The Last Day of the Year: What Will Be Different Tomorrow?

Monday, December 31, 2012
by Keith Williamson
If you're like me, it's hard to believe another year is coming to an end. Good-bye, 2012; hello, 2013. You've probably spent some time thinking about your writing goals or at least what you would like to accomplish in one year's time, even if you haven't created "official" goals. Besides writing goals, you might have things you want to do in other areas of your life, too. Popular New Year's resolutions are weight loss, more exercise, organization, sleeping more, and less time watching TV--more time reading. Many of these sound familiar to you, I'm sure, and you may have had similar goals last year. If you are like most of us, you start off with a bang in January, and then sometime in February, things start to dwindle, and the goals become lost.

How can you change this in 2013? What can you do differently so this is the year you accomplish your writing goals (and personal ones, too)?

I wish I had a magic answer, or at least a magic bean. (Wait, this isn't Jack and the Beanstalk, is it?) But before you spend any more time on this post, I'll tell you I don't have magic. What I do have is an idea that I'm going to try this year, and one that I have never tried before. Maybe it will work for you.

I have created several different writing goals for 2013--from marketing my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, to writing a new middle-grade novel, from a nonfiction book proposal to growing my freelance editing and speaking business--and the first thing I did differently was create the goals with my writing critique group, and I wrote them down on a mini-poster, using markers and stickers. I also read the goals out loud and explained each one to the members of my critique group.

But even doing this, I wasn't sure if I would remember to work on them each week, so by this time next year, I would accomplish these goals. So, I decided I am typing each goal and getting them to all fit on one 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. Then I am printing 52 of these sheets--one for each week of the year. When I turn my calendar to the new week every Monday, I will also see all of my writing goals staring at me. There will be a visual reminder (neatly typed) of each of my goals along with a small space for comments to update how I am progressing or if I have any questions I need to investigate.

I've learned that 2013 won't be any different if I just create a few writing goals only available in my mind and then try to work to accomplish them--without writing them down or sharing them. I'm going a step further this year with a weekly typed list of goals. I'll let you know how it works out. Until then. . .have a wonderful new year!

Margo L. Dill is the author of the middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place. She is also an online instructor for WOW! and is offering a free teleclass on January 8 and a children's novel writing workshop, starting on January 22. For more information, see the WOW! classroom.
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Discover Your Hidden Book

Sunday, December 30, 2012
by Lynne Garner

When teaching, I often tell students that I believe most people have a book hidden inside them. Most students are surprised to learn that I believe this book is more than likely nonfiction. When they look at me in disbelief, I often use family and friends as examples to demonstrate what I mean. At the moment these are my three favorite examples of friends (and they are real) that I use:
  • Friend one owns three dogs. She enjoyed the training aspect of pet ownership so much she recently completed a professional dog-training course. I am confident she knows enough to be able to write an informative book about dogs from the owner and trainer's point of view.

  • Friend two studied garden design and ran her own garden design business. She also volunteered to help at her children's school. During that time she designed a child-friendly garden and gardening projects. I'm sure she could produce a great book aimed at parents and teachers who want to encourage children to love all things that grow. I also believe she could write another aimed at adults who want to design their own dream garden.

  • Friend three is extremely gifted when it comes to crafts. However, she has decided to specialize in working with porcelain. I have no doubt she could write an informative book covering porcelain techniques and designing porcelain projects readers can recreate.
I hope you can see how you can turn a hobby, knowledge you have gained from your job or lifestyle into a book others will want to read.


Would you like to discover your hidden book? Sign up now for Lynne Garner's class,  How to Write a Hobby Based How to Book, which starts on January 5, 2013.
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World First? Or Power to the People?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sara asked a question after my last post: "Do you find developing characters immediately is typically the most effective, or is it sometimes equally effective to develop setting and then think about the kinds of people who would inhabit that setting?"

My first response is a simple: Yes. For some, it will be easier to develop the characters and flesh out their world around them; others (like me) find it easier to consider the setting in tandem with the characters.

Think about some of the fictional people you've read along the way. Now, try to move them into a different setting. For example, if you think of any of Jane Austen's heroines, you may be able to transport Emma to the 21st century, to 13th-century Paris, or to America, but would she still be Emma? While many stories are universal, their settings are often intertwined with their characters.

Characters or setting first? New York City, for example,
could play a major role in your character's life.
Credit | krishorvath81 @ Flickr
To me, the setting an author chooses informs many other choices she may make and often may be what the author considers first. The way I write my fiction, I consider the setting at the same time as fleshing out other characters. And yes, I may even consider the setting first and think of who might inhabit the setting.

But I find it difficult to write characters without considering settings first. If you don't consider the setting first, aren't you considering only a portion of who your characters are? And vice versa? You would need to know the setting well to know who would want to inhabit such settings, right?

Setting can become an additional character--if you were to set your story in New York City or Denver, where would you do it? A single woman living in the Brooklyn sets up a different message and cadence--sometimes subtly and sometimes blatantly--than a single woman in Denver. (I've been both, so have patience with me while this becomes randomly autobiographical.) Just consider: modes of transportation, homes, and what each woman chooses to do on a free afternoon.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I might take a subway from my third-floor walk-up to spend a day in Central Park (or if I didn't feel like the subway, walk to Prospect Park). But as a single woman in Denver, I might go with friends to Elitch's Amusement Park or for a hike in the mountains. In either place, my home might include roommates. Particularly in a long piece of fiction, the setting can play a large and important role.

In one of my manuscripts, I set the action in Europe. Many of the scenes are interwoven with elements that I found there and, therefore, I definitely needed to develop the setting along with the characters. The surroundings become actors within the action and interacting with the characters, in my opinion.

These are a few examples, but hopefully they illustrate that the setting should definitely be a consideration.

Sara, I hope I've answered your question! I'd love to know: Do you consider setting before, during, or after you develop your characters? Also, if you have a question, please leave it in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer it.

Elizabeth King Humphrey, who received her M.F.A. from UNC Wilmington,  writes and edits in North Carolina. She wishes you a wonderful--and word-filled--2013. 
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Gift Book Giveaway: Instant Happy and Salty Snacks

Friday, December 28, 2012
One of my favorite things about the holidays is the opportunity to splurge on gift books. Finding the perfect one for a friend is like striking gold. There’s nothing more personal and rewarding than the gift of words in a pretty package to show how well you know someone and how much you care.

We have two wonderful books to give away that will brighten your day and satisfy your salt cravings! And if you’re anything like me—and I think you are—you will absolutely love them.

First up is Instant HAPPY: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers by Karen Salmansohn. This gorgeous little hardcover contains humorous and uplifting insights that will make you smile or say, “So true!” Each page is loaded with full-color graphics and a clever saying to brighten your day. The book uses a psychological tool called “pattern interrupts” to stop negative thoughts in their tracks. Each inspirational flashcard will give you a reality check and help put things into perspective.

