Work Exercise into Your Day with a Treadmill Desk

Sunday, September 30, 2012
If you are like me, you’d rather write than do all kinds of other things like dishes, laundry and exercise. That said, I know that I feel better when I work walking into my day. To make this easier, my husband built me a treadmill desk.

You’ve probably already guessed by the name alone, but a treadmill desk is simply a treadmill combined with a desk. My husband made my desk by clamping a shelf onto the treadmill’s side-rails. This shelf is the home for my cordless keyboard, the volume control for my speakers and a towel. Hint: as you increase your speed the towel becomes important. The treadmill is positioned in front of a set of shelves that is home to my monitor and speakers.

Where is my computer? Upstairs in my office. A splitter and a cable feed in the basement ceiling mean that a monitor in my office and the monitor at the treadmill show the same display. I can leave my office and go downstairs and all I have to take with me is my water glass.

I’ve only had the treadmill desk for a few weeks, but I am definitely getting more exercise. Instead of walking two or three times a week, I am averaging five times a week and am walking for longer periods. My energy level and focus are up and so is my word count.

The downside? This will come as no surprise to those who know me well. I am very uncoordinated. I’m really not comfortable typing and walking. This means that so far I am limiting my treadmill desk use to reading blog posts. That may not sound like much, but with 50 individual blogs including several news feeds going into Google Reader, this makes for between 30 and 60 minutes of reading and walking per day.

My shortcomings aside, there are writers who actually manage to write on their treadmill desks. This includes the Muffin’s very own Darcy Pattison, Joelle Anthony and Arthur Slade.

Not that I consider my experience a failure. I’ve found a solid way to work more exercise into my writing day and I’m actually eager to get to it every morning. Not bad for someone who would rather be writing.


Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs from the desk in her office at One Writer's Journey.
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Rebounding from Roadblocks

Saturday, September 29, 2012
Just when I got my groove back, BAM! Life stepped in and sent me on a detour.

The same thing can happen with writing.

Maybe you've experienced an obstacle that prevents you from achieving your writing goals. For example:

  • Several years ago, a new, national fitness magazine bought a series of articles, and a solid editor/writer relationship developed. The paycheck was fantastic, the work, challenging but easy to write. Without warning, the publication shuttered, leaving me scrambling to replace the income I depended on.
  • After landing a contract for a personal essay in a leading magazine, the editor left the publication. The incoming editor placed a hold on all projects until he could sift through what had been scheduled. Unfortunately, my piece was nailed on the chopping block. Fortunately, I still received payment.
  • A hefty envelope fills my mailbox. I'm hoping for an acceptance, but instead, I find a rejection letter. And a form rejection letter, to boot.
Sometimes, the detour means we yield, pausing for the chaotic pace to slow before providing a valuable lesson that teaches us how to adapt to this crazy world in which we work, thrive, play, enjoy, and write.

And all the time, confronting an obstacle head-on makes us a stronger force to be reckoned with.

How do you make the most of a writing roadblock?

  1. Compromise. You're thinking 3000-word feature. The editor is thinking a 275-word FOB piece. Maybe this is your chance to break into a new market, maybe this is a stepping stone for bigger and better ideas to be accepted by an editor. Sure, you may not want to give up on a feature, but compromising and accepting an offer will leave a solid impression with an editor. This scenario happened to me. After an editor rejected my feature pitch, she proposed I narrow the focus and submit the piece as an FOB. I accepted. Cha-ching!
  2. Persist. When rejection knocks on the door, stepping away from its grip can be tough, but do not let it create unnecessary drama. Rejection is part of life; how you handle the situation will make a huge difference. Persistence will spur you and your writing in a positive direction. After discussing story ideas with an editor, she rejected three possible pieces before hitting on the fourth and final idea.
  3. Realize. Trust me. This (rejection) isn't about you. Do not take rejection personally.  It's about not fitting with a publication at this particular moment in time. Try, try again. I'm still pitching a story to an editor - always with a bit of a different angle. 
  4. Persevere. If an agent/editor rejects your work, send it somewhere else. Now. Do it! You'll pat yourself on the back later, when you connect with an editor.
  5. Learn. Listen. Take constructive feedback, internalize it, and learn from the examples mentioned above. Do not let negativity cause a pileup! Instead, tap the breaks and slow down so you will gain an understanding of what will (or won't) work.
A roadblock doesn't mean the end of the road. It means negotiating change, adapting to a new route of writing.

And each of these elements will make your writing stronger.

by LuAnn Schindler
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Friday Speak Out!: It’s Banned Book Week - September 30th through Oct 6th

Friday, September 28, 2012
It’s Banned Book Week - September 30th through Oct 6th!
by Amber Polo

Why should you as an author care? Your books probably will never be banned. Right?
The freedom to write and publish without censure is a gift to you from those who have worked hard to protect the rights of all writers. The authors of the Bill of Rights. The ACLU. And, yes, librarians. Those be-bunned creatures have protected your rights for decades. They didn’t have to love your work or even want to read it, but they understood that if censors were able to ban one book, all were in danger. They stood up in their libraries and in courtrooms.
As I wrote The Shapeshifters’ Library I reflected upon the freedom to read and the freedom to publish and what I, as a librarian, always took for granted. I incorporated the problems of libraries into a fantasy where noble dog-shifters protect knowledge from book-burning werewolves in a small Ohio town. I speculated on the many ways the werewolves among us have tried to curtail our knowledge. It became clear that banning and burning are pretty much the same thing. If a book is unavailable, it’s ideas are gone. If it never gets published, it’s unavailable.
Enter “Fifty Shades of Grey” into this year’s censorship discussions of what should be ripped from shelves and chained in the library’s basement. In a small library bookclub I facilitate, I asked a group of senior citizen-readers if they planned to read the book. We had a great discussion. One of the best comments was from a woman who said she would read it because she wanted to be able to discuss it with her grandchildren.
Recently the San Francisco Public Library installed 18 privacy screens on computer terminals to shield from others what one person sees on the internet, be it porn or someone’s idea of porn.
Librarians don’t judge the reason you want to read. But they do have policies detailing their individual library book selection policy. Public money can’t be stretched to buy everything published. (Remember that when you expect a library to buy your book or accept a donated copy.)
Celebrate Banned Book Week by reading a banned book. Check out these lists of the Top Ten Challenged Books for the years 2001 through 2011. I bet you find a couple of your favorites.

Visit your local public library and see what’s changed. Support your local library. And love your librarian.

