The Critique Epiphany

Sunday, August 31, 2014
I’ve written about critique groups before. But now, thanks to my recent epiphany, I have something new to say:

I need to be in a critique group.

Not exactly an earth-shattering epiphany, right?

After all, if asked, most writers would agree that a critique group is necessary. And most of the time, we strive to find critique groups or a critique partner. But occasionally, we give up on our groups when we encounter problems, or members move away, or plain, old laziness creeps in.

Maybe, like me, you’re going through a “critique groupless” stage, thinking you’ll be fine without a group. You’re a fairly disciplined writer and you’ve been at this business for a long while. You figure that your writing will take care of itself.

And if I’m being honest, much of my writing continued without any bumps. But my fiction writing…well, as we writers say, that was whole ‘nother story.

Without feedback, without accountability on the table, my fiction writing sort of drifted. What I judged to be mighty fine had little blips here and there. Though how was I supposed to know? No one but me was reading it.

Still, when a friend asked me to join her critique group, I demurred. I’d been in a group for three years and wasn’t sure I was ready for the monthly grind of reading other writers’ work, providing editing notes, taking time from my own work…believe me, I had a whole list of excuses. Maybe you do, too.

But I agreed to give a critique group another go, just to be polite, really. And the week before my first meeting, I remembered something sort of earth shattering, writing-wise:

When I have to get a manuscript ready for my peers, I work harder.

I think more about the writing craft, about the use of each word, about the plotting and the setting and the tone of the story. I step back with a more critical eye and wonder what the writers in my group will think when they read my paragraphs, my chapters. Is my title strong or tired? Is my concept unique or same old, same old? I think of the whys behind my writing, and I work a little harder to impress that room full of gifted writers.

So I need to be in a critique group. I need to feel that nervousness before someone reads my words. I need that feeling of triumph when a group of writers says, “Well done.” And if that same group of writers says, “I don’t get this part,” then I need to feel that push to keep at it until they do get that part.

Maybe you’re having your own epiphany right now, realizing that consistent accountability might be the way to better writing.

And maybe, like me, you’ll get yourself back to a critique group.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Writing Advice: It Isn’t One Size Fits All

Saturday, August 30, 2014
I love going to writer’s conferences. I always come away ready to write with ideas on how to improve my writing and market it both to potential publishers and readers.

That said, I’ve learned that before I follow any of the advice that I receive at a conference, I need to test the fit. X, Y or Z might have worked perfectly well for the writer giving the advice, but that doesn’t mean it will work for me. Writing advice is not one size fits all and what worked for a Big-Name author may not work for me.

Speakers at writer’s conference are generally “high end.” These are established writers. They are big names. They have status. Unless you are secretly Suzanne Collins, you and I may not have the clout to pull off whatever it is that Big-Name-Author managed to do.

Let me demonstrate with an example of interest to many – self or independent-publishing.

A number of name writers are now publishing at least some of their work independently. For many of them, it works well meaning their work sells and it sells well. Whenever one of them mentions a dollar amount, that’s all any of the conference goers talk about. “Big-Name-Author made a caboodle dollars when she published her own novel. I can do that too.”

Maybe, but quite probably not. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a comparable following? I don’t mean in terms of enthusiasm. I’m talking numbers here.
  • Is your name your biggest sales tool? Unless people talk about “the latest (insert your name here),” you should probably answer no to this question.
  • Have you honed your writing skills to the same level? Write enough to have a pile of books with your name on them and you are going to get better. Have you improved that much already? If not, you probably need an editor whose recommendations you can’t just brush off.

If you answered “no” to even one of these questions, following the self-publishing path probably won’t lead you to the same destination.

I’m not picking on people who chose to self-publish. Any advice that you receive from a name author needs to be considered just as carefully. Whether this advice concerns dealing with an editor or agent, following a publisher’s guidelines or dealing with the public, consider the advice carefully.

The advice may be perfect for one writer but not another, because writing advice is not one size fits all.


Sue teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins in October; places in the class are open.
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Friday Speak Out!: Birthday & Writing Messages

Friday, August 29, 2014
by Marcia Peterson

Today is Friday Speak Out day, and it's also my birthday.

