Interview with Siena Milia, Fall 2014 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Siena Milia, a native of the California Bay Area, is a world traveler, award-winning photographer, and dedicated mother of three with one more on the way. In addition to writing short stories and poetry, Siena’s passion for literary fiction has translated into her work-in-progress, a novel set amid Iran’s Islamic revolution and its tumultuous aftermath. She currently lives with her family in Saudi Arabia. You can follow her work on twitter @sienamilia and on her blog or contact her at sienamilia[at]gmail[dot]com.

Read Siena's clever story Of Sound Mind and then come back here for an interview.

WOW: Congratulations on your winning entry, Siena! I thought I had it all figured out and then got a surprise at the end. I noticed on your blog that got the idea for "Of Sound Mind" from a writing prompt at Can you tell us a little more about that particular site?

Siena: A very good friend of mine, Laura Fredricks, founded as a platform for writers and readers to connect and share their work through daily writing prompts and story challenges. I began using Describli as a practice realm for short fiction--to stretch my literary mind into places I hadn’t ventured. This was where the story, Of Sound Mind originated, in one of these prompts, and from there, took on a life of its own. What I love most about the site is that other authors and readers can rate your work instantly and give you feedback. It is a great place to start writing or to take a break from a larger project.

WOW: It sounds like a great resource--I'm sure some of our readers will enjoy trying it out, too. Your bio mentions you are a world traveler, and you currently reside with your family in Saudi Arabia. What are some of your favorite places you've traveled? Have any of them influenced your writing?

Siena: Yes, we have been lucky enough to travel the world and live abroad in some rather unique places. We recently took our kids, all under the age of five, on a trip through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. They rode elephants, met baby tigers, sailed the Mekong, and even saw Ho Chi Minh. We love to explore the world and experience cultures and traditions different from our own. One place we always recommend to friends is Myanmar. It is one of those beautiful, wonderfully mysterious places still relatively untouched by the outside world. Before we became parents, my husband and I lived in Tajikistan as students studying Persian. From there we traveled to Iran, a trip that not only changed me personally, but also became the inspiration for my current novel which takes place amid the 1979 Islamic revolution.

WOW: Can you tell us a little more about this novel? We want to know more!

Siena: Sometimes I say that the my novel is another one of my children. We have three small kids and another on the way--so that makes a full house! The book, and its topic are very important to me. I have spent years both experiencing and studying Iran’s historical and social intricacies and have come to appreciate and love the Persian people and culture. So much that has been written about Iran, and particularly about its revolution, is in the realm of memoir and nonfiction. I have set out to use the unique tools of fiction to open up Iran’s revolution to a western audience on a deeply personal level. The novel pries into the religious enigmas, social complexities, and revolutionary psychology that brought about and solidified the tumultuous rise of Islamic theocracy in Iran--told through the eyes of two young narrators.

WOW: It sounds very complex and intriguing. I'm curious--as an award-winning photographer, do you ever get ideas for your poetry and other pieces of fiction from the images you capture? If so, can you give us an example?

Siena: Actually, photography plays a large part in my creative process as a writer. There is the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words--I believe in this. Not a day goes by that I don’t reference my own photographs taken of the people and places that I write about. A photo can evoke as much emotion or raise as many questions as a good piece of descriptive writing. It can also serve as a jumping off point for inspiration. I often take pieces of a photo and weave that imagery into my novel, giving both nuance and authenticity. I also draw on the images that others have taken to enrich the reality and texture of my own writing. I think this is so valuable, especially when writing about a place where you don’t have immediate access to.

WOW: Do you also enjoy reading poetry as well as writing it? Who are some of your favorite published poets?

Siena: Currently I’m enjoying Ada Limon. I love the way she weaves a poetic story that keeps you riveted. I have a soft spot for books of poetry, but I also enjoy shorter pieces and I follow a number of poetry blogs that feature new poets. Sometimes you find really surprising pieces in the least expected places.

