Fiction is Fiction is Fiction: So Take a Risk and Write for a New Audience

Sunday, June 30, 2013
As a writing teacher, I often surprise people and tell them that I teach the same things regardless of the audience. It doesn’t matter if I teach a fiction class to a 3rd grade class or a class of advanced novelists, the techniques are the same. Of course, the sophistication of the finished writing project is another story. But really, fiction is fiction. There is character, plot, setting, theme, descriptions, action, and so on. The language of story remains the same, the techniques remain the same, regardless of where I teach.

I am reminding myself of this truth because I realized I was stuck in a rut, thinking about my own writing in certain terms. I write middle grade fiction. I would never write __________(fill in the blank here with a long list of no-nos). Or, try this one: I write fiction. I would never write nonfiction.

This summer, I am challenging myself to stretch for new audiences, new genres. I am writing an adult sff (science fiction fantasy—the abbreviation used by most in the field) short story. Whoa! Adult audience. Short story. Only the sff feels comfortable.

This summer, I am working on a book proposal for a nonfiction, nature book for middle grade audience. Now, I’ve done nonfiction nature picture books. But a book proposal? Middle grade audience?

Why stretch? Because I have gotten stagnant and need to find new enthusiasm for projects that I can write with passion. I didn’t have to change audiences, genres, forms, I could have just found a renewed passion for old paths. But as much as I like habits—and I really like my habitual world—I also like going new places and doing new things, as this photo proves. I think my writing needs that, too.

Standing on the border between Poland and Ukraine, May 2013.

What about your writing? What bold new projects will you attempt?


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at Follow Darcy on Pinterest.
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POV: Change It to Come Up with a Whole New Story

Saturday, June 29, 2013
Last week, I read Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist poems by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich. The authors challenge their readers to write fairy tale poems of their own by picking a character in the story and then creating a whole new twist on an old tale.

When Dotlich and Yolen did this, they wrote poems from the wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty, from the Gingerbread Boy, and the Troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Each one brought an offbeat slant to a tale we thought we knew inside out and backwards. These new perspectives make it clear that we didn’t have the inside scoop before and we may not have it even now.

Maybe you’ve got a fairy tale that you absolutely love but you know it has been done to death. What could you do to shake it up for a new picture book story?

In The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, author Jon Scieszka retells this familiar tale from the wolf’s point of view. No doubt, his editor had seen dozens of stories from the pigs’ point of view, but writing the story that the wolf wanted to tell make it fresh and new and absolutely hilarious.

I’ve been working on a Billy Goats Gruff story set in a modern grade school. My story is told from the point of view of the smallest, but the smartest, kid. We see things from this slightly warped point of view that is determined to get even for all the other kids who have been tormented. He may not be bigger or badder than the Troll (bully) but that isn’t slowing him down.

Do you have a story that would benefit from a whole new point of view or a funky twist? We know agents and editors have seen plenty of bed time stories, going to grandma’s for the weekend, first day of school and moving stories. If you have something in one of these categories, explore new points of view and see what kind of story this yields.

You may find yourself writing a poetic tale about a Frog Prince who wants to move but can’t get the King and Queen to look at new ponds.

Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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Friday Speak Out!: Writing, Not Making Moonshine, Guest post by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Friday, June 28, 2013
My process of generating writing can appear as being as interesting as counting wood shavings on a busy carpentry shop’s floor. Like most word players, I generate my ideas, organize them, and then develop my language according to the situation into which I want to place them. Thereafter, I focus on rewriting.

Rewriting is a lackluster operation, albeit one without which there can be no worthwhile product. There’s little glamour in struggling with nuances of expression, in sorting important ideas toward the goal of making discourse seem effortlessly eased into existence, or in improving the mechanical precision of texts. Like forming desserts from egg whites, good writing is necessarily laborious; the deed requires much thrashing.

What’s more, in my case, there are no accolades forthcoming from my dearest others to support me in my process. My adored sons and daughters and beloved spouse roll their eyes when I announce what they esteem as “yet another” acceptance. As well, they rant loudly, with familial impunity, if I insist on offering up what looks to be, per their measurement, a goofy text, or something otherwise viewed as embarrassing, such as works concerning menopause or narratives about invisible hedgehogs. To wit, my writing necessarily gets scrutinized by my local critical thinkers after it has milled through my process, but long before it reaches the desk of persons whose names can be found on mastheads.

I strive to salvage a smidgen of self-worth by striving not to care what my family thinks. After all, I’m engaged in writing, not in making moonshine.

Consider that other authors: create their works for folks interested in similar topics, let loose any and all critters roaming their heads and then stick around or not for subsequently needed cleanup, or get wasted on questionable substances before offering the results of their chemically-influenced fancies to publishing venues. More often than not, other word shufflers: insist on describing the rails and bricks of outhouses, adamantly remark on dysfunctional mobile phones SIM cards, assert their right to publicly contemplate the merits of edible wild flowers, and aver, in general, their entitlement to write wonky bits. As for me, I write what seems cool, and then subject my text to the caprices of my family.

No writers ought to be made culpable for the quirks of industry; we merely take responsibility for the decisions we make about why and how we write. In my case, the reality remains that the folks who love my writing best are not kin, but are: academics, professional parents, and lovers of speculative fiction. They resemble me; I mimic them.

So, while I eschew notions such as “adequate sleep gives us luscious skin, helps us control our metabolisms, and makes us feel energized” and while I write neither romances nor mysteries, I get my groove on with: hard core science fiction, social morality essays, and poetry concerning lint found in pretend critters’ navels. Essentially, I write for me.

* * *
KJ Hannah Greenberg eats oatmeal and keeps company with a hibernaculum of sometimes rabid imaginary hedgehogs. Those critters, in turn, take bites out of brooding critics, uncomplimentary readers, and assorted nocturnal terrors. Her most recent books include: Can I be Rare, Too? (Barometric Pressures, Forthcoming, 2013), Intelligence’s Vast Bonfires (Lazarus Media, 2012), Supernal Factors (The Camel Saloon Books on Blog, 2012), Fluid & Crystallized (Fowlpox Press, 2012), Don’t Pet the Sweaty Things (Bards and Sages Publishing, 2012), A Bank Robber’s Bad Luck with His Ex-Girlfriend (Unbound CONTENT, 2011), and Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting (French Creek Press, 2010).

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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When Fear Holds You Back

Thursday, June 27, 2013
I’ll be honest here. I recently faced an event in my personal life that I let bother me way more than I should have. I let it threaten to derail everything I’ve been working toward in my writing career throughout the past few years. I’m normally not an anxious person, but this time around, I let all the “what ifs” that linger in the back of every writer’s mind take front and center. I experienced symptoms that manifested themselves both physically and emotionally. I let fear paralyze me. I watched the items on my work “to do” list remain unchecked and the progress on my fiction stalled. I wondered if I’d ever be able to pull myself out of the abyss.

