Review and Giveaway of The Author Training Manual

Monday, June 30, 2014
Last week my husband painted our living room with nary a grumble. How did I manage this miraculous feat?

Well, I promised to go through my bookshelves and weed out some of the books. Like most writers I am slightly addicted to writer how-to books. Reading them, jotting notes in the margins, marking pages with Post-It notes. Because one of those books will contain the magical advice that makes me an award-winning author. Due to the deal I made with my husband I did donate a few of my writer books to a used book sale. But I couldn't part with Nina Amir's How to Blog a Book and her latest The Author Training Manual.

One of the best things about The Author Training Manual is that Nina manages to be both friend and teacher. One the one hand she'll telling you "here are the things I did wrong," "here are the things I thought" and most importantly, "here are the changes I made." As I read I'm saying, "OMG, I felt that same way! I did that same thing!" So you look at Nina, now a successful author, and say "Hey, if I do what Nina did I could become a successful author too!"

But Nina isn't all about being a friend. She's a tough teacher too (reminds me of a few nuns I had in years past). Happily, The Author Training Manual is very specific. She doesn't just tell you to check out the competition. She tells you step by step how to do it. Nina doesn't leave you to your own devices (writers do tend to procrastinate). Set deadlines! Answer these survey questions! Follow this book planning outline. It's like writer boot camp! Perhaps it is more accurate to call it an author boot camp. The Author Training Manual helps you to plan both how to create the best book possible and how to become the most effective author. It helps you plan in an orderly way while your book is still just an idea. In fact, it way help you decide which of your ideas should become a book.

The Author Training Manual is crammed with extras: planning exercises, sample book proposals, questionaires, and additional reading lists for each chapter. Trust me, The Author Training Manual is one book I will never get rid of--even if my husband promises to paint the entire house!

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.


Readers, worried you had missed out on winning a copy of The Author Training Manual during Nina's WOW Blog Tour last month? Well, you've got one more chance! Nina is giving away a copy of her latest! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win! We will announce the winner in the form and follow up via email.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Revision Tips for the Do-It-Yourselfer

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Photo via Daniel R. Blume on Flickr
I don’t know about you, but my home decorating style is pretty low-frills. I watch a lot of HGTV, and I eagerly anticipate the decorating “reveal” when a house comes together at the end of shows such as “Property Brothers.” I sit on my couch and wish I had a great eye for design and a budget that would allow me to indulge it, but at this point in my life, I haven’t changed out the furniture, throw pillows or wall art in my living spaces in quite a few years. And when I really think about it, I often have the same attitude when it comes to revising my writing pieces.

When we first moved into this house 11 years ago, the walls and linoleum were all white, the carpet beige, and we had several rooms that didn’t even have furniture in them. Over time, after agonizing over paint swatches, we slowly started painting the walls, buying new furniture and changing out the bedding and curtains. There were times when a certain paint color dried on the walls and it looked nothing like we envisioned it would. Much to my husband’s dismay, we had to repaint the entire kitchen and living room when the sunny yellow I picked out had more of a sickly greenish-yellow sheen than we wanted. This past fall, we finally got serious about redecorating and remodeling. We ripped up the carpet and linoleum in living room and kitchen and replaced it with wood floors. We gave the kitchen a much-needed facelift and replaced the countertops, backsplash, light fixtures, and brought in new stainless-steel appliances. We now have three different stripes of paint on the walls as we decide on a new, fresh, more neutral paint color.

At the same time, the YA novel I’ve been working on for the past few years is also getting the facelift it needs. While there have been months when I've let the latest draft of the book collect dust on my desk, with the help of editing and critique partners, the latest version is getting more and more polished by the day. I’ve finally (I think!) whipped the opening pages into shape; cutting sections that provided unnecessary back story and adding more tension and character interiority to the first chapters. I’ve tightened up my sentences, added more action verbs and made sure the character’s voice is appropriately aged. Similar to the way I’m preparing to purchase new placemats for my kitchen table, wall art for the fireplace mantle and throw pillows for my couch, I now have ideas for a few extra embellishments to add to my manuscript, such as new scenes that will add an extra layer of depth to the story.

While the new paint color goes up on the walls and the perfect accent pieces find their new place in my home, it is my hope that rejuvenation will also grace the pages of my novel. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to gain new perspective.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also dreams of writing middle-grade and YA novels for children—she’s currently working on one of each. She is also a blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing and is seeking bloggers to host author and journalist Lorraine Ash and her spiritual memoir, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life. The tour begins in August. Please e-mail her at for more information.
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Interview with Tara Meissner and Information on Her Newly Published Memoir Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis

Saturday, June 28, 2014
Tara Meissner recently published her psychology memoir Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis. Tara took time out of her busy schedule to tell me a little more about herself and her memoir. Tara also scheduled a blog tour with WOW! and it will run during the month of October (which happens to be Mental Health Awareness Month). If you'd like to learn more about Stress Fracture, Tara, or host her during her tour, please email me:

------Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW!: Well Tara, it seems like just yesterday you said 'I think I'll self publish' but I'm sure this has been a long time coming. Let's start at the beginning.

What made you start writing Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis?

Tara: I am a writer, who has worked in journalism and aspired to be a novelist. I did not think I would write a memoir, but I generally select memoirs and other non fiction to read. I wrote first in journals to understand and to remember what happened during psychosis. I quickly began to see the work I was doing as valuable and worthy of a larger audience. There is a hole in mental health memoirs, which are often told from the point of view of a loved one, a mental health professional, or a celebrity. Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis offers the perspective of an average wife and mother who readers can relate to. I hope the work encourages people to first think about what mental illness is and then have meaningful conversations about this too often disrespected disease.

WOW!: As both a memoir reader and writer, what advice do you have for others about writing their memoir?