Writers will find inspiration for every emotional step of the writing process—you know the ones I’m talking about . . . self-doubt, confidence, courage, rejection, and more! For example: “You Know You’re Making Progress When You’re Making Mistakes.” or “When one door closes, try a window. Then try a new door. Then try a new window. The world is full of doors and windows. Eventually you’ll find one that stays open.”

Here are a couple of flashcards from the book:

Feel a little better already? 

The author, Karen Salmansohn, is a motivational speaker, designer, and best-selling author of more than twenty-five books, including How to Be Happy, Dammit; Enough, Dammit; and The Bounce Back Book. She’s also an online columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine; Psychology Today; The Huffington Post; Positively Positive; and AOL, and she has worked as a creative strategist for the likes of MTV, Nickelodeon, L’Oreal, and Avon. Find out more about Karen by visiting her website: With Karen’s help and contagious optimism, you will be ready to take on the world!

Instant Happy: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers
by Karen Salmansohn
128 pages, 6" x 7"
ISBN: 978-1-60774-368-2
Ten Speed Press (October 2012)


While not exactly a gift book and more of a cookbook, Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims is gorgeous, fun-sized, and a great gift for those who love savory snacks. We often have the snack discussion here at WOW! When asked what types of snacks writers most like to munch on while writing, it’s a near draw between sweet and salty. Me? I’ve always had a love affair with salt. Give me a bag of chips over a doughnut any day. And if you’re like me, your mouth will start watering from flipping through the pages of this book.

This collection of 75 easy-to-follow recipes for puffs, chips, breads, nuts, veggies, and meats puts a fresh, crunchy spin on homemade snacks. From the crispy to the doughy to the gluten-free, some seriously mouthwatering offerings fill each chapter with a wide array of choices that are instant crowd-pleasers for cocktail parties, food gifts, at arm’s length while writing, curling up with a good book, or whenever you want a delicious treat.

With all the excess sodium and hidden preservatives in prepackaged foods, it’s smart to make your own savory bites from scratch. The book contains recipes like Kale Chips with Lemon and Ginger, Sichuan Pepper Apple Crisps, Cumin Lentil Crackers, Blue Cheese Straws, and Parmesan Thumbprint Cookies with Tomato-Tart Cherry Jam. Meat lovers will also appreciate an assortment of recipes, such as Crisp Beef with Lemongrass, Smoked Salmon Rillettes, and Five Spice Duck Skin.

The author, Cynthia Nims, studied cooking at La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine and has authored and co-authored 12 cookbooks, including Gourmet Game Night. President of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), she has been the editor of Simply Seafood magazine and food editor for Seattle Magazine. Cynthia contributes to Cooking Light, Coastal Living, and Sunset. Visit her blog, Mon Appétit: Yum!

Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Crackers, Pretzels, Dips and Other Savory Bites
by Cynthia Nims
168 pages, 7" x 8"
ISBN: 978-1-60774-181-7
Ten Speed Press (September 2012)


Enter to win Instant HAPPY: 10-Second Attitude Makeovers by Karen Salmansohn and Salty Snacks by Cynthia Nims by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. One lucky winner will be chosen at random.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Focused Landing Pages - The Path to Better Conversion

Thursday, December 27, 2012
by Karen Cioffi

What exactly is a landing page?

According to, “A landing page is a web page that allows you to capture a visitor's information through a lead form.” says, “A landing page is any page on a website where traffic is sent specifically to prompt a certain action or result.”

So, landing pages are designed for specific purposes, such as a selling page for a product or service or for an email opt-in. But, no matter what the purpose is, it must be focused.

The page itself can be a separate website or a page on an existing website. But, since you want it completely focused, without distractions, a separate website usually works better.

It’s this landing page focus that allows for better conversion.

An effective landing page is designed and focused on a target market. This means if your site pertains to a specific cancer or illness, your content, opt-in, and any products you’re selling should focus on people dealing with this particular health issue. That’s your target market. And, your keywords should also reflect the page’s purpose.

If your site is about baseball, the same holds true. The landing page design, content, and any products or services being offered must pertain to baseball.

The landing page is kind of like a path on which there’s no way to stray off or be distracted. It’s intended for visitors to read exactly what you want them to, guiding them to say YES to your offer. There are no other pages for them to click on and hopefully no sidebar to be distracted by.

While inbound marketing strategies will get the visitor to your landing page, it’s the copy or content that will motivate him to follow the path and be responsive to saying YES.

Your content needs to be conversational, effective, and provide the WIIFM (what’s in it for me). People are overwhelmed with the amount of information being bombarded at them and with all the offers for books, ebook, and products. You need to write copy that (1) quickly lets the reader know what you’re offering, (2) lets the reader know exactly what the benefits are, and (3) lets the reader know what you want her to do.

Landing pages are no place for guessing games. They need to be fine-tuned, to the point, and simple. The more hectic you make the page, the more anxiety it will cause the reader. Anxiety isn’t good for conversion. Simple always works best.

You should also create separate landing pages for different offers or purposes. In other words, you don’t want to explain why a visitor should opt into your mailing list on your book selling landing page. And, you shouldn’t sell books on your subscriber opt-in page. Focus is a key element to motivating or leading a visitor to go through the necessary steps to saying YES to whatever it is you’re offering.

Bringing traffic to landing pages is done through inbound marketing strategies, such as email campaigns, special offers, guesting posting, and press releases. Other inbound marketing techniques include pay-per-click, ad banners, social networks, and affiliates.


Do you want to extend your marketing reach as an author? Sign up now for Karen Cioffi's class, Creating and Building Your Author Online Presence: Website Creation to Beyond Book Sales, which starts Monday, January 7, 2013.
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How to Use Fiction Techniques when Writing Nonfiction

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Whatever you write, you have to grab your reader’s attention and pull them into your writing. One of the best ways for nonfiction writers to do this is to use fiction techniques—story, character and dialogue.

Yes, you’ll still be writing nonfiction because the facts are still the facts. You can’t alter them. You can’t make anything up. You simply focus on the ones that fit in the piece you are writing.

That’s what Jane Yolen did when she wrote Lost Boy: The Story of the Man Who Created Peter Pan. She didn’t include fact upon fact about Barrie’s novels, his messy divorce or many of his famous friends. These facts didn’t fit the story she was telling.

Instead, she included his brother’s death and his friendship with the Llewellyn Davies family. Why? Lost Boy tells the story of the man who created Peter Pan. The sorrows of his own childhood and the fun he had with the Llewelleyn Davies family played a part in the development of the play so they were part of this particular story about Barrie.

Great stories are peopled by fascinating characters. When you write nonfiction, these characters just happen to be real. Introducing readers to nonfiction characters means introducing them to the character that fits into the story you have chosen to tell.