Full disclosure: I have an MLS and have selected books for a public library. And I’ve listened to the first third of “Fifty Shades of Grey” in audiobook.
Amber Polo has had a lifelong love of libraries. A fascination with ancient libraries and curiosity about why werewolves outnumbered dog-shifters in literature inspired her new urban fantasy series The Shapeshifters' Library filled with librarian dog-shifters.

To help writers and readers reduce stress, her Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writers’ High, offers suggestions and simple exercises. Contact Amber at and visit her blog Wordshaping.

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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A Writing Room With a View

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The view from my desk
A few days ago, I came across "Famous Writers' Small Writing Sheds and Off-the-Grid Huts" and I sat, dreamy-eyed, wishing I had something like Roald Dahl's shed or Virginia Woolf's little bitty house.

Now, I will grant you that my coveting may have had something to do with Dahl and Woolf and all those other authors. Maybe if I had a little writing shed, I’d be an amazing writer just like them. But there's also this: I love small spaces with a view of nature.

When I was a little girl, I would squish through a bank of camellias that hugged a wall of our house in Savannah. There must have been a half-dozen six to eight feet tall, lush camellias, and once behind them, my 9-year-old self could walk around and under, hiding out in several leaf-canopied rooms. That was my most favorite, not to mention delightfully cool, spot. But sometimes, I’d camp out on the tin roof of a shed in my backyard (where the washer and dryer lived) and sit beneath budding branches, watching the world go by below.

When I looked at those writers’ sheds, I remembered my childhood spaces, and I wanted that delicious feeling again for my writer's room. As it happens, I’m lucky enough to have a small office all to myself. My desk sits in the space between the two windows that overlook my front yard. I love looking out my windows and writing. But sheer curtains somewhat obscure the view.

So I took them down. Just climbed up on my office chair and pulled those curtains right off the rods. Now I can look out and see the birds dashing through the trees on either side of me. I can watch the squirrels playing tag under my windows. Seriously, I’m sighing as I’m writing this post.

But just so you don’t think I’m a bit of an exhibitionist, I should mention that I have several tall crepe myrtles in my front yard and a pink dogwood as well. And of course, a couple pines. They do a fine job of blocking the view from the street while providing me with a lovely, green (starting to turn golden-red) vista.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but it feels as if my thoughts are flying out of my brain and filling my pages. Or maybe I’m just basking in childhood revisited. I don’t want to overanalyze it; I just want to enjoy my small writing room with a view before winter winds spoil my fun (and word counts).

~Cathy C. Hall

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Vicki Higgins, 7-Step Marketing Strategy and Free Video Offer

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Vicki Higgins
Vicki Higgins, who has a long and successful career in marketing, is a guest on The Muffin today to share a new venture that can help writers learn to market themselves better. She is offering a free video that introduces her 7-Step Marketing Strategy. She wants input from WOW! readers about what they need help with when it comes to marketing, as she is still designing her materials. For more information on the video, the 7-steps, and a few marketing tips, read on!

Vicki is the absolute marketing professional. She is the senior vice president of marketing for Visit Newport Beach Inc., the official destination marketing organization for the City of Newport Beach. With over twenty years in marketing, Vicki brings a broad spectrum of experience to the table. She currently leads a team of marketing professionals to oversee marketing strategy, brand management, advertising, collateral, product development, public relations, communications, website, mobile, apps, social media, event management, and international marketing.

WOW: Welcome, Vicki, to The Muffin. We are thrilled to have you here with us today to help our readers who are authors and business owners (editing, writing coaching, etc) market themselves better. You are currently offering a free video for people with a great business idea or book, but are lost on where to start marketing. Tell us a little about the video.

Vicki: This free video is for people with a great business idea or book, but they don't have a plan for generating leads, sales, and revenue. They have a lot of HOPE but no strategy. I provide an easy 7-Step Marketing Strategy!

This video provides a little background on me and a sneak peek on the Marketing Strategy to see who might have an interest in more info. If people are interested in going deeper, then I will host a free webinar that gets more into the details of each of the 7 steps introduced in this video. [To view the video, click here:]

WOW: So, if someone likes what they see in the video, what’s the next step?

1. Opt in to view the video…
2. If you like what you see, please leave a comment and let me know what you are most interested in!
3. Please feel free to share.

WOW: You are discussing a 7-Step Marketing Strategy. Can you give us a little insight into what this entails?

Vicki: Sure! The 7-Step Intention Marketing Strategy involves: setting up the foundation of your business (research, audience, business plan, competition); once that is in place, then we get into branding & messaging; product line or menu of services; website & social media; public relations; advertising & partnerships; and events. Within the program, I will help people engage their creative energy, inner spirit, and unique potential as we work through each area. This video is an intro video to gauge interest, so I really want to see people comment about what they would like to focus on. I want to help provide the strategy, so people can do what they are meant to do in life, love their life, and go make a difference in the world!

WOW: That sounds awesome and exactly what so many writers want to do! What do you think is the number one mistake that writers make when thinking about their marketing plans?

Vicki: They jump right in with a lot of excitement and hope but don’t take time to set up a strong foundation. They don’t do the research necessary to develop a strategic marketing plan for leads, sales, or revenue.

WOW: I would completely agree with you. So many writers are discovering how hard it is to handle both the business and the creative side. What is something people can do today (besides view your video!) to get started on a successful marketing plan?

Vicki: RESEARCH!!!!!! Who is your competition? What makes your business or service unique–what sets you apart from the competition? Who is your core audience? (Hint: it is not everyone.) What is the primary benefit your business or service provides to your audience? And make sure you do a complete business plan (this is different than your marketing plan).

WOW: That's a lot, and it sounds like you can help with all of that! Can you briefly sum up some of the services you are offering, and where people can get more information on how to purchase these?

Vicki: I believe a simple marketing strategy will help you...
• Reset your life and turn your book or business idea into reality
• An understanding of 7 simple steps to make it all come together
• Do what you were meant to do
• Love your life
• Make a difference in the world!

Currently, I am offering the free video…then I will do a free webinar for those people interested in going deeper into the details. Following the free webinar, I will offer an 8-week course to cover each of the 7 steps and a session to answer specific questions. The course will be a purchased item, and that information will be provided following the webinar. Input provided by your readers on the video and webinar will help to make sure the course is super full of great info and over-delivers on content and value!

WOW: What a great opportunity for our readers to be in on helping you create the content that will most help writers succeed! Anything else you’d like to add?

Vicki: I’m grateful to WOW! for providing this information to your readers–thank you! I’ve found that a lot of women have a great story to tell; but sometimes, they procrastinate because they really don’t “get” marketing. I have a passion for marketing, so maybe I can help others live the life they dream of. I believe we need more people doing what they love!