WOW: Thank you so much for joining us here today. I wish you continued success and inspiration in all your creative endeavors!

Read More »

Barbara Barth Launches her tour for A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva

Monday, June 29, 2015
& giveaway contest!

Like all people who share their lives with dogs, sometimes I wonder what they’re thinking about. Author Barbara Barth who shares her life with many dogs must have wondered also. And what she came up with turned into a simply charming book – A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva.

It all began when Barbara adopted April, a rescue dog who had a little trouble settling into a household that included five other dogs. She had trouble finding her place in the pack and preferred to sit quietly watching the other dogs and thinking about…what? April’s personality finally began to peek through during an Easter photo shoot for Barbara’s blog. She wore a vintage pink hat, complete with a large silk rose and was transformed from shy April to Miss April in Paris, a stylish canine. For a few months Miss April had her own blog, where she dreamed of visiting the City of Lights. That blog was the seed that blossomed into A Dog Dreams of Paris, a travel diary told from Miss April’s point of view during an imaginary trip to Paris. If, like Miss April, you dream of Paris don’t miss this unusual view.

Paperback: 52 pages
Publisher: Gilbert Street Press (May 5, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0983171556
ISBN-13: 978-0983171553

This book is available as a print book at Amazon as well as at your local independent bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest:

To win a copy of A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, July 3 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the 'net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays that became her memoir The Unfaithful Widow. She has also written a romance-suspense Danger in Her Words and edited the anthology A Cup of Christmas. When she isn't writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can't resist. She published a romance novel Danger in her Words before one of her dogs, Miss April in Paris, insisted it was HER turn to write a memoir. Miss April in Paris now refers to Barbara as "my secretary."

Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Twitter: @writerwithdogs

----- Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Barbara, you're a favorite here at WOW. You've visited us with four different books--all in different genres--so it was no surprise to us that an author as prolific as you would take the step many writers are taking by starting your own publishing company. And we want to know all about it! First things first, what made you decide to start your own company?

Sometimes you learn by trial and error. In 2010, when I completed my memoir, The Unfaithful Widow, I used a vanity publisher. I had no idea what that term meant back then. I paid the company to design my book and they did a fine job of it. I thought that was self-publishing. I was thrilled to see my story in print. They followed my instructions for the interior of the book and designed the PDF exactly as I instructed. I paid the company extra for the privilege of using my own cover and had a friend design the cover PDF and submitted it to them. I used their ISBN.

As I learned more about publishing books, I wanted my memoir to be under my own ISBN and that is when my learning curve started. In order to do so with this company, I had to repurchase the program (expensive) and pay to have the changes made to use my own ISBN and then buy the PDF from them. I owned my story. They designed the book’s interior and they owned the PDF. It was a locked file that I could do nothing with. I did own my book cover PDF since they did not do that design work. The royalties from print on demand book sales were less than a dollar a book, and I got paid months after any sales. Plus, my wholesale price to buy books was expensive. They also designed the Kindle version, which I later realized had formatting errors. Luckily once they uploaded to Kindle, they were out of the loop with my e-book.

Needless to say, I discovered the error of my ways. I did not want to go this route again. I took a class, actually had the interior of my widow memoir reformatted, and was planning on closing out my account with the original publisher. Then The Unfaithful Widow placed as a finalist in the 2011 USA Best Book Awards and I decided to leave well enough alone. I would do something different with my next book. And Gilbert Street Press came out of that experience. My company is named after the street where I bought my first house. The logo is a tree with two dogs underneath it. Appropriate for me, with my crazy six-pack of dogs at home.

WOW: There are writers and there are business people. But as the owner of a publishing company you have to be both. Do you have business experience? How did you learn about the business details of publishing?

Barbara: I am still learning, although now I think I have a handle on things. CreateSpace with Amazon has made self-publishing so easy. While they offer free ISBN’s, if you use theirs, the book product description on Amazon will show CreateSpace as the publisher. I buy my own ISBN’s and bar codes from Bowker which makes Gilbert Street Press the publisher of record. I am more a creative person than a business person, but I love working with marketing. And I have the best book designer in the universe who takes my ideas and makes them a reality. My time is spent doing what I know and love – writing and marketing.