When readers meet Theodore Roosevelt in Judith St. George’s You’re on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt, they aren’t meeting a robust Rough Rider. This isn’t the President of the United States. They meet a sickly boy in the midst of a night time asthma attack. A book worm. A science nerd. A would-be museum curator.

They meet this particular Roosevelt because his childhood health problems and having to deal with bullies led him to develop a fitness regime. This, in turn, helped him overcome bullies and physical illness and become Roosevelt, Rough Rider and President.

One of the best ways for readers to get to know a character is through that person’s own words. In nonfiction, this dialogue just happens to be true. It is made up of documented quotes found in interviews, public addresses, letters or journals, but finding them is worth the effort.

When Susanna Reich wrote Jose! Born to Dance, she could have told readers how Limon was feeling—at one point he was despondent over his inability to draw like the masters, at another he was elated when audiences responded to his dance.

But she didn’t. Instead Reich lets Limon speak for himself.

“New York is a cemetery. A jungle of stone.” You can feel the despair in his words.

“That night I tasted undreamed-of exaltation, humility, and triumph.” Strong words. Strong emotions. And part of the reason they are so effective is that they are his words.

Story. Character. Dialogue. They bring your work to life and hook your readers from beginning to end even if they are reading nonfiction.


In addition to writing her own nonfiction, SueBE is teaching the upcoming WOW! course Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.
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Carol Grannick, Second Place in Summer 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Merry Christmas to everyone! When I found out that Carol Grannick won second place in our flash fiction contest, I was thrilled. I know Carol from my days living in Illinois because we were both members of the wonderfully supportive SCBWI Illinois chapter. Then when I was assigned to interview her, I was even more excited. If you haven't read Carol's story that won second place, then read "Secondly" here. 

One other note, Carol writes a lot in the genre of children's and YA--her winning story reads very much like one perfect for teens. So, remember this when you are deciding whether or not to enter our flash fiction contest. We take all genres--we are wide open!

Carol is a writer and clinical social worker, who writes poetry, picture books, and middle grade/young adult fiction, as well as personal essays. She lives in the Chicagoland area and has been an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for over a decade. Several of her picture book manuscripts have won national awards, and her children’s fiction has appeared in Crickets and Highlights for Children. Her articles and essays have been published in national media as well as on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. Her new blog,, helps keep her on track, and her regular column for the Illinois-SCBWI newsletter, Prairie Wind, explores many aspects of the writer’s psychological and emotional journey.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Carol, and Merry Christmas! Let's start with talking about your second place contest win for your story, "Secondly." What inspired you to write this story?

Carol: I began writing from a seed of authenticity that veered quickly into fiction. The most important lesson I keep learning about my own writing is that when I can connect with a feeling that is authentic, even if that emotional experience is not "true" in the nonfiction sense, I find a powerful voice. If I can do that--and for me it's not easy--everything flows from that. The voice, the deep inside of my narrator, will help me determine the words I choose, the format, the length.

WOW: We are glad you found that "powerful voice" in this piece. So, what are the themes you are exploring in this short, but powerful, piece?

Carol: I think I wanted, unconsciously, to pose a moral dilemma for a character who feels victimized, then suddenly has the tables turned on her. During revision, I recall deciding that I would have her fail at taking the high road. Doing that left me thinking, wondering, seeing both sides. I felt it was a strong way to leave the reader thinking, also.

WOW: I think that's what makes your story stand out--we expect characters to take the "high road." Then when they don't, we are like, "WOW! I wonder what I would have done?" It gives the reader more to think about, in my opinion. We've known each other for a while through our SCBWI-IL connection. This story seems like it's targeted for young adults. Would you agree? Are there a lot of publication opportunities for short fiction for the YA market?

Carol: I do agree, Margo, absolutely. I'd say [ages] 13 to 17. I would love to see more markets for short fiction for young adults, but other than CICADA, and a number of wonderful anthologies with stories from somewhat to fairly well-known authors and illustrators, I'm not aware of potential markets.

WOW: I agree with you--as you and I discussed during this interview process--we need more YA short fiction. Hmmm. It's food for thought. (smiles) Why did you decide to enter WOW!'s contest?

Carol: I jumped at the chance to submit it to the WOW Summer Flash Fiction Contest because of the reasons above. My story had been sitting in a computer file, and the contest seemed to be a good match!

WOW: Yes, our contest is a potential market basically because if you win, you get prizes AND a publication! You are also a clinical social worker (your day job). Does this job play a part in what you choose to write for children? Or do you try to keep writing and day job separate?

Carol: I've been a clinical social worker in organizations and in private practice for decades; and other than a few short essays about people who are no longer in this world, whose names are never used, I do not use content from my therapeutic work. That sharing is confidential, and I've never breached those ethics. That said, I believe everything in life is interconnected. I neither see my therapeutic work as "separate" nor as automatic subject matter. The concerns that show in my writing are about my life concerns, whether that's ethical issues, body image issues (which has been a professional focus), the nature of facing down fears, or anything else.

WOW: You also have a regular column for the SCBWI-IL newsletter and a blog. How do you fit everything into your busy schedule?

Carol: I go out of my way to avoid negative stress. I wake and write very early in the morning; then there's non-writing work time; time to move my body; time for errands, participating in my community and politics; and more time to write and now explore illustrating my own picture books. I do well with a fairly planned schedule, which includes unscheduled time to relax with a book or my husband and/or friends. I'm not "crazy-busy," and I love time alone, as well as time with others. My blog is a simple commentary to keep me on track as I focus on my writing, and my column for the PRAIRIE WIND, the Illinois-SCBWI newsletter takes a lot of time, but it's periodic--and it helps me focus where I'm at as a writer. If I do happen to get too busy, I'll feel overwhelmed, take note of it, and remember Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. Then I just pick one thing to do.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful way to go about it. I completely agree that having a schedule helps you to fit more into your life, but you do have to give yourself time to relax and permission to change the schedule if need be. Thank you so much for your time today, Carol. Anything else you'd like to add?

Carol: Many thanks to you, Margo, for the interview, and to WOW! Women On Writing, for the great work they do and the ongoing opportunities they provide for us!

Margo L. Dill is a children's writer, blogger, online instructor, and editor. Visit her website here.

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A Writing Gift You Can Open Now

Monday, December 24, 2012

Have you ever participated in a blog hop among writers? Or maybe a blog party, where you visit all the participating bloggers? I love dropping in to blogs during these wordy events. It’s a great way to find new and sparkly writers (and blogs).

Last week, I blog-partied, visiting over thirty blogs, and somewhere around the tenth blog, I had one of those “Isn't this interesting?” moments. I realized that most of the blogs were lacking a name.