Tara: First, read Old Friend From Far Away, by Natalie Goldberg. This book helped me find my voice. Second, read a lot of memoirs. Third, write your story fearlessly using the techniques you learned from steps one and two. Lastly, remember to consider what an audience will gain from reading your stories. Does your story add value to the world?

WOW!: I certainly think with those with mental illness as well as those without will gain something from your story. Thank you again for being so bold to share it with the world!

What advice do you have for others struggling with mental illness?

Tara: Believe health is possible. Give up denial. Find a qualified mental health professional. Commit to treatment. See yourself as something other than the disease; I would like to eradicate the wording, I am Bipolar. Rather, see yourself as a wife, mother, teacher, doctor, painter, artist, or person who just happens to have a chronic condition. Also, consider seriously the consequences of telling people outside your immediate circle you have a mental illness. Discrimination is still very real.

WOW!: That seems like healthy advice for all of us; we should focus on what we do well. Thank you for being an advocate for all of us.

Who has been your greatest advocate with regards to publishing?

Tara: Emotionally, my husband Mike is the biggest champion of my work. He sees me an artist and believes in my talent. He has supported Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis by providing me time to work on it, and, just as tangibly, as serving as the breadwinner. He is a luxury in my life.

Technically, the many authors who have self published before allowed me learn from both their successes and failures.

WOW!: We here at WOW! wish you great success and we are happy to be part of your marketing plan for Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis.

What's next for you?

Tara: I am working on the great American novel. Just kidding. I am writing a women's fiction novel, which I hope will appeal to book club readers.

WOW!: I love your sense of humor!

Thank you so much Tara. I can hardly wait for your book blog tour and appreciate the trust you've placed in WOW! I'm always in awe of memoir writers and how boldly you share something so personal. Thank you!

Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis Book Summary
This psychology memoir is about the things that break us and how we heal. It offers a raw view a 33-year-old wife and mother swallowed by psychosis. The episode includes meeting Jesus Christ, dancing with Ellen DeGeneres, and narrowly escaping eternity in the underworld.

Casually called a nervous breakdown, psychosis is an entrapment outside of self where hallucinations and delusions anchor. Family, doctors, and fellow patients witness a nonverbal, confused, distraught shell of a woman. In the security of a psychiatric care center, the week-long psychosis broke and spit out a bipolar patient in the cushioned place of middle class medicine.

Outpatient recovery consumed the better part of year with psychiatric treatment and spiritual contemplation. Left scarred and damaged, health returns allowing her to tentatively embrace a grace and peace earned through acceptance of bipolar disorder.

Author Information
Tara Meissner is a former journalist and a lifelong creative writer. She holds a Bachelors of Arts Degree, and works part-time at her local library. Tara lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Mike, and their three sons. She writes longhand in composition notebooks. Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis is her first book.



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

Photo Courtesy of Oh! Photography & Olivia Brey
Crystal 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, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 6, Breccan 9 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:
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Friday Speak Out: Reading….Or Writing?

Friday, June 27, 2014
by Priscilla Whitley

The past winter weather in the Northeast wasn’t a place one wanted to venture into very often. The wind, the ice, the oh so low temperatures certainly didn’t cry out for a leisurely walk. And a walk is my place to ruminate over a piece I may be working on. Instead I turned to some books on writing when I found myself trapped indoors, uninspired, the snow mounting up on my deck.

One does have to be careful in choosing when and how much to read about writing for it’s certainly easier than trying to stumble through a first draft. And that’s the debate. With all the books written about writing should one be reading or should one be writing?

I’ve always encouraged those in my Workshop to read what they want to write. But choose carefully. If you’re looking to craft a YA novel, pick the Caldecott winners. For that fast paced mystery novel you know you can create, read the best the genre has to offer. Read and note how an author has crafted their piece. But there are also the times one is stuck or overwhelmed by what others have been able to write. How did they do that? Doubts, we all have them, creep in. It’s then we may need some guidance….let’s call it a private class room lecture. That’s where books on writing may be the inspiration one needs.

It isn’t about good luck no matter how many stars we wish upon. To be reminded, or even to understand for the first time, the importance of technique, tone, the use of images, the mighty attention to details, can bring a piece to another level. Is the beginning weak or the ending blah? Does the dialogue move the story and is the arch strong enough? To read of different ways to look at one’s writing may begin a thought process not previously considered.

But how to take the thoughts, the ideas and write the words, the sentences, the paragraphs? We see it in our mind but will the reader understand? Those questions can make us all doubters. Reading how others face their uncertainties can be like a weekend therapy session with other writers. One’s dog, with all his love, can’t relate to the rapid tapping of a pencil on the desk as potential agony sets in over whether the writing is good enough. But other’s, so many others, know what this is like. With all the formula’s, the outlines, the little tricks other authors have devised, reading of the ways they choose to cope can sometimes be enough to get back to the actual writing. And with joy.

It’s not I recommend one spend all their time surrounded by books on writing. But there are occasions when one needs to step back and reach for some companionship through the creative process. Now that the weather allows the sun to fill the room it’s time for me to put their advice to good use.

* * *
Priscilla Whitley has been a writer most of her life. She attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism as well as Fordham University where she majored in Creative Writing. She has been an on-going contributing feature writer for Hersam/Acorn Press. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls with a current piece, Barn Tales, in Weston Magazine Group . Her memoir, August on the Porch, placed first in the Westport CT Arts Center Memoir Contest. As facilitator of the Candlewood Writer’s Group, Priscilla runs workshops for writer’s in Fairfield County Connecticut. Her website is

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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Social Media Overload: Are You Feeling the Pressure?

Thursday, June 26, 2014
We've been talking a lot about Facebook on The Muffin lately. Both Cathy and LuAnn let us know the Facebook gurus want you to pay for more fans or friends to see your posts and statuses. And most writers and businesses are starting to get fed up.  We also recently had the very smart and wonderful, Frances Caballo, touring with us and our family of bloggers, promoting her book, Avoid Social Media Time Suck.  She talked about using social media sites to market your books and business, but doing it smartly.

