Handling the To-Do List

Saturday, August 31, 2013
If you've read many of my posts on The Muffin, you know that I spend three hours a day teaching Journalism, Speech and Drama.

So, when the last school bell rings in May, I create my summer to-do list and break it into multiple categories, like home improvements, school projects (you see, school NEVER ends for a teacher), and writing projects.

This summer, my writing project list included 11 projects ranging from setting up a new schedule for my blog, querying new markets, completing some photo projects, devoting a specific number of hours to working on the novel, and developing story ideas for the regional publications I write for.

How many projects were crossed off the list?

Can I plead the 5th? Do I have to answer the questions?


Yes, the deuce. Dos. One + one equals two.

The weird thing is, I feel like I got a lot of writing accomplished this summer. I know my bank account appreciated my efforts!

But two? Seriously?

I'm frustrated that I didn't get more done. I've always thought I'm a good organizer and a fast writer.

Only two?

It got me thinking about WHY I didn't get a lot done. Interference from Facebook, Twitter and Words with Friends? Caring for the grandsons while their mom is at work? Wanting a bit of ME time? Too much "Orange is the New Black" or "The Newsroom"?

Sure, some of those factor in, but they aren't the real culprit.

So the day before I returned to school, I sent a HARO query and received a lot of great advice. During September, on my blog dates, I'm going to talk about tackling the to-do list and keeping it manageable. I'll be sharing information from organization experts, a psychologist, and medical experts.

You may be surprised at some of the answers. I was!

Until my next blog post, I'm curious. How do you handle your to-do list? Do you break down each task step-by-step? Do you have an established writing routine that lets you meet your goals?

Share your thoughts with us.

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website.
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Friday Speak Out!: When Writing Actually Becomes an Obstacle, Guest Post by Stephanie Romero

Friday, August 30, 2013
I never thought that the very thing I love to do—write—would end up becoming an obstacle to the very thing I love to do. The blessing of being able to work from home…actually making good money writing…having the flexibility to work my life around writing and not the other way around. It was like a dream come true.

Yet it wasn’t really a dream come true. Because suddenly writing became a job. It was no longer a passion. And since I enjoyed the financial benefits, I would take on more than I probably should have. So then I was stressed trying to meet tight deadlines.

Suddenly working from home was a challenge because there was still dinner to cook, laundry to tackle, dust to remove. I couldn’t escape the reality of my personal life because it was intertwined with my work life.

And flexibility to work my life around writing? Somehow everything got turned around and pretty soon I was trying to fit life in around my work. Just ask my husband who wondered what happened to the days when he was off work and we could spend time together. Or my children who always felt like a bother whenever they had to ask me something.

After three years of writing for a living, I found myself wondering “What am I going to do?” when the email arrived in my inbox. That so-called “dream,” the one I knew deep down inside couldn’t possibly last forever…was no longer going to be. All that stood out to me was this: workload reduced.

Actually, the truth is my thoughts were more about the money. What I had been making for a living, would be cut in half (or even more). An offer was made to write a letter of recommendation. Well that’s all well and good but meanwhile…what am I going to do? How am I going to adjust to this decrease in pay?

Then this thought started niggling me in the back of my mind. Maybe this was my chance…to break out of the work of writing and bring back the passion. To write about things that I actually care about. But it was as if an inner war began to take place—sure that sounds great. But what about the money?

Here’s what I’ve discovered…writing just to make money saps the creativity and passion. It takes away from the real writer that is within. It’s not that there is anything wrong with making money from writing. But when it stops up the creative juices…when it hinders you from writing about things that inspire you…it’s become nothing more than a job.

I would guess that there are other writers out there who have experienced the same thing. For me, this is my chance to dust off the ideas that have been sitting in the closet of my mind for some time now. It’s time to get back to the thing I love to do…it’s time to WRITE!

* * *

Stephanie Romero is an independent contractor for We Do Web Content and the creator/instructor of "Recovery from Abuse," an online course that is currently being used in a correctional institution's character-based program. But her true passions are writing about motherhood at Treasuring MOMents and getting real at Faith Messages.

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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Join YA Author Kelly Fiore for a Taste Test (Interview and Giveaway)

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Are you a fan of Iron Chef? Do you find yourself DVR-ing Cupcake Wars? If you are a foodie and love young adult books, too, then you are really in for a treat with the interview and giveaway we have today. We have debut author Kelly Fiore and her young adult book, Taste Test. Grab your favorite snack, read this interview, and then enter to win your copy below! She shares a bit about her book, balancing work and family, being a locavore and proponent of the Feingold Diet, and writing through post-partum depression. 

WOW: Welcome, Kelly! Congratulations on your debut of Taste Test, a young adult contemporary novel. Tell us a bit about the plot. It sounds fun!

Kelly: Thanks so much for having me! Taste Test is about a high school senior named Nora who grew up in her widowed father’s North Carolina barbecue joint. When her favorite show, TASTE TEST, is casting for new teen cooking competitors, Nora applies and is accepted. Once there, though, she realizes that her humble upbringing didn’t prepare her for the cut-throat world of culinary reality TV. She’s got a snotty roommate and a love/hate relationship with the competition hottie, Christian Van Lorton. Not that Nora can concentrate on her personal life – when accidents in the kitchen start looking more like sabotage, Nora realizes she needs to focus on staying in the competition and try to avoid being “chopped” for good.

WOW: I love this--I'm a reality TV fan! Where did you get the idea to do a reality show about teens cooking?

Kelly: I was a high school teacher for about ten years; and throughout that time, there was a program called “Commercial Foods.” It was run by a former chef, and the kids absolutely loved it. It was always one of the most popular classes. I sort of took that idea, combined with the simple fact that there really SHOULD be a reality cooking competition for teens, and compiled Taste Test.

WOW: What kind of research did you have to do for this? Did you get to go to a reality show?

Kelly: If I tell you I watched a lot of TV, does that count as research? (smiles) In all seriousness, I think much of my former life was research – I worked in restaurants for about seven years in my teens and early twenties. Now, I watch a ton of food-related television, and I’m lucky to have several Top-Chef alumnus restaurants in my area (Bryan Voltaggio’s Volt, Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery, Mike Isabella’s Graffiato, etc.). So sure, I did watch a lot of TV – but I also tried to spend time in the restaurant arena and absorb the atmosphere. For example, Volt has a Table 21 menu (21 – yes 21! – dishes are served), and it takes place in a kitchen-side dining area. So you get to see the chefs working while your food is prepared. That was an invaluable experience for my writing.

WOW: Food is a big theme for you--on your blog and in your life! I read this on your website, and I KNOW we have some readers on here who will be REALLY interested in this: "I spend all of my free time that isn’t spent writing cooking, baking, and canning. We are locavores and extremely supportive members of a local farm CSA. We also follow and support the Feingold Diet, a food program for kids sensitive to artificial additives and natural salycilates." Can you explain a little how you balance everything?