Now, I don’t mean the blogs didn't have clever names. In fact, writers are extremely clever and so I found many blogs with “punny” names. Like “The Write Word for the Job” (which I totally just made up. The writers’ blogs I visited were much more clever than that). What I didn't find on all these clever blogs was a name to identify the writer, a little something something to tell me who was behind all the clever words. Oh, there were occasional “About Me” tabs, but honestly, when you’re flitting from blog to blog, who has time to stop and click on the tabs?

Or maybe that’s just me. The point is, visiting a mystery blog is like…well, it’s like getting a gift with no idea who the sender is. You know how that drives you crazy? A tag with "To: You, From: Guess Who?" When you receive something nice, you want to know who to thank, right? You do not want to go zipping around here and there, trying to track down the Secret Santa.

Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, eventually, it was more than just my personal pet peeve. Around the halfway mark, I started to feel bad for all these talented bloggers—skillful, funny, madly creative bloggers who were writing their hearts out and not getting the promotional benefits to go along with it. Because see, one of the great perks for writers who participate in a blog hop or a blog party is getting new visitors to the blog. And if those new visitors connect with the blogger, they’ll be back.

So how do you, as a blogger, make that connection? Share a few personal details; give your readers a peek at your personality. Who’s writing the blog? And throw in other information: social media sites you’re on, or your membership in organizations, or where you've been published. And put these details on the front page. Sidebars are a great tool for that kind of info, and ready-made info widgets are yours for the taking (and slapping in your sidebar).

Just a little writing tip, sort of my “To: Bloggers, From: Cathy C. Hall” holiday present. And hey, if you don’t need it, I’m fine with you re-gifting it.

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It's Who You Know

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Writers, especially when beginning in the business, are told repeatedly to write "what you know." And while that adage has its perks, I've discovered that it's not always what I know, but WHO I know.

Think about it. More than likely, you have a lot of friends and those friends have friends. At work, you see colleagues daily. They undoubtedly have lives beyond the office, and I bet if you ponder for just a moment, you'll think about a work associate who would make a great feature subject. Plus, you have family, and somewhere in that cast of colorful characters, a story is waiting to take shape.

Think about the possible story ideas begging to be investigated!

I've made a fair amount of money penning feature stories for local, regional, and even national publications. And many of these stories featured people I know. For example,

  • Our neighbor's teenage son wrote a rap song and entered a contest. He won! His story made the front page of the local newspaper.
  • An 80-year old woman rounded up a group of friends, and together, they send care packages to our troops overseas. She just happened to be a friend of my in-laws. Story printed in a regional newspaper.
  • One day while eating lunch in a local cafe, the owner (friend of mine) let me know about a lady who designed and made the Homecoming crowns for the king and queen every year. The story ran in the local paper, a regional publication, and went out on the AP wire. 
  • Another friend's daughter conducted a major fundraiser to keep the town's swimming pool afloat. You guessed it! Another sale.
And don't forget to count yourself as an expert. Need an example or two?

  • A few years ago, I contracted a severe case of food poisoning - salmonella - that required a hospital stay (three days before my daughter's high school graduation). I told my story to a statewide magazine and received a hefty paycheck.
  • When a regional magazine solicited a Christmas story via Twitter, I jumped at the chance. They were looking for Christmas cooking traditions. I parlayed my family tradition into a double page spread that included multiple photos and three original recipes. 
Think about the people you know, their hobbies, offbeat travel destinations, volunteer experiences.

By writing WHO you know, you'll have a plethora of story ideas.

And that means money in the bank.

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Did We Mention FREE? New Classes and More in 2013

Saturday, December 22, 2012
If you are reading this post, you are either a) procrastinating buying and/or wrapping gifts for Christmas  b) recovering from a festive Hanukkah  c) thinking about your writing goals for 2013 d) unsuccessfully trying to come up with something spectacular to do on New Year's Eve  e) cursing those Mayans and their end of the world theories because you're still reading this post or f) all of the above. Whatever you're doing, thank you for taking some time out to learn the new stuff we have going on in the WOW! classroom for 2013.

First, we have a FREE class this January. Did I mention it's free? We are trying out a teleseminar class through the website You do have to pay long distance charges if they apply; but hopefully in today's telecommunication world you have a cell phone or unlimited long distance on your home phone, so this will still be "free." The topic is show versus tell and overwriting in children's literature from picture books to YA novels. It takes place on January 8 at 6:00 CST time, and we are hoping to record it for anyone who wants to attend, but can't. There's a super short registration form for you to fill out if you want to attend the class, so we know whom to expect. That link is: .  (We will contact you by e-mail to see what you thought after the class, but just once!)

Melanie Faith
We have some new classes, too! Melanie Faith is teaching MEMORY POWER! Crafting Fierce Flash Nonfiction, a class about writing brief (250 to 750 words) essays. The Muffin blogger and WOW! columnist Sue Bradford Edwards is now bringing her knowledge to the online classroom with her course WRITING NONFICTION FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. Lynne Garner is offering a class about how to turn your hobby into a writing project and get it published with her class, HOW TO WRITE A HOBBY BASED HOW TO BOOK. I'm offering two new classes this winter/spring: the first is WRITING WORKSHOP: WRITING A CHILDREN’S or YOUNG ADULT NOVEL , which is a class for anyone working on a novel for ages 7 to 18, and the second is Writing Children’s and Teen’s Short Fiction for Magazines and E-zines, which is a complementary class to Sue's about nonfiction. You can read the syllabi and sign up at this link:

Annette Fix
Besides the new classes, we have some old favorites, too, from memoir writing to finding an agent by former WOW! executive editor Annette Fix, building an online presence by Karen Cioffi, literary devices by Gila Green, finding your muse by Kelly L. Stone, journey through life's losses by Alice J. Wisler, novel writing by Diane O’Connell and Renate Reimann, PhD, and more! Don't forget we have some classes that are offered every week or every month--self-publishing by Deanna Riddle; writing screenplays, plays, or TV pilots by Christina Hamlett; and beginning freelance writing by Nicky LaMarco. We can answer questions about any class here in the comments OR by e-mailing classroom (at) wow-womenonwriting (dot) com. Have you signed up for our free newsletter yet? This is a good way to keep track of our new class offerings and when a new issue goes LIVE! You can sign up for FREE on our home page:

Karlyn Thayer
We want to send our deepest sympathies to the family, friends, students, and colleagues of former WOW! instructor Karyln Thayer who passed away earlier this month. We have heard such wonderful things from her former students about how much her classes helped them, and we are hoping her family can find some peace and comfort this holiday season.

And to all of you, the holidays become such a busy time of year--no matter where you are or what you celebrate. Being a writer often seems to get lost in that shuffle. Don't be too hard on yourself and enjoy your time with family and friends, knowing that January 2, 2013, you are ready to tackle your writing goals. If taking a class from us (don't forget the FREE one) is something that will help you, then we'll "see" you in the classroom.