Birthdays are times to reflect, dream and plan. I'll share some favorite inspirational messages that seem to fit birthdays as well as the writing life. See if any of these messages might be directed at you too!*

*As a fun game, close your eyes and pick a number between one and ten right now. Then scroll/count down to the image that correlates with your number--that's your personal message. Tell us what you got!

We're also accepting submission for Fridays Speak Out posts from our readers (for September--and beyond!) . Check out our guidelines and join the fun.

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Write for Your Health

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A healthy cup of tea for productive writing.
Photo credit | EKHumphrey
Generally writers sit a lot. Obviously, this can be hazardous to your health.

If you are steadily working at the keyboard, what are some other ways to keep a focus on health? In no particular order, here are five tips I use to keep my eye on writing deadlines and my health:

1. Water! If you spend your time typing, you have little time to reach out and grab some water. But if you do nothing else, keep a glass of water nearby. One of the tricks I have, especially when my desk is overflowing with papers, is to put a reusable water bottle by my feet. If I don’t follow through on numbers two through five, drinking the water helps keep my mind sharp. I also often feel tired if I don’t drink enough water, so I work to stay hydrated when I sit at my computer.

2. Stretch! Even the speediest of writers needs to take a break every now and then. Sometimes I’m in a public library and feel as if I can’t leave my computer, so I’ll sit up taller in my chair and reach my hands above my head and clasp my hands. Moving my hands from side to side helps to keep some of my stiffness at bay until I can take a proper walk. (I also try to give my neck a break and gently roll it around regularly.)

3. Healthy snacks! You know you’re going to get hungry…so make it healthy. A candy bar can be an occasional treat, but if you’re spending more time sitting than you are exercising, candy should be kept to a minimum. Instead of placing a candy bowl on your desk, start your writing day with a handful or small bowl of nuts or seeds on your desk. As the day moves into night, you can swap out the nuts for sliced apples or carrots. For drinks, I avoid coffee and drink tea—especially green tea.

4. Breathe! Even when you’re under pressure, remember to breathe. Sounds simple, but try thinking about your breathing next time you are on deadline. It can help to refocus your mind, as well as keep you more relaxed. Even when you are not in a rush, shifting your mind to think about your breathing can help to destress you. When you take a deep breath, you also might try to focus on something other than your computer screen. Your eyes will thank you.

5. Move! It’s easier said than done when you want to hit that 5,000-word daily goal, but moving can help you focus on your health and your writing. Try planning a walk during your day, especially when you might need some additional time to think through some of your writing. A walk can be restorative and help work out your body’s kinks, as well as you mind’s! If you don’t have time to take a walk, then plan mini-breaks during your writing. Create a path around your home or take the long way to the bathroom. Not getting up enough? See tip #1 and drink more water!

Sitting at your desk doesn’t mean that you have to be completely unhealthy and sedentary.

What do you do to try to stay healthy when writing?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. She enjoys walking along the river in downtown Wilmington.
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Aloha Writers Retreat: Tap Into Your Naturally Creative Soul

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
What could be better than spending a week relaxing and writing at the beach with other like-minded writers? Doing it in Hawaii! That's what writers and workshop leaders, Dawne Knobbe and Svette Bykovec, are offering writers this fall (November 7th through 14th). As their website states, come to the Aloha Writers Retreat and "join us . . .for a unique journey into your creative soul."

Dawne is the author of Runaway Storm, a young adult novel, and is very involved with SCBWI-LA. You can find out more about Dawne below as she talks to us about the Hawaii retreat, or you can visit her website. Svett is an award-winning author and illustrator; her books (writer/illustrator) include See Into the Sea and Crazy Crustaceans. Her website is MoonDog Manuscripts.

Read on to see what you will do in Hawaii, what the price includes, and special discounts for WOW! readers and/or if you are willing to have a roommate.

Dawne & Svett
WOW: Hi Dawne, thank you for being with us today to discuss the Aloha Writers Retreat. Please start by telling us how this wonderful retreat began.