Kelly: Um. Carefully? (smiles) Being “locavores” is actually really easy for someone living in suburban Maryland. We’re surrounded by farms and the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movement is huge here, especially in bigger cities. So many farms already have deliveries into Baltimore and DC, but offer a discount if you pick your share up at the farm. I find it inordinately important that my son spends time on a farm to see where food comes from, so we go most Saturday mornings to get our eggs, veggies, and pork/chicken.

I could talk about the Feingold Diet all day, so I’ll try not to make this too long. The FG Diet changed my son’s life. He was having really horrible behavioral problems from age 3-4, and sometimes they seemed physical – almost seizure-like. Doctors weren’t much help. When we discovered the FG Diet, it was sort of a “well, I’ll try this before we try meds” kind of choice. Instead, we found our son – the boy he was always meant to be – by eliminating dairy and artificial colors/flavors/preservatives. We also limit foods high in salycilates (this is the active ingredient in aspirin and does a number on young tummies). The FG Diet is labeled as an ADHD diet, but it’s really not just that – since starting in February 2012, my son hasn’t had seasonal allergies, ear infections, stomach troubles, or any of the symptoms that used to be regular for him. And his behavior is no longer an issue. In fact, he started Kindergarten this past Tuesday and got so many “green lights” for behavior that he got to bring home the “Show and Tell” bag.

Your original question was about balance – I think I got a little side-tracked. In terms of fitting it all in, we make choices as to what is a priority. I’ll be perfectly honest, we spend more money on food than we do on most other bills. But we think our health and our bodies are an important investment and more important than new clothes or vacations and luxuries. Everything’s a trade-off.

WOW: That is so amazing what the right diet did for your son! And I think spending a lot of money on food is actually a good place to spend money. Finally, I read that you started writing during post-partum depression, and then you got your agent. Tell us how writing helped you work through a hard time as a mom, and about your agent journey, which I'm sure was thrilling!

Kelly: I’ve always tried to be really transparent about my post-partum depression because I think it a) happens far more often than people realize and b) is often a silent, hidden issue.

My pregnancy and subsequent depression changed everything for me. Now six years out, I can see that it might have been the best thing that ever happened. I’ve never been as happy as I am now. But at the time, I just wanted to feel anticipation and hope and drive. When I thought about the “butterflies” and emotions of teen love and teen angst, I found myself physically manifesting those feelings. And I was able to write them down.

That first book was extremely cathartic and, like you mentioned, nabbed me my first agent. It didn’t sell, which was a little disappointing, but I can see now that writing it brought me to the place I’m at now.

WOW: Thanks for being so open and honest! What's been the best part about Taste Test coming out?

Kelly: I think it will be the moment I walk into a Barnes & Noble or an Indie bookstore and see it sitting on the shelf. That, or going into a library and finding it there. That will be extremely gratifying. There’s something about physically having a book in the bookstore that makes you feel really legitimate as a writer.

WOW: Thank you, Kelly. To find a copy of Taste Test, visit Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.org, or your local bookstore. To connect with Kelly online, you can visit her website at www.kellyfiorewrites.com and follow her on Twitter at: @kellyannfiore


We also have a signed copy of Taste Test by Kelly Fiore to give away to one lucky reader! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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The Hunt for a Great Human-Interest Story

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
A few years ago, I was working out my frustrations at the gym, trying to figure out where my writing career was going and brainstorming a few new magazine article ideas. As I was leaving through the front lobby, I noticed a flyer about an upcoming swimming fundraiser. For some reason, even though I’m not a big swimmer, I picked it up and skimmed it on my way out to the parking lot. The flyer mentioned that a local woman named Lizi was competing in a series of races in honor of her upcoming 40th birthday. The flyer had her blog address printed on it so I investigated further once I got home.

There, I discovered Lizi had type 1 diabetes and learned more about her birthday challenge. She was signed up to compete in a variety of races, involving swimming, sprint triathlons, cycling and running, by her 40th birthday, which she called “Forty 4 Forty.” I knew I had to somehow get in touch with this woman, because I thought her story would be perfect for one of the regional magazines I had been trying to break into.

But her blog didn’t have any contact information. I figured she was local but still needed more details for a query. On a whim, I e-mailed a personal trainer I had been working with at the time and asked if she knew who the woman was. I was in luck, she did! She quickly e-mailed me back with the woman’s e-mail address. I e-mailed Lizi, who also turned out to be a nurse, to let her know I was interested in pitching a story about her, and she responded happily and graciously. We chatted on the phone so I could get some pertinent details to include in my pitch, and I let her know I’d be in touch.

Not only did the editor I contacted respond to me quickly, but she also complimented me on my story pitch. In the end, I got to meet an inspirational member of the community by contacting Lizi, and as a bonus, my article ended up as the cover story of the magazine a few months later. Lizi called me and laughed about the fact that she had become a local celebrity and all the nurses at her doctor's office were telling her that the magazine with her cover shot was sitting in the waiting room.

These days, I work with several local magazines regularly and have tackled some tough human-interest stories, but I still get a thrill watching the story come alive and to fruition. If you come across a story that intrigues you, I say to always go for it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who blogs at Renee’s Pages.

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Back from the Book

Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Stack of research used for my forthcoming book
on gluten-free eating. Photo credit: E. Humphrey
I'm so glad to be here again. See the pile to the left? That's just one of many piles of research I collected when I set out to write the book I recently finished.

I promise you, this pile is neat and tidy compared to what it was when it was accompanied by a huge stack of books for my research.

Earlier this year I received word that I would be given the great opportunity to write an Idiot's Guide. Once the contract was signed and my outline was turned in, it was time to get writing.

I had to drop out of sight...hiding from family, friends, and even some fun. That was the time I had to eat and breathe the book.

I kept my head down and turned in my draft and am now in the author review stage. The book is scheduled for a January 2014 release.

Each writing project that I've done has differed from the last. But this project touches on so many elements that WOW! Women on Writing delves into daily. I figured for my next few entries I would share some of what I learned along the way about:
  • Auditioning for the part of the writer...and believing in yourself
  • Deadlines! 
  • Staying focused and getting the work done
  • ...And other tips and tricks for writing
There is so much I want to share, but I don't know where to begin, well, except for: I'm happy to be back writing at The Muffin with its fantastic community of writers and readers. 

So, do you have any questions for me about this process? I will do my best to address them in my next post.

Elizabeth King Humphrey writes and edits in Wilmington, North Carolina. Now that the kids are back in school she's looking forward to some quiet writing time. (Or longer naps!)
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Blog Tour for Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions by Susan Tive and Cami Ostman

Monday, August 26, 2013
& giveaway contest!

Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) and Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they’ve all experienced and rejected extreme religions.

Covering a wide range of religious communities—including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah’s Witness—and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these women became involved, what their lives were like, and why they came to the decision to eventually abandon their faiths. The authors shed a bright light on the rigid expectations and misogyny so often built into religious orthodoxy, yet they also explain the lure—why so many women are attracted to these lifestyles, what they find that’s beautiful about living a religious life, and why leaving can be not only very difficult but also bittersweet.