WOW: Thank you, Vicki, for sharing this information with us today. Writers, if you are interested in learning about marketing and creating a plan that will sell more books or get more clients, don’t forget to start with the free video, which you can view at: .
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Interview with Lindsey Dryden, Spring 2012 Flash Fiction 2nd place and Runner Up

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Welcome to The Muffin, fellow readers and writers. You're in for a treat, today. Not only did today's author place second in the Spring 2012 contest, she also received runner up honors for a second story she submitted. Grab that cup of your favorite beverage, read both of Lindsey's stories, and come back and get to know her.

Lindsey Dryden graduated college with a degree in studio art and an unanticipated longing to write. After returning to her home state of South Carolina, she took a job with the SC Governor’s School for the Arts in Greenville ( and found the creative community amongst her students to be unforgettable. This along with a small band of friends, also aspiring writers, bloggers, poets, and comics, helped push Lindsey over the edge. She began to write consistently and plans to continue being schooled by short fiction until she is ready to take on a novel. This is Lindsey’s first published story.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Lindsey, and congratulations! Not only did your story, The Burden of Living, finish in second place, but you also had a story-Mara Cranberry-earn runner up honors. Why should writers consider entering a flash fiction competition? What can they expect to learn?

Lindsey: I began telling other people about flash fiction contests after my first entry with WOW!, which was actually an earlier draft of Mara Cranberry. I ordered a critique and was very encouraged by the feedback. My critic was thorough on the technical side of my writing but also positive about my ideas. It was a perfect combination to make me hungry to enter again and excited to tell people about it. I think entering a flash fiction contest as a writer can help you find your voice and improve technical abilities such as active voice and descriptive, condensed sentences. It has helped me with endings. I think the novice or non-writer should enter too. A mentor of mine got his start after entering that one novel idea he always had swimming around in his head into a contest at a conference. He left the conference early, feeling discouraged, and they had to call him to tell him he’d won.

WOW: I'm glad to hear the WOW critique helped fine tune your piece. The Burden of Living is such a visual story. How did the idea develop?

Lindsey: One of my first critics was a writing teacher at the Governor's School and his main point was: a good plot needs conflict. And a bad guy. The story he read had a similar theme, but the antagonist was "fear" itself. I heeded his advice and tried to think of a conflict and an antagonist to be the face of fear. I wrote down a few plot ideas in a journal and decided to go with: "Man afraid of death lives above Halloween store."

WOW: I agree that a good plot requires conflict. It drives a storyline. In your runner up piece, Mara Cranberry, characterization is so important to the storytelling. What process do you use to flesh out a character?

Lindsey: Character development was basically my reason for writing Mara Cranberry. I wanted to put an idealistic girl in a gritty situation. Writing in first person was great, because I could give the narrator their own personal and vivid thoughts, which they are unaware of the reader overhearing. Other than that I used physical characteristics and dialogue where I couldn’t let the reader into the character’s head. I think it is interesting when writers use details that they would notice about a person. Some people read body language well, others read between the lines in conversation. All of those small details contribute to a reader learning about a character and his/her beliefs.

WOW: It's very effective in this story. Both stories have a natural sense of rhythm and timing. Why is pacing so important in flash fiction, and how do you determine which details to use to advance or keep that sense of timing?

Lindsey: I owe any sense of rhythm I have to reading authors who do it well! So much so that I’m not sure I can articulate how to do it as well as I’d like. I have heard and try to abide by the “rule” that for fiction this brief, any details that do not give vital information or add richness to the story have to go. I also give some priority of length to the climax and ending, because it is easy to try and cram in the whole resolution into the last two sentences. Building tension from the outset helps me gain some time and wiggle room.

WOW: Writing flash fiction is such a balancing act. So many elements need to fit within the word count, but I like your suggestion about giving priority to the length of climax and ending. I'm going to remember that! Your bio talks about your work at the SC Governor's School for the Arts. What are your personal rewards for working and training emerging artists?

Lindsey: The Governor's School is an all around arts experience for students. They get to devote half of their coursework to their art and when they aren't in class, they are living with over two hundred other young artists. I worked in Student Services, so I took care of the students during their down time (if there was such a thing). Not only was I able to see individual artists grow personally and artistically, but I was able to see them influence and support each other. I am very inspired by the friendship and support I find in their community and beyond, even as they go off to different areas of the country. I think the Governor's School faculty and staff do a wonderful job of fostering collaboration over (unfriendly) competition. It thrills me to see former students thriving and even changing the faces of their various art forms. It feels strange to say, but after working at SCGSAH, I don’t really believe in art for art’s sake. I believe in art for the sake of allowing people to reach their full potential and influence the world through what touches the soul. It’s not about art; it’s about all the people who live more fully by it.

WOW: Reaching potential and influencing people are what it's all about. (smiles) Any current projects you are currently working on? Also, do you have a website where readers can find more of your work?

Lindsey: Flash fiction will always be in my writing to-do list, but I would like to try longer lengths. Holding a reader’s attention for another 2,000 words is my next benchmark. Public reading is another ongoing goal of mine. Standing in front of a group and reading my work is strange and terrifying. But I hear that the feedback and exposure is good, if I can only learn to like the feeling of being fedback (sic) and exposed. I do not have a creative writing website yet, but I am on eLance for writing and editing and open for business!

WOW: Good luck with your writing and achieving the goals you have established! And again, congratulations!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler
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Jot It Down

Monday, September 24, 2012
by Lynne Garner

When I started to write professionally, I was writing for a craft magazine once a month. In the beginning, I didn't actively look for ideas and would struggle to come up with them. So I decided to subscribe to a writing magazine. Although it seemed to offer mostly fiction advice, I hoped it would give me ideas for my non-fiction writing.

After studying the magazine a few months, I read a feature about finding and recording things that would provide inspiration. The author said you just never knew when something would pique your interest. She suggested you should always have a notepad and pencil with you. I thought for a moment, and realized this was as true for fiction writers as it is for non-fiction.

That afternoon I purchased two notepads: one small one that would fit in my bag and a second slightly larger one that I placed on my bedside cabinet. Within a few days, I was glad I had. I was on the train and a passenger opposite me was wearing the most amazing necklace. Created from twisted wire and beads, it was something I felt I could use to inspire my jewelry making. I pulled out my notepad and made a quick sketch. A little later I spotted a Christmas decoration idea I knew I could use to inspire my sewing. So, out came my notepad.