Dawne: For many years, Svett Bycovec and I organized two writers' retreats in California. One year we would hold Critiquemania, which was a very fast-paced, intense 3-day retreat; then the next year, we would organize Sense and Sensibility, which was more about the creative process and nurturing your inner muse. When Svett moved back to Australia, we started thinking about doing something that would combine the two, and the idea for the Aloha Writers retreat was born. There is something so magical about Hawaii that we couldn’t think of a better location to inspire writers.

WOW: Yes, that is so true! I'm sure Hawaii would inspire me. Who should attend this workshop? Are there any specifications for certain writers, genres, etc?

Dawne: This retreat is for writers of all genres. It is geared towards people who are actively working on writing projects but beginners are welcome. Writing is a creative process, whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction, or for children or adults. I personally have a background in many genres, so I hope to help people explore different genres.

WOW: Great! What can attendees expect during their seven days in Hawaii at your retreat?

Dawne: It will be a week of healing and nurturing the writer within you. We will work through stumbling blocks in your creative process and specific issues in your stories. We will critique each others work supportively and participate in different exercises designed to inspire our muses. Attendees will come away with new friends, the inspiration to move forward with their writing, and new methods to help achieve their goals. We will also have a lot of fun exploring the island culture and relaxing in this tropical paradise.

WOW: That sounds wonderful. What all is included in the price for the attendees? Who leads the retreat?

Dawne: The price of the retreat includes 7 nights of accommodations. 

Breakfast and dinner daily, plus some lunches and lots of snacks. 

If you have uncomplicated special dietary considerations, we are happy to work with you. Otherwise, we have an open kitchen policy, and you are welcome to prepare your own dishes.

 Besides food and lodging, the price all program fees include: materials including entrance fees on planned excursions

, transportation (with some limitations), 
daily “writing fun-shops” 

inspiration and exercises with faculty, plus one-on-one editing and group critiques. There are also

 specialty supplies and surprises.

 So there's time to relax, reflect, write and enjoy beautiful Hawaii. If you mention WOW, we will extend our early bird discount rate of $2269.00 (which is a savings of $300).

WOW: This sounds so amazing! Thank you for all the details. What else do WOW! readers and writers need to know about the Aloha Writers Retreat?

Dawne: Svett is a published writer, illustrator, and art therapist. I have a master's degree in professional writing and have made my living as a journalist, creative director, writer, and publisher. We run a non-profit press called The Nature Kid, which is all about teaching children about conservation in a fun and wacky way.

And here is some really good news for WOW readers. We have a special early bird discount ($300) and also a roommate discount ($200). We will extend the discount rate for all WOW! participants past the posted deadline.

WOW: Thanks, Dawne, for all the information. It sounds fantastic! 

Okay, Muffin readers, to sign up for this amazing experience, please go to Hawaii Retreat 2014 website by clicking here.

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Sacrifices of the Writing Life

Monday, August 25, 2014
Me at 17
I'm not sure what happened, but the time between the photo on the left and the present seems to have passed in the blink of an eye. One minute I was a senior writing essays in English class and the next I'm staring at the invite for my 20-year high school reunion.

For the past few years, there's been a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I have yet to publish a novel and I'm not getting any younger. For awhile, I was able to momentarily silence that voice, but it's starting to get louder and louder lately. Never mind that I have experienced success in the freelance writing world, won awards for my writing and interviewed hundreds of expert sources on a number of different subjects. I can hear the voice of my senior English teacher, asking me to dedicate my first book to her, and it makes me hang my head in shame because I haven't done it yet. I haven't been working hard enough toward my goals and I know it. There are days when I wimp out and tell myself that I'm probably too old to keep pursuing this particular dream.

My heart sank when I realized the weekend of my reunion is the same weekend as the Carolinas SCBWI Conference, which I registered for months ago. I've signed up for an intensive workshop on using imagery and metaphors in my writing and purchased two critiques for the first 10 pages of my YA novel. I was pretty down for a few days. After all, this is the conference where I got a pretty harsh critique on this very same book last year and I really would love to see some of the classmates I haven't seen since high school graduation.