Paperback: 328 Pages
Publisher: Seal Press (April 2, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1580054420
ISBN-13: 978-1580054423
Twitter hashtag: #SLWExtreme

Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and at your local independent bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest: To win a copy of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes next Friday, August 30th at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Authors:

Cami Ostman is an author, editor, life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist with publications in her field. She blogs at www.7marathons7continents.com and on the psychologytoday.com blogger team. She has appeared in several publications, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Fitness Magazine, Adventures Northwest, the Mudgee Guardian in Australia, and La Prensa in Chile. Her first book, Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents, was published by Seal Press. Cami is a runner and a dog lover who lives in Bellingham, Washington.

As a writer, editor and researcher Susan has worked on a variety of academic articles exploring psychology, feminism and religion. Susan’s interest in these subjects led her to become an editor for several non-fiction titles including Faith and Feminism and Rachel’s Bag. Susan works as a grant writer and developmental consultant. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband, Michael.

Find out more about these ladies by visiting them online:

Beyond Belief Blog: http://beyondbeliefanthology.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Beyond-Belief-The-Secret-Lives-of-Women-in-Extreme-Religions/341371765891595

Cami's Twitter: http://twitter.com/camiostman

-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Cami, will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer? One of your primary interests is memoir writing; what advice can you give others who would like to see their story published?

Cami: Thanks Crystal. Yes, I've wanted to be a writer since I was about nine years old. I wrote my first poem the first time I saw the Pacific Ocean. The sound of the waves and the vastness of the Pacific overwhelmed me; I felt I had to do something to express my feelings, so I wrote a couple of verses with an abab rhyme scheme. Over the next two and a half decades I rarely published, although I kept writing privately. When I discovered that I loved to read memoirs, I knew that would be the first genre I would want to publish in. In 2010, my dream came true when Brooke Warner at Seal Press loved my book idea [Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents] and offered me a contract.

For other memoir writers who would love to see their words in print, my first piece of advice would be to develop relationship with a community of writers. Start blogging (if you're not doing it already). Develop a sense of what people want to read and connect with your audience. Relationships with other writers and with my reading audience has been one of the most enriching aspects of publishing.

WOW: Just from working with you, I can tell how important relationships are; it has truly been a pleasure. Cami, When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Cami: Well, although, I've been writing creatively since I was very young, I've only recently begun to own my identity as a writer. Even after I published my first book, I continued to tell people that I was a "teacher" or a "therapist"—my two other professions. I think it has been the opportunity to support other writers in telling their stories (through editing and writing coaching) that has made me aware of how important it is to say, "I'm a writer." Now when people ask me what I do, "writer" is the first definition I give myself.

WOW: I love how you said “own my identity”—I think that’s something lots of writers struggle with.

Now here’s a question for you Susan! Both feminism and religion can be a touchy subjects; were you at all fearful about this or were there other challenges to overcome in taking Beyond Belief to print?

Susan: The idea for Beyond Belief came to me over six years ago when I was in a memoir writing class. Previously, I had worked on other books that explore the topics of women and religion, and the commonalities between feminists and women of faith so I was truly thrilled to take on the Beyond Belief anthology. In the memoir class, I met Cami and another writer who had also joined, lived in and left a traditional religious practice. Through our writings and discussions I realized how much we had in common. It was healing and powerful for me to share my story and I wanted to expand the conversation and invite more women to tell theirs. I was never fearful, but actually very excited, Beyond Belief felt like the right next book project for me to take on.

Because Beyond Belief is not a pro- or anti-religious book but strives to give voice to women’s stories it is accessible to everyone regardless of their own personal belief. In editing it we tried very hard to focus on good stories, important questions and an open ended tone which would invite readers from many different viewpoints to engage in the conversation.

WOW: That’s a great way to look at it Susan, it’s not really pro or anti religious. I had some people ask me that very question when I began talking about your tour—thanks for that clarification! Here’s a question for both of you: What is your favorite book? What is it about that book that you love so much?

Susan: Right now I am in love with Middlemarch by George Eliot. First of all, I am envious that she was able to write an 800-page book and find a publisher! But seriously, her writing is so exemplary of a strong feminine voice and perspective, her insight into human nature so shrewd and accurate. Her observations about society and relationships feel as relevant today as they were in her own time. I love novels that create their own world in all its particular detail while at the same time laying bare timeless universal truths that feel fresh and as if they came out of my own experience.

Cami: Choosing one book as a favorite feels impossible, but let me give it a try. If I were stranded on a desert island with only one book to read over and over again I think I would have to choose The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. That book has so many nuances that I could read it over and over and never mine to the bottom. If you let me have a second book on the island, I would choose Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. As a psychotherapist and as a woman, I've learned from that book how to see the world in terms of metaphor. Having come from a pretty literal way of thinking in terms of my religion, donning the lenses of metaphor was a glorious revelation to me.

WOW: It certainly is hard to pick just one book, and don’t worry when I ask you again next time you can give a different answer (I usually do).

Cami, one of the topics you offered for your guest posts during the WOW! Tour included Women’s Empowerment. When did you become interested in this and can you tell us more about how you personally became empowered and why you’re so interested in helping others?

Cami: Absolutely! I was a late bloomer in growing into a healthy sense of empowerment. It was easy for me (and I know it's easy for many other women) to make pleasing others the primary goal in life. For years I grappled with how I could be strong and stand up for myself while still nurturing my relationships with others. I went to graduate school to become a therapist partly because I was looking for answers to my own questions about how to authentically honor myself and become a strong woman. I'm not saying I've figured everything out at this point, but I have now learned how to be true to my values even when challenged. I want every woman to have that freedom and strength.

WOW: Strong and nurturing at the same time, that’s quite a goal and now that you mention it, that’s exactly what I want for my daughter.

Susan, do you feel there is a difference between religion and spirituality? Can you give readers your take on this topic and explain a little bit more for us?

Susan: Yes, I do differentiate between religion and spirituality. I believe we are all spiritual beings. As humans we have a spiritual nature that we are born with, it is part of why we wonder, ask questions, seek meaning and connection in our lives. Religion is the codification or organization of this natural urge into a practice and set of rules and rituals. Religion is created by men to harness or direct this natural human impulse and to make it standardized and widespread. There is much about religion that is good and does help people to live better lives and treat one another with care. It is when the rules of a religious practice become an end in themselves and are no longer working with but against the spiritual nature of man that they can become extreme.

WOW: Susan, that was a relatively short answer but very deep. Thank you for sharing that differentiation with us.

The last two questions are for both of you. Any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future?

Susan: I’m working on my memoir about my ten plus years living in Orthodox Judaism. Writing a memoir is a challenging process and especially when it involves questions of religion and spirituality. I want to write this memoir because I want to understand why I made the choices I did. What was I looking for, what was missing outside of a religious life? I also want to confront some of the sadness I feel about having to leave, and what I miss and why. Many people are quick to assume that an extreme religion is discriminatory especially for women. In my story however, I gain great strength and power from my religious community and practice. I think it is important to highlight both the pros and cons of extreme religion and what it is really like for women on the inside.