My critique group talks about social media and marketing all the time. Actually a quote from Camille Faye yesterday gave me the topic for this blog post. She said, " I'm social networked out. I really, really enjoy FB. I'm trying to grasp Twitter. . . Maybe I'll move my focus over to Google +. I really only want to do 1-2 social networks. I don't want to be a social marketer. I want to be a writer."


Although I do love checking out a board or two on Pinterest, fooling around with special effects on Instagram, reading funny tweets on Twitter and interesting posts on Tumblr, and catching up with friends and family on Facebook, I need to focus more and actually make sure I am posting on Google +. Google actually uses those posts in search engine results. When I'm on all these social networks, I don't always feel like marketing myself. I just want to enjoy myself. But I must put on my big girl pants and stop whining. This is the age we live in.

Are we all on social media overload? Brooke Warner, from She Writes Press, does several free marketing webinars, and she has told writers again and again to do a couple social networks really well and stay off the rest. When I heard Writers' Digest writer Chuck Sambuchino talk about marketing, he said the same thing. So, what should I do? Get rid of all those accounts I have? Spend more time marketing than writing? Is all of this marketing equaling any book sales?

What I've decided is to mostly focus on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter because this is where my audience is. I still send blog posts to Google + and I might scroll along on Pinterest every once in a while, but that's not where my readers are. So I'm going to focus my attention other places.

My friend, Camille, who has her first novel coming out this fall knows that she has to market and that part of that is social networking. But she's frustrated with the rules always changing, and all the information that is thrown at writers constantly about what we should be doing to get on the bestselling lists and/or make more money. Sometimes, it's easy to forget, but she just reminded me, that the most important thing we need to do is write and write well. 

Don't let social media overwhelm you. What sites do you use? How do you use them? Why did  you choose these? Let's share and help each other out! 

photo above by 

Margo L. Dill is the author  of the YA novel Caught Between Two Curses and the middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place. She also teaches novel writing and children's writing online courses for WOW! (The next novel writing class starts on July 4, but since that's a holiday in the U.S., it will probably start on July 5.)
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Rewriting: Cutting the Fat

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
A fellow writer once challenged me to make one more pass through my manuscript and cut it by 30%.  Sound impossible? 

The problem is that when many of us cut, we reduce the word count by a word here and a word there.  We may cut a phrase or two or even a sentence. That’s good, but we need to remember to look at the big picture as well. We need to tighten the story as a whole.

In a novel, does the scene in front of you move the plot forward?  If not, it needs to develop a character in some important way.  Otherwise, it serves no function and it needs to go.  Funny scene.  Steamy scene.  Suspenseful scene.  Whatever.  If it doesn’t serve a greater purpose, it needs to go.  Yes, that means cut the entire scene. 

If you’re writing a picture book, look at it spread by spread.  How does a particular spread change your plot?  Your character?  If one of the two hasn’t changed because of what happens in this spread, you need to cut it. 

Look at each character.  Does this character serve the story in a vital way?  She has to do more than give your main character someone to talk to so your readers find things out.  What is her function in the story?  If she plays an active role in only a small part of the story, see if another, more active, character can take her place.  If so, she gets her walking papers.

Now look at the various bits of information that you tell your readers.  Do you describe a particular setting more than once?  Or reveal a bit of backstory two or three times?  Unless you reveal something more with the second telling, this is something else to cut.  This is what Margo Dill calls over writing.  We all do it when we want to make certain that our readers haven’t missed an important point.  One revelation should be enough if you do it in an effective way.

As we talk about big cuts (scenes, chapters or spreads), we wiggle in discomfort.  So much effort went into this, so many words.  Make cutting large chunks of text a little easier.  But them in a document labeled “cuts.”  If you need something that you’ve cut, it will be there waiting for you to retrieve it.

When you’ve made these big changes, print out a copy of your work and go over it one last time on paper.  That’s right.  Paper.  For whatever reason, my eyes often pass over unnecessary words on the screen but catch them when I read the same text on paper.

Even if you don’t manage to cut 30% of your word count, when you’re done, you will know for a fact that your piece is lean and mean. 


Sue Bradford Edwards teaches the WOW course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins on 7/7/2014.
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2013 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, BRYAN MOONEY

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Today we have one of our runners up from our 2013 Flash Fiction Contest, Bryan Mooney. His beautiful and touching story, Charley, brought tears to the eyes of all of our judges and we are very happy to have him here today sharing his thoughts about writing and authoring, as well as some very helpful advice for our Muffin readers. If you haven't had a chance to read Charley yet, click here to check it out, then come back for our chat. This is one you won't want to miss!

Bryan’s Bio: Bryan is originally from the Midwest, but over the years he has travelled the globe extensively, before moving to the sunny beaches of South Florida. Critics and reviewers have compared his most recent romance novels, Love Letters and A Second Chance, to those written by Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts. He writes of love lost and love found, with strong female role models. Bryan’s books have consistently ranked in the top five in his category, on bestsellers list. His long awaited book A box of Chocolates was just recently published and now available in paperback and eBook format.
Where is Bryan’s most inspirational location to hatch a new novel? “Oh that has to be Key West,” he was quoted in a recent interview. “Hemingway hung out there and wrote some of his best works in the low key place in the sun. But my all time favorite place to get lost in, has to be on one of the thousands of Greek Islands.”

His love of the Greek isles shows in his work. His most recent romance novel, A Second Chance is set on a remote Greek island. It is the story of a man traveling to a family reunion, who mistakenly disembarks from a ferry boat, onto the wrong island. He is stranded on the idyllic paradise for a week, waiting for the next ferry and checks into the only hotel on the island. The romantic hilltop retreat, he soon discovers, happens to be run by - his first love.

