Surrounded by Books

Saturday, May 31, 2014
I am surrounded by books -- literally. This time each year I help with a huge book sale in my area. By help I
mean that 2 or 3 times a week I spend a few hours in an old warehouse where people drop off  boxes, bags and sometimes even suitcases filled with their old books. A lot of books! Last summer we estimated the sale offered 100,000 books. At the warehouse I sort books: biographies in this box, cookbooks in that box, kids books in that box, fiction sorted by author's last name. As the boxes are filled I move them to pallets, six stacks of boxes, five boxes high. And there I am standing at my sorting table amid these towers of boxes.

Sorting is a quiet and lonely task, punctuated by periods of talking to yourself. Sort of like writing. I wonder how all these books end up here. Why did someone decide they didn't need them on their shelf anymore? Did they not like the book? Do they need to make room for new books? Do they want to support the student programs the sale makes possible? Are they one of those people who only reads a book once?

It's easy to spot the books that were loved. They are worn from multiple readings, dotted with margin writing or have scraps of paper marking favorite passages. Then there are the ones that look like they just hopped of the bookstore shelf and were never opened. Or worse, they have a bookmark about 30 pages in making me guess at that point they were abandoned and left unread.

With so many books passing through my hands it's easy to wonder about my own writing. On good days I say to myself "Well, if all these authors got a book published surely I can..." On grouchy days I say, "With all these books on the shelves how will there ever be room for mine..." Thankfully my days are more good than grouchy.

Tell me, do you ever worry that your writing will get lost in the amazing number of books available? And do you donate your books to book sales?

Jodi Webb is a WOW Blog Tour organizer who is working on a historical fiction WIP. You can read reviews of the many books she reads -- some from the used book sale -- on Words by Webb. If you want to visit an amazing book sale this August come to the NIE Book Sale.
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Friday Speak Out!: The Power of the Story

Friday, May 30, 2014
by Sioux Roslawski

Why do we write what we do? Who is our audience? And the most important question, the most heartfelt one (and the one that is usually unspoken): Will our writing matter to anyone—does anybody really care? *

I got an answer to that last question recently. And the petite, curly-haired woman who delivered the answer changed my life with just a few soft-spoken words.

Just before Mother's Day, I was honored to celebrate the holiday by sharing my story—my birth mother's story—on a stage. It was the Listen to Your Mother St. Louis show. I had written a piece to submit, had gotten it critiqued, sent it in, auditioned, was chosen, rehearsed, had bonded with the other women, and had now performed for the second show of the day. The rollercoaster day—all highs and thrilling turns—was over. Or so I thought...

I was in an out-of-the-way spot, by the bathrooms, saying goodbye to my half-sister and my daughter and granddaughter. A woman—the petite and pretty one I mentioned earlier—walked up to me. The words seemed to tumble out.

“I enjoyed your story. I'm an adoptee too, and I know who my birth mother is, but she won't admit it.” We spoke for a while. I had already shared a little slice of my life (and bared my soul) in front of the microphone, so all I needed to do now was listen. It was like the two of us were having an intimate conversation, and I had started the dialogue when I was onstage. Now, it was her turn to reply.

Okay, perhaps I won't ever write a best-selling book that will snag rave reviews. Perhaps my little memoir stories won't make me an internationally-known writer. Most likely, I won't ever get rich writing. But my words do matter. My sister was glad our mother's story was finally told. My daughter was proud that that particular part of my history was shared in such a public way. And my telling my story spurred this woman to perhaps tell her own story some day.

Her story. I was prodding her to have the courage to share her unique-to-her story someday soon. Because that is of course how we parted. I reiterated that it was her birth mother's loss—she was losing out because she refuses to let her daughter into her life.(That was one of the first things that came out of my mouth—uncensored—after this lovely woman introduced herself.)

And then I said, “And you have a story to tell. Think about it. Think about submitting your story next year.”

Who knows who will be affected by the words we put down on paper? Who knows what spark will be ignited by our lines? But we'll never find out if we don't have the courage to write...

* I had to give a little nod to the band Chicago, in their early (and great) days, when they were brass-heavy.

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a third grade teacher by day and by night (and on the weekends) she writes stories to send to Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies. She also rescues dogs for Love a Golden, which results in constant dog hair in her car. More of Sioux's writing can be found on her blog—

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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Beginning a Story: What Has to Be There

Thursday, May 29, 2014
by Alexkerhead
Writing is subjective as many of us know. One person may love a book; another reader may not. It's why Agent A rejects your novel, but Agent B brags about it all over social media. But I still believe there are certain things that the beginning of any solid fiction piece should do, whether you are writing a five-book series or a short story for children. I taught these same principles to my elementary students when we learned about what makes a good beginning. Here's the simple list:

  • The beginning catches the reader's attention.
  • It sets the time and place.
  • It introduces the main problem in the story or the point where life changes for the main character (inciting incident).
  • It makes the reader want to keep on reading.