Margo L. Dill is an editor and online instructor for WOW! Her first children's middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength in Vicksburg, came out in October 2012. To find out more about Margo, you can visit her website and blog at

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Friday Speak Out!: A Legacy For The Victims, Guest Post By Jeanine DeHoney

Friday, December 21, 2012
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School my heart grieved along with the nation at such an unconceivable and horrendous occurrence. I tried to focus on the commonplace things that ordered my day; cooking, checking my e-mails, working on multiple stories, but my mind kept going back to the horror that unfolded for the world to see. I wished, prayed that the day could be rewound and maybe something; like a boiler breaking, had closed the school. But it hadn’t. And then on the news I heard about a teacher who kept her children calm in the midst of such chaos by reading to them. So I reached in my file cabinet, swallowed back my tears and pulled out a children’s manuscript.

I had worked with precocious preschoolers for over twenty-five years. They were delightful; sometimes quite a handful but I loved them all. They loved for me to read them stories; “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr., “Amazing Grace,” by Mary Hoffman. So as a writer to heal the pain in my heart I pulled out a children’s manuscript that I had long put aside and began to revise it and then e-mailed it to a publisher.

It was funny. About a family of mice. I imagined a child reading it and rolling around in laughter until their belly ached, a child bright-eyed, and full of wonder like the ones that were lost. I imagined they loooooved books as all kindergarteners and first graders do. I imagined that the night before, after they put on their pajamas and were tucked into bed, a parent sat beside them to read their favorite bedtime story. And maybe this time, something they will always have to scent their memory, when their child asked to hear it one more time, they agreed, and nestled even closer for a second helping of storytime not knowing it would be their last. And I imagined that their teacher probably had assembled a ginormous reading list of only the best children’s books for them and it was the most anticipated part of their day when they were read to because she used gestures and her voice became animated and even the most squirmiest child would sit still when being entertained like that. As those happy images eased some of my grief, I made a pack with myself to write more children’s stories. Hopefully they will get published. Hopefully they will cushion a child’s heart, and be a time of tender bonding for parents and children, and be on a teacher’s reading list of must reads for inspiration.

Once upon a time I felt my literary calling was to other women because of the solidarity we shared. Now I have a newborn commitment to writing for children. I want to create a paper trail of stories that will make our most precious commodities hearts dance with unabashed giggles in a world that can be full of cruel human beings and catastrophes and sorrow. No, I won’t abandon my adult peers. But I will sleep better knowing that I am as dedicated to crafting a great story for young children just as the teachers, principal and other staff members who lost their lives were dedicated to giving the youngest victims of this tragedy educational wings to soar. For me that is the best way to honor each of their lives as a writer.

  * * *
Jeanine DeHoney is a former assistant and Family Services coordinator at a daycare center. As a freelance writer she has had her writing published in several magazines, and online blogs including Good Enough Mother, The Mom Egg, Mused-Bella Online, Literary Mama, The Muffins-Friday Speak Out, Family Fun, and Tea Magazine. She's also been published in "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul," Devozine, Tea Magazine and Reunions Magazine. Jeanine is also a contributing writer to Esteem Yourself E-Magazine.
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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Writers Must be Vulnerable

Thursday, December 20, 2012
I am a very private person; yet writing means that I must be vulnerable. It's an odd thing, but writing only takes on power when you allow yourself to BE yourself. This TED Talk video by Brene Brown (viewed over 7 million times!) reminds me yet again of the need to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there--in life, but for sure in your writing.

If you can't see this video, click here. Note, also, that you can read the transcript of the video on the TED Talks site, available in multiple languages.

Where is it hardest for you to be vulnerable? For me, it's the emotions that are difficult. Growing up, I had an alcoholic step-father and I learned not to show emotions to anyone, essentially to squelch those emotions, to deny them. It's still hard today to allow my writing to touch the emotional depths that make for great storytelling. When an emotional scene succeeds, it's because I've allowed myself to be the most vulnerable.

As Brene Brown puts it:

This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- and that's really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that's excruciatingly difficult -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive."

To write vulnerable, it means I'm alive.

Note: Brene Brown has several books available on these topics. See here for more info.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at
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Writing Picture Books: Set Yourself a Challenge

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
By Lynne Garner

A few months ago the lovely ladies at WOW sent me a link for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). Children's author Tara Lazar devised the concept. The basic idea is to come up with 30 ideas for picture books over a 30-day period. Thankfully, you're not expected to complete 30 manuscripts in 30 days. Simply come up with at least one new idea per day. This could be a title, a character, an idea based on something you saw or perhaps overheard.

I'll admit the idea was a little scary. I debated for a week or so before I took the plunge and signed up. I've seldom had a problem coming up with ideas but I definitely felt out of my comfort zone during this challenge. Some days I struggled to come up with anything. Other days I had two, sometimes even three, ideas. For example, whilst driving home on day 12 I had three ideas. First, I spotted a For Sale sign that had a large black hen on it. A few days earlier I'd read The Little Red Hen. I now had a friend for her, a big black hen. The story will focus on how these two friends use their size difference to help one another. Secondly, seeing a queue at a bus stop reminded me of a joke where people joined a queue but didn't know what they were queuing for. So this story will focus on what each character hopes is at the front of the queue. Finally, I was stuck behind a very slow moving tractor. Thankfully I had plenty of time, but this made me think about how life seems to put slow things in your way when you are running late. So this story will focus on how my character deals with slow things when he needs to be fast.

Taking part in Picture Book Ideas Month has reinforced my belief that ideas can be hidden around every corner. It has also highlighted to me that in order to improve your writing you have to set yourself the odd challenge or two. This challenge could be anything. Perhaps writing in a story format you've never used, crafting a story in rhyme or telling a story with a limited number of words. It could be joining a local writing group or a national group such as SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writes & Illustrators), writing a story to enter into a competition or, as I did, signing up for Picture Book Ideas Month.

So, go on, give your writing a boost and set yourself a challenge.


Would you like to try writing a picture book? Sign up now for Lynne Garner's class, How to Write Children’s Picture Books and Get Published, which starts on January 5, 2013.

If you've taken a picture book course before then you can enroll in Lynne's advanced course, 5 Picture Books in 5 Weeks (Advanced Course), which also starts on the same day.

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Summer '12 Flash Fiction 1st Place Winner: G.G. Silverman

Tuesday, December 18, 2012
G.G. Silverman lives north of Seattle with her husband and dog, both of whom are ridiculously adorable. When she isn’t writing, she loves to explore the mossy woods and wind-swept coast of the Pacific Northwest, which provide moody inspiration for all her stories. She also enjoys bouts of inappropriate laughter, and hates wind chimes because they remind her of horror movies.

She holds a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and also completed the Writing for Children program at the University of Washington. She also owns a branding and graphic design firm.

