain, to inform, to delight, to make money from what we do. You want to use our material because you choose not to create yourself, or you haven't developed the skills yet. We understand. It's taken us years of effort to get to the point where you actually want what we create.

So, please, don't copy. If you have a legitimate, non-commercial request, ask permission; I'll likely say yes. If you have a commercial request, please be ready to pay, just like you would expect from any other business.

Let me repeat: the intent of copyright is clear, to protect the rights of creative people, so we can make a living. Please, honor our copyrights.

Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes.
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Interview with Lori Parker, 3rd Place Winner, Winter 2012 Flash Fiction contest

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I don't care for the feel of sand against my feet. Or anywhere else for that matter. When I read the title of Lori Parker's story, Sand, I felt the grit against my toes, felt it cling to my body, like it does when you emerge from a lake or the ocean. Then I read her powerful words, and I realized, I have nothing to complain about.

You will find Lori's story here. You'll want to read it, dust the imaginary layer of sand from your keyboard, and return to join us for a discussion about writing, reading, and inspiration.

Lori Parker lives in Chicago with her beloved husband and his extensive music collection. She wrote her first poem at age eight, her first play at age 15 and finished her first novel last year. So far, these works have not been published, but Lori is an optimistic existentialist, which explains her work on a second novel, plays, poems, and short stories. Beyond publication, Lori's goal is to author a book worthy of Shared Inquiry discussion at the Great Books Foundation.

WOW: Welcome, Lori! And, congratulations on earning 3rd place honors with your story. I like to think that there's a story behind every story, and I'm wondering, what inspired this piece?

Lori: I listen to National Public Radio a lot and last November it seemed the airwaves were saturated with stories about Iraq and Afghanistan and the work our people are doing over there as well as stories about returning vets and the many challenges they face here. Then I heard a debate about the President's decision to leave a certain amount of soldiers behind even after the "draw-down." That started me thinking about what it must be like to know you're going home but . . . not yet. I also drew from an account I'd heard a couple of years ago, also on NPR, about what one soldier found particularly difficult to deal with: "Sand. All that sand. And it gets in everything, your clothes and even your mouth when you sleep." That started me on the path to the story.

WOW:  That's a great behind-the-words glimpse at story development! Thank you for sharing. As soon as I finished reading your piece (and brushed away the imaginary sand), I realized what an important role imagery plays in the story. The image of sand, the drabness of it all, provides an interesting contrast to the matter at hand. How did you develop the imagery and carry it through the piece?

Lori: I started with that image of getting sand in my mouth. I grind my teeth in my sleep, especially during times of severe stress or anxiety. Imagine what that must be like for a soldier. From there I explored the ways sand can annoy a person, can wear one down with its constant presence; in clothes, food, the cracks and crevices of the human body. The image continued to develop as I followed my train of thought from sand to flood which rhymes with blood which brought me back to the human body - a bag of mostly water, to bags of sand, to sandbags against a flood of blood, and so on. Blood, sand and a soldier who wants to go home - for me it was just a matter of following that train of thought.

WOW: Word association can conjure so many mental images. The thought process is a never-ending cycle. In your author's bio, you mention that you showed an interest in writing at a young age. How has that interest changed through the years and how do you nurture your inner writer? 

Lori: It has changed in the sense that I have changed as a person but the pleasure I first discovered as a child remains intact. I like to think my writing is more mature now, a reflection of my life's experiences and gained knowledge. At the same time I still find that same exuberant joy in painting pictures with words. I nurture my inner writer by reading a wide spectrum of well-written books and stories, essays, articles and poems in an eclectic collection of genres and styles. This is complimented, thanks to the wonderful opportunities afforded me in my adopted hometown Chicago, with discussions, classes and open-mic-nights wherein I can bounce off ideas, learn new perspectives and try out my work on a receptive audience.

WOW: It's so important to read a wide variety of works. Sometimes I think writers become constrained and feel they only have time or need to read in their genre, but how can you arrive at the "big picture" if you only have a narrow hole from which to gaze? Great advice, Lori! Reading and writing go hand in hand, and since you began writing at a young age, I'm curious about your favorite books from childhood. 

Lori: Hard choice . . . Have Spacesuit Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle; Rose In Bloom by Louisa Mae Alcott; and every Classics Illustrated comic book I could lay my hands on regardless of topic. Oh, and of course the entire Nancy Drew series which I didn't read so much as consume as soon as they arrived at the public library. That only takes us through my very early years. I was reading Shakespeare and Dickens by the time I was eleven so, you see, I was an avid reader and favorites will only get harder to choose.

WOW: I devoured Nancy Drew books, too. Good memories of spending time in the library with a great book. Speaking of books,  you mention Shared Inquiry and the Great Books Foundation. What piques your interest in Shared Inquiry? 

Lori: Shared Inquiry™ is a trademarked method of discussion developed by the Great Books Foundation and used in schools and book-groups throughout the nation. The Great Books Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization that strives to empower readers of all ages to become reflective and responsible thinkers. Toward that end, they've developed this wonderful technique for civil discourse that incorporates discussion, responsive listening and shared insights with fellow readers. This allows for a deeper, more thorough understanding of the text and, inevitably, oneself. Their motto is, "Read, think, discuss, learn." How great is that?

WOW: It's fantastic! As a classroom teacher, I always searched for ways to pull deeper meaning from the text. It's not always easy! Let's talk mechanics of writing. When do you write and what are your surroundings? 