It seems if I'm teaching these four basic principles to elementary students--that as experienced writers, we should understand and even master these criteria for a good beginning in our fiction. But I've read hundreds of drafts of stories and novels (including my own!), and these four points often elude even the best writer. Why is that?

One, I think we are often too close to our story .We think our readers just really need to know A, B, and C about our main character before we show the inciting incident at the beginning, so that the reader truly understands the depth of the problem. This is usually NOT TRUE. We need to give readers more credit and present them with an interesting or exciting beginning that starts at the inciting incident. They will catch on to our character's flaws and back story as the story moves forward.

The second problem is almost the opposite. Many times we know our story so well, we forget to put important information down on the page. For example, you know your story takes place in New York City, 100-years into the future after aliens have invaded Earth. But does your reader know that when he is first introduced to two main characters sitting in a pizza place, discussing what to eat for lunch (right before an alien attacks them)? The setting details don't need to slow the pace of the beginning down--that's the last thing you want to do; but you can write hints here or there in dialogue tags or in the dialogue to set the reader up. Some writers think it's cute or interesting to keep readers in the dark for the first few pages or even the first chapter. This only works in a VERY FEW well-structured books. If the reader is confused, he or she will put down your book and pick up another with a better beginning. An agent will offer that other writer a contract--trust me.

So, look at your beginning. Does it meet those four criteria mentioned above? Ask your beta readers, critique group members or peers if the beginning works. After all, it is one of the most important parts of your book or short story. If readers can't get past it, they won't make it to your brilliant ending.

Margo L. Dill is teaching writing short fiction for children and teens in an online class, starting June 4. Sign up now at the link to take this class. Margo is the author of the YA novel, Caught Between Two Curses , and the middle-grade novel, Finding My Place.  Find out more at
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Mentor Texts: proceed with confidence

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Recently, an editor from Red Line invited me to write a book for a new 9th grade series on ancient cultures. As a former archaeological illustrator with a son in 9th grade and degrees in history and anthropology, I jumped on the opportunity, chose a culture from their list, and read their author spec sheet.

As I read about what they wanted, I made a list of questions.

  • What do they mean by knowledgeable but approachable?
  • Just how chatty is friendly?
  • Do they want the fact sets in list format or a paragraph?

Yes, I could ask my editor the last question, but getting an answer on the first two would be tricky because they’re subjective.

It would be much easier if I could see an example, but I couldn’t look up other books in the series. Mine is going to be one of the first books completed.

Instead, I e-mailed my editor and asked for a mentor text. He responded with not one but two books, delivered as PDFs.

If you’ve never heard the term before, a mentor text is a text that you use to keep you inspired and on track. Teachers use them in the classroom to teach their students various aspects of writing such as how to write dialogue, the part of a three act structure or how to include detail.

A mentor text doesn’t have to be identical to what you are writing. The book I just wrote was on the Classic Maya. The mentor texts were part of a country series, on the modern nations of India and Iran.

I used these books to get a feel for the writing style they wanted – friendly but not chatty, not quite peer to peer but definitely not adult to child. I was also able to see just how tangential a sidebar could be. I saw that although they wanted a respectful approach, that didn’t mean hiding the negatives which meant I wouldn’t have any problems including human sacrifice on the chapter about religion.

Writing for a publisher that is new to you can be intimidating. Whether you are writing on assignment or planning to submit something cold, give yourself additional confidence by referring to a mentor text. It will help you shape your writing to meet their expectations.


Learn more about Sue's work on her blog, One Writer's Journey.
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Interview with Alana Agerbo, Fall 2013 Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Today we are very happy to welcome back Alana Agerbo. Alana placed in our Summer 2013 contest with What Matters, and now in our Fall 2013 contest with Magic. Please take a moment to enjoy her flash fiction story of a young girl with magic Band-Aids. You might also want to read her previous interview, but be sure to come back and learn more about Alana!

Despite being married for many years, Alana has found a new love. She continues to live in her Vancouver, Canada home with her husband, three children and her very pretty little kitty, but suspects they may be aware of her developing relationship, though so far, they haven’t put up a fuss.

Lucky thing too, because she doesn’t think she could end it. Even if given an ultimatum, she’d just have to tell her clan that being able to continue with this new liaison is a definite deal breaker.

And so it should be. Writing Flash Fiction really doesn’t have to be a threat to anyone. It can be done in the quiet hours of solitude, (in fact, Alana believes this to be her version of heaven) and of course, it’s an injury-free activity, provided everyone behaves and she’s not forced to write offending, real-life characters into her stories. (This is a great way to keep people on their toes, by the way.)

So yes, long may this new love interest live. After all, if you’re fortunate enough to find something rewardable, achievable and unbelievable, it’s worth fighting for. Passion always is.

Visit Alana at:

WOW: Welcome back, Alana! In your previous interview with us you mentioned one of your goals for 2014 was to enter and win more contest…and here you are! This time we have a delightful tale of magical Band-Aids. How did Evie first enter your mind and where did you get the idea for magic Band-Aids?

Alana: She came to me on one of those nights where the universe drapes my entire being and presses down. I couldn’t sleep and a clear image of this little girl bunching her skirt up with nervous fists appeared. She insisted I write for her.