Today, I try to carry my notebook with me everywhere. In fact, I'm so known for my notebooks that I now receive them as Christmas gifts. Recently, my niece even made me a small notepad just the right size for my handbag.

So, if you want to fuel your non-fiction writing, why not keep a notepad with you? You just never know what inspirational ideas you'll find around the next corner.

P.S. When you spot that inspirational idea and you discover you don't have your notepad with you, why not use the camera (if appropriate and you have one) on your phone instead?

HOW TO WRITE A CRAFT BOOK by Lynne Garner starts Saturday, October 6, 2012. For information and enrollment details, visit our classroom page.
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Susan Wiggs Returns to Willow Lake, Author Interview

Sunday, September 23, 2012
Susan Wiggs
By Ruth J. Hartman

Susan Wiggs is a #1 New York Times bestselling author. Today she’s agreed to answer some of our questions, so we can gain insight into her character-driven books that have won reader’s hearts around the world.

Return to Willow Lake is Susan’s latest release, which continues the series of the families who live in the tiny, friendly town of Avalon.

When Sonnet Romano gets a message from her family calling her home, she only knows half of the reason. Her mother, Nina Bellamy, who’d been a teenager when twenty-eight-year-old Sonnet was born, is now pregnant again. Which is shocking in itself. But when Nina tells her daughter of a serious health problem, Sonnet realizes her stay in her hometown of Avalon just got extended.

Sonnet thought she had everything she wanted in life. A high-profile job in New York, a relationship with her biological father, and a new boyfriend who seems a perfect fit for her. But that’s all pushed aside when Sonnet returns home. On top of that, she runs into her old childhood best friend, Zach. And that’s when the real fireworks begin.

I’ve read several of Susan Wigg’s books over the years and am a great fan of her work. Return to Willow Lake didn’t disappoint. In fact, I think it may be my favorite so far. Susan has always drawn the reader into her world of family and community, but this book seemed to pull me in even deeper into the fictional world of Avalon.

WOW: Hello, Susan. Thank you for taking time to answer some of our questions today!

I read you recently gotten married. Congratulations! Since weddings are a common theme in your Lakeshore Chronicles series, did your own wedding resemble any of those of your characters?

Susan: Absolutely! Every crazy, joyous wedding I’ve ever written was a dress rehearsal for my own. Happily, mine did not have the tragedy and drama from Marrying Daisy Bellamy or the crazy factor of The Firebrand. There were some identical elements to the memoir by my daughter, Elizabeth Wiggs Maas, who wrote the hilarious How I Planned Your Wedding. Readers can go to and click “Like” and they’ll be able to see a couple of video clips from the wedding.

WOW: In Return to Willow Lake, Sonnet Romano goes home to the small town of Avalon when her mother, Nina, is facing a crisis. Was it difficult to write about her mother’s illness?

Susan: It was emotionally intense to write about cancer. It is such a universally feared horror of an illness. Having a sick family member causes all conflicts to sharpen and things to bubble to the surface. Ultimately, it can be cleansing and healing (one way or the other) but in the midst of crisis, every character is exposed.

WOW: The prominent theme in this book revolves around Sonnet and her childhood best friend, Zach Alger, although many characters are intertwined in the story. Your stories dig deep into each character’s thoughts and emotions, allowing your books to speak to a reader’s heart. Was there a character in Return to Willow Lake that was harder to write from his or her perspective than others?

Susan: For me, it’s always the main character. She has to be so many things to so many people in the story, and to the reader. She needs to seem real and consistent, and also imminently understandable if not likable. I hope Sonnet is both.

WOW: I love how we see your characters grow not only in any given book, but also throughout the series. Do you have romances between certain characters planned out in advance, or do you decide that as you get to their particular story?

Susan: It varies. Sometimes an obvious chemistry develops between secondary characters in a book, and they end up getting their own story. Sonnet and Zach were not planned. I always thought she’d end up with someone different, but she kept coming back to Zach.

WOW: You’ve written so many books in your career. Is there a book or series of yours that’s your personal favorite?

Susan: The NEXT one. The one I haven’t yet spoiled by writing it. Of the published books, my current favorite is Return to Willow Lake, because I wrote it at such an insane and magical time in my life. It’s going to remain special to me forever. Plus I love the endpapers, which I had nothing to do with, but I love them just the same.

WOW: Every time I read one of your books, I notice the strong family connection between your characters. Does that come from your relationship with your own family?

Susan: Most probably, yes. We’re a tight-knit clan, emotionally. Sometimes we’re far flung–my sister currently lives in Australia–but we manage to stay close. The launch of the Lakeshore Chronicles was a salute to my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. That book was Summer at Willow Lake.

WOW: Camp Kioga is a frequent backdrop for your characters. Were you able to draw from camps as a child for this?

Susan: Not at all. I used to yearn to go to summer camp. I was addicted to movies about summer camp. But I never went. So Camp Kioga is my idealized version of the summer camp of my imagination. Maybe that’s why it’s so idyllic. Real life hasn’t ruined it.

WOW: With the Lakeshore Chronicles being so popular, do you have plans for more books in that series?

Susan: Always. I’m working on a Christmas novel for the series right now.

WOW: Thank you, Susan, for today’s interview. WOW is all about women writers and their journeys and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about yours. We wish you the best in your writing career and new marriage. And we eagerly look forward to reading more of your books!


Ruth J. Hartman
Ruth J. Hartman has several published books, including a memoir, several romances and a children’s book. Her first regency romance, Time for a Duke will be released in November 2012. Ruth and her husband, Garry, share their old farmhouse with three spoiled cats. You can read more about Ruth’s writing at

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5 Places to Get Rich Slow

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Need to make some extra cash? Here are five places to try.