Lori: I often need to write in the morning because I get so many ideas from my dreams (me and Rod Serling, but that's another story for another interview) but I can write whenever and wherever I am. At home, I'm on the computer, which is set up near the balcony door in the dining room so I can walk outside for a breath of fresh air on occasion. When I'm out and about, I always carry a notebook and collection of pens. I like coffee shops but I prefer old-fashioned family diners - a vanishing breed, unfortunately. I can write for hours in one of those places while the waitress refills my bottomless cup and an endless parade of eccentric customers come through the front door, each one an original character with his or her own story to tell, bone to pick or word of wisdom to impart.

WOW:  I absolutely love the diner as a place for inspiration, especially in Chicago. So many characters to develop. Lori, I imagine writing keeps you busy. What are you working on at the present? 

Lori: I've almost completed a horror novel I've been working on for quite a while and, thanks in large part to the encouragement I found at WOW! Women on Writing,  I'm polishing up some poems and short stories in preparation for submissions to other websites. Ah, websites, the literary magazines of the future . . . Speaking of the future, I've finally accepted the fact that it isn't enough to just write a good story anymore, one must actively self-market too. With that thought in mind, I'm attempting to teach myself how to build a face-page, create a blog and develop a website. All this and I still manage to maintain a loving marriage (thirty-three years this June - yippee!) with my handsome husband while reading Plato, Stephen King and Bill Moyers. Life is good.

WOW: It certainly is! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on your story and about writing, and here's wishing you continued success!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler. 
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Barbara Conelli, author of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, launches her book tour

Monday, June 25, 2012
and giveaway contest!

There are many types of love in the world—romantic love, familial love, things we “love,” and the “love of place” which can be a physical place or the place we are within ourselves. In Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore, Barbara Conelli shows us that no matter what type of love you crave, you will find it in Italy—Milan to be precise.

Milan is an old city with a fresh heart; vibrant, progressive and energetic, yet traditionally European in its desire to slow down and not miss a moment. Here, the people still live in apartments once inhabited by masters of art. They begin their day with cappuccinos and pannetone (recipe included), rest in secret gardens and purchase sofas from their favorite restaurant.

Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore is not your typical travel book. It is Barbara’s love song to the city that has won her heart. Join Barbara Conelli and submerge yourself in the secrets of this magical place. Experience the flavors, sights, and scents of Milan. Barbara’s lyrical prose and the sketch drawings make this bestseller a wonderful afternoon escape. Oh, and don’t forget to try the recipes!

Paperback: 158 pages
Publisher: Flagrans Press (April 30, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982600437
ISBN-13: 978-0982600436

Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore is available in both print and Kindle at Amazon.

Prize Giveaway Contest: We’re giving away a gift bag full of chique prizes! The winner will receive: signed copies of two of Barbara’s books, Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore and Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita plus a Chique T-shirt and a journal for all your travel notes ($70 combined value)! Please leave a comment at the end of this post to be entered in the random drawing. The giveaway contest closes this Thursday, June 28 at 11:59 PM PST. For an extra entry, link to this post on Twitter with the hashtag #ChiqueBook, then come back and leave us a link to your tweet. We will announce the winner the following day—Friday, June 29. Good luck!

About the author:
Barbara Conelli is an internationally published bestselling author, seasoned travel writer specializing in Italy, and Chiquenist on the mission to bring Fantastic Fearless Feminine Fun into women's lives. In her charming, delightful and humorous Chique Books filled with Italian passion, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their own Dolce Vita no matter where they are in the world.

An entertaining storyteller, Barb has a unique ability to capture the magical atmosphere of the places she writes about. Through the pages of her books, Barb takes your hand and guides you through the irresistible beauty, captivating secrets, unrepeatable spell and fugitive moments of Italy. She makes them come alive easily and spontaneously, and her writing is like a magic carpet that carries you to Italy and back in the blink of an eye. She introduces you to fascinating women who have created the face of Italy, lifts the shroud of their mysteries, and reveals adorable places off the beaten track where the authentic Italian heart hasn't stopped beating.

------Interview by Robyn Chausse

WOW: You call yourself a Chiquenist. What does it mean?

Barbara: You know, it's actually quite funny. When I started writing my first Chique Travel Book, I was thinking a lot about what Italy meant to me, and I asked myself: "If I was to say in one word what Italy and Italian women are like, what word would I use?" And the answer was Chique, which, the way I see it, is an acronym:

Clever: You don't need a PhD to hold out in the stiletto jungle. You need common sense.

Happy: Happiness is an attitude. It gets on naysayers' nerves. Absolutely worth it.

Intriguing: Secrets are sexy. Keep at least one. Preferably more.

Queenly: Rule your life. Only you can live it. (Duh!)

Unique: No one in this world is like you. Kinda cool.

Eloquent: Knowing when to shut up is smart. Always knowing what to say is fun. Your choice.

Every Italian woman will tell you this is true. And I, as a Chiquenist, am here to bring this Chique spirit of Italy into your life!

WOW: Words to live by! When did you first decide to write books about Italy?

Barbara: My original intention was to just start a travel blog about Italy. But then I realized this idea, and this dream, was much bigger than just a blog. Italy is where my roots are, where my Grandma was born, where I spent many wonderful moments, where I was first kissed and when I bought my first pair of red stilettos. So many wonderful people, memories, experiences (and shoes!) deserved a book that would breathe the magic of Italy.

WOW: How did you decide to create such a large platform?

Barbara: It's just me, I like thinking big. (winks) I'm naturally not able to think small and to create small things—I believe we are here to make an impact, to leave a legacy, to share our dreams and visions with those who are on the same wavelength with us. I'm an Indigo Child / Indigo Adult, and I'm very restless; I love challenges and novelty. This platform is not big enough yet, if you ask me. I see a magazine, TV channel and another, much bigger radio show in the near future.

WOW: I can see that too; your website is bursting at the seams! By the way, I love visiting the site—there are always new posts about the history of Rome or pictures of everyday life. Your passion is evident! On an average, how much time goes into your website?