I guess my point in all this is that when something like this happens to you, you have to eventually make a choice. Are you going to let it define you and diminish all you have accomplished or are you going to fight back?

For me, I fought back. I’ve always been a fighter, and this time really was no different. I had some good conversations with my husband, my friends and my family, and slowly, I found the courage to move forward. Luckily for me, I’ve been taking a children’s writing workshop, which gave me a deadline I needed to meet. Otherwise, there’s no telling how long I would have delayed getting back to my writing.

On the day I was supposed to work on my next chapter, I procrastinated. I straightened up the house, I read a little, I watched some mindless television. Finally, my husband took the kids out of the house so I could have some quiet time to write and I had no choice. I opened up iTunes and scanned all the songs, trying to find one that would give me strength. I landed on an old favorite by Alanis Morissette.

“But you, you’re not allowed, you’re uninvited. An unfortunate slight.”

The song spoke to me on a number of different levels. It fit well with the storyline of one of my characters and I also saw it as an anthem for anyone suffering from writer’s block. Whatever works, right? I opened up the file and faced my greatest fear. Would I find the words I needed to move the story forward? I began typing, and guess what? I finished a rough draft of the chapter within an hour, and channeling my feelings helped me take risks I never would have imagined myself taking before, with both dialogue and plot.

I refuse to give up. Writing is part of who I am and I deserve every bit of happiness it brings me. Next time, I need to remember that from the start.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.
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What Happens When You Hate Your Writing?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I'm gearing up for Write Across Nebraska, the Nebraska Writer's Guild version of NaNoWriMo that lasts one weekend in July. Typically, I write around 1,000 words a day, but during this event, I want to try to get at least 2,500 words (realistically, I'm aiming for 5,000) in finished product form.

The problem: Lately, I hate what I've been writing. It's not bad writing. It's just not. . . it just doesn't. . . ok, I hate it.

I went through a similar experience about fifteen years ago when I taught Creative Writing to a group of high school students. I could write a poem on demand, revise throughout the day, and present a final draft the next day in class. Some times, the writing was good and revision made it sing. Several of those pieces were accepted by anthologies and some of the first online poetry zines. But eventually, I found myself regurgitating poems and stories that all whispered the same message. And that message said: This writing stinks!

After six months of writing nothing but junk - and bitchslapping myself back to reality with the knowledge that every piece isn't going to be a masterpiece - I rediscovered my writing groove.

Now, if I've learned anything about writing since I first began (gosh, that was a long time ago), I know that it's normal not to like what translates from mind to hand to paper, because sometimes, those words that are composed on the page simply aren't good.

And that's ok.

I also know that some times, you just need to write and write and write and get all that unnecessary storytelling out of the way and eventually, you'll get to a place where you are once again comfortable and pleased with your writing output.

Hopefully, I'm getting the rubbish out of my system and by July 12, I will be able to narrow in on the story that's bumping around my brain.

And most important, I will be satisfied with what I write.

What strategies do you use to get over "hating" what you write?

by LuAnn Schindler

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Meet Joel Shulkin, Third Place Winner in the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Good morning, Muffin fans! It’s Tuesday, and that means we’ll be sharing a winning story from the latest WOW! Flash Fiction contest. This week, you’ll get to know more about Joel Shulkin, whose story, “Missing U,” placed third. Now, if you been super busy and haven’t had a chance to read this flash piece yet, never fear! Head over to the contest page and peruse! Yup, it’s that simple. Then come back here, grab your favorite sweet treat (I’m noshing on a strawberry-rhubarb muffin this morning) and get to know Joel.

Being a full-time Developmental-Behavior Pediatrician hasn’t stopped Joel Shulkin from pursuing an active writing career; far from it, working with children who have developmental and behavioral challenges related to autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, and adoption/foster care has provided raw material for stories that raise the reader’s awareness of these important issues. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Short Story America Vol. 1, Drabblecast, Long Story Short, Vwa: Songs for Haiti, and StoryTeller Tymes, among others, and he has won writing awards from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Short Story America, SEAK Medical Fiction Writing, and an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest.

Joel lives with his wife (who works overtime as his muse, editor, and coach) in Upstate South Carolina, but they often travel together around and outside of the United States. He is currently revising an international medical thriller and seeking representation.

WOW: Joel, congratulations on placing third in the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest, and welcome to The Muffin! I'm intrigued with the untold story resting within “Missing U.” What did Jess write that has everyone on edge?

Joel: I’m not sure the people of Beason would want that dredged up all over the internet! Suffice it to say they were none too happy having all their embarrassing stories and dirty little secrets packed into a bestselling novel (especially the part about the cow, the grain silo, and the deputy).

WOW: Yikes! Yes, maybe some things are best left unsaid and left to imagination. (Smiles) Inspiration for a story intrigues me. I’m guessing the motivation for “Missing U” may have something to do with wordplay and church signs. Am I correct?

Joel: There are tons of churches where I currently live and most have message boards out front with attempts at witty sayings. When I was driving home one day, I saw one was missing a letter. I don’t recall what the sign read (something about Jesus, though), and the missing letter wasn’t that important, but I imagined what might happen if it was. By the time I got home, the whole story had formed in my head. The title came later; I originally planned to call it “The Return”, but after I had finished, I realized “Missing U” was far more effective, one that only made sense after you read the whole story.

WOW: I agree; it’s quite an effective title. When I write, one of the first story elements I work on is tone. In my opinion, tone is extremely important because it needs to be consistent and balanced. How difficult was it to balance the humorous and serious tones in the piece?

Joel: The original version was more serious. Although Frank and Martha’s characters were still apparent, I realized they needed to be a bit lighter. After all, these are resilient people who don’t linger on the past. They would’ve had to move on by now, even though they wouldn’t admit there was still lingering tensions in the community (and between Frank and Martha) since Jess left. So I gave them back their sense of humor as a way of protecting themselves against their own pain.

WOW: It works wonderfully in this piece. Your bio mentions you are seeking representation. Please share your search for an agent with our readers - what have been some of the struggles? What's been relatively easy? Anything you would change?

Joel: Finding an agent is definitely an uphill battle, even with several published short stories under my belt. I’ve pitched five or six different manuscripts (everything from picture books to non-fiction). When I started out, I had no idea what I was doing and got nowhere. It’s taken numerous books, websites, and support from online writing communities (FanStory and QueryTracker in particular) to figure out how to effectively query. If I could have a do-over, it would be to do the research on writing and querying earlier in the game. Of course, most of the time I still receive form replies (if I get anything at all), which is extremely frustrating, but does make that tidbit of useful feedback from an agent or editor all the more valuable. It takes some time to get over having someone criticize one’s “baby”, but a good writer needs to do that in order to grow.

WOW: Yes, yes, yes! It’s important for a writer to get feedback and grow as a writer. With that in mind, what's the next step in your writing career?