  1. CreateSpace. Are you an expert at something? Amazon's CreateSpace is an excellent place to publish a nonfiction book in a niche market. That is, it's a great place to use your writing skills and share your expert knowledge. Publishing a Print-on-Demand (POD) book makes sense for specialized markets where a big publisher won't venture because the projected sales are too low. However, you are in a position to take a small risk (it's just the time writing and designing the book that you risk) and you might make a killing.
  2. GoogleAds. (Sign into your google account and look under products for Google Adsense.) Many people have thriving blogs but hesitate to put advertising on them. Yet, that's exactly what magazines do every day: deliver a specialized set of readers to advertisers. They do this while also satisfying the readers with unique, interesting, helpful content. If you have a blog with a loyal readership, you are already delivering great content and there's nothing wrong with the magazine industry's business plan. You publish great content, then deliver eyes and advertisers pay. It's a win-win-win.
  3. TeachersPayTeachers. On track to bring in over $21million this year, TPT allows teachers to sell lesson plans, graphics such as bulletin board ideas, and professional documents to other teachers. If you have a foot in the education world, get thee hence! It's simple to upload .docs or .pdfs and start to make money on the work you've done for your own classroom.
  4. iStockPhoto. Most of us write, but some of us also do photography. Stock photo sites are always looking for great photography. It's easy to pick a topic and shoot around it. For example, if you love dogs, go to a dog show and snap away. The only caution here is that you must obtain photo releases. Be sure to read the guidelines for releases and quality of the photos.
  5. oDesk or eLance. Are you great at technical writing and need to find a way to connect with customers? These two sites are great places to hook up with a huge variety of customers. You'll find people looking for ghost writers, video editors, business plan writers, bloggers and much more.

Will any of these help you get rich fast? No. But they are places to build a slow and steady income stream.
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Friday Speak Out!: The REAL Difference Between Men and Women, guest post by Sioux Roslawski

Friday, September 21, 2012
by Sioux Roslawski

Men are from Mars. We all know it. Their scratching, their belching, their obsession with plasticized women—it proves they are indeed a strange species.

And women are always normal, well-grounded creatures. They never digress into emotional rants. They’re a wonderful mixture of the rational and the creative. (At least that’s my opinion, and I’m stickin’ to it.)

But where I see the biggest difference between men and women is in critique groups. The guys who have graced me with their suggestions and corrections are wonderful—don’t get me wrong. They’re generous with their gifts. Because of them, my writing occasionally sings rather than drags. I do appreciate their feedback. I do.

Too many times to call it a fluke, however, I’ve seen women in writing critique groups go above and beyond. On a regular basis, I've witnessed women not only point out a problematic part of a story or essay—they also take on that problem as their own. It becomes their mission…

I stink at titles, for example. I stress, and scan the lines, trying to find something in my writing piece that will bring a title to the surface. The women writers I work with will bounce ideas off each other, and will even email me later with possibilities. In the end, I’ve got a title that is almost always guaranteed to hook the reader.

Often, I fizzle out at the end. I run out of steam and passion before my piece runs out of space. In a critique session, the men might mention, “Your ending needs some work,” and leave it up to me. The women, however, will jot down some suggestions to strengthen it. We’ll discuss various ways to make it as fierce as the beginning.

And if it looks like I’m giving birth to “conjoined twins”—a problem that Tammy, one of my WWWPs (Wild Women Wielding Pens) says is a marvelous challenge—if it’s apparent that I have two-stories-in-one that need to be separated, the women will embrace my baby and recommend some directions I can take.

So you gentle gentlemen, who give me guidance in my writing: thank you. But the bulk of my gratitude has to go to the women I work with. During each session they take my story under their wings, they celebrate when I get a piece published, and they encourage when I get something rejected…and they do it with humor and grace and generosity.

Now ladies, how should I end this? I need help. Please?

 Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher and a freelance writer in St. Louis. In her spare time she blogs (, rescues Golden Retrievers and dreams of someday retiring to southern France.


 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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How to Live Like a Writer

Thursday, September 20, 2012
by Renate Reimann, PhD, Personal Life and Productivity Coach

Many of us aspire to creating great works of art or, at least, finish that writing project that has been with us for far too long. Despite our great desire to write, we sometimes don’t find the time, the energy or the inspiration to follow through on our literary ambitions. What’s missing?

In my coaching practice, I usually find that one of two ingredients is lacking: feeling like a writer or living like a writer. Today I want to focus on living like a writer because it is usually also a shortcut to feeling like one.

Pick one of your favorite authors, past or present, and find out how she structures her time. When does he write? How much does she produce on a daily basis? Which environment is most productive? And what are the necessary implements?

For quick results, you can search online for key terms like “writing habits of famous writers” or those of your favorite author. The old-fashioned way, reading a biography of your most inspirational author, is a bit more romantic though.

Once you have discovered how your role model does it, explore your own best practices. Are there consistent elements at play when you are able to generate volume or create your best work? Is a brick wall your muse as it is for Francine Prose? Or do you like to write in your underwear like John Cheever? I, embarrassingly, like to roll out of bed, throw on some old gym clothes and get to it. It doesn’t have to be pretty – it just has to work.

Next, how can you turn your most productive moments into solid writing habits? If you are at your best in the morning, how about setting aside an hour before going to work? Many writers, like John Grisham during his years working as a lawyer, composed best sellers with this technique.

Comparing your own most rewarding writing behaviors with those of your role models, what can you learn from them and what could they learn from you? Don’t be shy.

In sum, here is how you live like a writer: turn your own best practices into daily or weekly routines, drop what is less helpful and always learn from others. It’s okay to grow and change whenever you find better ways of being a writer. In fact, it is part of the craft and the art.

To you, the writer!


Wouldn't it be nice to have both an editor and productivity coach at your side to help you write your novel? The dynamic duo of Diane O'Connell and Renate Reimann, PhD have created a brand new novel writing course that is offered as three separate classes, depending on your needs. Part 1 starts October, 1, 2012. For more information, visit our classroom page!
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Generating Suspense in Fiction

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
It happened. Again.

I picked up a new novel, excited to dive in, only to find myself disappointed almost from word one.

What was the missing element?


A strong sense of suspense snakes its way around you, through your mind (and maybe sense of reality), and pounces immediately.

Need to get a grip and add a tinge (or ton) of suspense to your WIP? Try these tips. They'll get the hair to stand up on the back of readers' necks and cause them to cheer for your characters!

  1. Begin immediately. It's common sense, but think about the number of times you've read or written a scene that doesn't begin with tension. Instead, you (or the author you are reading) start with casual details, attempting to create backstory or establish setting. Face it. It's not working. So, why not jump right in and show what's wrong? One of the best examples I've read that begins building suspense from the first word on the page is Love You to Death by Shannon K. Butcher. (Check out my interview with Shannon.)
  2. Develop empathy. Does character drive suspense or does suspense drive character? Until the reader feels a sense of empathy for the character and the impending conflict, the writer should be building suspense. Sure, the suspense doesn't have to pound you on the head; it can be subtle, but it should create a empathy, devise and spread a sense of understanding the motivation of a character. One of my favorite examples of a subtle use of suspense is in Caroline Leavitt's novel, Pictures of You. I read it in an afternoon sitting, crying while I read, because of the empathy I developed for one of the characters. 
  3. Find the flow. Building suspense reminds me of listening to music. Action builds to a crescendo before it plummets to the abyss, then builds again, sometimes adding staccato, sometimes extending a whole note for an extra beat. Suspense thrives on flow and rhythm. Strong comedic pieces create  suspense, too, utilizing rhythm and flow to keep readers off guard. One of my favorite examples for establishing rhythm comes from author Claire Cook. Just when you think you've reached the pinnacle, her words take you to another level, and that gentle, lulling rhythm keeps you tuned in. Check out Best Staged Plans as an example.
These basic storytelling elements will add a strong, suspenseful presence that's sure to hook readers...and keep them coming back for more!