Cami: I'm working on a book project I'm calling Chasing the Goddess. I'm in the process of visiting several sacred sites around the world where feminine deities are or have been revered. My hope is to find a way to really activate the goddess archetype—the sense of a strong, sacred, feminine energy that might offer an alternative to the "power over" energy of masculine-oriented spirituality—in myself and in the world. I believe that that which is personal is also political (and vice versa, of course) and hope that what I learn will trickle out from me into the way I operate in the world. I grew up steeped in the idea that I was made in the image of a masculine god; I now want to explore what would happen to my worldview if my baseline myths were feminine in their focus.

WOW: I’m so happy for both of you. For those of you that don’t know, Cami has also just returned from Japan and you can find out more about that trip and her future plans by visiting her blog: www.7marathons7continents.com

Anything you’d like to add as far as future plans for your writing or your family?

Susan: I have been writing ever since I was a young girl. When I was ten I told my mother I wanted to be a writer and she said, “writers write.” So I wrote in a journal or diary almost every day and would not let myself go to sleep unless I filled up at least a page in my diary. While I have long ago accepted the fact that writing is a solitary task I have more recently begun to appreciate the communal aspect of writing, and the collaborative effort it takes to publish and to keep motivated. I encourage anyone who wants to write to seek out others of like mind, join a writing group, read at an open mike, take a class and put yourself out there.

Cami: My first book was a memoir of how I ran the marathon distance on every continent (Second Wind: One Woman's Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents). Running continues to be a huge commitment in my life. This year I'm training to shave an hour off of my average marathon finishing time (bringing me down to 4.5 hours if I pull it off). Following that, my husband Bill and I are hoping to complete a marathon in every U.S. state (ten down, forty to go). If you're a runner—or a walker—follow my longstanding running blog that Crystal mentioned above for encouragement and a fun training and travel log.

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

Monday, August 26 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Wednesday, August 28 @ Bring on Lemons
Giveaway of the intriguing anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions and your chance to join Cami as she writes about the insightful topic of “Remaking Yourself After Divorce”.

Friday, August 30 @ Steph the Bookworm
Get in on the giveaway and join Stephanie as she reviews the anthology, Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions by Cami Ostman and Susan Tive.

Monday, September 2 @ Words, Crazy Words
Read what Susan Tive writes in her guest post about “Feminism and Religion” and get in on the giveaway and your chance to win a copy of the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions.

Wednesday, September 4 @ Renee’s Pages
Read what Renee's thoughts were after finishing the anthology, Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions and partake in the giveaway for an opportunity to read this one for yourself!

Tuesday, September 10 @ All Things Audry
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women of Extreme Religion and enjoy a guest post by author, Susan Tive with the intriguing topic of “Motherhood in and out of Religion”

Thursday, September 12 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women of Extreme Religion and join Margo as she shares her thoughts after reading this thought provoking anthology.

Friday, September 13 @ World of My Imagination
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women of Extreme Religion and join Nicole as she shares her thoughts after reading this touching anthology.

Tuesday, September 17 @ CMash Reads
Join Susan and Cami as they enjoy the author spotlight at CMash Reads today. This is your chance at a giveaway for the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. Cheryl has done a fabulous job with an in-depth author interview and excerpt especially for you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 18 @ Words from the Heart
Giveaway and review of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of women in Extreme Religions. Find out more about the powerful words of this intriguing anthology!

Thursday, September 19 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Don't miss this opportunity to win your own copy of the moving anthology Beyond Belief; The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions this is one book you don't want to miss. Read a review just as expertly written as the book as Kelli shares her thoughts.

Monday, September 23 @ Mom-E-Centric
Today is a don’t miss day for a giveaway of the intriguing anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, and guest post by Cami about “Being True to Yourself”

Wednesday, September 25 @ Choices
Today is your day for a giveaway of the anthology Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. This is also your opportunity to join Susan and Cami for a guest post titled: "Why Women Stay in Religious Communities"

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 blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Beyond Belief! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, August 30th.

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, August 30th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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Broad Appeal: Writing a Nonfiction Picture Book That Will Sell

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Publishers are buying picture books.
  To be marketable your nonfiction manuscript has to appeal to not only the young reader but also the adult buyer. 
Your reader is interested in all kinds of things from animals to how things work. They are eager to explore their world. Although they are interested in a wide variety of things they are still kids so your manuscript has to have a kid friendly slant. In their biography of Abraham Lincoln, authors Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer focused on his sense of humor. The aptly named book? Lincoln Tells a Joke. But kid appeal isn’t enough to sell your manuscript. Adults like the topic.  Kids like the slant.  
Parents and other adults stand between you and your audience. Picture books, especially durable hard covers, aren’t cheap and adults aren’t going to plunk down $16.99 to $19.99 unless the book appeals to them as well. How you do this depends to some extent on who the reader is.
Because teachers use picture books in the classroom, it pays to know what young readers are studying. Check the Common Core Standards for the appropriate grade levels. No matter how you feel about this educational initiative, it can help you see who is reading what and at what level.
In addition to their home in the classroom, picture books are read aloud at story times, in the classroom, at bedtime and more.  Many a parent knows that if a child really loves a book, this might mean reading it 15 times in just a few days. Don’t torment the adult buyer. Make this experience as fun as possible with language that is playful, lyrical or rhythmic. Lisa Wheeler does this in Mammoths on the Move, a fun to read aloud rhyming story that appeals to both the adult reader and the child audience.
I hinted at this above but to have broad enough reader appeal, your book has to be something the reader will want to experience more than once.  One way to do this is with a fun read aloud.  Another way is to create a manuscript with dual texts.
A manuscript with dual texts not only introduces a younger reader to a new topic, but also gives an older reader more information.  The main text is short and simple. It gives the younger reader what they need but also provides a framework for the older reader’s text.  This comes in the form of sidebars that provide additional, in-depth information. In Where in the Wild?, David Schwartz gives young readers a series of poem that invite them to find the camouflaged animals hidden in the illustrations.  The sidebars give in-depth information on each animal.
Create a nonfiction picture book with broad appeal and your work will find readers who want to experience it again and again.

Sue will be teaching one of our courses, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults, starting October 7, 2013.  
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Becoming a Better Writer: Easier Than You Think

Saturday, August 24, 2013
I’m sure your fiction files are much like mine, whether you save piles of writing in online folders or cram typewritten pages into dented metal filing cabinets. I’ll bet you have plenty of pieces that have never been published, pieces that now languish, abandoned, dejected, demoralized. And why?

Well, probably because an editor rejected them.

It may seem tragic at the time, but rejection is not the end of the road to publication. What is tragic is leaving those stories and poems and essays to lounge about while you peck away at your keyboard, becoming a better writer.