I’m not sure why, but I gravitate towards homeless people, troubled teens and (seemingly) helpless children. I have a lot of “Evies” meandering my mind and I’d like to give all of them a story.

The Band-Aid idea happened fairly effortlessly in the midst of writing--a gift from my muse. If I didn’t think I’d get caught, I’d take the credit!

WOW: No, definitely do not mess with the muse!

When writing short stories, how much effort goes into developing your characters?

Alana: It’s challenging. I work hard to do the less is more thing and I really try to show, not tell my character’s quintessence through emotion. But, if you’re asking how much thought goes into them before starting my story, almost none. I begin with the stick figure in my head and let them add the flesh as I write. They tell me who they want to be. They make demands.

WOW: You write emotionally-based stories; how much tinkering takes place to get just the right gut-punch?

Alana: It depends on many things, I guess – my focus, how easily the story is flowing, if I’ve fed the cat and whether or not I have whip on my latte. Some stories rush through me like a racing river and some make me dig a deep, deep well only to reach a little pool.

When I wrote Magic several endings appeared before I settled on the final edit but the next one I wrote ended painlessly on the first take. (Hopefully WOW’s audience will get to read that one too!)

WOW: Ooh, I hope we do too! Check-in time… We are entering the second quarter of the year. You’ve just celebrated your second year of blogging (congratulations!). Do you find that your blog posts and contest entries have fed your energy to accomplish your larger writing goals or have they taken time away from that goal?

Alana: That’s a really tough question for me to answer definitively. In a way, I owe the writing I do do to blogging and contests, but at the same time, I have neither managed to revamp my existing novel or embark on a new one. However, I know I can only hold myself accountable. Blogging and contests have inspired me and been nothing but positive, educational experiences. I’d love to do it all. I’ve put in an Amazon order for an extra twenty-four hours per day. It’s pending.

WOW: (Laughing) Can I have the item number for that?

Alana, what words of wisdom would you like to share with our readers?

Alana: I don’t know how wise I am (insert a very doubtful face here) but I do feel there’s one piece that embodies all other advice--if you’re writing, you’re believing and if you believe, you just never know who you might be one word ahead of. Write.

WOW: Thank you, Alana. It’s been fun chatting with you again.

Alana: Thank you so much for having me once again. My congratulations extend to all of the contest participants and I thank WOW for supporting women writers with endless information, opportunity, resource and exposure.
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24 Days Whole Health Journaling Challenge: Get in Touch with Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Sunday, May 25, 2014
A Review by Anne Greenawalt

Because of the success I had two years ago with Mari L. McCarthy’s Start Journaling and Change Your Life in 7 Days Challenge, I was excited to try the 24 Days Whole Health Journaling Challenge, Mari’s latest challenge, but also a little skeptical. Prior to opening the book, I thought “I am healthier now in all aspects of my life than I have ever been.”

In the years since completing the 7 Days Challenge, I changed the way I ate and lost 20 lbs., then gained 10 lbs. of muscle, went back to school to advance my career, returned to competitive swimming, and then added running, cycling, and triathlons to my list of healthy hobbies. I have this “Whole Health” thing down pat, I thought. I wondered what could be gained from this new journaling challenge.

I didn’t get past the first writing prompt on Day 1 before I realized that although I was happier and healthier than ever, there was still room to achieve a more consistent balance. For my Day 1 prompt, I wrote down that I was “tired,” which I had been since 5:30 a.m. that morning when my dog pushed her nose in my face. But by writing it down and exploring that tiredness through several more prompts, I was able to recognize WHY I was tired (it wasn’t my dog’s fault) and consider potential solutions for re-gaining my energy and preventing this wave of fatigue from reoccurring.

The prompts throughout the 35-page e-book are designed to help you to do just that:

  • Contemplate all aspects of your health – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual
  • Recognize the state of your health
  • Examine why your health is in the state, for better or worse
  • Explore potential solutions for achieving optimal health
  • Determine ways to maintain healthy habits and prevent unhealthy one from reoccurring

And you can accomplish this insight to your health in just 24 days (or less) without pricey medical bills.

The 24 Days Whole Health Journaling Challenge begins on June 1, and to participate, all you have to do is sign up (for free!) and then a get a copy of the e-book (which you can get at 20% off as of this posting). If you want to be even more involved with the challenge, you can join the Facebook group, where Mari will personally welcome you and encourage you to post your goals.

Whether you’ve been journaling for years or just getting started, whether you’re happy and healthy and want to stay that way or you're looking to improve your health and well-being, I encourage you to check out The 24 Days Whole Health Journaling Challenge and get better acquainted with your mind, body and spirit.
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My Writing Process...Simmers

Saturday, May 24, 2014

I want to take the time to thank Sue Bradford Edwards for asking me to participate in a unique blog tour.
Working in the kitchen often gives me
quiet time to work through issues in
a work in progress.
Photo credit | EKHumphrey
With the My Writing Process blog tour, bloggers are being asked to answer four questions and nominate three authors to follow with short bios and blog links.