Then I happened to get on Facebook and read a great inspirational post by author Jessica Bell. She shared the story of getting dismissed by a publisher who basically told her she was kidding herself if she ever thought she would be an author. But--and this is the thing that struck me--she kept on, eventually building a great career for herself as an author, editor and literary magazine publisher.

"If you want something, LEARN IT. BELIEVE IN IT. DO IT," she said.

So as much as I would like to make the drive and spend the day with my old friends, I had to decline the invitation. I told them, that I'm sorry, but I'm still chasing my dream of becoming a published children's author and have a conference to attend instead. And I still have a lot of work to do.

Maybe by the next reunion, I'll have a book to share with them.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at

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5 Tips for Submitting Your Work: Help From an Editor

Saturday, August 23, 2014
I'm a writer, as you all know. But I'm also an editor for WOW!, High Hill Press, and my freelance business. Because of this editing experience, I've learned a lot about submitting writing work, from both sides. So here are my 5 tips to follow when you're ready to submit a manuscript to a magazine, publisher, or literary agency.

1. Research the publisher, publication, or agency.  Usually, I get queries from writers who have visited the High Hill Press website and researched which editor to send their manuscript to. That's the thing. No longer do you have to guess what a magazine or literary agency is looking for. Most likely, you can find information on a website or blog, on Amazon or, that tells you what types of books or stories this place is looking for and has published in the past. You can also use the online archives or "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to read samples. 

2. Know something about the editor/agent. This takes number one another step further. Most editors and agents have either a blog, website, Twitter account, Facebook page, or Goodreads account, where you can find out more information about this person (including how to spell his or her name) than you ever could before. If you're writing a dystopian horror young adult novel, and you love a certain editor, you can Google his name, see if he has ever worked on something like this or wants to, with a 30-minute research session. But you should not contact an editor or an agent through these sites to pitch your work! You can interact with writing professionals on these sites as a writing professional--that's it (unless they invite you otherwise). 

3. Learn how to write a query letter. This tip probably should have been number one, but first you need a list of places to send your work (number 1 and 2), and then you need to write a proper query letter. Honestly, sometimes, I'll open a query letter for High Hill Press, and I have no idea what the story is about when I finish reading the query. I'm not tough either--I give everyone a chance (this is the writer in me). Query letters have three paragraphs: a hook, a basic plot summary (including genre & word count), and your bio paragraph or why you are the one to write this book. THAT IS IT! Take the time to write a good query and get it critiqued by writers you know. Then send it out. Go to this link for help:

4. Know your own work. You know your work. You've been sweating over it for years now. But do you know how to describe your book in two to three sentences that make someone want to read it? Well, you need to. This is the hook. This is what goes in that first paragraph I was talking about in number 3 above. When someone asks you, "What's your book about?", this is the answer. For example, here's the answer for my book, Caught Between Two Curses, when I'm now asked what it's about: "It's about a 17-year-old teenager living in Chicago whose boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex. She thinks this is her biggest problem until her uncle falls into a coma because of a curse on her family. This curse is connected to the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs, and she's the key to breaking both curses.
5. Know your strengths and weaknesses. As a writer, you probably know that you're fantastic at dialogue but need help with sensory details in your description. But what about your strengths and weaknesses at pitching your work? Even if you decide to self-publish, you have to know how to sell your work to others. So, what are you good at? What do you need help with? How can you get this help? For example, I'm terrible at writing a query letter for my own work (I know that's ironic, right?). But it's a weakness, so I always write one and have my critique group help me with it as well as enter any free query contests. But a strength of mine is grammar and editing, and so I know my manuscript is pretty close to perfect in that area (my critique group has seen it too), and so is my query letter and synopsis. Don't assume you're good at everything or bad at everything--you aren't. Get help where you need it, and help other writers with your strengths.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have another to add or an experience to tell us about, please do! We learn from each other. 