When not penning romance novels on the beach, he and his wife Bonnie travel the world. Bryan enjoys sailing, gourmet cooking, ballroom dancing, photography, tennis and he loves to incorporate these activities into his novels. Look for Bryan’s latest novel, a Christmas Love story coming soon. For more information and a preview of his novels click on the following link:

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin. Please share a little about yourself with our readers.

BRYAN: I grew up in a small town in the Midwest and come from a large family of nine, six sisters and two other brothers. Family reunions are a really big affair, as one can imagine, with the family growing larger and larger every year. My family is my biggest support group and also are my toughest critics.

WOW: Holy cow! Nine children? I’ll bet those reunions are quite an event. I see you have written several romance novels as well. Is that your writing ‘love’ or are their other kinds of genres and areas you enjoy dabbling in? If so, which ones and why?

BRYAN: At heart, I am a hopeless romantic. It seems, no matter what I try to write, love is always at the core of any of my stories. Readers have compared my books to the likes of Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts. I also write mystery thrillers such as The Potus Papers and Indie- A Female Vigilante that have been compared to James Patterson.

I like writing romance and mystery thrillers so as to keep my writing fresh and vibrant and to bore either myself or my wonderful readers.

My latest book, Christmas in Vermont - a Very White Christmas, which was recently released has been cited by readers as one of my best. It is the touching and heartwarming story of a Marine veteran and a schoolteacher who travel to Vermont to experience Christmas and find the true joys of Christmas. (Muffin readers can find my all books at )

WOW: Thanks for sharing the link to your books. Let’s talk about your beautiful short story ‘Charley’, which placed in our 2013 Fall Flash Fiction contest. I don’t think any of us made it to the end with dry eyes. Can you share your inspiration for this story and how it came to be?

BRYAN: A few years ago, one of our closest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy and radiation therapy. We suffered through it with them, all of their ups and downs.

One night while waiting for our wives to finish shopping, I asked her husband how he was doing. He told me that now their life, their dreams, their hopes, and fears were now divided into life before cancer (BC) and life after cancer (AC). I was so shaken and touched by his comments that I had to figure out some way to express how I felt while still maintaining their privacy. It was then I wrote the story - Charley.

The response from readers, like yourself, to that two-page short story was so overwhelming I made it the first story in my recently published book of short stories, entitled, A Box of Chocolates. Last year's WOW contest winner, The Mountain, is also included in the same book as well as many of my other award winners and many of my personal favorites such as The Painter from Syros and The Lemon Trees.

WOW: What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I hope she continues to fight and is able to beat her ‘Charley’. Do you have a writing schedule or routine? Any tips you can give our writers-in-progress?

BRYAN: I have found that my most creative time to write is early morning. Some writer friends of mine say that they won’t stop writing until they have written so many thousands of words or so many pages. The key is to just do it, write a paragraph, a page or two. If I can do that then I am very happy.

To your readers who want to write, I suggest that they do what works best for them and try to stick with it. Maybe write just on the weekends, early morning or even at midnight, just do what works best for you but don’t wait and don’t stop, even if it is just a page or a paragraph. Tell your story. Hemingway said once "today was a success, I wrote a word."

Finally, get the story down on paper first, -John went to the store and saw her, standing there… Then after you finish writing the book go back and polish and rewrite it - so the above sentence is transformed into:

The tall stranger in his tattered jeans and white t-shirt and worn sneakers came into the small general store behind her, close enough to smell her jasmine scented perfume. He imagined himself back in Paris and briefly closed his eyes as he touched the long scar on his arm. When he reopened them, she stood there in front of him, watching him. A small smile came over her face.

WOW: Fantastic advice. I hope our readers are making notes. ;) You have so much experience and knowledge with writing and authoring. As we come to a close, do you have any pearls of wisdom you’d like to give us?

BRYAN: My best advice to writers in progress is to keep writing, don’t stop; don’t over edit and don’t forget to read. Read books, lots of books, newspapers - to keep current, books for ideas and stories and techniques. You will slowly develop your own style and writer's voice. Maybe try writing short stories.

I also keep a journal where I write a two-page synopsis of a potential book so I don’t forget it. I am always referring back to it and adding to it.

Lastly, I can’t tell you how many people have approached me at book signings to tell me they want to write that one big book. My advice is that the best thing to do is practice, practice, practice.

I wrote nine full-length books before I had one that was publishable. That book, Love Letters, has been ranked in the top ten in its category on since its release three years ago. As Nike says - Just do it. Start and keep going. What do you have to lose?

The best of luck to all of your readers and I want to thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with you and with them.


WOW: Very valuable pearls, Bryan, thank you so much. And thank you for being here today. We can’t wait to see what else you bring out for readers. Congratulations again!

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Who Is Your Audience?

Monday, June 23, 2014
As a WOW Blog tour organizer, I send possible authors a list of questions that includes “Who is your audience? The question helps us find the best blogs and people who will enjoy the book when organizing tours. Many authors have a specific audience in mind: women over 40, teachers, dog lovers, cozy mystery lovers. But then there are the answers that are just one word: readers.

I can understand this answer. It doesn’t seem wise to eliminate anyone when searching for people to enjoy your book. But look at it this way: fans of James Patterson and fans of Melody Carson are all readers. But if James Patterson marketed his book to fans of Melody Carson how many would want to read his book? And how many would actually enjoy it?

Although our first instinct might be to keep our pool of possible readers as large as possible, in the end it’s more effective to target smaller audiences that would truly want to read our book. That’s why you so often see book jacket blurbs or ads that include the line “fans of Author X will love this book”. These authors have identified their audience – they know who they are, what they enjoy, and most importantly what they are buying.

Identifying your audience isn’t just important after your book is written. It can help you during the writing process to know who this book will ultimately be for. Knowing your audience can help you make decisions about what music and pop culture figures to mention, whether your dating scenes should include kisses in the moonlight or booty call texts or if your dead body should be tastefully “off stage” or if you should dwell on wounds, manner of death and violence and a thousand other details. There are so many decisions to make when writing a book. Knowing your audience can help make a few of those decisions easier.