The four questions were the easy part (see below!), but the recruitment of three author-bloggers to pass along the baton didn’t go so well. If you are reading this and are a blogger-author who would like to participate in this blog tour, please contact me, I’ll send you the details and add your name to the end of this post.
Here are the questions and my answers:

1) What am I working on?
Intermittently, I am in the preliminary stages of working on a series of mysteries. It's a work I'm excited about. I’ve sketched out many of the murder plots and I’m trying to outline several of the books. Perhaps it’s a procrastination technique to postpone the writing, I don’t know. I’ve never done anything like this.But I like that outlining can help me keep focused during the actual writing.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Although murder mysteries are dark, I like to add dollops of colorful characters and light humor throughout my writing. It’s a delicate balance, but I’m trying to create a protagonist who can capture all of that, not take herself too seriously, and...solve a mystery.
3) Why do I write what I do?
For decades, I’ve been writing for other people during my work hours. These days, I have included editing and book design into that mix. Still for other people. Too rarely am I writing for myself. Solving a puzzle, which is how I approach writing a mystery, is my way of exercising my brain for my own writing. It gives me something to think about while I take a breath from the paid gigs. I decided to work on a series of mysteries because I realized those were what I reached for when reading for pleasure. And when I was younger, I read Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. Reading mysteries has been a constant throughout my life.
4) How does my writing process work?
My process has evolved over the years, mainly when I became a parent. I used to sit down at a computer and be able to write for hours. Now, as a parent, I grab the snippets of peaceful time to move forward the writing of whatever I’m working. But when I’m cooking dinner, gardening or something else when the kids are scarce, I have time to work through a plot point or rethink a character’s traits. I keep a notebook handy to write down my ideas.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She will post your name and a link to your blog if you comment below and answer the four questions above.
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Friday Speak Out!: Writer, Seamstress, Wife, Spy

Friday, May 23, 2014
by Rae Lori

As a new wife, I had to adjust to a lot of things, especially in my writing life. I was used to writing 24/7 around the clock, making deadlines left and right while scheduling new things for my to-do list one thing after another.

Once I got married, things changed. I was super happy to find the love of my life and to become a doting wife. Still, it was a challenge to balance writing (which not only includes the act of writing but also running a business as a self-publisher plus marketer) and making a nice home, happy for my new husband. And this was a guy with a healthy appetite for nice home cooked meals and quality hobby time! I also wanted to balance out my own personal new hobby of crocheting plus spend more time with my family. Writing was always at the top of my list because it was my career. With this new life, I had to find a way to adjust a nice balance for everything.

1) Make a list

A to-do list always helps to prioritize things, well, to do. I have a few lists going myself: writing, book release schedule and household. If you like a hands-on approach, a mini notepad is your best friend. For digital list lovers, there are some great task wrangling software that will offer reminders via email or an online database. My favorites are Remember the Milk ( and Toodledo ( which you can access via mobile phone apps.

2) Play to your time strengths

I'm a night owl which works out perfectly with my family's schedule. My husband usually works during the day and has recently moved to night shift. Splitting my day where I'm up early while he either sleeps after a shift or is at work during day shift lets me get covertly some work in for the day and then have time to make dinner or enjoy breakfast with him when he is at home. Superspy!

3) Don't push it. Let yourself have some fun

I used to beat myself up a lot when I missed work. I loved the time I spent as a newly wed woman and I wanted to make both that and the joy of my work combine together in perfect harmony. Stress counter-acts my creativity but the more I relaxed, the more I was able to put pen to page once again. My advice to others is like that old adage about writing, allow yourself to just let the chips fall where they may. On weekends, I allow myself to step away from writing and enjoy time with my new husband, whether it's gaming, hobby time or enjoying a movie. Not only do I enjoy his company, I also give my brain a much needed break from worrying about deadlines, marketing and other writing related things. Then come Monday, I'm geared up and ready to take on the week's work all over again!

* * *
Rae Lori is a multi-published writer who was first bitten by the professional writing bug at ten years of age. Over a twenty year plus writing career, she has garnered publishing credits in various zines, journals and publishing companies. She is a sci-fi enthusiast, blogger/author promoter/reviewer at her blog A Writer's Dream and an award winning author in multiple genres. She currently makes her living bringing her imagination to life in fiction writing and as a freelance graphic/cover designer at her company RavenFire Media. Learn more about Rae and her works on the web 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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The Places You'll Go, If You Really Want To

Thursday, May 22, 2014
My oldest son is hanging out in New Zealand, and when I mentioned this to a friend who’d recently returned from that same country, the first thing she said to me was, “You’re going there, right?”

Um…I hemmed and hawed.

I love grand adventures, and I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand. Plus, I’d have my own personal tour guide, one I could even boss around.

But it’s…well, it’s New Zealand. Three thousand miles away. Over all that water.

And I hate the idea of flying over all that water. To be honest, I’m not very keen on flying over land, either.