Barbara: Thank you! My website and my blog are my babies, I love them and I pamper them very much. I've learned to build my own website, I've learned WordPress, and gosh, I've even learned HTML. I like being in charge and I don't want to depend on a webmaster. I try to blog every day—I admit some weeks are better than others, but I do manage to blog quite often. Writing blog posts and updating my website usually takes one afternoon a week, or about an hour a day if I don't manage to steal that one afternoon for myself.

WOW: In addition to being webmaster and Chiquenista, you are also a photojournalist. Tell us about that!

Barbara: I got serious about photography a couple of years ago when I bought a professional DSLR on a whim because I was looking for a new hobby. When I took and saw my first photographs, I was hooked. Seeing the world through the lens of my camera helps me feel the world that surrounds me on a much deeper level. I'm working on a series of coffee table books that will reveal many beautiful places off the beaten track, all those hidden nooks and crannies that tourists usually don't get to visit and experience in Italy. I'm also finishing beautiful photo stories for a couple of travel magazines, I'm very excited about it. Photography is just like writing; it's yet another way to tell your story.

WOW: You divide your time between New York and Milan . . . why?

Barbara: My Grandma was born in Milan, and I spent many years studying and working in this amazing, bustling city. I keep an apartment there, and I love going back. I'm also a very passionate New Yorker and Manhattan girl, and I feel so lucky I get the best of both worlds. I absolutely love this life.

WOW: You have a palpable, and almost fearless, zest for life. How did this come about?

Barbara: I've always been like that; I think this zest and gusto is something I was born with. I'm very grateful for my upbringing—my parents always respected and supported my individuality and my strong character, and they always supported me in everything I wanted to do. I'm also very grateful for all the challenges and roadblocks, for the bruises, for the pain. You learn a lot when you're on your knees, and I admit I've been there more than once. But all this helped me become who I am today, and God knows I'm damn proud of myself. I'm a very stubborn survivor, and I'll never ever give up. I've lost so many people who I loved dearly, including my Dad who passed away very suddenly when I was 18 years old. I know how fragile our life is, I realize we never know how much time we have left and when this ride will be over. Every day I wake up full of joy, determined to create a life worth living. When I'm 95 (or 105), I want to be able to look back and say: Hey, this party has been blooming marvelous.

WOW: Well said! What is your big dream?

Barbara: A good question. You know, I'm living my dream every single day. I believe in my ability to make my dreams come true, always. I reach for the stars, and I carry them in my pockets. My ongoing dream is to continue reaching more and more people with my books, so that I can share the beauty, the magic, the passion, the deliciousness of Italy. Being here for others and helping them make their own dreams come true, or inspiring them to dream, brings me incredible joy.

WOW: I can hardly keep up with all you are doing—coffee table books, radio shows . . . What are you working on now?

Barbara: I'm in Italy preparing my new books—yes, more than one (smiles)—about Rome and Venice. I'm also putting together a fabulous anthology about the beauty and inspiration of travel, with so many wonderful fellow authors. I'm getting ready to grow my radio show. I'm simply living my life, savoring it, loving it, and not taking anything for granted. Joy is my most important project.

WOW: What advice do you have to offer to your “sisters-in-writing”?

Barbara: Write. If writing is what you love, do it, and don't let anyone take it away from you. Drop the excuses—if you wait for the perfect moment to make your dreams come true, you will wait forever. There will always be hurdles, disappointments, tears, sleepless nights, tough mornings and bad hair days. You get to choose, but you are the one who needs to make the choice. No one else can live your life for you, and no one else can write the book the way you can. Expressing your gifts is your birthright, but you need to find the courage to claim it. I can't promise it's going to be pain-free, and I'm not saying it's easy. But I swear it's worth it.

WOW: Beautiful! Thank you so much.

Want to ask Barbara a question? Join in on her Q & A on BlogTalk Radio! We have two upcoming dates—you ask the questions and Barbara records the show! Simply submit your questions prior to the show. It all happens on Chique Show.

For questions on writing and publishing submit questions before July 20, 2012.

For questions on travel and Italy submit questions before August 17, 2012

Then tune in on those dates to listen to the show. One winner will be chosen from each session to win a special prize. Details below in the tour dates section.

Everybody Wins! Each person leaving a comment or question at any stop along the tour receives a downloadable gift bag!

Giftbag consists of:

  • Chique Virtual Tour: The Secret Gems of Italy Every Woman Must Know
  • 1st five chapters of Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita
  • 1st five chapters of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore
  • Chique Blog Tour Special Gift (Only for the tour!): E-Book: The Most Romantic Chique Places to Fall in Love in (and with) Milan

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

June 26 @ Jamie Richardson
Learn to shut up your dream poopers with Barbara Conelli. Enter to win a Chique T-Shirt!

June 27 @ Jennifer Greenleaf: Maine Author
Barbara Conelli talks about Writer's Success: What Does It Mean, Really? Jennifer shares her review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

June 27 @ Patricia Sand’s Blog
What makes a good travel writer? Barbara Conelli shares her tips for earning an income with your love for travel.

June 28 @ Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them
Barbara Conelli shows us how to play the "What-If" game. Comment to win a Chique Journal!

June 28 @ A Book and a Chat
Interview with Barbara Conelli on BlogTalk Radio

July 2 @ Misadventures with Andi
Barbara Conelli tells us all about chique restaurants you must visit in Milan.

July 2 @ Patricia Sand’s Blog
Get close and personal with Barbara Conelli on today’s interview.

July 4 @ Dianna’s Writing Den
Learn more about Barbara Conelli at today’s interview. Comment to win a Chique Journal.