Joel: I’ve used the feedback from a handful of very helpful agents to overhaul my medical thriller manuscript and am now ready to resubmit; in the meantime, I’ve started work on the sequel. One of the side effects of revising one project is discovering new ways to improve others. While I’ve abandoned a few projects, I’ve gone back and identified several short stories, novellas, and novels that require substantial revision, but if they’re worth salvaging, they’re worth the effort of revising.

WOW: Sage advice! Best of luck with your writing endeavors, Joel, and once more, congratulations!

by LuAnn Schindler
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Author Trisha Slay launches her Star Wars themed novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away

Monday, June 24, 2013
& giveaway contest!

When Erika helps her best friend, teen beauty queen Cassie Abbott, escape their “Nowhere, Ohio” town, she promises to keep all of their secrets safe, but then the days stretch into weeks with no word from Cassie. Worse, the sheriff’s investigation into Cassie’s disappearance is making Erika doubt she ever really knew Cassie at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe . . . until a new movie called Star Wars transforms her summer with a new hope.

For Erika, Star Wars changes everything! She volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner just to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making. But she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.

Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she’s learned from Star Wars, she’ll have to fight to save herself and the theater that has become her home.

Paperback: 316 pages

Publisher: Deeds Publishing (May 21, 2013)

ISBN-13: 978-1-937565-58-9

Twitter hashtag: #NSLASlay

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is available as a print and e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, June 28 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget.

About the Author:

Trisha Slay is a writer with a passion for storytelling. She has studied at the Institute of Children's Literature as well as furthering her skills through online workshops. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators and the Atlanta Writer's Club. She enjoys participating in writing groups and spends a great deal of time improving her craft. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is her first novel.

Tricia hopes Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away would be compared to Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. She has said that "If those two books had a Star Wars-obsessed little sister, I'd like to think she would be my novel."

Tricia lives between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia Mountains, but hails originally from the way of the San Francisco Bay area. When she is not working on her next book (tentatively titled Sometimes We Strike Back), her interests include: 70s pop culture; unsolved mysteries; Star Wars (original trilogy); historic movie theaters; haunted history; reading (especially YA novels); nutrition/weight watchers/healthy vegetarian cuisine; hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with her guy); yoga/meditation; miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as envisioned); and writing letters she never intends to mail.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Trisha’s website:


Twitter: @SlaytheWriter

-----Interview by Crystal Otto

WOW: Trisha, one of your guest blog topics was titled “Critiques, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”—this intrigues me. Can you share a bit more about how you kept the momentum going despite such critiques?

Trisha: First of all, I should explain what I meant by that topic. A good critique should detail everything that is and is not working in your piece. It is an essential part of the writing process, but a good critique can be hard to hear and very often feels bad. Many writers who receive an excellent critique from a knowledgeable publishing professional walk away from the experience telling people that it was a bad critique. "She hated it!" they moan to anyone who asks. I have had this experience and it can be painful. We all want to hear that our writing is brilliant, compelling and absolutely flawless. That said, I am my own harshest critic. The negative stuff coming from my inner editor makes even the most brutal professional critique sound pretty benign. Also, it helps that I really do want to know if anything in my fiction is not working.

A bad critique is just plain non-informative. "I loved it and can't wait to read more" is a bad critique. Don't tell me you liked it; tell me WHY you liked it? What makes you want to read on? "I don't like ghost stories, so you should take the ghost out of this paranormal mystery" is a terrible critique (and one that I actually received). A critique should never attack the genre or sub-genre of the story. I don't like stories about sparkly vampires or promiscuous housewives, but there are plenty of readers who do. So I will do my best to communicate what works and what doesn't in the actual story and leave my personal reading prejudices out of the conversation.

An ugly critique...well, the ugliness I was referring to is much more about the person giving the critique rather than the author or the work. Ugly critiques come in many varieties, including rambling, off-topic commentary, mean-spirited attacks and/or utter nonsense spoken with absolute authority. Ugly critiques are the bane of healthy, productive writing groups. When listening to one of these people review my own work, I like to imagine Godzilla's foot stomping down on the person a few times while I smile and nod. It's much harder for me to keep a stiff upper lip when listening to an ugly critique of another writer's work. There's a good chance I'll interrupt and contradict. Or, if I'm more in control of my manners, I'll take the other writer aside and try to reverse any damage the ugly critique may have wrought. The funny thing is, in my experience, ugly critiques tend to come from the same writers who can't accept constructive criticism without interrupting and arguing.

As for how I keep my motivation after a harsh critique, that's easy. My number one rule when listening to anyone's critique, whether it's coming from another writer or a seasoned publishing professional, is from Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules of Writing: "Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."

WOW: Hah! Fantastic advice, Trisha! I totally agree with you and need to keep Neil's quote handy when reading critique notes. So what is your advice to other authors about the best way to write and revise a novel?

Trisha: I'm probably better qualified to advise other authors on the worst possible way to write and revise a novel. I have terrible writing habits. My inner editor can keep me from writing for days and even weeks during a bad stretch. That's why my best advice relates to breaking through procrastination.

I'm a huge fan of National Novel Writing Month. During a first draft, I need to focus on quantity instead of quality. Bad writing can always be rewritten and improved. Any novelist who struggles with procrastination should try NaNoWriMo to get the word count flowing. If November is too far away to wait, create your own NaNoWriMo month with one or more fellow writers (to hold each other accountable).

This novel started as a NaNoWriMo novel. I made it to 50,000 words in one month, but I did not write to the end of the story. That was a mistake. I lost all momentum and the story almost died. This brings me to another piece of advice. If you are writing a book in a month (or 3 months or a year) write a beginning, a middle and an end before you go back to edit. Many books die in the perpetual rewriting of the first few chapters.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite...then edit, then rewrite some more. Participate in critique groups and learn how to utilize constructive criticism.

During the final rewrite of this novel, I became paralized with perfectionism. One of my best friends agreed to be my book coach. She was given access to my bank account (she is a VERY close friend whose annual salary is roughly 4 times my annual salary). We set up an aggressive schedule to get the final rewrite completed in one month. If I missed any of my deadlines, she was authorized to send $50 to an organization I hate, loathe and despise. Yes, it was an extreme measure and it worked perfectly. I finished the rewrite ahead of schedule. This approach is not for everyone, but it was the powerful motivator I needed to cross that finish line

WOW: Wow, that's extreme! I just watched a video today from Derek Halpern who used the same type of approach—using money as a way to solve procrastination.

Who were some of the most influential authors in your life and how did they influence your writing and publishing of Not So Long Ago and Not So Far Away?

Trisha: When I was growing up, it was E.L. Konigsburg, Judy Blume, Katherine Paterson, Agatha Christie and the group of writers known as Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew) who influenced me to dream up mysteries around every corner and create new worlds. In terms of my writing, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Shannon Hale, Sarah Dessen and Libba Bray are my biggest YA influences. It was Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower that convinced me to try writing in epistolary format. I'm an avid fan of Joshilyn Jackson and follow her blog, Faster Than Kudzu religiously. If it weren't for her, I might never have started blogging myself. Aside from Joshilyn, Kate Morton, Karen White and Sarah Addison Allen are my favorite mainstream fiction authors.