Have you thought about who your audience is? What will your book jacket read?

Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author -- no matter who their audience is. Contact her at She hopes the book jacket blurb for her WIP will someday read "fans of Kristina McMorris will love this book". Her blog Words by Webb is at
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Are You Really Reaching A Wide Audience On Facebook

Sunday, June 22, 2014
If you have an author fan page on Facebook, you should consider this gem of wisdom:

  • More proof that you can't put all your eggs in the online basket: Unless you PAY to boost your Facebook posts, only six out of 100 fans will see updates.
And here you believed you were reaching the thousands (or maybe millions?) of fans who liked your page.

Think again.
You're reaching only 4.5 percent of your "like" base.
It's impossible to understand the algorithm that calculates who does and does not see your post. Experts at bufferapp note that post types (photo versus text), posts hidden or reported as spam by users, interaction with Facebook ads, and device and speed of connection all play into it.
How can you increase your Facebook footprint?
I'm not sure there's any one tried and true piece of advice, but the following tips may help you notice an increase in interaction.

  1. Post at non-peak times. Think 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. These posts have a better chance of showing up first thing in the morning.
  2. Post original photos. And maybe take it a step further by posting photos of YOU, the writer, at work.
  3. Post questions. Questions are a natural way to engage readers...and Facebook fans.
  4. Quit worrying about it. Is your Facebook reach the only measure if you're engaging fans? If you answer yes, you may want to reconsider your marketing strategy.
I'll be honest. I hadn't given much consideration to the Facebook page for the newspaper I work for as managing editor. Sure, I'd check out the numbers and see how many people saw posts and interact with fans/customers who left comments.

In the last two months, though, we've looked at other ways to engage readers on Facebook. Links (with pictures) to our online stories get a decent look, but the most popular posts feature photos for #TBT - Throwback Thursday, #FF - Flashback Friday and our weekly Facebook Feedbook question.

Sometimes, it takes time to "train" readers and fans to interact, but once they start, the audience participation seems to build.

We also utilize Twitter and readers can comment on articles online.

Still, you can't put all your marketing eggs into one social media strategy basket.

What's your experience with fans on Facebook? 

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Working to Inspire New Writers

Saturday, June 21, 2014

What inspires you as a writer?
Photo | EKHumphrey
I’m in the planning stages for a noncredit writing class that takes place this summer—in real life. I spend a lot of time interacting with people virtually, so I’m excited for the challenge of returning to the classroom and connecting with people wanting to write.

Planning such a class takes me back to the days when I was in their shoes. I was writing in notebooks and journals, but I hadn’t made a commitment to work on something substantive. In fact, I just knew I wanted to write better.

I remember arriving each day for class, I would enter the YMCA building in Manhattan and, as I walked up the steps, inhale the pool’s chlorinated aroma. The instructor was a patient, blossoming writer. She introduced me to writers I had previously passed carelessly. We felt comfortable sharing our personal, early writings with a room of strangers. That class turned on a switch for me.

Have you ever taken that kind of a class?

I’ve been scouring my piles of craft books compiling exercises that I can introduce in the three-hour classes. I’m diving into the remnants of nuggets of ideas from classes I took. I’m looking for exercises that entertain while illuminating different elements of writing. At the same time, I want to help these novice writers comfortable with their discomfort with writing. I want to help them get pens to paper and turn their ideas into a love of writing.

(Side note: One of my favorite exercises for character description is to have students explain what is in their characters’ pocket or purse. Endless possibilities!)

We’ll spend the class time discussing the area of focus, writing to complete the exercise, and sharing our writings. Understanding how to critique respectfully will be a part of the course. And, while the focus of the class is to write what you know, I want the students to start feeling free to play with words and what they can do on the page.

Before I turn the students loose on the exercises, I want to revisit and write the exercises that I enjoyed and what inspired me.

I want to help them become passionate about writing and, hopefully, turn on their writing switches.

Is there a class you attended that was inspirational and made you want to write? Have you taught a class that resonated with your students? What helped to take it to that level? What or who turned on the switch for you? Please add your comments below.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. Her credits include Idiot's Guide: Gluten-Free Eating (Alpha, 2014).

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Friday Speak Out: Things Come When They Come...For a Reason

Friday, June 20, 2014
by Sioux Roslawski

I just finished South of Broad this morning. It's the first novel by Conroy that I've read (and yes, I can already hear you muttering under your breath. No, I've never read Prince of Tides or The Great Santini but I have seen the movies. No, I can't explain why it took so long for me to read one of his novels. No, I can't tell you why this book called to me from a thrift store shelf, compelling me to buy it.)

I can't tell you why I picked this Conroy book to begin with, nor can I tell you why I started it at this point in my life, when I have several other books on my “must read” list. I really can't explain it, but I'm so glad I took the plunge, made the small investment, and read it now ...because I needed this particular book now.

Let me fill you in on some recent writing tidbits about me. I finished a NaNoWriMo (it actually took two years' worth of NaNo to do it) and thought it was so ready for some beta readers as soon as I finished typing the last word, that I printed off all 158 pages of tightly-typed text and handed it to them. (When you read “so ready,” read it with a voice dripping with crazy delusion and childlike denial.) Four of the first five readers threw it back in my face, saying essentially “There are some worthwhile scraps, so scrap most of it and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.” The fifth is still doubled-over and retching in the corner ...

As soon as the feedback began tumbling out of their mouths, I saw my WIP through more objective, realistic eyes. In my heart, I knew it needed a major overhaul. However, I was directionless when it came to the major thread of the story—the thick hunk of yarn that would make this yarn worthy of reading.