July 9 @ Thoughts in Progress
Barbara Conelli shares why failure and mistakes are the best thing that can happen to you.

July 11 @ All Things Audry
Learn how to love your life like an Italian with Barbara Conelli.

July 13 @ CMash Loves to Read
Mmm . . . Espresso, Cappuccino, Macchiato . . . Barbara Conelli spills the beans on everything you want to know about Italian coffee. Enjoy a book review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore by a fellow Italian. Join the discussion for a chance to win a Chique Totebag!

July 16 @ All Things Jill Elizabeth
Writing your book is only half the battle--does the word "Marketing" make your stomach churn? Barbara Conelli is here to help! Enter to win a copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

July 17 @ Monica Egelhoff
Freelance writer Monica Egelhoff tells us what she thinks about Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore in today's review.

July 20 @ Barbara Conelli’s Blog
It’s a Q & A on Barbara Conelli’s blog and you are asking the questions!
Just go to Barbara’s blog before July 20 and leave your questions on travel writing, writing in general, or Indie publishing. The pre-recorded Q & A session will be posted on July 20. One winner will be chosen from all those leaving questions. The winner will be announced at the end of the session. Prize is a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

July 31 @ Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dave
Step into your power as a writer and a woman with Barbara Conelli. Also, enjoy a review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

August 1 @ I Was Just Thinking…
Forget dull goal setting, discover the power of juicy intentions with Barbara Conelli. Enjoy a review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore and enter to win a print copy!

August 2 @ Woman on the Edge of Reality
Join us for the Thursday Throng, an in-depth interview with Barbara Conelli and book review. We’ll be giving away a print copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore!

August 8 @ Refresh with Dawn Herring
Dawn shares her review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore and hosts a giveaway for a .pdf copy.

August 14 @ Cathy C. Hall
Barbara Conelli shares three out-of-the-box ways to market your writing. Enter to win a Chique Mug!

August 15 @ Women’s Memoirs
Learn five powerful spiritual practices for women writers with Barbara Conelli. Enter to win a Chique Tote Bag!

August 16 @ Book Talk with Barbara Barth
Author Barbara Barth shares her review of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

August 17 @ Barbara Conelli's Blog
It’s a Q & A on Barbara Conelli’s blog and you are asking the questions!
Just go to Barbara’s blog before August 17 and leave your questions on Italy or travel. The pre-recorded Q & A session will be posted on August 17. One winner will be chosen from all those leaving questions. The winner will be announced at the end of the session. Prize is a signed copy of Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore.

August 23 @ Women’s Memoirs
Marketing is the focus of this interview today with the ladies at Women’s Memoirs and Barbara Conelli. Come by, connect, and comment.

August 24 @ Reviews by Molly
Not all of us can travel—Barbara shares how to dream your Italian dream without leaving your home. Enter to win a Chique Mug!

To view all 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

Prize Giveaway Contest:

Enter to win a gift bag full of chique prizes! The winner will receive: signed copies of two of Barbara’s books,  Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore and Chique Secrets of Dolce Vita plus a Chique T-Shirt and a Journal for all your travel notes ($70 combined value)! 

Here's how you enter:

1. For your first entry, just leave a comment on this post! Just leave Barbara 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 #ChiqueBook then come back and leave us a link to your tweet.

The giveaway contest closes Thursday, June 28 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the winner in the comments section of this post the following day--Friday, June 29, and if we have the winner's email from the comments section, we will also notify them via email.

Good luck!
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Summer in Italy Contests

Come Join the Fun!

We’re off to Italy to celebrate the launch of Barbara Conelli’s book Chique Secrets of Dolce Amore! First, we need to learn a little Italian . . .

Learn Italian (and win a prize!)
 Every Tuesday and Thursday from now through August 23, 2012 you can learn a new Italian word!

Visit Barbara’s blog every Tuesday and Thursday to see and hear a new Italian word. At the end of the tour put all the words together into a phrase and enter it at Barbara’s blog site (Find the Phrase Entry Form). One winner will be drawn from those with the correct phrase. Prize is a Chique Leather Wallet ($26.99 value)!

Contest is open internationally. Words will be posted along with audio link. Winner will be announced Thursday, August 23, 2012.

Check our Events Calendar for dates or join us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour for reminders.

Next, we should plan what we want to do while in Italy . . .

Essay Contest
If I Lived in Italy I Would . . .

Have you ever dreamed of living in Italy? Studying art, photographing ancient structures, being a train ride away from historic European sites? Maybe your idea of bliss is to own a flower market or bakery on a little cobblestone road. What would you do if you lived in Italy? You’ll never do it if you can’t dream it so pick up that quill and start writing!

Your essay should be as long as you need it to be to express yourself! Submit your essays at the Essay Contest page at Barbara’s blog One winner will be chosen to receive a Chique Kindle Sleeve ($26.99 value)!

Entries due no later than Monday, August 20, 2012. Winner to be announced on Barbara’s blog and via @WOWBlogTour Friday, August 24, 2012. Open internationally.

Are you ready? Then put on your Borsalino and let’s have some fun!

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How to Create a Different Kind of Antagonist

Sunday, June 24, 2012
The best villain for your story may not be a moustache twirling bad boy. After all, moustache wax is a tad out of fashion. Take a look at this list and see what other options may fit your next work in progress.

The Protagonist
Yes, you read that right. Your protagonist can be her own worst enemy. Take a look at her faults. Or try something more difficult. Maybe you could create a situation where her strengths are her greatest handicap. Her issue could be as soap opera as amnesia. Will she remember what she has forgotten in time to save the day? Or maybe it is as ordinary as bad self esteem. She only has three days to apply for the fellowship if she can work up the nerve to do it.