That’s right. Every day that you write, you’re becoming a better writer. You may not realize it, but you’re improving your craft. Every day that you read good writing, or tips about good writing, you’re picking up nuances or figuring out pitfalls. In short, you’re building necessary skills whenever you work. And because of this practice, you’re not the same writer today that you were yesterday. Or the day before that. Or the month before that.

So what does that mean for you, the I-am-writer, hear-me roar?

Don’t give up on those old stories, those dejected poems, those languishing essays! Take them out and give them a read. You may be surprised at the gems waiting for you.

Now, technically, they may not be gems at first read. I mean, let’s be realistic. There may have been a very good reason why a piece of writing was rejected. But here’s the good news. Because you’re a better writer, you can peruse that piece of writing and figure out why it was rejected.

I’m a big believer in going back to old writing, even though I have read some pretty cringe-worthy stuff and wondered how in the world I ever sent that piece of writing (and I use that term loosely) out into the world. But I almost always see something in that writing that makes me stop and think, “Hold on, Cathy. You have something here.”

And wonder of wonders! I can see—almost immediately—what I couldn’t see before! I can see where the plot went south, or that a character limped along, or that a theme is completely missing. And even more wondrous? I know how to fix it!

So I attack that writing. I polish up that gem and make it sparkle. More often than not, the new and improved piece goes back out into the world—and it’s not rejected. It’s accepted for publication, or places in a contest.

Honestly, all the work you do will pay off! Why, you’re a better writer already for having stopped by here to read The Muffin. Now all you have to do is open a file, pluck something out—and (re)write!

~ Cathy C. Hall (Hear me roar!)
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Friday Speak Out!: Long Roads, Heartaches, and Why Can't l Just be a Writer?, Guest Post by Janet L. Cannon

Friday, August 23, 2013
At various times in my life, I've complained about my jobs. Yeah, I admit it publicly. I'm not always perky and silly and punny. Sometimes I yell and get angry and frustrated just like every other human being on the planet.

My current job is no exception. While I love working with children, love teaching technology, and love the people I work with, it saps nearly all my energy. During the school year when I come home at night I am a nearly lifeless husk of a pod-person. Being an introvert in an extrovert's world will do that. Sometimes I wonder how I drive home in my dazed stupor. I have no active brain cells left to write with, therefore, August through May, I write almost nothing creative at all. Which makes me sad. Nine months of the year lost because I have to eat, pay for a place to live, pay insurance, and fill my car with gas.

And I begin to wonder...wouldn't I be a better writer if I could quit my job and write full time? If my husband made enough money for us to live on, I could do the freelance gig to fill in the gaps while writing my stories and novels on the side and that would be bliss incarnate. What if we cut back a little more here and there, went out to eat less, and saved our money more? We could make it. It would make me a better writer. Really!


Then again, when I look at the YA novel I'm writing I couldn't have done that without LIVING around children who deal with real issues of abuse, neglect, learning disabilities, and social dysfunctions every day. Currently I have two people very close to me who are going through very scary medical situations. If I didn't take time off from writing and go visit them and cry with them and comfort them, I wouldn't see what going through those situations felt like.

Research is a wonderful tool. The Internet is my friend when it comes to many aspects of my books because I can't possibly know everything about everything. But when it comes to PEOPLE, nothing substitutes the actual living of your life to make your writing real. You will create more believable, more REAL characters when you really live. Sometimes that means you're not able to write as much as you want.

But some day, there will be a day when I won't have breakfast duty, lunch duty and bus duty all in the same day that I have three meetings, no prep hour, and have to break up a girl fight. (Girl fights are the WORST!) I look forward to that day.

Ah, retirement. Fourteen years down the road. Unless my husband suddenly gets a six-figure job. Which that works, too.

* * *

 Janet L. Cannon is a happy wife, a technology teacher, an avid runner, an origami enthusiast, an obsessive crafter, a gaming nerd, a book hog, a graphic design enthusiast, and happens to have a little time between learning new hobbies to write stories, essays, and novels. She has both her BA and MA in English and is proud to have never had a job that required her to say, “Do you want fries with that?” She blogs at Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold and can also be found on Facebook.

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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Learning to Say NO!

Thursday, August 22, 2013
Good morning!

Well - I blew it yesterday with my poor parenting and then I fell asleep without setting up my blog post for the Muffin...I have to tell you that this very morning I feel like a complete and utter failure. However, my motto in life is that when I get lemons I will turn them into lemonade. At the end of my blog posts I always say the following to readers: May your paths be abundantly filled with lemons, sugar, and sunshine! I truly believe that those not so comfortable moments (the lemons) are catalysts for change. They are moments that allow us clarity and opportunity. So, instead of beating myself up this morning, I thought I would share my thoughts...

I am 35 weeks pregnant and had no business taking my 5 and 6 year old to the county fair yesterday. It was 90 degrees in the shade and I should have been sitting home with my feet up. Instead, I spent 5 hours at the fair walking around being uncomfortable. When it was time to go I of course pushed a little harder and let the children go on a few more rides. Unfortunately my generosity was not met with gratitude. I listened to quite a bit of whining on the way to the car AND the entire way home.

Why is it so hard to say no? Why didn't I just stay home and tell the children we can all go next year after their brother is here and mommy feels better?

Similarly, last week I agreed to help coordinate a charity event in town. I wanted to say no, but instead I agreed and then felt like I had too many irons in the fire. My inability to say no seems to be the root cause of most of the stress in my life.

Do you find that as an author you are pulled in too many directions as well? Is it book signings, guest blog posts, social events? Have you learned to say no? How did you learn that important lesson and can you share with us (me)?

Now I'm off to feed calves and help with hay - again....unable to say no...and did I mention the 17 pounds of garden fresh tomatoes I am supposed to turn into salsa and can later today to...Help!!

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. You can find Crystal blogging at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
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Creating Drama from Reality

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Drama Queen.

The pink, black and white sign hangs in my classroom.

No, I don't start drama. (Insert sly, snarky, winking face here.)

I teach the art of acting and production to high schoolers. We spend nearly four months perfecting a 30 minute play for competition. I have 59 students in class; approximately 80 students comprise our high school, so...

It's tough finding a script for a cast this large, so for the second year in a row, I've written our script. Last year, I wrote "Ladder, Engine." The play told the story of the 9/11 firefighters and the aftermath their families dealt with.

This year, I'm telling the story of a boy whose body was found in a Nebraska field nearly 30 years ago. The case, dubbed Little Boy Blue, was found on a cold December morning wearing blue footie pajamas.

I'm putting the finishing touches on the script this week, and then it's time for tryouts!

Creating drama comes easily. The structure of a play is easy to follow and since I've coached drama since dinosaurs roamed the earth (I know some kids think this is true), I've developed characters and refined character traits of Alice in Wonderland, several of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, and average Janes and Joes.