WOW: You consider yourself a “Fangirl”; is this a title you gave yourself, or how did this come about?

Trisha: I came across the term "fangirl" while pinning Star Wars art on Pinterest and a little bell went off in my head. I remember thinking, "Yes! I'm a Star Wars fangirl writing about the fangirl experience. In fact, I'm writing a Fangirl Trilogy."

WOW: What is one of your favorite sillies from pop culture…and why?

Trisha: My favorite pop culture silly from the 1970s is the "glam shots" from shows like Charlie's Angels. Do you remember those? Kelly Garrett takes off her motorcycle helmet then tosses her hair around a few times for the camera before she gets off the bike. Farrah Fawcett tossing her signature hair around and smiling for the camera before trotting onto the tennis court. I laughed until my sides ached in 2000 when I saw those preposterous shots re-created in the first Charlie's Angels movie.

In modern times, I have a secret addiction to I Can Has Cheezburger? (Guess it's not so secret any longer.) Seriously, pictures of pets in ridiculous situations with crazy captions always crack me up. I think they should play a steady stream of that stuff in hospitals. Laughter is the best medicine, right?

WOW: It is! (laughs) You mentioned some interesting hobbies and occupations between 1994 and 2004. Can you tell us more about those experiences and if they influenced your writing in any way?

Trisha: After college, I struggled with delusions of altruism. I wanted to find a career that would make it possible for me to help others and pay my bills. First, I worked as a living assistant for adult mentally-disabled clients. That was difficult, stressful work! One thing they never depict on those made-for-TV specials about mentally-challenged adults is the level of violence and sexually inappropriate behavior that is rampant in many assisted living facilities. More than one of my co-workers were assaulted and injured while trying to perform their normal duties, but I managed to escape unharmed. I was pretty miserable in that job! One of the secondary characters in this novel and a few of the scenes were heavily influenced by my experiences during that time. Then I started volunteering at a local humane society and fell in love with that work. When I saw a job posting for a Humane Officer it sounded like my dream job! Although I wasn't hired for the officer position, I was offered a new position as the Cruelty Investigations and Rescue Dispatcher. Some of my happiest memories and most traumatic experiences happened there. I probably would have continued working in humane societies indefinitely, but I was too poor for comfort. Eventually, I had to give up working in the non-profit sector so I could afford luxuries like groceries and new socks. I've continued to volunteer for humane societies over the years, but it's hard for me to volunteer regularly without being part of the "inner circle" of the staff. What I've learned about human nature by working in animal welfare organizations influences all of my writing, but I have much more to write on the subject...hopefully in the near future.

WOW: I’ve gotten to know you quite well during the WOW! Blog Tour process, but please tell readers a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What are your favorite hobbies? What is your favorite book of all time?

Trisha: I currently live in Dahlonega, GA—very close to the epicenter of the first major US gold rush. Nowadays, the most precious treasure in Dahlonega is the thriving creative community we have here, but I hear tell there's still plenty of gold in these here hills! I'm originally from Ohio, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000, then moved to northern Georgia in 2008.

When I'm not working in Corporate America or writing fiction, I try to keep up with two blogs: one is dedicated to my writerly aspirations ( and the other is about healthy, delicious foods and creative ways to stop emotional eating ( My other interests include: unsolved mysteries, historic movie theaters, haunted history, reading (especially YA, Southern Gothic and ghost stories), hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with my Rogue Leader), Yoga/Meditation, miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as I envision), and writing letters I never intend to mail.

My favorite book of all time would probably be Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's the one YA book I read over and over for inspiration.

WOW: Is Star Wars still your favorite movie (and if it’s not, please tell us which movie is and why)?

Trisha: Actually, I have a confession to make. Star Wars was never my favorite movie. I was only six years old in the summer of 1977. Even though I enjoyed the original movie, I was much more excited by The Rescuers and Candleshoe that summer. It wasn't until I saw The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 that I fell under the spell of a galaxy far, far away from my reality. ESB is and always will be my favorite movie of all time.

WOW: Share with us something that is intriguing but not well known about you.

Trisha: I grew up in a real haunted house and I love a good ghost story that doesn't play too heavily on the horror aspects of the paranormal.

WOW: Fascinating! You'll have to write about it sometime! And last but not least...Trisha, which character in Not So Long Ago and Not So Far Away do you most closely associate with and why?

Trisha: My main character, Erika, because she's a creative fangirl who struggles with her self-esteem. Unlike me, Erika successfully channels her creativity into film making at an early age. I wish my own personal character arc more closely resembled Erika's.

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

Monday, June 24 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Tuesday, June 25 @ Writing is Easy
See what Cathy has to say after reading Trisha Slay's novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) and win a copy for yourself. Star Wars changed everything for main character Erika - read it and find out for yourself! “The Force is strong with this one.”

Wednesday, June 26 @ Bookish Musings
Join Trisha Slay, the dynamic author of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) as she decodes rejections in her guest blog post at Bookish Musings. This is also your opportunity to win your own copy of this Star Wars themed novel. Don't miss this great opportunity!

Thursday June 27 @ Read These Books and Use Them
"May the force be with you" as Trisha Slay's novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) makes a flyboy stop at Margo Dill's blog: Read These Books and Use Them! Fly by yourself and see what Margo has to say in her review, and get the inside scoop with an author interview.

Sunday June 30 @ Carolyn Howard Johnson
Looking for something new and exciting to read this summer? Interested in a young adult book with a Star Wars theme? Find out more about Trisha Slay's novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) and as they say in the movie: “I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the wookiee win.”

Monday July 1 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Today is your chance to hear from Trisha Slay as she guest blogs about "Good Parenting = Bad Novel" on Books I Think You Should Read.

Tuesday July 2 @ All Things Audry
Stop by All Things Audry for "Confessions of a Closet Star Wars Geek" by Trisha Slay, author of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away #NSLASlay

Wednesday July 3 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Don't miss out - today's your day to find out what Liz has to say after reading Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay. This is also your chance to win your very own copy of her book: Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay). May the force be with you as you enter to win!

Monday July 8 @ World of My Imagination
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away #NSLASlay by Trisha Slay and read her riveting guest post titled: "Emotional Eating and Creativity as a Cure"

Tuesday July 9 @ CMash Loves To Read
Trisha Slay is in the spotlight at C Mash Loves to Read. Stop by for the guest post titled "The Care and Feeding of Ideas (Inspiration)" and giveaway of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay)

Wednesday July 10 @ Yes/No Films
Win your own copy of the popular new Star Wars themed novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay and she also shares insight with her riveting guest post titled "Star Wars Crafting for the More Sophisticated Fan".

Thursday July 11 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Hear what Star Wars Geek Trisha Slay has to say on the topic of "Pop Culture in 1977" as she visits Tiffany Talks Books - this is also your chance to win Trisha's fabulous novel Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away #NSLASlay. Don't miss this WOW! Blog Tour stop!