The Best Friend
Your main character has a goal. What happens when her best friend wants the same thing and only one can prevail? Or maybe they don’t want the same thing but opposite things. Obviously, someone is going to have to learn to live with disappointment, but which one? And what is each person willing to do to assure that she is the winner? You can make this especially tense if your main character has a reason to let her best friend win.

Animal Agony
What if it is a creature who’s got your main character’s goat? A furiously digging armadillo has destroyed the landscaping job that will keep her fledgling company in business. An endangered species has put the development project she needs to jump start her career on hold. We’ve all dealt with them, the feathered, furred and finned that simply will not mind their manners.

Mother Nature
Bigger and broader than an animal pest is Nature as an opponent. A threatening storm, a towering mountain or stormy seas can all put your character’s hopes in peril. Not sure how this might work? You do remember a wee little boat called the Titanic, don’t you?

The next time you need to throw something between your character and her goal, think of something other than your stereotypic bad boy – unless of course, you’re writing a steamy romance!


Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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When a Great Idea Isn't Great Enough

Saturday, June 23, 2012
There are a few freelance markets I regularly consider, and WOW! Women-on-Writing is one of my favorites. So when I read about the topic for an upcoming issue, I let it rumble around in my brain for a while.

And my brain eventually spit out a couple ideas for an article. But my brain also spit out a “Not so fast, sister.”

Sometimes, a query idea may be really great—except when it’s not great enough. Which sounds a little crazy so I’ll try to explain.

If you’ve ever read the submission guidelines for WOW!, then you’ll know exactly what the editors look for in an article. You know important details like word count and fonts and where to pitch the idea. But there’s another step that is just as important as reading submission guidelines, and that’s reading the market.

Reading the market where you want your idea/article to find a home is absolutely necessary. It gives you the depth, as well as the edge you need to catch an editor’s eye. Think of when you meet someone for the first time. You can see whether she’s short or tall, or if her eyes are green or blue. But when you talk to her, you find out the really interesting stuff, the juicy details that you remember much longer than how she wore her hair.

Your submission guidelines are like that first meeting; they give you the facts. But reading the market content is like getting to know someone better; you get details like style and tone, and what an editor likes.

So when I came up with my splendiferous WOW! ideas, I knew they fit the topic, but I wasn’t so sure they’d work for the ezine. One didn’t have enough take-away information (a big plus if you want your query accepted at WOW!) and the other idea was much more suitable as an essay rather than an article.

Still, I’d written down plenty of notes about those ideas. One might be sent off to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Another might morph into a children’s poem. And one might even show up here at The Muffin.

Because I never waste a great idea. Including the one about when a great idea for a market isn’t great enough.

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Friday Speak Out!: Scribble Me a Writer!, guest post by Cathy Biggerstaff

Friday, June 22, 2012
Scribble Me a Writer!
by Cathy Biggerstaff

My one-year old great-granddaughter found a pen on Pawpaw’s end table beside the couch. She came toward me on the unsteady feet of a new walker, proudly holding her treasure in front of her. She grunted at me a few times like she thought I’d know immediately what she wanted. I finally decided she wanted some paper.

I gave her a few sheets from the stash I keep on the arm of my chair for story ideas. She took her paper and pen and wobbled toward the footstool, laid the paper down and made some marks on the paper. We clapped and said, “McKenna’s a big girl,” as she moved on to her next activity.

A few weeks ago my writer friend, Mary Jane, was journaling a prayer to God about her writing. She wrote, “Let your words flow through me. I want to be your scribe.” When she looked at the page, instead of writing “scribe” the word “scribble” had spilled out the end of her pen and onto the paper. She told me about it the next day and we laughed it off, not giving it much thought.

Now that the two unrelated events have occurred, and I’ve had time to process my thoughts, I see a correlation. Whether you write blogs, devotionals, grocery lists, or a bestselling novel, it all started with that first scribble you made on a blank piece of paper.

The learning process required trial and error and practice, practice, practice. From the first unintelligible scribble to coloring in the lines in a coloring book to making meaningful marks like letters and numbers, our eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills developed.

Our newfound skills moved us toward greater things. Letters became words, sometimes even spelled correctly, and the words became sentences. Then we learned we could put sentences together with the proper structure and produce paragraphs.

Those fledgling paragraphs became simple stories about what we did on our summer vacations. We continued assembling words in paragraphs and formed two-page essays and the dreaded fifteen-page research papers. We had a firm grasp of the rules and the motor skills we needed to become writers.

For those of us who were smitten with the love of writing as we traveled life’s educational path, the blank page is ours to fill. How do you fill your pages? Are you a budding writer or a well-seasoned author with numerous best sellers?

McKenna, with pen in hand, has begun her journey. Mary Jane’s faux pas may be God’s way of telling her to start with the basics and He will help her move forward from there, completing the work He has started in her.

Whatever success we find in the writing world, we must humbly remember --it all started with a scribble!

* * *

Cathy Biggerstaff writes children's books and Christian devotionals. She is the Director of the Encouragers Christian Writers Group. In an effort to share the Gospel in ways that engage people, Cathy is part of the Silly Over the Savior (S.O.S.) Clown Troupe. She has been published in Mature Living Magazine, and various church-related publications. Follow her blog, Joyful Journey, at


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

Thursday, June 21, 2012
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but without an emotional connection, it's difficult to develop a sense of place. 
As writers, we rely on descriptions to bolster our work. We toss in adjectives - and too many adverbs - and whip up what we believe is a solid piece filled with amazing accounts.

But lately, as I've been reading, I've noticed a lack of connection in some pieces. Those adjectives and adverbs fluff up the piece, but I don't see a marriage between story and the people or places written about.