But then it came ...and Pat Conroy waited until almost the very last page to give it to me, like a gift. A “conversation” that Leo was having with Eugene Haverford included a question—just four words long—that hit me like a lightning bolt. Immediately, I knew how my manuscript would be woven together. I knew I was going to include the same question at the end of my story, thanks to Conroy.

And best of all, I knew I now had the nudge to get some serious momentum going.

Things often happen the way they do and with the timing they do for a reason. I could have read this book about life and about healing six months earlier or a six months later, and it might not have seared me like it did

Read widely. Read voraciously. Be open to what you can absorb like a sponge. You never know where inspiration—or a nudge—will come from.

* * *
Sioux Roslawski has recently become a fan of Pat Conroy and plans to read more of his work. (She's loved Jodi Picoult and Sandra Dallas and Alan Paton for a long time.) By day she is a third grade teacher. In the early morning and late at night, she's a freelance writer. Her stories have appeared in around ten (okay, nine) Chicken Soup for the Soul collections and several Not Your Mother's Book books. You can find more of her writing 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 Seas of Change at Facebook

Thursday, June 19, 2014
So I’m fixin’ to stand up here—and I might start rocking the Facebook boat.

Back around the first of the year, Facebook changed the news feed, or what the average Facebook user would see on his or her wall. To be honest, I see the word “algorithms,” and my eyes glaze over. And besides, it appeared that the changes would affect Pages—I’m a one-profile-only user—so I kind of ignored all the hullabaloo about the announcement.

But after a while (granted, it took about six months, give or take a couple weeks), I began to take notice. Mostly, I noticed that the lovely posts from authors that I used to see on a fairly regular basis had sort of dropped off the face of …well, Facebook. But it wasn’t my author friends that I follow, who post status updates here and there. It was authors who had Pages that I had liked, authors who posted snippets through their Pages.

Which made sense, once I took a closer look at the Facebook changes. Because Facebook had decided that “text only” status updates on Pages aren’t “liked” much. At least, that’s what the algorithms said. So Facebook decided to drop those updates from the basic news feed.

Now, updates with share links, or a link jazzed up with a photo or video, well, that’s different. People will "like" that, so theoretically, Facebook would plop that update into the news feed. But here’s where the boat begins to tip for me. Because I don’t see many author Pages anymore, share links or not. In fact, there are only two Pages that show up in my feed—and they’re both authors where I regularly click through to read the blog. The rest of the authors—the ones I don’t click on so much—are posting still. They’re just not showing up on my news feed.

And so I’m wondering. I wonder if others have noticed a change in what they see on their news feed.

I wonder if authors with a Page have noticed the changes. And if you’re one of the authors, if you’ve changed the way you post to accommodate the changes?

Mostly, I wonder if Facebook is making a push for businesses (including authors) to pay to boost their updates.

Maybe it’s time writers noticed what’s going on, perhaps give those algorithms a second look. Especially if Facebook is a big part of the marketing strategy.

Or maybe I need to sit down and quit rocking the boat.

You tell me.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Selling Online - Ecommerce Shopping Cart Basics

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
by Karen Cioffi

If you’re selling anything online, you’re considered part of the ecommerce business arena, and you absolutely need an electronic shopping cart. But, how does it work and what type of cart do you need?

An electronic shopping cart is simply a software program or code from a shopping cart provider that you can use on your website. This program or code allows visitors to select products and make purchases directly from you.

Webopedia explains that there are two basic forms of shopping carts. “Shopping carts can be sold as independent pieces of software so companies can integrate them into their own unique online solution, or they can be offered as a feature from a service that will create and host a company's e-commerce site.”

So, you can either use a standalone piece of software on your own Web server or you can use code from an e-commerce shopping cart provider/service. Either way, you’ll be able to sell from your website.

Along with its convenience, allowing you to sell digital and tangible products from your website, research shows that using an ecommerce shopping cart increases sales.

In 2009, PayPal conducted an internal study of 79,000 small merchants. It was discovered that adding a shopping cart increased their PayPal volume an average of 19% over a two-year period.

That’s a pretty nice sales increase.

It’s important though to realize that the shopping carts themselves don’t process payments. It’s the service you use that allows the payment process to go through.

The Simplest and One of the Cheapest Ways to Sell from Your Own Website

I’ve used PayPal for quite a while now and can attest that it’s easy and effective.

With the PayPal ecommerce shopping cart process, you create the shopping cart yourself. The instructions are simple to follow and you have a choice of using a single item Buy Button or a Drop-down Menu for multiple products or services. And, as with all services, there is a fee. PayPal charges 2.9% and .30 cents per transaction. That’s not bad for all you can do with this service.

The PayPal system also has everything you need to customize your cart:

• Tax
• Shipping
• Discount and coupon codes
• Payment options
• Tracking
• Invoicing
• Testing before you go live
• And, more

In fact, PayPal is so popular a number of ecommerce shopping cart services have partnered with PayPal for their payment process. And, you can accept payments with your mobile device through another of PayPal’s services.

If you’re a WordPress user and want a plugin that uses PayPal, you can checkout:

Other Options

If you like the PayPal system, but would rather not have your customers sent to its site during the purchasing process, you have options.

PayPal has partnered with several shopping cart services, such as Cashie Commerce and 3D Cart. Using another service has its benefits, one of which is keeping the buyer on your site through the purchasing process, but there’s a drawback to it, an additional cost.

These services charge a monthly fee, along with a percentage of each transaction. This is on top of the PayPal fees. So, be careful when looking into this process. Be sure you’re making enough sales to warrant the additional costs involved.

Keeping it Simple

No matter which ecommerce shopping cart system you use, simple is the way to go online. You want the essential features in a shopping cart without making it too complicated to use. The process needs to be easy to use with clear instructions.

If you haven’t yet taken the ‘sell on your own website’ move, get started now. Simply do an online search for carts or you can check out PayPal.

Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

For guidance on creating an effective web site, blogging for success, creating an e-book and more, join Karen Cioffi's class for writers. CREATING AND BUILDING YOUR AUTHOR-WRITER ONLINE PRESENCE: Website Creation to Beyond Book/Product Sales starts Monday, July 7th.

Details and enrollment are available on our classroom page.

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Interview with Michelle Dwyer, 2013 Fall Flash Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Michelle’s Bio:

Michelle fell in love with writing after taking her first creative writing class in high school. She took a break from the craft to attend to life’s details, but soon returned to her passion. She received a Master of Business Administration from Texas A&M University Central Texas and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from National University in La Jolla, California. She does freelance work for Demand Media Studios as a business, finance, and careers contributor. She writes novels, and has just completed her breakout work, Understanding the Affair, written under her pen name, Krymzen Hall. She is an avid runner, fitness enthusiast, and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has overcome many obstacles and has the highest respect for every individual running down a dream, and she encourages all you to NEVER GIVE UP. Michelle has a ways to go, not there yet, but believes in the saying: Success is the journey, not the destination.

She lives in Texas, has two sons, and is one-proud-Aggie mom!

If you haven't done so already, read Michelle's award-winning story "Lighthouses," and then return here for a conversation with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the 2013 Fall Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Michelle: Well, originally I wanted to write two stories. I wanted to exemplify self-sacrifice in one, and unrequited love in the other. Both topics, I feel, resonate with readers. However, it was important to me that these stories provide a fresh take on what can seem like overused plots. The only way I believed I could make these stories “pop” was to combine them. The platonic relationship between a man and woman made for a good mixing of the two. But I have to admit, I was still skeptical that it could work. I had to make sure I painted a vivid image of what our heroine felt, or the story would have fallen flat.

WOW: Thank you for sharing that insight into the creation of your story. In general, what is your writing process like?

Michelle: I do my best writing early morning and early to late evening. I feel at peace when I get up before everybody else in the world, so to speak, and I also feel a sense of calm when the sun sets, as if the day is going through its cool down cardio (hey, I’m a trainer, lol). It sounds crazy, but I feel like the world belongs to me, and my head is clear enough to focus on writing at these times. I also listen to music when I write, softer when I write sensual scenes and more hard-core if I need to create some type of action or violence. I write every day--I don’t care if it’s just one sentence. And notes, notes, notes. I always write notes when the thoughts enter my head. I guess all of us writers do that.

WOW: Jotting down notes is a great idea! I often have ideas when I am not in a position to write them down – like while in the shower or while exercising. In your bio, you mention that you are a runner and fitness enthusiast. Do you notice any connection between your running/fitness training and your writing?

Michelle: Fitness sparks my creativity. I have come up with some of my favorite plots, themes, and settings while running on the treadmill and stepping on the tread climber. One thing about writers is that we carry the craft with us. We can never stop. When we’re not writing, we’re thinking about writing. Working out can be an isolating experience, much like writing, and any writer will tell you that being alone with your thoughts is an optimal time to invent a story. Also, exercising and writing both take tremendous sacrifice and usually don’t pay off immediately. You have to keep going to see results. Besides falling in love, nothing makes you feel better than taking care of yourself and others. Personal training allows me to do this. When I feel good, and make others feel good, I write better.

WOW: I agree with you there – feeling good in mentally leads to feeling good physically, and vice versa. Both assist in the writing process. If you could have dinner with any writer, dead or alive, who would you choose, and why?

Michelle: By far, Stephen King. He is so raw and real. I have read On Writing many times and I find his honesty refreshing. He also has a way of telling us, his fellow writers, that it’s okay to curse, break boundaries, and be ourselves. He doesn’t apologize for it either. He knows who he is and gives us permission, if you will, to write what scares people and what makes them uncomfortable.

WOW: Are you working on any other writing projects right now?

Michelle: I freelance for Demand Media Studios, and contribute business and career articles as often as I can. Of course I’m always creating contest entries for WOW! and working on my novels. I’m preparing to market my breakout novel, Understanding the Affair, more intensely in the upcoming month. I train clients as well, so I have to balance my passion and gift for writing with my personal training career. But I love them both so it makes me a happy author!

WOW: That’s excellent! Happy authors make us happy! Anything else you’d like to add?

Michelle: Yes. I’d like to share what I’ve learned about rejection in the hope that I can give our fellow writers some perspective. Rejection, we know, is synonymous with writing. When I receive rejections, like all of us, it hurts. For a while, early on, I felt like a failure and a loser with each “Thanks, but we’ll pass.” But I’ve come to realize that you can’t call yourself a loser if the game isn’t over. And we, as writers, call the game. If you query 50 agents, and get 50 rejections, and then give up, well, you’re forfeiting the game, and yes, you’ve lost. But, if you send that 51st query letter, you’re still playing. In other words, until you give up, you can’t say you’ve truly been rejected, because all you need is one yes. I truly believe, beyond anything, that if we keep going and pursue what we want, we will eventually find success, in whatever way each of us defines it. :-)

WOW: Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful responses, and we wish you the best of luck with your future writing endeavors!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor
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Interview with Kerrie McLoughlin, Author of Make Money to Write About Your Kids, and Book Review

Monday, June 16, 2014
If you’re a mom or an educator who loves to write, I'm sure you're inspired on a daily basis. When my daughter was still an infant, I became curious about how national magazines selected their articles and started studying the mastheads of magazines to get a feel for which pieces were farmed out and which were the work of in-house staff writers. After feeling eternally grateful to the friends and family who brought us meals after the birth of our first child, I used that experience to sell one of my first parenting articles, “Maternity Meals: Surviving the First Weeks at Home with Baby.”

Now working as the editor of a bi-monthly regional parenting magazine, I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh angles on evergreen topics such as making your own baby food, potty training, prepping for back to school and creating stress-free holidays. I was interested to learn more about Kerrie McLoughlin’s e-book, Make Money to Write About Your Kids: Get Published in Parenting and Family Magazines, when it landed in my inbox. Read on for a review of the book and learn how you can take advantage of the numerous writing opportunities in regional parenting markets in an interview with  McLoughlin.