WOW: Are you a one woman shop or do you have employees? Do you hire out some portions to freelancers such as book cover design, etc.?

Barbara: My book designer is my sister. She is a one woman show with her company PD King Design. As a photographer her work has appeared on magazine covers and while living in the US Virgin Islands, she designed brochures for many businesses. Now in Florida, designing books and book covers seemed a natural turn of events. She is my go-to person with my books, but she also works with other authors. Pam has the experience and skills to create books and eBooks that reflect the author’s vision. A Dog Dreams of Paris is visually stunning because of her talent and patience. I thought white background and she saw Technicolor. We brainstormed the book over the phone and she met my unreasonable deadline. We had six weeks to pull it all together. I wanted April’s story on Amazon before I went in for hip replacement surgery.

WOW: What was the biggest surprise (good or bad) when you started Gilbert Street Press?

Barbara: It has all been good. I am fortunate to have my sister who does the technical side of designing and uploading the files to CreateSpace. I love that I am the publisher of record. I like the control of knowing my vision has been met with all aspects of my book. Right now I am just publishing my own work, which is uncomplicated. If I decide to open Gilbert Street Press to other authors, that will be a slightly different story.

WOW: What do you feel are the advantages of having your own publishing company? Any tips for writers thinking of starting their own publishing company?

Barbara: I am a very hands on person. My books are a total art project for me. And right or wrong, I am head strong and have a vision that I don’t want changed. Self-publishing gives me the control I like. It’s fun, it’s work, but in the end I have a product I am thrilled with. And if I am lucky, others will enjoy what I’ve produced. The best advice I could give anyone who wants to start their own publishing company is to do it with your heart and soul. Be sure your work is clean, edited, and can hold its own professionally with other self-publishers, for yourself, and more so if you take on a client.

WOW: Have you run into any bias against A Dog Dreams of Paris because you own the company that published it?

Barbara: Ahhh, that brings on the debate about self-publishing. The publishing industry is changing and self-publishing is a respected way to go now. Much different than when I wrote my memoir. I think the beauty of A Dog Dreams of Paris will be what stands out when you look at my book and I have my sister’s incredible work to thank for that.

WOW: Will Gilbert Street Press be strictly for your work or do you anticipate publishing other writer's work at some point?

Barbara: That is up for debate. I still have quite a few of my own ideas to produce!

WOW: What's next for you and Gilbert Street Press?

Barbara: My dog memoir. It is the book I’ve had on the back burner for several years. I’ve been writing snippets of it and posting on various blogs. I want to pull in all my essays and turn them into a fun book on living with six dogs. Whimsical, with photographs and my own illustrations. I hope to complete it this year.

WOW: What a coincidence, I'm reading another books about pets that will be touring with WOW in July: David Berner's There's a Hamster in the Dashboard. I can't wait to read yours! But I'm especially looking forward to the photos of your pack.

Barbara's pack! Bertha Barth, Miss April in Paris, Bray-boy, Annabelle, Rascal, and Chloe in her pink sweater.

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

Monday, June 29(today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Barbara Barth and a chance to win A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva!

Tuesday, June 30 @ Bring on Lemons
Wondering what young readers have to say about A Dog Dreams of Paris? Stop by Bring on Lemons today to find out from our 8 year old reviewer!

Wednesday, July 1 @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
Learn more about author Barbara Barth and her latest book, the tale of a trip to Paris told through an unusual viewpoint.

Friday, July 3 @ Deal Sharing Aunt
Check out a review of Barbara Barth's quirky book for dog/Paris/travel lovers: A Dog Dreams of Paris.

Monday, July 6 @ Frog on a Blog
Want to support your favorite charity? Why not write a book! Author Barbara Barth explains how writing and charity can go hand in hand.