Besides an editor, Margo L. Dill is also a children's author and writing instructor, both online and in-person. This fall for WOW!, she is teaching a class that helps writers figure out their career in writing for children from their personal goals to submitting their work. Find out more about this class (which starts on September 3) and others in the WOW! classroom.

photo by Pink Sherbert Photography (
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Friday Speak Out!: 5 Excuses Women Use Not to Write

Friday, August 22, 2014
by Lilia Fabry

Oh, the horror of the blank page. There’s nothing like staring at a white document with a blinking horizontal cursor counting down the seconds until you create something to make you say, “Don’t I have a load of laundry to do?” I have many excuses to get out of writing that can be just as ridiculous as what is written. These are some of the most common:

1. “What’s with that speck of dust?” – I seem to take special notice of dust, grime, off-color surfaces, etc. when I’m writing. Reserved for when I try to impress with the few recipes I can prepare well enough to garner semi-sincere compliments from guests, my inner Martha Stewart seems to spring to life whenever it’s time to write. Much like the Martha Stewart show, that’s fine – but in small doses.

2. “Just 5 more minutes of Facebook” – AKA, the time I think it will take to find a worthy item on the site. Long story short: it will take more than five minutes.

3. “Someone will recognize my plagiary, inspiration” – I make no secret of my writing inspirations and incorporate these tricks and treats on a regular and partially successful basis. The takeaway: As long as it’s not a cut and paste, nothing can be made to stick. Probably.

4. “You probably think this work is about you” – In Carly Simon fashion and on more than one occasion, I’ve been asked for the basis for a certain character, leading my paranoia to tell me my interrogator thinks they recognize him/her and are about to narc on me. In Metallica fashion, the sad but true fact is most characters are derived from my unapologetically demented imagination.

5. “This sucks” – It’s very easy for me to blame my work, i.e. turning it into a perfect excuse not to write. The solution? That never stopped me before.

All (or most) kidding aside, the above and their offspring can’t really compare to what I tell myself to actually get writing: “I’m going to die one day, and I’ll be extra-damned if this story dies with me.” Morbid, but effective.

I’d love to hear what your excuses are.

* * *
Lilia Fabry is the author of Ordinance 93, a novel set in a world where having a baby without permission is against the law and follows the first four people to break it. She also writes about everything from reaction injection molding to low fat recipes while indulging her need for creative outlets including novels and screenplays. Find out more on her site or her Twitter feed .
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 Importance of Comps

Thursday, August 21, 2014
The first time I heard the expression “comps” at a writer’s conference, I had no idea how important that word was. Or even what “comps” meant.

That’s the way it is, when you hear a new term. Your brain doesn’t have time to stop and figure it out, especially when you’re listening intently to a speaker. But eventually, your brain skids to a halt and goes, “Wait. What?” And if you’re lucky, there’s a knowledgeable person sitting next to you and you lean over, and ever so politely, whisper, “What’s a comp?”

Think of me as that person sitting next to you at the writer’s conference. Because now, I’ve got this.

Comps, General

So when you hear an agent or an editor discuss comps, they are referring to comparable titles, books or stories that are similar in some way to the book you’ve written.

Sometimes, it’s just an easy and quick way to get everyone on the same page.

Let’s say, for example, that a speaker tells you that she’s just come across the most amazing Romeo and Juliet manuscript. In a succinct manner, she’s relayed a couple key points about a manuscript you’ve never read:

a. It’s a romance (with at least two protagonists, the lovers, and at least one antagonist)
b. It involves some sort of forbidden love (the conflict)

It’s often very helpful to use well-known stories, fairy tales, novels or plays as comps, particularly if you’re pitching a novel and word count is limited. Saying that your manuscript is a Cinderella story gets to the heart of your pitch in a snap. And then you have all those additional words to explain the twist that makes your well-known story unique!

But sometimes, using a well-known story as a comp is not such a good idea.

Comps, Specific

Many agents like to see comps in a query. But there’s a good way to use a comp and a not-so-good way to use a comp. It’s really swell to know the difference.

Let’s say that you have written a middle grade book about a child who is on a journey to fulfill his or her destiny. You might think it’s a good idea to say that your book is the next Harry Potter! But what you have done, instead, is projected an image of a writer who’s over-confident and amateurish because there is no way that your book can compare to J.K. Rowling’s tour de force.