If you are interested in writing drama, you may want to consider some of these tried - and so far, successful - tips:
  1. Create empathy. Establishing a connection with the audience is important. I like to begin in tableau, with almost every character on stage, to create an amazing stage picture AND to develop that sense of empathy between actor and audience.
  2. Beef up the tension. What works for me - and I try to create this dual threat on stage through staging elements - is to create two lines of tension and conflict. If you would look at a graph of the first line of conflict, it would be filled with peaks and valleys. Obviously, it keeps the audience guessing, but that wave of emotion helps tip #1 happen. Then, I like to use a secondary character as a means of conflict. Add this line of tension to the graph mentioned above, and you'll see a flat line of sorts. That's not bad, though! It means the tension and conflict is right there, always present, always a problem. Drama NEEDS drama!
  3. Use the onion effect. One of my favorite movie lines comes from Shrek when the ogre is talking to Donkey and the convo turns into "I'm like an onion, you have to peel back one layer at a time. Do the same thing with characters. Strip away the outer shell and show the audience what makes the character tick.
  4. Develop a timeline. Since the plays I've written follow current events/real-life true crime, I draw a timeline of actual events that can be incorporated into the play. Don't forget to add some pop culture elements. For example, in last year's play, I searched for hit music from 2001, viewed wedding pics from that time to see what trends were in style, and discovered Bratz dolls were popular. These tiny staging elements help solidify the overall effect of the play.
  5. Come full circle. I tend to use flashbacks when writing drama. Why? It's an easy way to tie past events to the present. It also becomes an effective tool to use to wrap up the storytelling. In last year's production, the play began with five firemen rushing toward the Twin Towers. The audience heard their panicked conversation before the men entered the Towers. The play ended in the same way: the firemen stormed the stage and went into a freeze before entering the Tower. The circular motion keeps action moving.

If you enjoy theater and can't locate a script that clicks with your cast, why not try to create more drama and write your own production.

Then you, too, can join the Drama Queen ranks.

by LuAnn Schindler.  Read more of her work at http://luannschindler.com.
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The Benefits of Creating a Group Blog

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Some of the Lit Ladies at a retreat
You are currently reading a group blog--did you know that? Basically, it's a blog that a group of writers post on, instead of just one blogger who might every once in a while have a guest blogger. Recently, my critique group started a group blog, and I am super excited about it. The six of us call ourselves "The Lit Ladies." Each of us has a pen name on the blog from Baby Boomer Lady to Busy Lady. Then there's me--Sandwich Lady.

Our names tell a little about what we'll blog about on our given day. I'm blogging about being a member of the sandwich generation. One of our members is Little Lady; she's blogging about being the youngest in our group, a senior in high school. If you want to check out our blog and see how we set it up, please do! We are currently having a contest to win Claire Cook's latest book, Time Flies.

In just the few short weeks since our blog has been live, I've realized the benefits of being a part of a group blog. Here are a few ah-ha moments I've had.

  • Other members can help you with tech problems. I had never used this version of Wordpress we are using, and I couldn't figure out how to get the cute photo with my headline on the home page. I put my problem out to the other members of my critique group (we also have a private Facebook group for discussions), and immediately they told me what I forgot to do. So, instead of spending hours on this, I had my problem solved in minutes with my fellow bloggers.
  • Your content is fresh, and it's not sucking up all your writing time. We have six bloggers! We are each blogging between two and four times a month. We are all working on finding guest bloggers or authors to interview or contests to hold. With your own blog, it's all you. If you don't blog for two weeks because your mom is in the hospital, your content is stale. With the group blog, everyone pitches in and helps keep the content fresh.
  • All bloggers have different contacts. Six bloggers means that many more people announcing posts on social media and even talking about the blog with their friends and family! We are getting new people on our blog that we might not have each known individually. This widens the audience for anything that we are trying to promote.
  • Blog costs can be split! So far, we don't have much cost. But if we do incur any, it can be split SIX WAYS instead of one person paying for everything. 
  • It creates a community. We were already close. Critique group members often are. But I feel like this blog and our Facebook group have brought us even closer. It's fun to read what each other posts and to keep track of what's going on in everyone's lives in-between critique group sessions! 
What do you think? Would you like to be a part of a group blog? Are you? If so, what's the benefit for you? 

Margo at a book signing
Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and blogs as the Sandwich Lady on The Literary Ladies blog.  
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Elaine Drennon Little, author of A Southern Place, launches her WOW! blog tour

Monday, August 19, 2013
& giveaway contest!

An expertly written Southern Drama!

A Southern Place is a moving book that is expertly written. Mary Jane Hatcher—everyone calls her Mojo—is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.

Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster—the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county—is no exception.

As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.

Paperback: 294 pages

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (August 6, 2013)

ISBN: 1937178390

Twitter hashtag: #ASPLittle

A Southern Place is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of A Southern Place, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes THIS Friday, August 23rd at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Adopted at birth, Elaine lived her first twenty years on her parents’ agricultural farm in rural southern Georgia. She was a public school music teacher for twenty-seven years, and continued to dabble with sideline interests in spite of her paid profession. Playing in her first band at age fourteen, she seemed to almost always be involved in at least one band or another. Elaine’s writing began in high school, publishing in local newspapers, then educational journals, then later in online fiction journals. In 2008 she enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University in Louisville, where upon graduation finished her second novel manuscript. Recently retiring after eleven years as a high school chorus and drama director, Elaine now lives in north Georgia with her husband, an ever-growing library of used books, and many adopted animals. She is excited to announce her debut novel A Southern Place.

Find out more about Elaine by visiting her online:

Author blog: http://elainedrennonlittle.wordpress.com/

Author Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/elaine.d.little

-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Elaine, your background is very interesting, can you point to one person in particular, or one life event that really pushed you in the direction of publishing A Southern Place?

Elaine: Wow, that’s a pretty loaded question, but I’ll do my best. The original story for A Southern Place was actually a submission for The First Line, a print literary journal that provides what must be the first sentence of all submitted work. For that issue, the line was something like “Time there was not measured by days or weeks, but by the number of eighteen-wheelers that drove through town.” I loved the sentence; it was easy to see Newton, the tiny Georgia county seat where I grew up, as being the very place in the picture it painted. My story was not chosen for the magazine, but I couldn’t seem to let go of the idea, so I continued to play with it. After being accepted into an MFA program in 2010, I tweaked the story and added a little more, turning it in for work-shopping at my first residency there. I guess you could say it was well-received: my professors and fellow students all seemed to like it, their biggest criticism being that it was NOT a short story, but the beginning of a larger work. I kept going, and by the end of my second semester I had finished the first (of MANY) drafts of the book you see today.

WOW: Glad you didn’t give up after the rejection! You mentioned in your biography you were adopted at birth, did that life event play a role in the way you wrote the family bonds in A Southern Place? Can you tell us more about the characters (specifically uncle Cal)?