How do you create suspense? Suggest a novel that starts with a suspense-building scene.

by LuAnn Schindler
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Sarah Welty Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Welcome to The Muffin, Sarah Welty, who won third place in the Spring 2012 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, "The Event," which you can read right here.  Sarah recently began her senior year as an English major at Davidson College. She first began writing when, as a young, avid reader, she felt compelled to re-write the endings of classic novels. Even as an eight-year-old, Sarah knew Jo March should end up with Laurie. Today, she writes mostly flash fiction, plays, and essays for law school applications. When not reading, writing, and avoiding ‘rithmetic, Sarah is an amateur stand-up comedian. For more of Sarah's work, check out, or follow her on Twitter @weltywhat.

 WOW: Congratulations, Sarah, on your third place win in the flash fiction contest. Where did you get the idea for your hysterical story, "The Event"?

Sarah: Thanks! My mother is actually a teacher, and would always come home with really bizarre and funny stories about things her students had done. None of her students ever actually stripped naked and ate a cactus; but when I was a kid, I had a weird fixation with eating bits of house plants. Thankfully, I grew out of it and never actually got caught doing it at school.

WOW: Ahh, so it's a bit biographical. (smiles) What's your writing process like once you get an idea--are you a planner or a pantser?

Sarah: I'm definitely a planner, although I do most of my planning mentally. I'll be writing an essay for class and trying to flesh out the plot of a story at the same time. A writing habit I have that I'm trying to get away from is that when plotting something, I'll have this set of funny anecdotes that I always try to shoehorn into the story. The plot then feels unorganic, though, so I have to go back and stay true to the characters and their world without forcing my own life onto them.

WOW: What are the challenges of writing flash fiction pieces, like "The Event"?

Sarah: I love tiny, character-building details; but in flash fiction, you can accidentally stuff a story with all nuance and no plot because you've dedicated so much space to building your characters. The challenge then becomes how can I say all of those things about this character in one detail? In "The Event," I wanted to establish that the young teacher was anxious, a bit messy, and not accustomed to handling things by himself; I think you can get all of those details from his blazer with the chalk dust on the sleeves.

WOW: That's an interesting look at building a character--even with few words. Do you often enjoy writing humor?

Sarah: Absolutely. I love reading humor, so it's the easiest thing for me to write. I hate reading a story without even a touch of humor in it. Sometimes people laugh at funerals: I think life is never purely comical or serious, so showing that nuance in writing is really important to me.

WOW: You have a very colorful bio! Besides a writer, you are also applying for law school, a college student, and a stand-up comedian! So, you must be wonderful at time management. Can you share a couple tips with us for fitting all your interests in?

Sarah: Thanks! I do a lot, but I'm also addicted to having a full night's sleep and an active social life, so I have to get pretty creative about time management. I am constantly prioritizing: how important is it that I eat lunch today? Can I wait until Saturday to wash my hair if it means that I can finish my assignment before noon? Also, I can accomplish a lot of my creative interests because it's so easy to work on them mentally while accomplishing other tasks. While I'm at work, I can think of a punchline to a joke or have an idea for a new story. If my hobbies included, say, knitting, I think that kind of multitasking might be more difficult. My general advice is: a) be a writer and b) the laundry can always wait another day.

WOW: Now that is a great philosophy! You also have a website and are active on Twitter. How important do you think social media is to today's writer? What do you share on social media?

Sarah: Social media is massively important to my generation of writers. I think that while Amazon has democratized online book publishing, a social media network like Twitter has democratized advertising for your projects. If I have no time to try and get the word out about something I wrote or a project I'm working on, I can just type it up on Twitter in 140 or fewer characters, and I've suddenly got an audience.

WOW: What's up next in your writing world, besides law school essays?

Sarah: I'm trying to finish at least one full-length play before Christmas; but unless I write it in the form of an admissions essay, I might not succeed. I also absolutely love the way that WOW! organizes their flash fiction writing contests and look forward to submitting my fiction in the future.

WOW: Great! We look forward to you entering more contests. Thanks, Sarah, for talking with us today. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

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Karen Berner, author of Until My Soul Gets It Right, launches her book tour

Monday, September 17, 2012
& book giveaway contest!

Have you ever looked around at your home, your family, your life and wondered “Really? This is me?” What happened to that person who was going to live in a penthouse in New York City? Travel to the Arctic Circle? Save the world? We’ve all had those moments where we wonder if we’ve stumbled into the wrong life.

Of course, Catherine Ebert of Until My Soul Gets It Right has the moments more frequently than most of us. In fact, every time something goes wrong in her life she looks around and decides it’s time to move on to the next town, the next life, the next re-creation of herself.

Don’t miss the latest book in the Bibliophiles Series that follows Catherine, the actress of the group, as she searches for her real life.

Paperback: 294 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (May 23, 2012)
Genre: Fiction
ISBN-10: 1475189036
ISBN-13: 978-1475189032
Twitter Hashtag: #Bibliophiles2

Until My Soul Gets It Right is available in paperback and e-format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your local independent bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contests: If you would like to win a copy of Until My Soul Gets It Right, please enter the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, September 21 at 12:01 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

Book Giveaway Contest–Part Two: If you would like to win a copy of the Book One in the Bibliophiles Series: A Whisper to a Scream, visit Karen’s blog Bibliophilic Blather on Tuesday, September 18 for more details.

About the Author:

Karen Wojcik Berner lives a provincial life tucked away with her family in the Chicago suburbs. If it was good enough for Jane Austen, right?

However, dear Miss Austen had the good fortune of being born amid the glorious English countryside, something Karen unabashedly covets, so much so that she majored in English and Communications at Dominican University. Like the magnificent Miss Austen, Karen could not help but write about the society that surrounds her.

A book lover since she could hold one in her chubby little toddler hands, Karen wanted to announce to the world just how much she loves the written word. She considered getting a bibliophile tattoo but instead decided to write about the lives of the members of a suburban Classics Book Club. The series is called, of course, The Bibliophiles.