Monday July 15 @ Thoughts In Progress
Join Trisha Slay, Author as she stars as the guest blogger at Thoughts in Progress - her topic is decoding rejections and 1970's pop culture; this is sure to be a fun post and a great opportunity to win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay).

Tuesday July 16 @ Bring on Lemons
Win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay and read what Crystal has to say in her honest review of this Star Wars themed YA novel.

Wednesday July 17 @ A Writer’s Life
Win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away #NSLASlay as Trisha Slay makes a stop at A Writer's Life blog. Check out her guest post titled: "The Spirituality of Star Wars"

Thursday July 18 @ The Book Bag
Win a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay and see what Trisha has to say about "Why I Don't Hate Jar-Jar (or the prequels)"

Monday, July 22 @ Words by Webb
Jodi Webb reviews Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay and tells all (no spoilers, don't worry) and offers an opportunity for readers with a fabulous GIVEAWAY!!

Friday, July 26 @ Renee's Pages
Renee won a copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away (#NSLASlay) by Trisha Slay and wants to tell you all about it and pass along the opportunity for you to win - don't miss this GIVEAWAY and review!!

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. 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 Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, June 28th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Here's the International Women's Writing Guild Summer Writing Conference

Sunday, June 23, 2013
We welcome Kristin Conroy, the membership and media director of the International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG), to discuss their summer writing conference with us! If you are interested in attending a writing conference this summer to improve your craft and network with other writers (and maybe pitch your book one-on-one with an agent), then read on for an amazing opportunity! The conference is taking place August 8 through 12 at Drew University in New Jersey.

WOW: Welcome, Kristin, thank you for stopping by The Muffin to talk to us about The International Women's Writing Guild, and your upcoming August conference. First, tell us a little about IWWG and your role with the organization.

Kristin: Thank you for the invitation! The International Women's Writing Guild was founded in 1976 to provide women an outlet in which to express and develop themselves through writing, as well as a way to connect with and support each other. You can read more about our history at

I went to my first IWWG Summer Conference a couple years ago as an attendee and was amazed by the experience. There is something magical that happens in those intensive days surrounded by talented, creative, welcoming artists. After that conference, I knew I wanted to be part of this organization. Now, I am the membership and media director and right-hand to our executive director, Cynthia Fritts Stillwell, who is a tireless champion of the creative arts and a savvy businesswoman. She has some exciting plans for the guild, and I'm honored to be part of the process.

WOW: Okay, so on to the conference taking place in Madison, New Jersey in August! Who's the perfect attendee for this conference?

Kristin: Any woman who has a story to tell. And any writer who wants to further her creative and/or business skills. I love that this conference draws a rich diversity of writers from all genres, levels of experience, and walks of life. What brings us all together is our need to express ourselves, the desire to expand our world, and push ourselves to grow and evolve into better writers and women.

Summer conf. site
WOW: You are offering three full days of writing, crafting, and conferencing with fifteen plus workshops. So, explain a little to us what a day would look like. Would attendees go to workshops all day? Have specified writing or networking time?

Kristin: There are three main 1.5-hour workshops each day: two in the morning after breakfast and one after lunch. For the last session of the day, attendees choose from informal breakout sessions that dip into art, craft, or business. Evening programs and social networking follow dinner. On Saturday (August 10), there will be a book fair featuring our member authors; and for those ready to pitch their books to agents and publishers, they can do so in a one-on-one setting. We have a diverse group of agents who are enthusiastic about listening to the various pitches our attendees will deliver.

We understand that writers want to actually WRITE during a conference! Whether during writing exercises in workshops or in their own time, our attendees leave our event with a substantial amount of juicy writing.

WOW: Sounds like an awesome and perfect schedule! Who are your instructors?

Kristin: This year, we have a mix of our long-time instructors and instructors who are new to our members. They are award-winning writers and performers, professors and international speakers, and businesswomen and entrepreneurs. We are truly thrilled with our team! These women have created such exciting workshops that cover fiction, creative nonfiction, business, oral presentation, memoir, and everything in-between. You can find out more about our instructors at

WOW: Great! Your theme is "ReImagine the Magic." How will this help a writer and her career? Will it help all writers, regardless of genre?

Kristin: In our theme, “magic” refers to that intangible effect I was mentioning earlier that happens while at our summer conference. This magical experience stays with our attendee long after she leaves, reminding her of all she learned, experienced, and accomplished during those few days. The magic becomes a part of her and inspires her to keep writing.

We want our attendees to feel empowered to re-imagine their idea of themselves, of their writing...what they can be. The journey keeps going, and we encourage women writers of all levels and genres to “ReImagine the Magic” within themselves.

Drew University
WOW: So, if someone is interested in learning more or signing up, what does she have to do? Is there a deadline?

Kristin: All of our summer conference information--instructor bios, workshop descriptions, pricing, and registration--is available at . We offer full packages (with or without housing) and commuter day rates. The deadline for housing is July 1st.

WOW: Thanks for all the details! Anything else you want to add?

Kristin: As with all of our conferences, IWWG members enjoy a discounted rate. If you're not already a member, you can join before you register for our summer conference and receive the member pricing! To learn more about the benefits of membership, and to join IWWG, visit

WOW: Thank you, Kristin. We really appreciate your time telling our readers about this wonderful opportunity! Muffin readers,
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Writing Begins With W

Saturday, June 22, 2013
I’ve been thinking about three Ws of writing. Why do I write? When do I write? What medium do I use to write? If I recall correctly, this whole idea came about chatting with fellow writer friends. The conversation went something like this:

Tina: “I just entered another contest, of course I want to win, because I think it’s really important to get my name out there.”

AnneMarie: “I just want to win; it’s the same high I got in high school when I’d place in a track meet. I’m competitive I guess.”

Me: “I’m not sure why I entered; it just sounded like a fun challenge.”

I really don’t remember much of the conversation after that point. I was stuck inside my own head; I tend to think everyone is just like me. I was glad we had the conversation and it gave me some insight. Tina has monthly budget, life goals, professional goals, and short term plans as well as long term plans. Her writing is no different. She plans to publish her memoir in the spring and getting the publicity of winning a few contests will help increase her name recognition when her memoir is available. AnneMarie writes because she loves it and her ultimate goal is to get traditionally published. If she has long and short term writing goals she doesn’t share them and she is very private. I, on the other hand, am an open book. I have long and short term goals for just about every area of my life, and just having blog traffic is enough to make me feel heard as a writer. Each of us has a different “why I write” story, and I bet there are as many stories as there are writers. That is definitely a lesson for me … again, not everyone is just like me (whew)!

Now onto the WHEN of writing; are you a:

• Late-night-writer?
• Early-morning-writer?
• Only-when-all-the-other-work-is-done-writer?
• Right-before-my-deadline-writer?
• Especially-when-I’m stressed-writer?