My friend shrugged. “Take a sleeping pill for the flight and go,” she said, “if you really want to.”

If you really want to…a simple enough phrase. But it was packed with far more application than a trip to New Zealand.

I’d been reading Nina Amir’s, The Author Training Manual, and thinking about my writing career. Specifically, I’d been pondering what I’m willing to do, if I really want to succeed.

Would I hop on a plane and head to a venue to sell books because my publisher thought I needed to go? Is my writing career worth facing my extreme fear of flying?

Maybe I wouldn’t have to fly all over creation. Maybe I could just go by car all over the Southeast, scheduling classroom visits and attending book fairs. But I have a terrible sense of direction. Left to my own driving instincts, I could end up in Mexico instead of Mississippi. Is my writing career really worth hours on the road, driving around in circles?

Maybe I could just go to my kitchen (in my pj’s!) and do Skype visits. That’s the kind of marketing that would be squarely in my comfort zone.

It might be putting the cart before the horse, considering the marketing pros and cons of a book that hasn’t sold yet. But I think it’s worth a little bit of pondering, to consider my writing willingness factor. If I really want to make a go with traditional publishing, how far am I willing to go?

For me, that means thinking about how I’d market a book. Your willingness factor might be completely different. It might be whether you can go and speak in front of crowds of people, or if you’ll go from sitting in front of a TV to sitting in front of a laptop to write, or whether you’ll go and spend the necessary money on editing or other means to improve your craft.

It all comes down to the same concept, whether you’re pondering a trip to New Zealand or your wished-for success as a writer: how far you will go depends on how much you really want to.

~Cathy C. Hall
Photo courtesy of Joey Hall
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Review and Giveaway - Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
by Marcia Peterson

Last fall, I completely cleaned out and reorganized our kitchen pantry, revamped several financial binders, and got rid of piles of magazines. Each project felt so satisfying upon completion. Still, for some reason I’m finding it hard to start on other areas of the house that need to be cleared out.

For any of us who want to create some space in our lives—physical and mental—it can be a challenge to get motivated to make it happen. That’s why a fresh dose of inspiration is always welcome. The rewards of decluttering our homes can be delicious: peace, clarity, comfort, and even increased creativity. We all deserve this.

Lucky for me, I received the opportunity to read Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home, by Lauren Rosenfeld and Dr. Melva Green. Dr. Green is a psychiatrist and expert on the television series Hoarders and Ms. Rosenfeld is a spiritual intuitive and professional declutterer. Together they’ve created a practical, yet fun and inspiring guide for improving our homes and our lives.

From the very beginning the book, it feels good to put yourself in the hands of team Rosenfeld and Green. The authors share their own stories and suggest that you bless your clutter. They want you to compassionately accept where you are and see decluttering as a spiritual practice. For those of us who think we need to attack the messy areas of our home, they remind us, “You are not battling clutter; you are relieving yourself of it. You are releasing it.”

The authors’ spiritual method of decluttering is called SLICE. This is an acronym for the three steps: Stop and Listen. Intend. Clear the Energy. Used effectively with many clients, they say that with these steps “the clutter practically removes itself.” Throughout the book they also include real people’s stories of transformation that are inspiring to read.

The “Stop and Listen” and “Intend” steps are explained in their own chapters, where you'll find help accepting what is and facing what needs to be done. What’s fun is that you set intentions for each room or space you’ll be working on (a whole room, a drawer, a closet, etc.). For example, How do you want to feel when you’re in this room? and What do you want this room to do for the people who are in it? For any area of your home, you decide what energy you want to create in that space. The authors include lists of possible intention words for each area, which help you imagine your home in an ideal way.

Step three (“Clear the Energy”) is explained through ten principles of spiritual decluttering. Now you’ll begin clearing away what doesn’t belong in your home and your life—your extraneous stuff as well as relationship clutter, time clutter, and heart clutter. Each of the ten principles includes several exercises, and lots of good ideas and encouragement. You can pick the principles that speak to your situation and just work on those chapters, or go through them all.

Of course, decluttering is an ongoing job, since clutter sneaks into our lives in various ways over time. One of the book’s final reminders is for us to embrace the messiness of life. There is no need to be perfect!

As you go through the processes in this book, you’ll learn how to determine what you want in your life, and you’ll more easily let go of what you don’t need. It feels good. Ahh, breathing room.

About the Authors:

Dr. Melva Green is a board-certified psychiatrist, TV personality, and spiritual healer. She is an expert doctor on the popular and critically acclaimed A&E show Hoarders. Dr. Green travels nationally and internationally assisting spiritually awakening souls who have committed to detoxing and decluttering—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—so that they might live their best lives and awaken into their full potential. She lives in northern California with her son.