Ms. Silverman placed as a finalist in the 2012 PNWA annual literary awards for her short story, “The Black Dog of Porto Negro.” She is currently working on her first YA novel, a hilarious feminist twist on the zombie genre. Chat with her on Twitter @GG_Silverman

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Summer 2012 writing contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

GG: Thank you! I’ve been putting serious effort into launching my writing career over the last few years. I’m building up a body of work, and wanted to test the water for my stories, to get some validation and ultimately publish. WOW! has a great reputation with incredible guest judges every season, so your contest seemed like the right opportunity to do all of that. Having my story published on your site has given me fantastic credibility as a writer.

WOW: Thanks for the kind words about WOW! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, The House of Butterflies?

GG: It was inspired by a life-changing conversation with a friend. I was at a critical point with the last draft of my novel, where I had major fears about expressing darker ideas, and she asked how my writing was going. I said I was afraid that when my book was finished and I came out of my shell as a writer, that I’d be seen as a frightening spider instead of a beautiful butterfly, and the world would revile my work. That’s when she told me it was okay to be a spider, that the world needs spiders. So, I’ve embraced my spiderness, meaning, I’m being true to myself as a writer and have accepted my position as someone who explores darker themes. The House of Butterflies has become a sort of personal manifesto. It’s my first published work, and I’m taking it as a sign that I’m becoming who I’m meant to become.

WOW: What a wonderful development for you. I love that you’re embracing your spiderness. Have you always enjoyed the genre, and how did you learn to write great flash fiction?

GG: I discovered flash fiction two years ago. It started as a way to keep writing when I need to take small breaks from my novel. I believe it’s important to write as much as you can, because you get better and faster with practice and time.

Also, I like to write flash fiction when I travel. It’s fun to dash off a story on a flight and have a sense of completion. Though the polishing aspect can be maddening, sometimes requiring up to eleven or twelve drafts. Writing a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end, in a very limited word count, while creating an evocative atmosphere with beautiful description, is quite challenging. But I love it. I really believe that flash fiction makes you a better writer.

It’s also a great way to honor readers who are busy and want a satisfying story they can read quickly. With the increasing popularity of e-readers, I think flash fiction is here to stay.

WOW: It's always interesting to learn about other people's writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

GG: For starters, I take a long walk every day, and I’m fortunate to live near incredible trails. My favorite walk is through a burnt-out swamp punctuated by dead, spiky trees. A bald eagle is usually perched overhead, and the sky can be really moody. The quiet atmosphere is meditative, and ideas often come to me there. Sometimes they come in the voice of a character. I might record a thought or a scrap of dialogue on my phone with a voice recorder app. If it resonates with me after my walk is done, then it’s something I’m really excited about, and I try to express it in writing.

I’m also a self-employed graphic designer, and keep a flexible work schedule so I can write or edit a few hours each day, usually in the afternoon. But unexpected things do happen, so I’ve learned to seize odd bits of time to write productively in short bursts whenever I can. I usually write first drafts long-hand (if it’s my novel, a chapter at a time) then transcribe and edit on the computer. When I write long-hand, I can do it anywhere, but when I’m on the computer, I prefer the ergonomic set-up of my office. When I’m writing, I have a strict No Internet rule. No Facebook or Twitter. I allow myself only fifteen minutes at the beginning of the day, but I’ll spend more time during lunch or when I’m done for the day, because I believe it’s important to start cultivating an audience and connecting with people.

Once every few months, as a special treat, my husband and I take short road trips to the coast to get away from the distractions of everyday life. We hole up in a cabin and soak up the scenery for inspiration, while getting lots of writing done.

WOW: Walking always yields lots of ideas for me too. What's one bit of advice you would give to aspiring writers?

GG: Discipline and perseverance are everything. Practice writing until you realize that you can’t not write, that you would feel sick if a few days went by and you haven’t written. By then, you’ll develop the momentum and stamina you need to do great work.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, G.G.! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

GG: Rejection is a blessing. It’s an opportunity for you to go back, take another pass at your work, and make it sing.

And, don't rush to submit. Taking an extra day to let a piece breathe, so you can review it with fresh eyes, can make a world of difference.


The Winter 2013 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For details, visit:
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Are you ready for the end of the world? 2012: The Rising by Joanne Hirase

Monday, December 17, 2012
If you have cable TV then you’ve probably heard that the end of the world is less than a week away. National Geographic and the History Channel are chock-full of shows preparing us for the impending apocalypse on December 21, 2012. While most of us busy ourselves with holiday shopping and getting ready for the New Year, isn’t there something in the back of your mind that makes you wonder if it’s all going to go down?

WOW team member Joanne Hirase explores these theories in her debut novel 2012: The Rising, and we’re celebrating its release! You may not immediately recognize Joanne because she does a lot of work behind the scenes, but she’s been an integral part of WOW since 2007! Besides her work with WOW, Joanne is corporate in-house counsel for Hoku Corporation and adjunct professor at Idaho State University. She lives in southeastern Idaho with her husband Bill and their rescue dogs. Find out more about Joanne by visiting

So pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage, and join us for an intimate conversation as we find out more about Joanne’s debut novel!

2012: The Rising

by Joanne Hirase

Several ancient civilizations have predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012, but Mac Carter doesn’t believe it will happen. He believes he’ll wake up on December 22 and the world will be the same. When he meets the mysterious Vareeda Shintuk, his beliefs are questioned. He struggles to resist her message about the great threat to humanity and his power to alter the fate of the universe, but her words are powerful and mesmerizing. As he puts together the horrifying truth, he discovers he is the key to a future for mankind.

Mac finds himself tangled in a chaotic double life of lies, deceit, and evil. He struggles to do the right thing, but will he succeed?

Publisher: Musa Publishing (December 14, 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-61937-321-1
Word Count: 102,000

2012: The Rising is available as an e-book through Musa Publishing, Barnes & Noble, and


WOW: Joanne, welcome to The Muffin. Ever since I’ve known you, I always thought you’d write a women’s fiction, mystery, or maybe even a children’s or YA novel . . . but science fiction? I never would’ve guessed it! What inspired you to write in this genre?

Joanne: My husband got hooked on Ancient Aliens and Histories Mysteries. He started telling me all about the 2012 theories, and concocted a book plot in detail. I took notes, and asked a lot of questions. He DVR’d all of the shows, told me which ones were relevant, sat me down in front of the television, and I caught the fever too!

WOW: Oh, that’s great. I love Ancient Aliens—especially the guy with the big hair! And I love that those shows are on the History Channel. So did you collaborate with your husband beyond that initial brainstorming session? Any tips for successful collaboration with a spouse?

Joanne: If I had questions or got stuck, my husband helped talk it out. We argued about a few things, and unfortunately he’s almost always right. (But don’t tell him I said that!) I had to walk away, think it through, and then have a rational conversation about the issue. We’re both strong personalities, so to successfully collaborate, we had to approach this the way we approach all decisions we make—with a lot of back and forth and give and take. The great thing about fiction is we can create the scene the way it makes us happy.