I find this answer changes with life events. Honestly, right now I’m not writing anything longer than a blog post or short story. I’m pregnant and feel like I have a hard time concentrating for long periods of time. My writing right now on long pieces feels choppy and bounces around too much. That’s not to say that I’ve always been that way; just right now I prefer shorter pieces and I like to write first thing in the morning but then again I like to journal late at night. What works for you? When is your WHEN?

Now onto what may possibly be the most discussed W … WHAT medium do you use to write? Of course this depends at which phase in a process you may be but I guess the question is: What do you write with when you begin something new? Do you sit down with a keyboard because you like to edit as you go? Do you use an old type-writer, because you love the nostalgic feel of the keys and the rhythmic sound? Do you grab your laptop and open a new word document? Do you have a leather covered note-book and a favorite pen? What brings out your creativity?

I like to use a fine point pen and a favorite old notebook. The look of the letters on the page can be as romantic and musical as the story being told (this is especially true when I write poetry). Typing can be faster, but I find myself too easily distracted by social media and emails. Even if I turn off my wireless connection I still don’t get the same satisfaction … for some reason, writing out the words: the car was hit from behind, and I felt myself plummeting down the embankment toward certain death has a completely different feel when I can press a little harder or softer, underline as needed, etc., and as much as I enjoy banging on my keyboard, it hasn’t doesn’t come across with the same conviction and passion as those hand written pages

Please share your W’s in the comments below. That is one of the great things about being an avid WOW! reader and writer, it brings us together regardless of our physical location and allows us to celebrate our writerhood and our sisterhood. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Crystal J. Casavant-Otto is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, two young children (Carmen 6 and Andre 5), three dogs,two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. Crystal and her husband, Mark are expecting another son at the end of September.
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Friday Speak Out!: Getting Creative with Writer’s Block, Guest post by Robyn Corum

Friday, June 21, 2013
Drivers along the northern stretch of Alabama’s busy I65 met with an eerie and unexpected sight during February of 2012 when a gaping sinkhole appeared before them in the blacktop.

It must have been terrifying.

In a peculiar way, the event reminded me of the potentially devastating effects of writer’s block. How many of us have been swept along by intoxicating whirlwinds of creativity and inspiration, only to be dropped suddenly and unceremoniously at the brink of our own black and cavernous ‘sinkhole’?

The big question is: how should we react when this happens? Human nature seems to say stare at the looming sinkhole. Think about it. Focus on it, to the exclusion of every good thing around you. And, yes, possibly even begin to spend time researching sinkholes. In other words ‘Think SINK’. Until the gnawing blackness grows to an overwhelming, all-consuming size.

Or…take action.

For just a moment, imagine the result if those unlucky February drivers had chosen to simply sit in their vehicles and stare at their obstacle. Not too efficient.

Instead, traffic was detoured and people started thinking. Some enterprising folks chose different modes of transportation for a week or two, a few drivers sought new routes, and still others opted to make phone calls instead of personal visits. People got creative!

To ward off writer’s block, you too, have to be pro-active and creative. One step is by choosing to become proficient in different genres. Though you may prefer to pen Young Adult Fiction, your talent can only improve as you learn to write quality Flash Fiction or try your hand at Poetry or Romance. If you always compose while sitting at the computer, ‘unplug’ yourself now and then to write long-handed or speak into a voice-recorder. Join a critique group or consider co-writing a piece or story. Or why not consider getting a ‘fresh start’, literally, by scribbling some notes while sitting beneath a tree under an expansive blue sky?

Shake things up! Keep the creative juices flowing by daring to challenge yourself and your brain. Do things differently and don’t be afraid to take detours!

* * *
Robyn Corum loves words! The lucky girl has two books in print: a historical romance entitled Melinda Heads West, and a collection of short-form Japanese poetry entitled Pieces of Her Mind, written with other women poets. For Writer’s Resources and Tips visit her blog 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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Your Author Platform – Is it Ever Too Soon to Start? What About Your Author Website?

Thursday, June 20, 2013
by Karen Cioffi

Newbies to the writing arena have many questions about creating an author platform. And, the most puzzling one is whether they need a website before they have a book published or in contract. In fact, I’ve recently been questioned twice about whether a newbie with NO book on the publishing horizon should bother to start working on a platform and more specifically on an author website.

Both individuals felt it would be like putting the cart before the horse.

This though is far from the case. Creating a website at the get-go is putting the horse before the cart. It’s the force that will pull you forward and help you establish your online platform, your presence and visibility.

So, the answer to the title question is NO. It’s never too soon to begin your author platform or your author website.

If you want to be a writer or an author; if you intend to submit manuscripts to agents and/or publishers; if you intend to self-publish a book, the answer is still the same: the time to get your online platform started is RIGHT NOW. And, the foundation of your platform is a website.

One surprising element of the questions I was asked about how soon a website should be setup is that a well-known and respected institute for children’s writing advised its student to wait until he received a book contract before creating a website.

If this were ten years ago or even five years ago that advice would make sense. But, today, agents and publishers want to know what the potential new author’s platform is beforehand. The size or lack-of-size of an online platform can make or break a contract.

The powers-that-be expect you to have a website in place and be involved in social networks before you even submit a manuscript. They expect you to be a big part of the marketing involved in selling the book.

Jane Friedman, Media Studies instructor at the University of Virginia and former publisher of Writer’s Digest, says, “You must cultivate a readership every day of your life, and you start TODAY.”

Why do you need to start your online platform TODAY?

In a single word, the answer to that question is TIME. Establishing an online platform takes time.

It takes time to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. It takes time to develop a relationship with your readers. It takes time to develop trust. And, it takes time to broaden your reach.

Since your website is the foundation of your author platform, it’s absolutely, positively necessary to get a website setup and optimized as soon as possible.

It’s from this focal point, your hub of information, that you will draw the attention of the search engines and readers. Your website is the place you will setup your call-to-action and opt-in. It’s the place you will get readers to sign-up for your mailing list. It’s the place your will begin a long-term writer-reader relationship.


Join Karen Cioffi's class, CREATING AND BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR-WRITER ONLINE PRESENCE: Website Creation to Beyond Book/Product Sales, which starts July 1, 2013. Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

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Singing the Summertime Writing Blues

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
(With apologies to George Gershwin)

Summertime, and the writin’s not easy.
Words won’t come, and your brain’s a hot mess.
Your plottin’ stinks, and your hubby wants dinner.
Hush, now kiddies, don’t you cry.

One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up writin’.
You’ll have an idea—and you’ll pull out your pen.
But till that morning, you’re gonna need a vacation,
With a cool drink standing by.

It happens to the best of writers. Summertime rolls around and all we want is a break from the everyday grind. And you know what? A break might be exactly what you need to get your weary writing mind back to work. Try one of these mini-vacations and see if you can change your summertime blues tune.