What's missing? A defined sense of place.

Without a strong sense of place, a piece of writing lacks a certain rhythm.

What's the remedy?

We writers need to do more than merely observe. Instead, we should be savoring flavors, colors, and textures. We should be noting the fine details that weave through a story and in reality, add more information about a person or place than any darn ol' quote will.

When I taught high school English, I developed a sensory detail web for students to use to create concrete images. It focused on these questions:

  1. What would you hear?
  2. What would you smell and taste?
  3. What physical sensations did you note?
  4. What else do you see beyond the immediate range?
  5. What other details do you note that are important?
  6. What emotions do you have about this place or the situation?
That last question brought the best responses and ultimately tied together a story or profile or article. And, it can be the most difficult to get a handle on.

Yet, without that emotional connection, writing falls flat.

A strong sense of place maps the invisible landscape and adds the fine points of a culture, a person or a spot on the globe. And, it makes your story a place worthy of visiting.

by LuAnn Schindler. Photo by LuAnn Schindler (the view from my deck on a frigid January evening in the Nebraska Sandhills). Read more of LuAnn's work at her website
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Don't Sell. Build!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't Sell. Build!

If you are like most authors, the very thought of having to go out and “sell” your book, is overwhelming. You aren’t sure of where to begin. You don’t want to take on the role of a salesperson. You don’t have the money to advertise or hire a marketing professional.
Here's my advice: Don't Sell.
Instead, build an author platform and let it do the selling for you.
Think of your author platform as a literal stage. You use this stage to raise yourself above the crowd, making it easier for people to take notice of you. You use this stage to engage your new audience. Not sell, but engage. You do so by entertaining, teaching, inspiring, or motivating. This turns a general audience into a loyal fan base that keeps coming back for more. Your influence and connection with your fans will almost completely eliminate your need to “sell” anything. Your fans will already want whatever you have to offer – including your books.  
You now have an idea of what to do on this stage, but you still have to build it. So, how do you build your stage? Plank by plank.
Each plank represents and supports who you are and what you have to offer. Each plank is cut from:
Your personal and professional story,
Your experience and expertise,
Your message,
Your activities,
Your connections (online and offline),
Your brand,
Your personality,
Your beliefs,
Your credibility,
Your awards and endorsements,
Your previous writings, and
Your following
... all carefully joined together to fully support everything you do on that stage.
You probably already have at least some of what it takes to build a strong platform ... your stage. Make an honest assessment of what you have and what you still need.
Once you do that, start building!
Post by Deana Riddle; Deana is a publisher and publishing consultant who provides authors and business professionals with the tools needed to become successful independent publishers. She also offers the Independent Publishing Program, found in the WOW! classroom.

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Interview with Joyce Finn: Winter '12 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Joyce’s Bio: Joyce Finn is a member of ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors). A Bostonian at heart, she’s recently moved to South Carolina after living for over twenty years in the Australian outback, Johannesburg, and Bermuda. Her fiction reflects her peripatetic life. Two of her stories recently received honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 2011 Annual Writing Contest for literary fiction. She is the moderator of writersandcritters, an online international writing/critique group for published women writers. The group was featured in the March/April 2008 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine when they organized their first conference in order to meet outside of cyberspace.

Check out Joyce's award-winning story "Him," and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in WOW!’s winter flash fiction contest! How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it? 

Joyce: “Him” came from a random word exercise. Let me explain. My international Internet writers group has a weekly 10-minute free-write exercise. I've found the trick is to set a timer for 10 minutes, look at the word for the first time then type furiously. This, for me, is the quickest way to bypass my internal censor. From the dregs lurking in the back recesses of my mind come flash fiction pieces like this one. A bit of tidy up and it's done.

WOW: What an excellent way to get yourself to start, and keep, writing! What do you enjoy most about writing? 

Joyce: I enjoy playing with words, kneading sentences into coherent shapes, then seeing if those sentences can give form and substance to paragraphs and eventually an article or story. Sometimes it doesn't, then the slog begins, but if I pound the dough of my story long enough something decent takes shape.

WOW: “Pound the dough of my story”… That’s such a lovely metaphor! What are you reading right now? 

Joyce: I've just finished Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman for a local book club. I doubt whether I would've picked it up on my own, but I lived in Australia for 8 years and it's always fun to read about that sunburned country. Freeman does a good job of interlacing generations and eras. The other book I'm reading is Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg about a new cultural phenomena and how it will affect us all.

WOW: If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why? 

Joyce: I would love to have been near the Algonkian Table to listen to Dorothy Parker's acerbic and eviscerating wit. Perhaps to eaves-drop on Cervantes and Casanova just for the pure delight of hearing them tell their extraordinary tales, their pauses, the glint in their eyes. Rimbaud for his tortured poetry and his world-wanderings. What was he searching for?

WOW: Very excellent and diverse choices. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Joyce: I'd like to turn that question around, if I may. The advice I give other writers is to play with words, jiggle them around, plop them in a sentence and see if it satisfies. Enjoy the process. When it becomes a chore, and I don't mean when it becomes frustrating and nerve-jangling, but a chore you dread, only then stop. Remember it is not a competition, you will ALWAYS find better writers than you, so what. If you're persistent you'll become a better writer. Write. This moment, whoosh, it's gone. You'll never again be who you are at this precise time in your life. Record your history, who you are now, don't wait for the perfect opportunity. Write.

WOW: Sage advice, Joyce. Thank you! Good with your writing, and we hope to read more of it in the future! 

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt
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Advertising on Facebook

Monday, June 18, 2012
by bsperan (flickr)
You've probably heard on the news that Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg a ton of money. I used to always wonder HOW? I mean it was free to sign up for an account--for personal and business reasons--free to play a lot of the games and chat with friends. SO, how did he make money?