Elaine: The characters in A Southern Place are totally fictional, but I guess they could be considered composites of people I’ve known in South Georgia. My adopted family took me home when I was five days old, so they feel as much “mine” as any blood relatives, I believe. The Mullinax family’s close ties with home, family, and particularly with the land that they cultivate would be very much like my own. Whereas my own family was of the more commonplace conservative and church-going style, the Mullinax family is more relaxed and “free-wheeling” than mine. As an imaginative child, I suppose Mojo’s family might have been one of the many stereotypes of families I fantasized about when wondering about my birthparents.

Uncle Cal is perhaps my favorite character—he is the son my father should have had. His bond with the land is much like that of my dad’s; it is its own religion. (On a side note, Mr. Danner, the county extension agent, more or less IS my father’s cameo appearance!) Cal has the most positive attitude in the face of continuing bad luck, and relentless work and belief in “life being what you make of it” only make him stronger. He is not without fault; his alcoholism drives him to an early grave. Cal’s short relationship with Claudette was the most “fun to write” chapter of the book, and his funeral is, to me, the most beautifully written section.

WOW: Cal sure was a favorite for me too; you did a fabulous job writing each and every character. In particular, I love the independent women in your novel; in what ways are you similar to the characters of MoJo and/or her mother?

Elaine: Goodness, Crystal, you cut right to the chase don’t you? Mojo is about my age. As stated earlier, we didn’t come from the same kind of family, but I spent a lot of my younger years “pretending” to have other lives, and Mojo’s strangely dysfunctional family would have been one I’d have liked to play out in my head. (I don’t claim to know why it is, but kids with enough food, clothing, books, and more-than-necessities seem to find the opposite as somewhat fascinating. In my defense, I also liked to imagine myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Frank, a missionary in China, and a little later, one of those pioneer pseudo-sluts in horrendous paperbacks like Sweet Savage Love and The Flame and the Flower. Go figure!)

I love that you infer that I might have the strength of these characters, but sadly, I do not. I’ve had a good life, but I had great parents who dedicated much of their lives to make sure I was fed, clothed, educated and loved. I’ve never been faced with the kind of challenges Mojo saw; I’m not sure I’d be half as resourceful, but thanks for the compliment.

As for her mother, Delores, parts of her story are closer to home. I openly admitted to my high school students that in 1974, I was a statistic. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is only 17 years difference in my and my oldest daughter’s ages. If Delores’s first visit to the gynecologist seems real, it’s because I lived it. It was, to this day, one of the most humbling experiences of my life, and it breaks my heart to think of any young girl in the same scenario today, but it does happen. Society may be more accepting, but the feeling of humiliation hasn’t progressed so far.

WOW: Thank you for such a candid answer and you really wrote those scenes so well, it’s easy to tell they are close to your heart. On a lighter note, what is your favorite book? What is it about that book that you love so much?

Elaine: My favorite first sentence is in Peachtree Road by Anne River Siddons.

My favorite paragraph is on the last page of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy. Though I love Caldwell, Faulker, and dozens of traditional southern literary writers, I’ve only been recently been able to admit what must be my favorite book: http://elainedrennonlittle.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/liberating-me/

WOW: It’s hard to pick a favorite, isn’t it? I have trouble with that myself. Who was most influential in your writing and publishing?

Elaine: My high school English teacher, Mrs. Virginia Newby Jones, told me I should write a book. It took an additional 35 years, but I finally did.

Suzanne Kingsbury, a wonderful writer and book doctor, taught me a whole world of ways to conserve words and make my writing more believable. She also encouraged me to follow my dream of going back to school for an MFA. I thank every teacher, mentor, and fellow student at Spalding University—being part of that community was the greatest experience of my adult life.

WOW: Elaine, you grew up on a farm and I happen to own a farm; I know firsthand it’s a lot of work, but what did you enjoy most? Was there a particular chore your liked or an animal that became your favorite?

Elaine: Here’s what I mean about having an easy life: I grew up on a large farm that produced cattle, swine, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and cotton. However, I never had any farming-type chores because I had severe childhood asthma; there were times in elementary school when my parents were told by doctors to take me to higher altitude, even out of state, until it rained again. Heat and dust were lethal to me, so I spent most of my childhood inside, reading books or playing the piano. As a teenager, my dad found me so mechanically UN-inclined that he promised to keep me in automatic-steered vehicles if I never again asked him to teach me to drive a stick shift. I do have a special affinity for admiring fields of crops or grazing cattle. And I still have a talent for being a bit of a “cat whisperer” to feral cats. That’s about it—I told you I had it easy!

WOW: I won’t share that answer with my children—they’ll be stuck helping in the barn. You may not be mechanical, but your writing skills make up for it!

You must have some great stories to tell after more than a decade as a music and drama teacher; do you have one story in particular that sticks out as the funniest or craziest?

Elaine: In 28 years, I have TOO many funny stories. I guess my particular favorite came from the class I “created” in my final years—My Men’s Chorus class.

In high school, girls may join a chorus class for many reasons, and some of them are NOT musical—because she doesn’t want to get sweaty in PE, break a nail in pottery, or because it may not be socially cool to be in vocational classes. You’d be surprised at the number of females who LETTER in chorus yet only truly participate by filling a seat or lip-syncing when the teacher is watching. This is not to give girls in chorus a bad name as a whole, but such young ladies ARE out there.

The boys, however, are generally different. Since through the years many of the high school “jocks and jerks” have inferred that singing is a “less than manly” activity, when a young man signs up for a chorus class, he usually WANTS to sing. My men’s class started with 9 students. Within five years, it had over 30 and was the highlight of my concerts.

It did take some getting used to. Having no brothers or sons, I was not comfortable with the amount of testosterone in the room. The discipline principal gave me no help, telling me “you asked for it, now you have to deal with it” when I wrote up a young man for “purposeful flatulence.” I learned that the punch line “that’s what she said” would HAVE to be tolerated at least once during every class period. Once I got over these few guidelines, it was all good.

These guys not only wanted to sing, they got excited about it. They sang sailor songs, and folk songs, and Beach Boys classics. They learned to build chords, we worked from bell-to-bell without stopping, and by the third year we were even warming up in four-part harmony. We produced three state champion quartets.

They told me far more than I wanted to know. At least once a week I had to remind them that I did not need nor want to hear their personal feelings about particular females—whether Britney Spears, Megan Fox, or girls they actually knew. And then one day there was grand finale of all class stories: the day they taught Logan to “booty dance.”

Logan, a handsome, shy, and multi-talented freshman became quite the ladies’ man after being seen as the shirtless bongo drummer in our region championship musical. He came into class “pumped,” telling the guys that he’d just been asked to the prom by a “hot” senior girl. There were cat-calls, high fives, and such, then one of the older guys asked if he was ready to “booty dance.”

“Yeah,” he said, “I know how to dance. I mean, I’ve been going to dances since middle school. It’s no different, right?”

The older guys laughed, soon joined in by the rest. Logan simply looked confused.

“Why are you laughing? What’s funny?” he asked.