Lauren Rosenfeld, M.A., M.Ed., believes that the mundane details of our life are the stepping stones on our intimate path of the spirit. She is a professional Soul Declutterer who helps her clients let go of physical and emotional clutter that are preventing them their Breathing Room. She coauthored Your To Be List and blogs at, where she shares lessons on how our daily lives shine with spiritual lessons. She is an unapologetic hippie-peacenick-pluralist-dreamer who resides in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and four children.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Lauren Rosenfeld and Dr. Melva Green are excited to give away a free copy of Breathing Room: Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home to one lucky winner! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below and leave a comment for a chance to win. Open internationally. Winner is chosen randomly and announced within the widget on May 30.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Betty Nearing, Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Betty’s Bio: Elizabeth Darling Nearing writes under the name “Betty Nearing” and lives in Southwest Florida. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Alabama, Pittsburgh, and then Florida. She prefers the term elegant, elderly lady to old woman, but recently passed her 84th birthday. (It is never too late.)

Betty was one of those students who sat staring at the blackboard until the last minute and then wrote frantically to complete her theme. She drove her teachers crazy. In high school she broke a cardinal grammar rule—a split infinitive and flunked. Embarrassed at this blot on her record she submitted a play written when she was nine years old and the F was changed to an A.

As a young adult, she wrote technical sales letters, edited and wrote articles for an in-house trade association magazine, wrote poems to her husband, but the real muse remained silent. The muse awoke when the love of her life passed away and she entered the internet world of creative writing classes. An instructor encouraged Betty to submit her short stories to a small publishing company for submission in a series of anthologies. Her first three were accepted. Completing the challenge of National Novel Writing Month resulted in publishing her first novel: The Island House. Her second published novel, Hang the Witch is based on the true story of her 8th great grandmother’s three trials for witchcraft. More novels are in progress.

Betty is working on a web site and writes blogs at It is not complete, but is easy to navigate.

She has particularly said what a thrill and honor it is to be in the top ten of WOW’s flash fiction contest and sends her thanks to all those who made it possible.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Fall 2013 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Betty: Fiction piqued my curiosity and I wanted to see whether I could really write a complete story in 750 words or less. It was the challenge.

WOW: Well, you rose to the challenge with a top ten entry! Your bio reflects a lifelong love of writing, and you have written various types of fiction and non-fiction. How did you get involved with flash fiction, and what do you enjoy about it?

Betty: As above--curiosity. I rewrote sales letters when I was in the business world so that everything would be on one page. Very good training in throwing out extraneous words.

WOW: How did you craft your winning flash fiction story? Did you have to edit much to get to the final version?

Betty: I can't say I crafted the flash fiction story. It was an idea I had that sort of wrote itself. I went through the usual 6 or 7 edits, but actually added words rather than subtracted them.

WOW: It sounds like you had a very successful experience participating in National Novel Writing Month, completing a novel that was also published. Tell us your NaNoWriMo success secrets!

Betty: One word: determination. I believed that if other people could write a novel of 50,000 words or more, so could I. I tried to write about 1800 words per day on average. Some days it was more and many days it was less. It was a mood to finish. About six months after I wrote the NaNoWriMo novel, I started to read it and found it was a pretty good story. At that point I edited and re-edited (you know the procedure). I went for self-publishing because the time element involved in having something accepted and traditionally published was too long for me to consider. I was 82 at the time and figured I could die before anyone read it. So I self-published. Never going to make me rich, but I made more than I spent and that was satisfying.

WOW: I think you've just inspired a lot of people to try NaNoWriMo this year! We’d also love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Betty: I live with my son and daughter-in-law and have one room in which I have a computer hutch, file cabinet (which doubles as a printer stand), bureau, bookcase, TV, bed and two night stands (plus a collection of teddy bears). Hey, when you're my age, you can get away with have a collection of stuffed animals.

I write when I feel like it. No tools or habits. If I feel I am stuck in a story, I go back and read the preceding few pages and that gets me started again.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Betty! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Betty: If you want to write, do it now in your spare time or get up an hour earlier and write. Write for yourself. Don't wait until you are my age to do the things you really want. When you write, don't constantly edit, keep on writing. The mistakes and changes will come when you edit. I learned that the hard way with my second book. I kept changing the first chapter. When I finally let it go and wrote the rest of the story, it was a great relief.

Thanks for the opportunity of sharing with you all. Good luck and good writing.

Our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN  until May 31, 2014 Midnight (Pacific Time)
For details, visit our contest page.

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Nina Amir launches The Author Training Manual blog tour

Monday, May 19, 2014
& giveaway contest!

Have you ever looked at shelves of books written by successful authors and wondered "What's their secret?" As writers we probably spend as much time puzzling over this question as we do writing. So, if you'd rather spend more time writing why not check out a book that will answer all your questions about author success. In The Author Training Manual, expert editor and book coach Nina Amir reveals the exact process successful authors have used to create business plans and proposals for their books and teaches you how to view your ideas through the eyes of acquisitions editors and literary agents.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, plan to traditionally publish or self-publish, The Author Training Manual provides you with the tools you need to achieve your goals and become the author publishers want. Inside you'll find concrete steps, evaluations, sample business plans, in-depth training activities, editor and agent commentaries, and much more--all designed to help you stand out, from the slush pile to the shelf.