I soon learned about Facebook ads. And now, Facebook is even going so far as to allow pages to pay to promote their status updates to reach  more of their fans. So, as an author trying to promote a book or a freelancer selling copywriting or editing services, what does this mean for you? What do you need to know about Facebook ads?

1. You can spend as much or as little on Facebook ads as you want each month. Most of them are pay-per-click. This means that if people see your ad on the sidebar and they click on it, you will be charged. This could be scary for some budgets! However, Facebook allows you to put a cap on how much you want to spend. If you have a budget of $25 for this type of ad, then you put that limit on your Facebook account. Once you hit $25, your ad will not show up. This is a pretty safe way to try out if a Facebook ad brings you any  more book sales or any clients without spending a lot of money.

2. What does Facebook mean that you have to pay to promote your status updates? If you have a business page, you will notice that when you type in a status or a link or even post a photo, Facebook will let you  know how many of your fans that information has reached. It's usually a pretty low percentage like 15% of your fans had your status update turn up in their News Feed. (As much as we would like to believe that every single person who has LIKED our page sees everything we post, that's just not realistic.) Next to this low and sometimes sad percentage will be the word PROMOTE. If you click on the arrow next to PROMOTE, you will be able to set a limit for how much you want to spend and how long you want your status to be promoted.  If you are paying to promote your status, then you should expect a higher percentage of your fans to see it.

With any advertising dollars, it's often good to start out small and observe what other authors and/or writing services companies are doing. If you set a budget of $20 a month and you notice your sales are increasing or you have two new clients, then great--your ad is probably working. If not, then re-think the ad you created OR the budget you set.

How do you know what to say in your ad? Look on the sidebar when you are logged in to your Facebook page and observe the ads. Which ones make you want to click on them? Use those strategies to create your ad.

It's super easy to create an ad, too. When you are on your business page, look at the sidebar, and you will see where Facebook has already created a mock ad for you and a caption that says something like, "Get more likes." Click on this to get started on your ad.

Now what do you do on that Facebook page once you get people there. . .that's for another day.

If you find that you want to learn more about social networking and how you can use it to promote your career, then consider taking my beginning social networking class, which starts on July 16, or the advanced social networking course, which begins on August 13. To view both syllabus, go to the classroom page.
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HEY WRITING MOMS: Here's How to Balance Life As a Writing Mom

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Writing is something I have done for as long as I remember so no matter what else is going on, I’ve just found the time somehow. But I know that can be tough for other writing moms out there.

It truly is about balance. I’ve written a couple of times here on The Muffin about how and where to fit in that precious writing time. Those of us who are writing moms seem to have less time to get those word counts pounded out, but it’s there. You just have to grab it when it finds you.

The first thing you have to do is make the choice to make writing at the top of your 'To Do' list. For me, writing is much more than a hobby. It gives me the energy to tackle all the other things I have to face in my day, including my mom duties. By prioritizing it at the top of my 'To Do' list, it’ll get worked into the daily routine. If you can do that, it will happen.

Next, you need to make writing a family thing. By making writing a part of your daily routine, your family will understand that at some point in the day, Mom gets to have her writing time. You may not always have the same time each day, or the amount of time you’d like, but eventually it becomes a part of the routine as much as making lunch or doing the laundry.

But you also have to understand what you can handle and be sure to set realistic goals. Do what you can when you can and accept that’s good enough.

Ask yourself this, “What activities am I doing right now that I don’t really need to/want to be doing?” If you got rid of some of those commitments that you already make time for, but don't enjoy doing, you could squeeze writing into those slots instead. 

We all have snippets of time during the day when we can steal a few minutes to do a bit of writing. Nap time? Earlier in the morning? Waiting to pick the kids up from school or an activity? While they’re watching their favorite television program? When they’re all getting along and playing well? Can you stay up a little later? I’ve even written entire blog posts with my youngest sitting right in my lap. It can be done. Just grab onto those moments when they’re given to you.

Balancing life as a writing mom really is about making the decision that writing is important enough to you to squeeze into your already crazy life, then being strong enough to make it happen. It’s so easy to make up excuses not to get to it, trust me I’ve been there. But think about all the other things you seem to get done and make time for. You can be a successful writing mom. It’s all in a day’s work.
This post had snippets of advice I gave on the Thoughts In Progress blog during my blog tour for WOW. I think some of these points could prove useful to some of my fellow Mommy Writers out there so I'm hoping you don't mind my sharing again.

Happy Writing!

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Find a Writing Support Buddy and Expand Your Writing

Saturday, June 16, 2012
Writing can be solitary. Add a friend to expand your writing skills.
Photo credit |

Do you have a writing support buddy? If not, you might want to consider it as another way to expand your writing.

No matter what stage of my writing, I’ve always gravitated toward at least one person at a time who helps me. Generally, it’s not a person I rely on as a reader. In my writing career, I like to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

Fortunately, these friendships have grown from reaching out to another person who may be at the same stage on a project as you are. That’s how I started talking about writing with one of my oldest friends.

One of my constant writing friends is someone I worked with 20-some years ago. We live thousands of miles away and exchange infrequent emails and calls. But it works well for us. He’ll come up with an idea and will flesh it out for me. I ask him questions and he tries to answer them about the project. I’ve even gone so far to read up on subjects to help troubleshoot some of the details and help keep it realistic.

Another friend and I exchange monthly phone calls to help keep each other on track for business goals. Different than regularly scheduled dips into each other’s lives, with this relationship we touch base on ideas for growing our writing businesses.