Wednesday, July 8 @ Building Bookshelves
Where do dogs dream of going on vacation? Apparently, Paris! Don't miss a review of A Dog Dreams of Paris.

Thursday, July 9 @ Words by Webb
Who is your favorite canine literary character? Barbara Barth answers this and other quirky questions in a 5W interview.

Friday, July 10 @ Oh My Dog!
Don't miss your chance to win A Dog Dreams of Paris and learn more about author Barbara Barth in today's interview.

Tuesday, July 14 @ Writer with Dogs
Celebrate Bastille Day with Miss April of A Dog Dreams of Paris. Miss April will be giving us the lowdown on how Parisian dogs celebrate Bastille Day.

Wednesday, July 15 @ Hott Books
Are your kids looking for a fun read? Check out a review of A Dog Dreams of Paris and add it to the summer reading list.

Thursday, July 16 @ Margo Dill
Barbara Barth, the author of A Dog Dreams of Paris, writes about...guess what...dogs!

Friday, July 17 @ Renee's Pages
Stop by and find out what Renee has to say about Barbara Barth's A Dog Dreams of Paris.

Friday, July 24 @ MC Simon Writes
Stop by to find out what MC Simon writes about A Dog Dreams of Paris by Barbara Barth.

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at

*****Book Giveaway Contest*****

Enter to win a copy of A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, July 3.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
Read More »

Writers as Superheroes

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Since I have a 12 year old son, superheroes (and their seemingly never ending supply of movies) occasionally sneak into our conversations. I am not a superhero expert but it seems one thing they all have in common is their
hidden identity. To most people they are one person: Clark Kent, newspaper reporter; Peter Parker, photographer; Bruce Banner, nuclear physicist. On the flip side they are Superman, Spiderman and The Hulk. Surprise!

Sometimes it feels like writers also have two identities. Most people know you as your everyday identity and when they learn you’re a writer they can’t believe it. “You write? But you’re a fill-in-the-blank.” Perhaps the surprise is not that we have a secret identity but that we’re actually living it. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that everyone has a secret identity: painter, antique car restorer, pastry chef, business owner but they don’t act on it. The surprise is not that we have secret identities but that we’re living them. Because somehow, if you want it bad enough, 24 hours is enough time to be two people!

Here are a few writers and their surprising professions:

Zane Grey –dentist

Harper Lee -- reservation clerk for eastern Airlines

Jordan Sonneblick – middle school teacher

Kathy M. Miller – cellist

Maria V. Snyder – environmental meteorologist

Jodi Webb – marketing assistant for a newspaper

So what is your everyday identity? Or have you made the leap to fulltime writer?
Read More »

Is It Too Serious for Middle-Grade?

Saturday, June 27, 2015
In the young adult and middle-grade children's writing course that I teach for WOW!, one of my students recently asked if the plot she was planning for her middle-grade historical fiction novel was too grim for the age of the audience. I told her no, it wasn't, and she had a great idea. I can't share her idea with you on The Muffin, but I can give a few tips if you ever find yourself thinking about writing a book for a younger audience.

1. You can deal with heavy subjects, but sometimes these are not happening to the main character.  Especially in historical fiction books where the history is known (such as Nazi concentration camps or slavery in the United States), you don't want to ignore these grim historical happenings. But you can either tone down the reality, or minor characters can have the tougher role. The main character is not the slave or the refugee, for example.

In my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place, the main character Anna has a lot of tragedy happen during the book, set in 1863 in Vicksburg, MS--her ma dies; her pa is at war; her family has to live in a cave while the city is being shelled. But all in all, these things are happening around her. She is affected by them; but for example, she does not get wounded by a shell. She is not a slave.

Kids are smart, so you can't pretend like real life can not be terrible, but you can tone it down.