Here’s a synopsis of Make Money to Write About Your Kids, in the author’s own words:

My bet is that quite often you read a magazine or online article and say to yourself, “I could have written that – and better!” So you write your essay or article. Then what? Where do you submit it? Do you give up at this point? I’ve seen it happen too many times. Your writing dreams are crushed and those paychecks are never going to show up in your mailbox.

Think of this e-book as your writing angel. It has 16 chapters of useful information before it dives into 239 paying markets, complete with submission email addresses, submission guidelines and pay information. This is the 5th edition of the e-book, and over the years it has been perfected to include not just regional markets such as San Diego Family, BC Parent, Orlando Family and more, but also has added national markets such as FamilyFun, BabyTalk, Parents, Parenting, Homeschooling Today and many more.

About the Author:
Kerrie McLoughlin is a homeschooling, write-from-home mama of five who has written for more than 130 regional parenting magazines and proofreads the work of others on the side. She is also the author/compiler of the e-book Make Money to Write About Your Kids: Get Published in Parenting and Family Magazines, as well as several other e-books. When Kerrie isn’t blogging at The Kerrie Show, teaching, giving her husband grief or writing, she enjoys reading, walking, avoiding chores, eating chocolate and drinking mass quantities of coffee.

Book Review:
Make Money to Write About Your Kids: Get Published in Parenting and Family Magazines is a great resource for writers interested in pitching articles to RPMs (regional parenting markets) but are unsure of where to start. Writing for the regional magazines can provide a consistent income if you remain committed to sending out queries and reprint lists. McLoughlin points out “while writing for RPMs is a great stepping stone on your way to writing for national markets, there’s no reason you can’t keep writing for the RPMs and sell your reprints.” The author takes writers through initial contacts with editors, covers common questions about the differences between a query and a submission, provides tips on generating article ideas, tracking submissions, collecting payments, mistakes to avoid and much more.

The majority of the book serves as a sort of “mini market guide,” including submission guidelines, contact and payment information for both regional and national parenting markets. I was so excited to find this list and can personally advise writers that a market guide of this caliber is well worth the cost of the book, especially if you don’t own an updated copy of Writer’s Market. In fact, it got me motivated to begin sending out a new round of queries for my own dusty list of reprints I have sitting on my hard drive. McLoughlin’s tone is practical, as she points out that “getting published is a numbers game." At the same time, she is also encouraging, and with the information she offers in this book, readers are sure to have their first parenting article sale in no time.

Interview by Renee Roberson----------

WOW: Kerrie, welcome! I know our readers will get a kick out of learning about how to sell article ideas to parenting markets. Can you tell us about the first parenting article idea you ever sold? How did you get the inspiration for it?

Kerrie: The first one I ever sold was called “Stock-Up Mentality” and it went to my local parenting magazine, since that’s all I knew existed at the time. A friend was talking about going grocery shopping every day with kids in tow and I was incredulous. Grocery shopping is a chore for me and I try to stock up as much as I can for as long as possible to avoid shopping! So I wrote a piece about how to stock up on food and meals and even did some once-a-month cooking for research.

WOW: How many hours per week would you say you spend marketing reprints and querying publications about new article ideas?

Kerrie: When I was hitting it hard, probably only about 10 hours total, and that includes working on new pieces. This really is a lovely side business for me because I also do other things to make money from home, but others could take it much further. Someday I’d like to take article queries to national magazines while also writing for the regionals. It might seem like a slow road sometimes but then you be like me someday and reach a point where you can’t believe you have had articles published in 141 magazines. The point I want to drive home is that you can do this while you work a full-time job, stay home with kids, whatever!

WOW: I completely relate! I remember how exciting it was when I was able to use my parenting clips to land assignments with other newspapers and magazines and build up my portfolio. I've always been curious about writing e-books, and a little intimidated by the process, to be honest. How did you get started writing them? What advice would you give writers who are venturing into this micro-publishing platform?

Kerrie: Once I started compiling information for regional parenting magazines, I realized I had a wealth of information I could be sharing with other writers like myself. As I worked on the market information I was also getting published and finding out even more about each magazine and how to go about everything. Over many hours back in 2009 I put together tips and tricks but did not stop there. I went ahead and added all the market information I had for dozens and dozens of both regional and national magazines. I also put together an at-a-glance Excel spreadsheet, which I unfortunately can’t attach to the Kindle version but anyone who emails me can certainly have it!

WOW: You are also a homeschooling mom of five. How do you juggle your writing and marketing efforts with teaching?

Kerrie: Sometimes I separate them and sometimes I marry them. I get up in the morning before everyone else (typical writer advice, right?!) and sneak in a couple of hours that way. Homeschooling is late morning/early afternoon, then I might be able to sneak in another hour at night. Back when the kids were much younger I would write whenever I could find a moment or five, write while nursing, write while they played, and every now and then I might sneak out of the house for a bit to get some hard thinking done.

WOW: What would you say are some of the most popular "evergreen" topics that regional and national parenting magazines are looking for?

Kerrie: They are always looking for something fresh on the topics of camp, pregnancy, babies and toddlers, seasonal, holiday, back to school.

Mark your calendars! Make Money to Write About Your Kids: Get Published in Parenting and Family Magazines will be going on Kindle Countdown for a week beginning on July 8, reducing the price from $9.99 to $4.99.

Renee Roberson is the editor of Little Ones, a regional bi-monthly parenting magazine based in Charlotte, N.C. Her articles have appeared in other regional parenting magazines such as Charlotte Parent, Carolina Parent, Piedmont Parent, Georgia Family Magazine and more. She also works as a blog tour manager with WOW! Women on Writing.

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