There are other ways you can have a writing friend help you focus and expand your writing:

1. Discuss plot details or narrative difficulties in each other’s work.
2. Brainstorm on writing projects or writing prompts to help give each other’s writing a boost.
3. Exchange ideas on writing conferences, retreats, or continuing education.
4. Trade writing books (or surprise them with a gift of one of your favorites).
5. Be available for relaxed conversations outside of the realm of business—that’s where a lot of the growth can happen, as well.

What area of your writing would you discuss with your writing buddy? What are the characteristics of your ideal writing buddy?

Elizabeth King Humphrey lives in Wilmington, N.C., and is excited that beach weather is here. Time to break out the beach reads!
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Friday Speak Out!: Project Green Light!, guest post by Jennifer Brown Banks

Friday, June 15, 2012
Project Green Light!
by Jennifer Brown Banks  

It starts early. We, as women, are taught to “hide our light” under a bushel. Socialized to believe that “ladies” don’t brag, and men don’t like smart women, we clam up and “dummy down” as the situation dictates.

So sometimes we don’t share our big dreams of becoming a best-selling novelist, or our boast-worthy accomplishments along the way. But, for those of us who are called to pen words for a living, this dynamic produces more “internal conflict” than any of the characters we write about.

It starts early. I remember back in grammar school as a “gifted student” I didn’t dare raise my hand too often in class, (studious, I knew many of the right answers), but feared standing out and potentially inviting ridicule from peers. But, sanctioned silence often has its price.

Fast forward, it’s the year of 2006. I had been a writer for about a decade, and at the recommendation of a long-time publisher, I decided to write a book.

According to her, my natural writing ability, coupled with the popularity of my monthly relationship column for her magazine, was sure to make me a big hit as a self-help author. So, I worked feverishly, to produce the perfect pitch letter, and ultimately sent it out to several agents, with the expectation of an Oprah show appearance in my near future.

Long story short, a New York agent, who had originally expressed high interest, wrote back with the following:

“You have obvious talent as a writer, but not a strong enough platform.” Ouch. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Had all my hard work been in vain?

As unfair as it seemed, I’ve been on a mission ever since, to shout off the rooftops, wag my own tail, toot my own horn, have the “moves like Jagger,” and whatever else I need to do, not just to build a platform, but to build connections and a career that stands the test of time.

I call it the “Green Light Project”.

I’m giving myself permission to be awesome and to celebrate those who are on the same journey. Maybe you’ve heard of me. If you haven’t, you will. Helen Reddy said it best decades ago, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

  * * *

Jennifer Brown Banks is a veteran freelance writer, Pro Blogger, ghost writer, and relationship columnist. Her work has appeared at sites such as: PRO BLOGGER, MEN WITH PENS, FUNDS FOR WRITERS, WRITE TO DONE, DAILY BLOG TIPS, and a host of other influential, award-winning sites.

Her Blog, was selected as a finalist at Write to Done's Top 10 Blogs for Writers for 2011/2012.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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The 100 Years from Now Story

Thursday, June 14, 2012
What are you writing that someone will want to read in 10 years? In 50 Years? In 100 Years?

We all write grocery lists for ourselves, trash as soon as our shopping cart is full. To-do lists are crossed off and tossed as soon as you can. A letter or email lasts a bit longer, but the pleasure in these is usually short-lived. The results of our writing can be short-term or long-term. But we hope that something we do is longer lasting. The idea is scary: what could I write that someone would want to read 100 years from now?

Like Ray Brandbury's Fahreint 451, we want our stories to be the ones people choose to keep in their hearts. How do you write for posterity?

Passion. First, find something for which you have passion. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was written over 60 years ago, but today we recognize it as the beginning of the environmental protection movement.

Emotion. Find emotional connections to others that will resonate with the time and period in which we live. Charles Dicken's story, "A Christmas Carol," is about the poverty of his times and how stingy characters can be turned around. But it's also a timeless story of the power of love to change a person. Look for strong emotion in your life or surroundings and trust that those emotions will resonate across the years.

Voice. Most important, be who you are. Write it your way. Who cares that first person POV, present tense apocalyptic stories are popular. If you write in verse, then write in verse. If you write in 3000 word chapters, do it. If you like jargon, dialect, do it. Or, like Hemingway, maybe you tend to write in simple sentences and vocabulary. What tpics do you love, what storytelling techniques turn you on?

Practice. Of course, saying that you need to use your own personality and voice doesn't let you off the hook. You still need to practice and learn and find ways to write stronger. It may modify your working methods and voice some, but hopefully, you'll find ways to satisfy general aesthetics about writing, but with your own twist.

I like watching shows like HGTV's "Design Star"or any of the other competition shows on these days. Because so often, it is about Voice. You'll hear the judges say things like, "Show us more of who you are." "We want your take on things, not just an imitation of other people."

It's a struggle to be original. Judges urge contestants to relax, to be themselves.
If you want to be read a hundred years from now. write something true to only you, something that no one else could have written.

What is that story or piece of writing that you have been scared to write because you didn't think you could ever write? You should do it. No one else can. And it's just possible that it is the one thing that will still be read 100 years from now.

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What's on Your Summer Must-Read List?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
On the nightstand next to my bed, I have a stack of books and my Kindle with an ever-growing list of reading possibilities. Since school is out for summer, I can stay up all night and read to my heart's content.

Or until 3:37 A.M. when my husband demands I shut off the light and get some ^*$# sleep. (BTW, ^*$# means gosh darned.)

But summer reminds me of all the recommended book lists that come out. Which one should you choose from?

I happen to like the fun reading list graphic from It offers young adults - and adults - a list of 101 books broken down by category.

I see a several that are already perched in my stack, and several more I plan to read.

What's on your summer reading list?

by LuAnn Schindler.  Read more of her work at  
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