WOW: I remember my first serious boyfriend introduced me to the Mayan prophecies and how their calendar is set to end on December 21, 2012. I’ve been fascinated by the theories for years, and I can’t believe the date is almost here! Your book, 2012: The Rising, incorporates some of these theories. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about through your research?

Joanne: The most surprising thing I learned is that there are so many theories about December 21, 2012. I honestly didn’t know about anything other than the Mayan calendar, so when I started digging around, I couldn’t believe what I found! Now when I hear about a natural disaster or an asteroid passing close to Earth, it makes me think about the end of the world.

WOW: 2012: The Rising has a riveting plot, but at its core it’s a character-driven novel. The book contains several triangles—Mac, the protagonist, and his girlfriend Emma, and Mac’s best friend Rusty. Then there’s the beautiful and mysterious Vareeda . . . there’s a lot of tension and conflict! How did you go about forming the main characters in your book?

Joanne: I had an idea of what Mac would be like, and formed the other characters around him. I love the book First Draft in 30 Days, and used some of the worksheets to help me think the setting and characters through. Creating characters is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I try living their life with all the hopes, fears, and doubts they experience, and it’s amazing how well I get to know them all.

WOW: Writers will be happy to know that your book started as a NaNoWriMo project. For those that are sitting on their rough drafts right now, what advice do you have for them when they pick up the red pen in January? (If we survive the apocalypse, of course! ;)

Joanne: Love what you wrote, but love your audience more! It’s painful to edit, but to keep your readers going, sometimes you have to delete those wonderful words. I redline using Track Changes and save my drafts just in case I want to bring something back. However, after I’ve cut scenes out, I’ve never put one back!

WOW: That’s great to know and makes me feel better about cutting. Okay, so I have to mention this marketing challenge you’re facing at the moment. Your book just came out last Friday, December 14, and your book is about the end of the world on December 21, 2012. That’s exactly one week to market it and make sales. Sure, you can sell books after the date, but the topic will be less timely. What are you doing to get the word out, and how can your fellow writers help?

Joanne: Besides the huge WOW! community that reads The Muffin, I’m blessed to have Dianna Graveman of 2 Rivers Communications & Design on my side. She is an amazing marketer, and is helping me create buzz. I’m getting a lot of compliments on my website that she built, and on my book trailer that Kim McDougal of Blazing Trailers made. Without Dianna and Kim, I’d be in a panic! Social media seems to be the best marketing tool, and fellow writers can help by retweeting, liking, and sharing!

WOW: I love your website and trailer! They did a great job. Have you seen National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers show? I find it enthralling. Have you considered marketing to survivalists?

Joanne: I have seen Doomsday Preppers, and have actually been accused of being a prepper! I live on a mountain pass, and it would be hard for me to get to the store if something were to happen, so I have a fairly abundant food storage (for the dogs too!) We are reaching out to everyone that we think will be interested, because you just never know . . .

WOW: Thank you, Joanne, for taking the time to chat with us today! Please tell us what’s next for you.

Joanne: I have three sci-fi manuscripts in the works—one needs editing, and two need to be finished. I also have a mystery that I’ll start marketing again, plus three other manuscripts that need to be pulled out and reworked. Clearly, I’ve been writing for years, and to finally get published gives me that extra incentive to want to publish more!

WOW: Congratulations on your success! You’ve hooked me already. I can’t wait to read more from you.

Readers, find out more about Joanne by visiting her website, following her on twitter @JHiraseStacey, and on facebook

If you have a question for Joanne or want to talk about your end of the world theories, please leave a comment! :)

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Keeping track of your characters

Sunday, December 16, 2012
Credit | Flickr Keyofnight
In graduate school for creative writing, I had a classmate who conceived of an elaborate way of tracking her characters. She combed consumer magazines clipping advertisements for furniture, perfume, and clothing that her characters would buy. In three-ring binders, she would carefully glue her characters' homes onto pages and pages.

When she returned to edit her work, she could review the pages and center herself in her characters' lives.

But what if you are, like I am, not as meticulous at tracking your character details? In Margo's question posted last week, she wondered what are some good ways to keep track of character details? I have a couple ways that I keep track, but they are generally not cut-and-paste and a three-ring binder.

First, I find that with my work, I like to start writing first. After I've written several pages, I backup and develop my characters' personalities outside of my story. Sometimes I'll take out an unlined piece of paper and sketch what I think my main characters look like. But mainly I will build out the characters by building their bio.

Some writers prefer doing this electronically (in a spreadsheet, for example). I prefer to write about my characters in a handmade spreadsheet on a piece of notebook paper. Pen to paper allows me to doodle and write in the margins--something I feel is more free flowing and creative.

What do I write down? Here are some suggestions to start with (some more obvious than others):
  1. Age (this will color a lot going forward)
  2. Eye and hair colors and other physical traits
  3. Education
  4. Favorite book or music
  5. Likes and dislikes (foods, movies, cars, clothes)
  6. Major motivation(s)
  7. Describe what is in his/her pocket/purse
 And if I'm editing and, as the author, had forgotten to create the spreadsheet, I will start the spreadsheet as I edit. As I find gaps in my descriptions of the characters, it becomes an exercise of filling in the blank. Such a system can also help to flesh out errors in the characters' descriptions when you find that the main character has blue eyes on page 10 and brown eyes on page 54.

What characteristics do you generally come up with first in your writing? 

Also, if you have a question about editing (or writing), ask in the comments section and I'll (try to) answer  you in my next post.

Elizabeth King Humphrey received her master's in creative writing from UNC Wilmington. One of her professors, Clyde Edgerton, has written some very colorful characters--check out his work if you haven't had a chance.

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The Writer's Portfolio

Saturday, December 15, 2012
In the corner of our living room, a glass-topped end table topples with papers and magazines, waiting for me to find time or a rainy day to clip my clips and place them in a physical file (and no, I'm not talking file 13). And since the end of the year is approaching rapidly, I need to get said articles filed ASAP; otherwise, I'll be pulling double duty once 2013 begins.

But I'm also wondering if I need a physical file. I have links to my work on my website. Is an electronic version of my portfolio enough? Or do I need both types?

I don't mind keeping both a physical and online portfolio of my articles. Granted, I don't always have time to get the items cut out of the paper, placed in a sheet protector and stored in a jumbo-sized notebook. Plus, I don't always find time to update my online clip list. I'm six months behind as I write this blog post. Eventually I'll get caught up.

Experience tells me I need both.

This week, an editor from a publication I've written for previously (read: once) requested clips. I was able to send links to some of my best work, and since the publication features agriculture, I was able to create PDF files of a 3-part series I wrote for the industry and submit these newly-created files.