But you can use comp titles to let an agent know where your book fits in the market, thus giving a forecast of how your book might perform with the same target audience. Look for similar books, in subject, reading level, and word count, but stay away from comparing your book to best sellers. And do explain how your book fills a need in the market that the comps do not meet.

Do your homework well and the agent can pass on your comps to an editor, who can use those comps as a selling tool when your manuscript arrives at an acquisitions meeting.

And that’s the really important part of knowing comps!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Proofreading: The Final Step

Wednesday, August 20, 2014
We’ve all had this experience.  You’ve just posted a blog or e-mailed a manuscript to your editor and then you look down.  Staring back up at you, waving merrily, is a typo, a punctuation error or a spelling mistake. 

How is it that you can proof your work and still miss something so obvious?  Part of the problem is familiarity.  By the time you’ve been through a manuscript five or six times, your skim rather than read closely.  You need to shake things up a bit so that you can spot errors before they go out into the publishing world. 

Follow these 5 tips for error free copy.
  1. Note all alerts. If you use Word, you may have developed the same bad habit that I have.  I often ignore the red and green underlines that indicate a possible error, because I’m often writing things with foreign words or names that set off the alerts.  These alerts are your first line of defense for typos and grammar mistakes.  Take a look at each one because sometimes the program does find a mistake.
  2. Change your font.  Book designers know that readers can skim some fonts, including Courier and Times Roman, without having to consciously think about what they are reading.  You don’t want to skim when you are proofing.  Temporarily change your font to something that takes a conscious effort to read.  I often use Papyrus or Bradley Hand because they take more effort but aren’t too decorative. 
  3. Change the size of your font.  You may not have old eyes but larger fonts are easier to read.  That’s why beginning readers are printed in larger font.  Enlarge your font to 18 or 20 point for easy viewing. 
  4. Print it out.  If you write on screen like I do, printing your work out will also make it look different.  For whatever reason, I can skim over a mistake 5 or 6 times on screen (in spite of the red underline) but spot it immediately on a print out.
  5. Read your work out loud.  When you read out loud, it is slower than reading to yourself.  Again, you can’t skim.  This is my last attempt to catch errors. 

Error free text impresses editors and readers. While no one is perfect, it pays to make an effort to weed out as many errors as possible.  What tricks do you use?


Sue teaches our class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins in October; places in the class are open.
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Nancy Robie, Flash Fiction Runner Up, Draws From Her Family

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Welcome to Nancy Robie, runner up in the Winter 2014 Flash Fiction Contest, for her entry, "Night at the Bar." You can read the winning story here. (If you are interested in flash fiction contests, enter our summer contest before 8/31 by going to this link.)

Nancy lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten-year-old Golden Retriever, Radar. She has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. Her dream is to be a published author.
Nancy earned her bachelor's degree at age forty-four with a degree in sociology and chemical dependency. She has worked at many professions over the years—waitress, retail sales associate, health care associate, educational paraprofessional, and insurance agent. Each occupation has offered great fodder for Nancy’s stories. Nancy’s passion is her daughters and eleven grandchildren. Family is important to Nancy and weaves its way into each of her stories. She is currently seeking an agent for her novel Escaping the Rage, which deals with a young mother attempting to escape an abusive marriage. Nancy’s underlying themes in all her stories are how the strength of women emerges when faced with extraordinary situations.

WOW: Congratulations on being a runner-up in the WOW! flash fiction contest. Where did you get the idea for "Night at the Bar"?

Nancy: When I was 9 years old, my father stopped at a bar and left me in the truck. I’m not sure how long I was alone but I do remember the fear I experienced at the thought of him not coming back.

WOW: In your bio, you state that you like to write stories about how the strength of women emerges when faced with extraordinary situations. How does that theme play into this story?

Nancy: I was angry with my mother for leaving me alone with my father. I wasn't old enough to understand the incredible courage it took for a woman in 1964 to walk into an Alanon meeting and admit to a room full of strangers she was married to a drunk. Times were different then. My mother was an extremely shy woman, and looking back now, I can appreciate how difficult it was for her to seek the help she needed.