A Reading Romp

If you’re a writer, you need to be a reader; that’s a tip you’ve heard a hundred times. So you’re writing and reading and reading and writing and whew! You can’t remember the last time you read a book just for the sheer joy of it. So take a break, turn off your writer’s brain, and read just for fun. Read a children’s classic that you somehow missed in your youth. Try one of those bodice-ripping, makes-you-blush, beach reads. Dip into something so scary, you have to sleep with the lights on. And then read a handful of swell books in the target audience you want to hit with your work-in-progress. Hey, you think, I know what’s not working in my manuscript!

Now you’re ready to write again.

The Think-Don’t-Write (So Much) Break

It’s entirely too hot to come up with 60,000 great words. You can’t even come up with 600 great words. But maybe you can come up with 60 great words. Honestly, it only takes half of that number to come up with a pitch. And you don’t even need the novel to come up with a pitch. In fact, if you haven’t figured out a great pitch first, then your novel is destined to be ho-hum. So a summer break can be the perfect excuse, er, time to sit around, thinking up great pitches.

After you have the greatest pitch ever developed, possibly a steamy murder mystery involving cabana boys and Mai Tais, you won’t be able to wait another minute to write it.

The Write-Don’t-Think (So Much) Break

But what if you’re not working on the Great American Novel? What if your work is coming up with ideas? I know how the psyche can take a beating after sending out queries and pitches to non-fiction markets, day in and day out. You need a vacation, need to take your brain away from work and try something different. Like a light-hearted essay (Check out Chicken Soup for a topic) or a couple blog posts on a just-for-fun subject. Or maybe, secretly, you have a book in you, too. Let your imagination run wild and write that crazy first draft. It may stink, but that’s okay. You’re on vacation! Before you know it, you’ll be itching to get back to work—and writing what you know.

I do so love summertime. And the writin’ will be easy—if you give yourself a much-needed vacation first (and don't forget the drinks with little umbrellas).

~Cathy C. Hall

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Francine Garson, Second Place Flash Fiction Winner in Winter 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Francine Garson won 2nd place in the Winter 2013 Flash Fiction story with her piece, "Fat." If you haven't had a chance to read this powerful story yet, please check it out here

Francine won a writing contest at the age of ten with an essay entitled “What Thrift Means to Me.” Since her only experience with money management at that point involved budgeting her weekly allowance, she learned that words, especially when combined with a little imagination, could have power. But life got in the way of her writing dreams. After earning a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in college student personnel administration, she became a law school administrator, then an independent college counselor, and for a number of years, a full-time mother. When her youngest child left for college, Francine pulled out her old notebooks filled with scribbled words and a stack of clean white paper, and she began to write. And then, continuing her lifelong addiction to reading, she wrote some more. Francine’s fiction and creative nonfiction has been published in a number of e-zines and print magazines. In 2010, her flash fiction received a first place award from the League of American Pen Women.

Today Francine lives in central New Jersey with an even-tempered husband, a moody cat, and a lot of books. She reads, writes, attempts to play the piano, and is very proud of the happy, successful adults her children have become. She is excited and honored to have placed in the WOW! Winter 2013 Flash Fiction Contest. Learn more about Francine at or connect with her on twitter at @francinegarson.

WOW: Congratulations on your win for "Fat." This is a story all about our perception of ourselves. What made you want to explore this theme?

Francine: Thanks so much, Margo. I'm very excited and honored to have placed in the most recent WOW! flash fiction contest. "Fat" is one of those rare stories that just sprang out of my mind and onto the page. I hadn't really focused on theme as I wrote it. But you're right; it is about "our perception of ourselves" and the disconnect between that perception and reality. Unfortunately, especially for women, that disconnect is quite common. Body dysmorphic disorder is just one extreme and tragic example.

WOW: Why did you choose a flash fiction format to tell this story?

Francine: I tried to write something that would make readers think and feel, even after they had finished my story. I wanted them to experience a particular character's "reality" during a short period of time and then discover the true nature of the situation by means of a twist ending. The flash fiction format, with its laser-like focus, seemed a natural way of telling this particular story.

WOW: Are these themes you often explore in your writing? Any more award-winning stories like this waiting in the wings? (smile)

Francine: Yes and yes, although I don't know that they'll be award-winning. I tend to write about the darker side of everyday life and the secrets we keep, even from ourselves. The notion of identity is another subject that interests me. So yes, "our perception of ourselves" is a recurring theme in my writing. I'm currently working on a longer project incorporating all of these ideas.

WOW: I know you have also won a "big" award. According to your bio: "In 2010, her flash fiction received a first place award from the League of American Pen Women." Tell us about this story. Can we read it anywhere?

Francine: The National League of American Pen Women, through its San Francisco branch, runs a national literary competition in several categories each year. In 2010, my story entitled "She Tells Him" received the first place award for flash fiction. The contest provides cash prizes and the opportunity to read winning entries at the Koret Auditorium in San Francisco. However, the works are not published, leaving the authors free to submit them elsewhere. At present, "She Tells Him" is unpublished.

WOW: You are also an avid reader! What do you enjoy reading?

Francine: How much time do you have? (Laughs). Most of my favorite books would probably be classified as contemporary literary fiction. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and The Dinner by Herman Koch (although it's very disturbing) would be two of my top picks from the past year. I'm also a big fan of the novels of Russell Banks, Tim O'Brien, Stewart O'Nan, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ann Patchett as well as the short stories of Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, Jean Thompson, and Tobias Wolff. (That's actually a very condensed list!) And did I mention that I like Malcolm Gladwell's and Anna Quindlen's nonfiction?

WOW: That's a great list! How does it help your writing?

Francine: Perhaps Stephen King answered that question most eloquently. "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write." Reading has been a way of life for me for as long as I can remember. I don't consciously read in order to learn the craft of writing, but somehow the learning does happen. Osmosis maybe? But more importantly, if I hadn't fell in love with the world of language, story, and character, why would I even want to write?

WOW: Writing has become a "second" or even "third" career for you, after working at universities and raising your children! How is this "new" career fitting for you?

Francine: At this point in my life, I have the time, focus, and determination to make writing a priority. I've unearthed a passion that has been buried for a long time, and I'm lucky to have a supportive family, friends, and community of writers cheering me on. "It's never too late..." is my mantra!