It's a win-win for everyone involved.

Experience tells me I need to promote my online listing as much as possible.

I can direct editors and other interested parties to my website to find my most recent newspaper columns, updated weekly, and additional vital information.

Experience tells me to post my best work online.

I am able to choose whether or not I will post a business profile, feature article, or sports story. I am able to streamline my clips to fit the profile of a potential publication.

For me, I use and feel the need for both styles. It's a compilation of hard work and dedication, a showcase of the strongest stories I've written.

Do you keep an electronic and print version of your writing portfolio?

by LuAnn Schindler
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Friday Speak Out!: Start at the End, guest post by Sioux Roslawski

Friday, December 14, 2012
Start from the beginning. No, that’s not what I meant to say.

Start from the middle. No, that’s not quite it, either. Start at the end.

There. That’s more like it.

As children, if we were lucky enough to have a teacher who encouraged us to write down our stories, we usually heard the same advice. “Just tell the story. Start from the beginning.” And if we followed those directions, it certainly didn’t lead us down the wrong path. However, if we had chosen a different route, the journey might have been a bit more intriguing.

Sometimes, beginning at the end of the story and flashing back is a wise choice. Whether you’re working on a novel or a short story or a memoir, don’t fall for the idea that you must tell your story in chronological order.

Consider opening with some action. Some dialogue. Think about a beginning that causes a sense of disequilibrium.

You stumble over that last line. Dissss-e-kwil-what? It’s too early for anything beyond a monosyllable? You haven’t had your morning dose of coffee/tea/chocolate/Mimosas yet? My apologies.

Start off your story in a way that causes some instability or imbalance. Make the reader wonder, and thus wander further into your tale because they’re intrigued.

For example, I had this beginning for a childhood memoir of mine. I didn’t open with getting my swimsuit on and gathering together my towel and snack money. I didn’t begin with walking to the pool. Instead, this is how I started:

Still, decades later, I have no idea exactly how it happened. Did I stumble and slip, like a thread through a needle, through the opening in the guardrail? Did I veer off the edge, despite the sandpapery surface I walked along? I have no clue what caused the accident. All I know is one moment I was fine, high above all the neighborhood houses that surrounded me and the next moment, I was half on the concrete and half in the water.

It all began on a typical June afternoon.

So, consider beginning at the end of the story or the middle and using flashbacks to fill in the holes. Give the reader something a bit different when it comes to the organization of your story. They’ll appreciate it…

* * *
 Sioux Roslawski has been published in three (so far) Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several Not Your Mother's Book collections. A third grade teacher with the Ferguson-Florissant School District, she is also one of the five founding members of the famed WWWP writing critique group. Her musings can be found 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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How Writers Can Use Pinterest

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Way back in March, I wrote a post about Pinterest.  At that time, I had been contemplating using it to save images to use in my research.  Given potential copyright issues, I decided it just wasn’t worth the bother.

That was then.  This is now.

I still don’t use Pinterest to save images found while researching various writing projects.  Instead, I use it to pick new topics.  After these projects are published, I use Pinterest to attract new readers.


If you aren’t familiar with Pinterest, members visit this site to do image searches on anything that interests them.  There are categories for Animals, History and Science and Nature.  You can also do keyword searches.

When I am researching new topics, I click on “Popular.”  Granted, this isn’t as focused as a search on Photography or Weddings, but it does tell me what people are Pinning (this is the Pinterest term for copying an image to your own page, called a Board).

One of my primary writing gigs is for  If I click on Popular and see numerous pins that involve initials or various words or blocks of text used in craft activities, I brainstorm something along these lines for grader school students.  The same goes for string art, polymer clay and food served in ice cream cones.

Pinning Down New Readers

Once publishes my activities, I Pin the images back to my own boards.  I have a board for Activities and Crafts and another for Science Projects.  Because I took the photos and link back to, with their permission, there aren’t any issues with who owns what and thus no copyright hang ups.  And, if someone repins an image to their own board, that’s more traffic driven our way.

I don’t stop there.  I’ve been taking a lot of nature photos to use in my blog posts about writing.  A board labeled, obviously enough, Nature Photos links back to my personal blog.  Another board, What I’ve Been Reading, links back to either my book review blog or my personal writing blog.  On days someone repins one of my photos, I see a bump up in traffic.

What if you don’t write book reviews or crafts?  Then think about what you do write.  If you write fiction, where is your novel set?  If it is a real place, and it is someplace that you visited and took research photos, then put up a board.

Maybe you took scads of photos of clothing and furniture so that you’d be certain to get period details right.  Create a board.

Food.  Animals. Health and Fitness.  Geek.  All of these and more are categories on Pinterest. Not that this has to limit you in any way.  After all, people can find you with a keyword search.

Get out your camera.  Brainstorm about your book and start promoting yourself.


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

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For The Writer Who Makes A Wish List

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
It’s the time of year for wish lists, right? And maybe you have a whole slew of great writer gifts on your wish list (and I hope you get ‘em!). But I’m not talking about that kind of wish list. I’m talking about the list you drew up in the beginning of the year, way back in January when 2012 was sparkly and new and you wished for…well, what did you wish for?

A publishing contract? An agent? Maybe a couple acceptances from those magazines and ezines you've been querying?

Whatever your writer’s heart desired, you may have written it all down on a nifty, highly organized list. That’s what I do. And in December, I pull out my list to see how I've done.

So, friends, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to making a list. The good news is that you have this nifty, highly organized list of everything you hoped to achieve in 2012. Everything you wanted to accomplish is right there, conveniently spelled out in black and white (though I’m partial to colored ink pens, so for me, teal and white). And look! You can check off this hope, this dream, this wish! Whee!

But now you must face the bad news. Because there is also everything you wanted to accomplish and didn't, conveniently spelled out in black (or teal) and white.

So checking the list twice is not always a fun activity. In fact, it can be a rather depressing activity. Fortunately, I have a cheer-myself-up activity: I read W. B. Yeat’s poem, To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Nothing. (Yes, I know it doesn't sound cheery right now, but bear with me. It gets better.)

Now, I have no idea who William’s friend was who needed a boost; it’s likely that this poem was meant to cheer a comrade in a political context. But I've always thought it would work well for those of us in the arts. I know this poem always makes me feel better, especially the last bit: Be secret and exult, because of all things known that is most difficult.

I do exult, eventually, in spite of failures. I know that though long, hair-pulling hours at the keyboard may not be rewarded today, they will bear fruit someday. I know that if I keep pushing myself, and keep making those lists, and checking off the small successes, at some point, the bigger successes will come. I believe that persistence pays off, even if now, it appears my work has come to nothing.

So check your list. And don’t cry or pout. Be secret and exult, friends. You will succeed, as long as you keep working at your writing.

~Cathy C. Hall
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