WOW: Thank you for sharing such a personal insight with us. "Night at the Bar" is a very difficult story to read due to the subject matter of a father's alcoholism. Why did you chose to tell it from the girl's point of view instead of the mother's?

Nancy: I chose the girl’s point of view because too often the children of dysfunctional homes are overlooked. Much attention goes to the addicts and their co-dependent partners. In this story, I wanted readers to feel the turmoil a young girl experiences when forced to suppress emotions and take on adult responsibilities long before she should have to.

WOW: Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Escaping the Rage?

Nancy: Escaping the Rage is the story of two women. Megan Martineau is running for her life from an abusive husband and Laura Prescott is the woman’s crisis counselor who tries to help.

Terrified of her violent husband, Megan flees Boston with her young son, Logan, and seeks out the place she had experienced happiness a dozen years earlier, Oakwood, New Hampshire. When Megan arrives in Oakwood, she is welcomed and nurtured by women in the community. Laura Prescott is particularly drawn to Megan. The uncanny resemblance of Megan to Laura’s sister forces an old secret to be revealed. As Laura struggles with her dissolving marriage and an alienated daughter, she bonds with Megan hoping to make up for a past mistake.

Weeks go by and Megan begins to believe she and Logan are safe. Confidence in her new life emerges until a single act of betrayal by someone she trusts, shatters her strength and catapults Megan into hiding. With Megan’s husband closing in, and feeling responsible for her disappearance, Laura embarks on a frantic search to rescue Megan and her son.

WOW: Sounds exciting and intriguing! We also read in your bio that a little bit of your large family plays a part in your writing--tell us how!

Nancy: Having a large family offers me insights to a myriad of personalities. Each relationship in our family is unique and ever-changing. The ebb and flow of these relationships keeps me on my toes and is a constant treasure chest of ideas for my characters.

WOW: This also means you will probably never run out of story ideas! What's next for you?

Nancy: I hope to find an agent willing to read my manuscript and work with me to better my story and strengthen my writing skills.

WOW: Thank you, Nancy!
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Review and Giveaway of 1,001 Tips for Writers

Monday, August 18, 2014
Writer's block stinks. Like insomnia, I find that the best way to "break through" the block is to distract myself from the problem writing. Sometimes I write something completely different, sometimes I organize my desk drawers, sometimes I make lists. Let's face it, I'll try anything! But one thing that doesn't work for me is reading. Before you know it I'm lost in the book and don't even WANT to go back to the difficult job of creating my own book. But I recently found a book that, because it comes in tiny, bite-sized chunks, offers a brief distraction from writer's block. It's also perfect for when you just have a short time for reading.

1,001 Tips for Writers: Words of Wisdom About Writing, Getting Published, and Living the Literary Life is a book of quotes from writers, publishers, editors, agents, professors, even a president or two about all types of writing subjects. This book is less than 200 pages but it is jam-packed with tips, truths and encouragement. This book is organized into 44 short chapters with titles such as: Rejection, Writers & Money, Grammar and Critics. You'll find yourself wanting to copy quotes and paste them on your bulletin board or--if you aren't stuck in the last millenium like me--to your Pinterest board.

Quotes were selected by author and publisher William A. Gordon.

Paperback: 192 pages  (also available in e-format)

Publisher: North Ridge Publishing (May 7, 2014)

ISBN-10: 0937813109

ISBN-13: 978-0937813102

1,001 Tips for Writers  is available as a print and e- book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of 1,001 Tips for Writers, please enter using the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway contest closes August 25th at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jodi is a WOW Blog tour organizer, always looking for her next WOW author. Contact her at Right now she's torn between two WIPs: a historical fiction and a YA. Could it be writer ADD? Her blog Words by Webb is at
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A Lover of Editing?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Photo | EKHumphrey
A friend put out a call on social media: I have so many skills—what do I do? She had lost her job and mentioned that she liked to edit and write (among other skills) and wondered if any of her friends could provide her with advice on breaking into this business.