“Poor baby,” said John, an older jock-Latino who just happened to sing as well as he could through a football. “Well guys,” he said to his friends. “Guess we’ll have to teach him.”

“Yeah,” said Adam. “We can’t have him giving us choir boys a bad name. Get the door!” He nodded toward the door as another student made sure it was secured.

For the next forty minutes, four juniors and and five seniors proceeded to teach, in hands-on methods, their clueless friend the finer points of booty dancing. They started out holding one of a partner’s hands, while doing a slow and seductive hip-sway thing.

When Logan didn’t “get it,” one boy placed his hands OVER Logan’s hips and guided them from side to side, then circling, while another boy performed exactly the same moves while standing directly in front of Logan. In a few minutes, four or five boys were all doing the same moves, stand one-by-one in front of Logan, like dancing dominoes.

As Logan began to move easier, the leader removed his hand from Logan's hips, now facing him; he held one hand of Logan’s then offered various pointers of what to do next.

“Smile,” John said, looking into Logan’s eyes, almost—seductively? “Look into her eyes,” he said. “Then reach up, maybe brush her hair off her shoulder, onto her back.” John did this as he explained, brushing imaginary hair off Logan’s shoulder, then nonchalantly dragging his hand down Logan’s arm, hip, then lingering for a moment at thigh-level.

By this time all but the very shyest boys were participating. They went from wandering hands to rotating pelvises, front-to-front and then back-to-front. As John assumed the “man” position by extending his bent leg, Logan was coerced to the girl position—straddling John’s leg and “humping” over it. I’d chaperoned a dance or two, and it bothered me when “real” couples did this, yet it was somewhere between unnerving and totally hilarious to see a room full of teenaged boys trying this in unison. They were fair about it, once Logan understood the “girl’s” part, they let him graduate to the other. There were a few more moves and ideas carried out, but I pretty much lost track after that one.

The bell rang. The boys stopped their antics, grabbed their books and headed out for their next class, acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.

I was ever so happy to have planning next—it took at least that long to gather my senses for a “normal” class…

WOW: I’m so glad you were able to share that with us; everyone can use a good laugh!
You credit a writing workshop for pointing you in the right direction for publishing A Southern Place, please tell us more? What advice would you give an author looking to be published?

Elaine: I attended a seminar sponsored by the Atlanta Writer’s Club where an agent gave her “what we’re looking for” speech. I followed the list explicitly, and within a couple of months a got a letter in the mail. She (the agent) was covered in clients, but liked the book well enough to pass it on to another agent in the firm. On Valentine’s Day of 2012, I received a letter with a contract from Amanda Wells of The Sullivan-Maxx Agency. Three months later, she had found a publisher who wanted my book. I consider myself VERY lucky; I’m sure there are books much better than mine that simply never have the right combination of events to make it happen.

WOW: Any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future? Is there a sequel to A Southern Place? Do we get to learn more about MoJo?

Elaine: I’ve had several people ask me that; I hadn’t really considered it, but maybe…

I’m a little more than halfway through my next book, currently called (I’ve learned that titles can ALWAYS change) Songbird Divas. It’s the first in a trilogy about three middle-aged women all involved in music as a career, and it’s set in North Georgia. I’m also playing with the idea of doing another revision of my first book, “Birds Flying South,” set in the same location as A Southern Place.

WOW: Thank you so much for allowing us some insight into your life, experiences, and your first novel. I personally cannot wait to read more from you Elaine. Thank you so much!

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

Monday, August 19 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Tuesday, August 20 @ Words, Crazy Words
Today is a great opportunity to sit down with Elaine as she blogs about “Book Clubs.” Don’t forget to sign up to win your own copy of Elaine’s expertly written book A Southern Place!

Wednesday, August 21 @ Found Between the Covers
Win a copy of A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little and read what Sherrey Meyer has to say in her honest review of this first novel by a talented new voice in southern fiction.

Thursday, August 22 @ Bring On Lemons
Get in on the giveaway and join WOW!'s own Crystal Otto as she reviews Elaine Drennon Little’s first novel, A Southern Place.

Friday, August 23 @ CMash Reads
Don't miss today's giveaway and book review for Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place #ASPLittle!

Saturday, August 24 @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Kathleen Pooler reviews and shares her thoughts on A Southern Place and offers readers her insight as well as a giveaway. Don’t miss this stop!

Monday, August 26 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Find out what Elizabeth Parker has to say after reading Elaine Drennon Little's debut novel, A Southern Place and don't miss out on this great giveaway!

Tuesday, August 27 @ Renee’s Pages
Don’t miss Elaine Drennon Little and her guest post about “Southern Fiction” and this giveaway for Elaine’s fabulous southern fiction novel titled A Southern Place.

Wednesday, August 28 @ Steph the Bookworm
Get in on the giveaway and join Stephanie as she reviews Elaine Drennon Little’s first novel, A Southern Place.

Thursday, August 29 @ Bette Lee Crosby
Elaine Drennon Little visits the website of fellow author Bette Lee Crosby and Elaine discusses “Literary Fiction” and offers a giveaway of her debut novel A Southern Place.

Monday, September 2 @ All Things Audry
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of A Southern Place and enjoy a guest post by author, Elaine Drennon Little as she shares “My Favorite Authors/Favorite Books”

Tuesday, September 3 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Join Elaine Drennon Little as she visits Tiffany Talks Books for a promo post, guest post about "Arts in Schools" and a giveaway for her debut novel A Southern Place!

Wednesday, September 4 @ My Fiction Nook
Now is your chance - be part of the giveaway for this fabulous Southern Fiction Novel and hear from Elaine Drennon Little as she chats about her experience with “Reading Among Farm Families” and shares more about her first novel, A Southern Place. This is a post you won’t want to miss!

Thursday, September 5 @ The Book Bag
The Spotlight at the Book Bag is none other than Elaine Drennon Little and her debut novel, A Southern Place #ASPLittle; check out this great blog stop and get in on the givewaway!

Friday, September 6 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Elaine Drennon Little shares her thoughts on Book Clubs in Schools and offers a giveaway of her debut novel, A Southern Place. This is a stop you won't want to miss!

Monday, September 9 @ Mom-E-Centric
Elaine Drennon Little lets us in on her thoughts about “Free Writing vs. Controlled” and a chance for the giveaway of her newly released novel, A Southern Place!

Tuesday, September 10 @ Thoughts in Progress
Don't miss this giveaway opportunity for A Southern Place (#ASPLittle) and read what Elaine Drennon Little has to say about "Reading in the New South" as her tour takes her to Thoughts in Progress as a guest blogger!

Thursday, September 12 @ Words from the Heart
Hear from author of A Southern Place (#ASPLittle) as Elaine Drennon Little shares her thoughts about “Creative arts Programs in Schools”

Friday, September 13 @ Margo L. Dill
Find out what Margo is thinking after reading A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little and be sure to participate in the giveaway for this debut novel!

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 blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, August 23rd.

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