WOW: Thanks, Francine, for sharing yourself with us today! 

interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, 

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Butt in Chair: This Isn't Always Good Advice

Monday, June 17, 2013
Put your butt in the chair and write.  Just do it.  Quit whining! 
We hear this advice all the time from all kinds of writers.  They tell us that only by applying ourselves day in and day out can we become writers. 
I agree but only to a point.  After all, you do have to develop your writing skills and you’re only going to do that by actually writing.  In spite of this, sometimes Butt in Chair is really bad advice. 
Recently, I got together for coffee with a writing buddy.  She had recently sent three chapters off to an editor we met at a writer’s retreat.  “I just can’t make myself write!  It feels like everything I do makes the manuscript worse.” 
My advice to her?  Then don’t write.
In my experience, if you feel like you are making a writing project worse, you probably are.  Even if you aren’t making it worse, you probably aren’t making it any better.  Get up and get away from your work. What you do next depends in part on what is going on in your writing life. 
  • Have you been writing a lot lately?  Had some big deadlines to meet? You may just need to recharge your batteries.  Do something fun and non-writing related.  Meet a writing buddy for coffee. Chocolate is also awesome. Swim laps. Go to a gallery. Do whatever non-writing thing makes you happy. 
  • Did this case of “I can’t write” follow a rejection?  Show the rejection to a writing friend and ask for her perspective.  My friend had just gotten a rejection, but there were no comments.  For a seasoned writer, this can ring just as many alarm bells as harsh comments, but a writing friend can talk you down.
  • Have you been working on this project for a while?  Sometimes we lose track of why we loved a certain idea once we are deep in the drudgery of writing.  If this could be the case, go back to whatever inspired this particular project.  See the movie again.  Visit the museum.  Reread the news story.  Often this reignites the spark for a particular project.
  • Did you just find another book too similar to your own project? Don’t panic until you’ve read it.  I know this sounds counterproductive, but if you are competitive, read the competition.  How can your book be better?  Once you have this goal in sight, the words often start flowing once again.

There is no single cause for a case of “my manuscript stinks,” but there are solutions.  You just need to find the one that will work for you.

Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.
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Review and Giveaway: Bolero: A Nick Sayler Novel by Joanie McDonell

Sunday, June 16, 2013
I’m always on the lookout for books that my ten-year-old son and I will both find interesting since it’s always more fun when he can enjoy and discuss a book with a friend . . . or in this case, his mom. But with Father’s Day upon us, it occurred to me that I could extend that search to books that my dad (and husband) would like. And I’ve found the perfect book to fit that bill with Bolero: A Nick Sayler Novel (March, 2013) by Joanie McDonell. As a Father’s Day celebration, McDonell’s publisher Thomas & Mercer is providing us with FIVE copies to give away. Why not enter and share your prize with the dad in your life as a belated Father’s Day gift?

Bolero is the story of a private investigator named Nick Sayler, who surrounds himself with quirky characters and quirky situations (he lives on the Hudson River in a barge that he won in a poker game for starters). Nick is a tough guy with smarts and a soft heart—a Mike Hammer for the new millennium. A naïve intern at Bellevue Hospital drags him into a case involving a patient who was assaulted and lost her memory—the only clue to her identity is one of Nick’s business cards found in her pocket.

This book does a great job of letting Nick Sayler reveal his world—and himself—to us. Along with the mystery of the woman with no name, readers get a peek at a mystery in Nick’s past mostly from his thoughts and flashbacks. And the characters that Nick calls his friends! It would be worth it to read this book if it was just about these memorable people. They are not the standard secondary characters that you often find in detective novels. Each is fully developed, not just playing their part in the solution of the mystery but also having a past as well as thoughts, emotions, and a relationship with Nick that extend beyond this case.

I read a lot of detective books and truthfully, sometimes they begin to merge together. Not Bolero! It is a book full of twists and turns and unforgettable people. McDonell is a writer to watch. She does an excellent job creating a mood. You can feel the tension, the fear, the sadness. And she paints a rich picture of the spots where Nick finds himself: the barge, the hospital, the city streets. If you enjoy solving a mystery that isn’t predictable and like hard boiled detectives or quirky characters, then this is the book for you! This is the first book in the series and I can't wait for book two.

About the author:

Joanie McDonell, who once spent a lot of time aboard a barge very much like the Dumb Luck, now lives on the beach near the eastern end of Long Island. She's written poems, screenplays, the novel Half Crazy, and The Little Book of Hope. She is currently at work on the next book featuring Private Investigator Nick Sayler.

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win one of FIVE copies of Bolero: A Nick Sayler Novel by Joanie McDonell. Share an enthralling read with the dad in your life!

~ Review by Jodi Webb

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Trading UP: Starred Reviews and Washington D.C.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ding! Dong!

The lady who opened the door had a puzzled look. “Yes?”

“Good afternoon, Ma’am,” said the teenager. He held up a #2 yellow pencil and said in an overly cheerful voice, “My church youth group is doing a Bigger and Better challenge this afternoon. We were divided into groups and each group was given a pencil. We are supposed to go around and Trade Up for Bigger and Better.” He waggled the pencil. “Do you have anything you could trade us for this pencil?”

“Like what?”

“Anything, as long as it is bigger and better?”

She shrugged. “I have a Coke.”


At the next house, the teen repeated his spiel. “Do you have anything you could trade us for this pencil?”

The man led us to the garage. “I was just going to put this out on the street for the trash man.” He pointed to a pink child’s bicycle.

“Does it work?”

“The rear tire is flat. But fix that and it’s fine. My daughter just outgrew it.”

“We’ll take it.” The teen handed the man the hot Coke can.

Three hours later, the team pulled back into the church’s parking lot with a truck loaded down with a gently-used leather couch.
From a #2 yellow pencil to a leather couch—in three hours.

That’s the power of Trading Up.

That’s what I’ve been doing in the last eighteen months since I self-published a children’s picture book, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and other Disasters for over 60 Years. In the process, I have knocked on many, many doors and asked if I could Trade Up. Like the teen, I got a lot of NOs, but I also got some incredible Yes answers.

Using Amazon Prime for Kindle, 2200 free copies of WISDOM were downloaded last spring and we had nice feedback about the story and its usefulness to teachers. With that enthusiasm and the illustrator’s encouragement, we entered the 2013 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book awards—and won the children’s book category, a $1000 cash prize. We took part of that money and traded up—using Publisher’s Weekly Select program (it’s a $100 fee for them to “consider” a review, no guarantees). We received a PW Starred Review! Later, the book was named a Finalist in the NextGen Indie Book Awards, juvenile nonfiction category.

Do those awards matter? They did to me—emotionally. I knew I had published a great book, but the validation of a Starred PW Review—it gave me confidence to Trade Up again.

This time, I sent the book to a contact at Scholastic to be considered for their book club and book fair programs. No answer. That means No. But you just knock on doors. Next, I sent WISDOM to Washington to the book buyer for the Smithsonian Museum Stores. Yes! We are now a vendor for them and they’ve placed WISDOM on their shelves. Nice Trade UP!

What now? How can I Trade Up again? Several education wholesalers have listed the book in their catalogs. With Smithsonian and PW on my side, I am pursuing many other options of catalogs and specialty stores. I just got another NO today, but that's OK. I'll look for another place and way to Trade Up. Stay focused on the positive!

The real Trading Up will be for the next book, another collaboration between illustrator Kitty Harvill and myself, which will be out next year, HAPPY, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA, the story of an orphaned puma cub and how he survives.

Trading Up can happy on any level. Did your friend LOVE your first draft? Then Trade Up--submit the book to an editor at a conference. You may get a No, but you may get an enthusiastic YES, and an invitation to submit.

Name one good thing that has happened to your and your writing this year. Now think of ten ways you might Trade Up for something even better.


Darcy Pattison blogs about how-to-write at Fiction Notes and blogs about education at Follow Darcy on Pinterest.
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