We exchanged several emails. In one of them, she admitted she was a little rusty in the editing department having not really done any since college and she wondered how I keep fresh in editing.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. I’ve loved playing with words. And for several years I considered myself an editor because I could (and did) read the work of others and let them know what appeared to me to be right or wrong. But I had trouble getting paid to edit.

Then I studied what it means to be an editor. I took an editor’s boot camp and earned a certificate. As a freelance professional, editing is so much more than knowing the differences between its and it’s.
Here is some of what I described to her, in the context of her wanting to become a freelance editor:
  • Even though I thought I knew editing, getting a certificate of editing opened many doors and skills for me, especially in terms of freelance editing. I had been trying to break into editing for several years, but it was only when I earned a certificate that I knew I had the skills to be an editor. (On the job training would have helped and that is another great way to become an editor, but was unavailable to me at that time.)
  • One of the big differences between someone who likes to find typos and someone who has learned the skills to edit is electronic editing. It can make a big difference in your editing. (It can also help with your own writing drafts.)
  • How to use style guides is important to know. For example, I use The Chicago Manual of Style for my freelance work and my day job requires me to know Associated Press style.
  • Editing daily helps me stay fresh, but it is useful to have an in-person mentor. I have a colleague who will sometimes edit a document after me and I learn a lot from her edits or seek her advice.
  • For the courses I teach through UCSD Extension, we use The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn, which can be used as a self-guided course with exercises and answers. Her third chapter gives you a great list of references/resources to start with on your journey to become an editor. 
I used to think that editing was just about the love of words. Now I know it is a love of editing.

I know my friend was surprised at all that I explained to her about editing. What do you want to know about editing? What surprises you about editing and editors?

Elizabeth King Humphrey writes, edits, and teaches online classes from North Carolina. She earned her editing certification from the University of Chicago, Graham School in 2011.
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4 Smart Things Writers Can Learn from Weird Al Yankovic!

Friday, August 15, 2014
by Jennifer Brown Banks

Since the 1970’s, Weird Al Yankovic has entertained and amused audiences around the world with his over-the top wardrobe, animated gyrations, and widely viewed videos that parodied famous folks in pop culture. (Not to mention his eerie likeness to singer Tiny Tim.)

Some of us dismissed Al as a passing fad, a celebrity wannabe, or someone to be laughed AT instead of laughed with. He was “out of the box” and in our faces.
And well…weird.

Fast forward--it’s thirty years later, and he’s “laughing all the way to the bank,” with a new album and a new generation of followers. And he did it his way; without compromise or apology.

Here’s what his unexpected success and staying power in the entertainment industry can teach us as creative artists.

1. Being different can be bodacious and beneficial!

Far too often, many of us try to emulate the style, approach, or “voice” of popular bloggers and writers hoping to achieve their levels of success and income levels.
Big mistake. What we realize in the process is that the best we can hope for is to be the best of who we are. It’s much easier, has a shorter learning curve, and is more gratifying in the end. As a wise man once said: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

2. Humor is a commodity.

Whether it’s incorporated in a song, a poem, a blog post, or a personal essay, humor helps people to relate to the oddities of life, and provides comic release from horrific events we are exposed to from the daily news. When applicable apply. Remember to keep it tasteful.

3. Consistency is crucial to branding.

Though Weird Al has worn many hats in his decades of being a performer, (singer, writer, actor, accordion player), he never deviates from his silly interpretations of popular music icons and those we idolize. He found a “gimmick” that worked for him and stayed with it.
Which gives us something to consider. In a sea of many, what makes your writer’s “voice” stand out as unique or worth remembering? How would others describe your “brand?” Are you consistent in your marketing message?

4. Avoid “word crimes” at all cost.

Al’s new video “Word Crimes” alerts us to some common errors we should all avoid, if we want to avoid being penalized in the “court of public opinion.” Offenses like choosing the wrong homophone, confusing contractions with possessive nouns, and using words all helter-skelter.

Though silly he may be, Weird Al provides some serious lessons on how to be a successful artist and how to keep dancing through career challenges and critics.

Check out “Word Crimes” and take note.

* * *
Jennifer Brown Banks is an award-winning blogger, ghost writer, and relationship columnist. Visit her “Top 25” site for writers 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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