Paperback: 248 pages (also available in e-format)
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (March 18, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1599631458
ISBN-13: 978-1599631455
Twitter Hashtag: #NinaAmir

The Author Training Manual is available as a print and e-book at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and your local independent bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of The Author Training Manual, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes next Tuesday, May 27 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs as an Inspiration to Creation Coach. She moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

Amir holds a BA in magazine journalism with a concentration in psychology, has edited or written for more than 45 publications producing hundreds of articles and had her work published in five anthologies. She has self-published nine short books, including the popular workbook How to Evaluate Your Book for Success and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self. She is the former writing and publishing expert on the popular radio show, Dresser After Dark, hosted by Michael Ray Dresser, which has approximately 80,000 listeners per month. Amir also speaks and writes about self-improvement, human potential, and practical spirituality.

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:

Twitter: @NinaAmir

-----Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: First, tell us a little about your writing and publishing experience.

Nina: I’ve been writing since I was a child. I got serious in high school. I revived the school newspaper, wrote a biweekly school-news column for the local newspaper, journaled regularly, and wrote short stories. I went to college and got a degree in magazine journalism and spent three summers getting experience, by freelancing for newspapers or magazines.

After college I worked for regional magazines outside of New York City for a few years. This entailed writing, editing and managing a variety of details for the publications. I then worked in Manhattan as an associate editor in the corporate communications department for Equitable Life Assurance of the U.S. From there I went on to manage four newsletters for a corporate communications consultant based in Oklahoma. I wrote, edited, and designed these publications as well as managed all the contributors. After that, I moved to Atlanta and began my own freelance writing business, CopyWright Communications. I did a variety of writing for publications, ad agencies and the like, including several years as the editor and writer of two medical newsletters, Same-Day Surgery and Clinical Laser Surgery.

While working in Atlanta, a friend asked me if I could edit his book. I remembered that my college professor told me I was trained to write a book, so I said, “Yes.” He then referred a friend to me, whose book went on to be picked up verbatim by Simon & Schuster and is still in print today; it has sold over 320,000 copies. That got my editing career going.

At some point along the way I decided to write a book of my own. I was told I needed platform. I already had my blog, Write Nonfiction NOW!, which was meant to support my business. I stepped that up. I began to learn more about publishing by immersing myself in the book publishing industry. I started the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (National Nonfiction Writing Month), attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and then became a volunteer there, and eventually became an expert on nonfiction writing and publishing.

I landed an agent. Changed agents. Then got a book deal for my second book idea, How to Blog a Book. It’s been an Amazon Top 100 bestseller for over two years. My newest book, The Author Training Manual, which was my first book idea in this subject area, came out this year. Both were published with Writer’s Digest Books.

Of interest might be the fact that I did not set out to write books about writing and publishing initially! I was going to write books about practical spirituality and personal development, which I still plan to do.

WOW: What made you decide to write The Author Training Manual?

Nina: I discovered that there was a really precious moment at the end of writing a book proposal when were totally prepared to write your book. Plus, you knew you had created the best book idea possible and a marketable idea. Not only that, you had a business plan for yourself and your book.

I thought every aspiring writer should go through this process. So I bounced the idea off people literary agents and self-publishing guru Dan Poynter to see if they agreed. Everyone did. Dan told e that I was right—even indie authors needed to go through this same process prior to writing a book.

WOW: Tell us, is there a difference between a person who writes a book and a successful author? How can we ensure that we fall into the latter category?

Nina: Yes, there is. Anyone can write a book and publish it these days. That does, in fact, make them an author.

Each person has his or her own definition of success. In The Author Training Manual I ask readers to define success for themselves. If you think success is selling 100 book, then that’s all you need to do to become successful in your own eyes. In the eyes of the publishing industry, however, large numbers of sales equate to success. A bestseller outsells the other books in a category. To be called a successful author by publishing industry standards, therefore, you must sell an above average number of books or earn back your advance, which few traditionally published books do these days. The average book today sells about 250 copies per year; ebooks sell about 560 books per year.

To increase the likelihood that you become a successful author, you must, first, produce a marketable book—one that will sell. This means it is unique and necessary in its category. It also must have a large enough target market, and the readers must want or need it. Beyond that, you must have a great idea and good writing—or a good editor or ghostwriter. And you need what I call an Author Attitude.

WOW: You've worked with many successful authors. Did you find they have any traits in common that helped their career?

Nina: Yes…this goes back to Author Attitude. They all possess willingness, optimism, objectivity, and tenacity. They are willing to do everything it takes to succeed—even the stuff that doesn’t involve writing. They are optimistic even in the face of rejection, criticism, challenges, and the long road to publication. They are objective about their work and able to see it and themselves from the perspective of a publishing professional. And they have perseverance, persistence and determination—tenacity.

Successful people in any industry will tell you attitude makes a huge difference in achieving success. You can learn how to write. And you can learn how to produce a marketable book or do all the things necessary to become a successful author, such as building platform and promoting your book. And you can change your attitude. But with a bad attitude, and the unwillingness to change it, it’s unlikely you will improve your writing skills or embrace the tasks necessary to achieve the goal of successful authorship.