When she isn't reading, writing, or spending her time wishing she was Jane Austen, Karen spends her time can be found sipping tea or wine, whichever is more appropriate that day, and watching Tim Burton movies or "Chopped," her favorite foodie TV show.

Find the Author Online:




Twitter: @KarenBerner

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

WOW: We’re curious about how your series evolved. Why did you decide to create a series?

Karen: I couldn’t help myself. With each book club scene I wrote for A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One), I fell more in love with each of the members and wanted to know more about them. They intrigued me. I had to write their stories.

WOW: Did you plot out several books at once so you could “see where your characters were going” or take it one book at a time?

Karen: I am taking everything one book at a time. I’m not one of those people that plots out everything that will happen ahead of time. I like to let it flow, which is kind of funny, because in my personal life, people think I am pretty anal. I’m the type that plans out an entire trip before I get there, including two sets of driving directions and a trip folder with copies of everything from hotel confirmations to the impending weather forecasts.

WOW: I'd love for you to plan my next trip! (smiles)  So what is it like to create a series?

Karen: It’s fantastic. Once I figured out this could be a series, I set out to make it a little different than most. Consequently, although there will be book club scenes in each novel, the protagonists change, giving each story a very different feel. It is the best of both worlds, writing six distinct books but joining them together under the Bibliophiles umbrella.

WOW: Unlike most series that revisit not only the same characters but also the same setting Until My Soul Gets It Right takes place somewhere completely different, in fact in several spots around the country. How did you choose the places where Catherine would grow up and transplant herself throughout her life? Were they places that are significant to you and, if not, how did you create such amazingly vivid settings?

Karen: My mother spent a few summers on a farm in Hayward, Wisconsin. She absolutely loved it. Riding horses. Doing farm chores. For me, nothing sounded more terrible. I’m a city girl who still has some urban withdrawal living in the suburbs. How does anyone do errands, for example, when the nearest shopping is twenty miles away? I’m a wuss, truth be told, with no understanding of how to live off the land, but with a great appreciation for those who do. Having Catherine grow up on a farm felt right.

As for the other locations, several years back, I went to Maine on a family vacation and visited with friends who live on Peaks Island. Portland is a great place and completely different from the Midwest. And San Diego? Who wouldn’t want to live there? Perfect weather. Gorgeous scenery. Koalas!

While writing the different sections, I had maps of each city sprawled across my desk to ensure I got the locations right. I plotted all of the fictional locations on the real Portland map. Although it is fiction, it’s still important to stay true to some sense of place. Same goes for the San Diego chapters. Books, pictures of the zoo and a map of the area helped me to recreate the feeling of being there. I also wrote a few scenes while I was on the beach in front of the Hotel del Coronado a few years ago.

WOW: You definitely did your research, and it helps ground readers with a strong sense of place. I'm wondering . . . Do you feel readers get more involved with your characters when they are in a series of books? On the flip side, do you ever worry that readers might write you those maddening “Character X would never have done that!” type of letters?

Karen: I hope readers will grow to love the Bibliophiles as much as I do. I don’t worry about the types of letters you mentioned, but I can tell you that when I was doing an appearance at a local book club, one woman basically started yelling at me about why I didn’t get therapy for Annie in A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One), which I found interesting. I was happy she cared so much about the character to have such a strong opinion.

WOW: Some people have a love/hate relationship with book series. They love following their favorite characters on adventure after adventure but they hate jumping into a series in the middle. Have you experienced the positives of series (readers clamoring for your next book) or the negatives (readers saying, “Well, since I didn’t read the first book I’ll pass.)

Karen: Most readers have been very kind and are excited about the upcoming books. That said, each Bibliophiles novel can be read as a stand alone as well as within the series. I think that is important. I realize series require a huge time commitment for readers, so with mine, they can pick and choose which they find interesting.

Also, for those who prefer to start at the beginning, I am hosting a contest on my blog Bibliophilic Blather to win free copies of the first novel, A Whisper to a Scream. Visit for details.

WOW: Recently on the Muffin, various bloggers have been posting about writing habits. Can you tell us a little about your writing day? How do you keep yourself motivated when you hit a brick wall or the demands of your non-writing life seem to take over?

Karen: I don’t have a set schedule. Some days, I concentrate exclusively on the books, while others are spent soliciting for flash fiction pieces for Flash Fiction Fridays on my blog, Bibliophilic Blather, or writing the week’s blog posts. Still other days are all about my freelance account and/or marketing. Then there are those glorious days when the muses visit, and I drop everything for fiction. Those are the most fun.

No matter what is on the agenda, the day begins right after my youngest leaves for school and continues until dinner, with periodic breaks for football carpool, a Starbucks run or texting my oldest in college. Oh yeah, and the weekends. I usually work some then as well.

I am really striving to achieve some sort of work/life balance, which is a bit easier now that my sons are older. I think it is something all women battle every day, don’t you think?

WOW: Definitely, it seems no matter what our passion, our job, our family life we have so many things vying for our attention and our time. So, for those of us still laboring over our first book, does it get any easier?

Karen: I hesitate to say writing the second book was easier, but it was definitely a lot quicker, despite the countless hours I wasted in fits of neurosis with second-book syndrome. You know, doubt, despair, what the heck was I thinking? Repeat.

Once I finished, there was a great sense of relief. The monkey was off my back, and I was ready to write more. I penned my upcoming holiday short story, “A Bibliophiles’ Christmas” (due out November 1) featuring Sarah and Annie from Whisper and began notes for book three.

WOW: What was the most important thing you learned while writing the Bibliophiles Series?

Karen: So much of writing is listening. Listening to the world around us. Listening to the characters as they reveal themselves to you. Listening to their speech patterns, side comments, their beliefs. Letting the characters tell their stories.

Although I write in third person, I am by no means the great and powerful Oz-like omniscient. Sometimes, I start one scene, get into a flow and finish on an entirely different track.

WOW: Bibliophiles isn’t your traditional series with one main character and a group of quirky minor characters. Instead it’s about a group—a book club—and in each book a different member plays the starring role. Can you tell us who will be getting the star treatment in the next book?

Karen: Book Three will focus on Spring, the daughter of leftover flower children from the sixties, and Thaddeus, the computer programmer with the heart of a poet. It should be a fun juxtaposition of writing styles between the mellow, chilled vibe of Spring and the prim, anglophile Thaddeus. Another exciting thing about this novel is that it will be my first time writing a male protagonist. Work on it has already begun, but I am not sure when it will be released yet. Hopefully around this time next year, but we shall see how it goes.