WOW: Have you found one step crucial to success that many aspiring authors forget or skip when planning their book?

Nina: Two actually…They don’t bother to do a market analysis or competitive analysis. These two steps help them hone, retool, revise, or re-angle their book—fiction or nonfiction—to make it the most unique and necessary in its category. That means the most marketable book possible. Marketable books sell. Marketable books get read.

To start a market analysis, go to Google and look for actual numbers to indicate the size of your market. To do a competitive analysis, go to online and brick-and-mortar book stores and look for the top 5 books that represent competition to your book. These should be books published in the last 3-5 years. Besides the normal details (number of pages, when published and by what company, price, format), look for details that will help you determine how your book is more unique and more necessary in the category.

WOW: We have so many options when it comes to publishing--do you feel self-publishing is a better choice because it gives an author more control or is it too much to handle for someone new to the publishing world?

Nina: I think most aspiring authors have no idea what it really means to self-publish. I think self-publishing is a great option for the right type of person—someone who wants to become an authorpreneur and start their own publishing company. This person has to like project management and want to invest their own time and money in their product, their book. If they want control of the project and product, great! If they want to earn more money, great! But they need to also want all the other things that go with it, like hiring subcontractors, buying ISBN numbers, reporting book sales to the IRS, and running a business.

WOW: Increasingly we're seeing authors that are developing books outside their "specialty". Instead of strictly writing murder mysteries or gardening books or...whatever, they're diversifying. They write murder mysteries, gardening books, poetry books, children's books. Do you feel it's easier to develop a long lasting career by diversifying or specializing?

Nina: It’s easier to brand yourself as an author by specializing. You might be able to make more money by diversifying. Diversity might mean more work for you…more blogs, more social networking sites…unless you can find an umbrella under which to brand yourself.

I do a lot of different things, but I’ve been able to brand myself under one umbrella. That said, I have one topic, boys in dance, that doesn’t fit anywhere.

I think authors should follow their passions and interests, but they should do some early planning if possible. Create a career plan. Consider how they want to be known as an author, what books they will write and if or how they will all tie together. Sometimes they do tie together even though they are divers—or they can with careful planning and thought. In The Author Training Manual I talk about spin-offs and branding. This is the place to create that career plan.

WOW: What do you want readers to remember after reading The Author Training Manual?

Nina: That it’s possible to become a successful author if you simply take a business approach to your book, but that this approach also is creative—and fulfilling. Creating a marketable book means you create a book that gets read, which means it has positive and meaningful impact on your readers. That is very fulfilling.

WOW: What are you working on now?

Nina: I’m working on one project that I can’t mention that I have to finish by the end of October and involves blogging.

I am working on three ebooks, one of which is mentioned in The Author Training Manual and was supposed to be published already (and will be very soon). It’s called The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified.

I have another ebook that will be released later this year on building a business around your book and one more on building a better blog that also will be released this year or early in 2015.

Additionally…if that was not enough…I have two book proposals I’m starting on for writing-related books. I hope to get around to a personal development or practical spirituality book or ebook in the not-too-distant future as well.

WOW: Well, I’m exhausted just looking at your list!

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

Monday, May 19(today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Nina Amir and a chance to win The Author Training Manual!

Tuesday, May 20 @ Women’s Writing Circle
Want to improve your chances of success? Learn five ways negative beliefs make it hard for authors to succeed from Nina Amir. Also enter to win a copy of The Author Training Manual.

Wednesday, May 21 @ Words by Webb
Hear what an author who needs training thinks about The Author Training Manual by Nina Amir.‎

Friday, May 23 @ Selling Books
Don't miss an interview with Nina Amir about her latest book The Author Training Manual.

Monday, May 26 @ Vickie S. Miller
Find out more about author Nina Amir in today's interview and enter to win her latest: The Author Training Manual.

Wednesday, May 28 @ The Write Life
Nina Amir has a few tips on creating a successful book and a giveaway of The Author Training Manual.

Thursday, May 29 @ Create Write Now
Are you ready to succeed? Then don't miss "Hack Into Your Mind for Author Success" by Nina Amir, author of The Author Training Manual.

Monday, June 2 @ All Things Audry
Have you ever wondered where you could get some help creating a business plan for your book? Look no further! Nina Amir, author of The Author Training Manual, will tell all today!

Tuesday, June 3 @ Chaos in the Country
Wonder what Nina Amir thought would be "must haves" for her latest book The Author Training Manual? Read today's review and interview to get a sneak peek.

Thursday, June 5 @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Don't miss Nina Amir's take on "author attitude"--what is it and why do we all need it? Also enter to win her latest book The Author Training Manual.

Tuesday, June 10 @ The Lit Ladies
Don't miss a chance to learn more about Nina Amir, the woman behind The Author Training Manual and a chance to win your own copy.

Wednesday, June 11 @ Cathy C. Hall
Last chance to win The Author Training Manual by Nina Amir, a book to help you plan your success as a writer.

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 The Author Training Manual! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Tuesday, May 27.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
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