WOW: It sounds fun, and we can’t wait to hear about the challenges of writing for a male character!

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

Tuesday, September 18 @ Bibliophilic Blather

Stop by Karen’s blog to learn how to win the first book in the Bibliophiles Series!

Wednesday, September 19 @ A Writer’s Life
Learn more about Karen Berner and the second book in her Bibiliophiles series today.

Friday, September 21 @ Book Spark
Try your hand at a quiz on Shakespeare—a favorite of Catherine, the main character of Until My Soul Gets It Right by Karen Berner. Then enter to win a copy of this can't-put-it-down novel!

Tuesday, September 25 @ Empty Nest
Don't miss today's review of Until My Soul Gets It Right, book two in the Bibliophiles Series by Karen Berner.

Wednesday, September 26 @ Musings from the Slushpile
In the mood for a Bibliophile's Tour of Chicago? Join us for today's tour with author Karen Berner as your guide. You can also win a copy of Berner's novel Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Thursday, September 27 @ Donna’s Book Pub
When the going gets tough, the tough get least that's the motto of the latest star of the Bibliophiles Series by Karen Berner. Don't miss a review of Until My Soul Gets it Right.

Friday, September 28 @ CMash Loves to Read
Have some fun today when Karen Berner tells you how to "Be a Character: Dressing Up Like Your Favorite Literary Hero/Heroine" Don't miss out a chance to win Karen's latest book, Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Sunday, September 30 @ Fresh Fiction
Stop by for a bit of Shakespeare from Karen Berner's latest character and a chance to win her latest book: Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Tuesday, October 2 @ Thoughts in Progress
Learn how to organize your own classics book club and enter to win Until My Soul Gets It Right, Book Two in Karen Berner's series The Bibliophiles.

Wednesday, October 4 @ Words by Webb
Stop by for thoughts on a new kind of book series and a chance to win A Whisper to a Scream by Karen Berner.

Thursday, October 4 @ Kerrific
Get the scoop on the second book in Karen Berner's Bibliophiles series: Until My Soul Gets It Right with today's review.

Friday, October 5 @ Kritters Ramblings
Can Karen Berner follow up the success of her debut novel A Whisper to a Scream with her new novel Until My Soul Gets It Right? You bet! Don't miss today's review!

Saturday, October 6 @ Kritters Ramblings
Can’t get enough of Karen Berner. To celebrate Book Two in the Bibliophiles Series she’s back for Day Two at Kritters Ramblings with a guest post.

Sunday, October 7 @ Writer Unboxed
Looking for some extra fun this Halloween? Author Karen Berner has some ideas for throwing a Literary Halloween Bash. And if you hate coming in after the first act this is your chance to win BOTH books in Karen's Bibliophile Series and meet all her characters from the very beginning.

Monday, October 8 @ Melissa’s Midnight Musings
Melissa's getting in the mood for Karen Berner's tour with her latest book by reviewing her first book: A Whisper to a Scream. Come back Wednesday for Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Tuesday, October 9 @ Lovey Dovey Books
Learn how to organize your own classic book club and learn more about Karen Berner's new addition to the Bibliophiles series: Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Wednesday, October 10 @ Melissa’s Midnight Musings
If you threw Halloween and literature in a pot and stirred, what would you get? Stop by and find out with a fun guest post from Karen Berner, author of the novel Until My Soul Gets It Right.

Thursday, October 11 @ Celtic Lady Reviews
Don't miss a visit from the author of the Bibliophile Series, Karen Berner!

Friday, October 12 @ Writer’s Corner
You don't even need a ticket for today's journey! Karen Berner, author of Until My Soul Gets It Right is taking everyone on a Bibliophile's Guide to Portland Maine.

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar here. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

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 us at

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Until My Soul Gets It Right! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, September 21.

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Good luck!
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The Brains Have It: Wired for Story Writer's Guide Review and Giveaway

Sunday, September 16, 2012
Have you ever read a story or seen a movie that at the beginning you thought wasn’t going to tell that good of a story? But once you were launched into it, the story pulled you in and kept you captivated from beginning to end. Thank your brain for giving you the ability to react to the story.

According to Lisa Cron, stories help to “teach us the way of the world.” She explains and illustrates this throughout Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. Even though Cron introduces the neuroscience of writing, her book will feel comfortable on any writer’s bookshelf (even next to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style or Brooks and Warren’s The Scope of Fiction).

Why? Because it takes a writer back to the basics, while explaining how writing impacts our brains. Cron uses an easy-to-understand, straightforward approach that looks at the tools that a writer uses in building a story, presenting how a reader processes what we put on the page.

“This information is a game changer for writers,” Cron writes in her introduction. She pairs the basics of writing a story with research that underscores what many of us have learned from studying writing (without the added science).

Cron takes on the myths we may have learned and backs up why the myths may not hold steady under the light of our brains’ wiring. In providing these Myths versus Realities, Cron adds a visual break from the rest of the text, breaking out neat subsections from the larger themes. One of the Myths Cron relates is the one we’ve all probably heard: Write what you know. But the Reality is “Write What You Know Emotionally,” according to Cron. Then Cron sets out to explain how the Reality debunks the Myth.

Although Wired for Story was sent to me for reviewing, it is a book that I heard about and was excited to read. Science behind literature is intriguing. Some of what Cron writes may seem familiar to writers as Cron explains themes and tones, protagonists and goals, plots and cause-and-effects. But Cron’s endnotes back up her statements marrying the literary science to the neuroscience.

Cron lays out her book in twelve chapters, with each chapter focused on thematic Cognitive Secrets and Story Secrets. Because Cron establishes that our minds are “hardwired to respond to story,” each chapter explains some neuroscience and then provides a condensed writer’s workshop to help with a writer’s ability to transform and deliver the element of discussion. Along the way, Cron provides case studies from published works and quotations from famous writers. And though she steers you away from myths, Cron does provide rules and recommendations. Then, at the end of each chapter, Cron conveniently provides a checklist for you to compare and question your own work.

Wired for Story’s goal is to get your story to engage your readers from the first sentence. It’s an admirable goal and well-presented. Now, if only our brains won’t get in the way.

Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits from her home in Wilmington, N.C. She is a regular contributor to Women on Writing's The Muffin.


Writers, you are in for a treat! We are giving away a copy of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (Ten Speed Press, July 2012; paperback, 272 pages; list price $14.99) to one lucky reader. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. Open to US and Canada.

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Good luck!
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