2. Life can be grim. It has been. But it can also be comical and happy. 
The other thing you can do is put in some lighthearted scenes or a funny character. Your main character can also be funny at times. Look at the middle-grade novel, Holes. Again, this deals with some heavy subjects--basically children being driven to work under terrible conditions at a juvenile detention camp. But parts of the book are comical. I mean even the main character's name--Stanley Yelnats is a bit silly. If Louis Sachar would have made everything about this book as emotional or heavy as the topic could be, the book might not have been as popular with the middle-grade audience. Most children's movies have a character that is for comic relief--Olaf in Frozen or Eddie Murphy's dragon in Mulan. It works. So think about adding a little comedy in the midst of the tragedy.

3. Read other authors and see how they do it. 
If you still aren't sure what to do, take Stephen King's advice from his book, On Writing: "You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” Talk to a librarian; read middle-grade reading blogs; check out state recommended reading lists--there are ways to find books that deal with grim subjects, and figure out how these successful authors deal with a young audience but a serious subject. Learn from them, and then transfer these ideas to your own work.

So have you ever read a book for 12 or under with a serious subject? How did you feel the author handled this problem? Are you facing this in your own writing? We'd love to hear about your experiences.

Margo L. Dill is the author of three books for children and teaches novel and children's writing courses for WOW! Check out more about Margo at

Read More »

On The (Writing) Alert

Thursday, June 25, 2015
How alert are you? Do you keep up with your books, your byline, your brand?

I’ve been a little slack lately, so the other day, when I came across an author friend’s mention of Mention, I started investigating. And I found that Mention is a search tool that will send you alerts and analyze your web presence. Pretty swell, right?

But maybe you’re wondering just how, specifically, an “alert” application can help you in the writing business. So let’s take a look at authors who’ve released a book, or writers who have a byline in a book.

Don’t you want to know who’s talking about you—and perhaps more importantly, what they’re saying about your book? Analytic search engine sites like Mention will alert you—in real time. You can zip over and take a look, maybe respond with a hearty “thank you” if someone’s given you a wonderful review. (Though it’s never a good idea to respond to the less-than-flattering reviews. That’s the sort of attention you don’t want!)

Finding reviews, staying on top of the buzz about your book or your name, is one use of alerts; finding a pirated copy of your book is another. Often, the big publishers will take care of these Internet scofflaws for you, once you give them a heads up. For the self-published author, it can be a demanding grab of your marketing time to track down the pirates. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth the trouble to go after someone who’s stolen your work.

And you’ll have to decide whether you want to invest your hard-earned money in the advanced media-monitoring tools. Mention, and other sites like Talkwalker, or IceRocket have free tools available, though the alerts are limited. But I suspect that for most authors, an alert for a book title or author/writer name is really all you need.

And of course, some of you may already use Google Alerts. I’ve had a Google Alert set up for Cathy C. Hall since forever and I’ve received about…well, let’s see. Counting this year and last year, I’m going to say…three notifications.

Now, I may not be a fancy-pants famous writer, but Cathy C. Hall comes up on every Muffin post I write. So, I’m not sure Google Alerts is on the job. And before you say that I’m not being fair, I tried (the free versions of) Mention, Talkwalker, and IceRocket, to see if my name would appear and I popped up all over the place.

Still, Google Alerts might work fine for you. It’s all about options, maximizing your marketing time and dollars, and being alert to your, well, alerts. And now you have a couple more search tools to try. Or maybe you use something different. Give us a heads up on what works for you!

~Cathy C. Hall

Read More »

Website Ranking – 5 Basic Metrics (Elements)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
by Karen Cioffi

According to Internet Live Stats, as of May 6, 2015, there were approximately 939,090,000 websites online. That’s a lot of noise . . . a lot of competition.

I’ve used the analogy before, about being a spec in the sky, and it’s true. You need to find and use marketing strategies, specifically website optimization strategies, to give your site (and/or your client’s site) a brighter light. You need to create visibility and ranking.

There are certain metrics that search engines look at to determine your ranking (whether they’ll use your blog post as the result of a search query, and on which results page they’ll put it if they do).

These metrics include:

Pageviews per Visitor
Daily Time on Site
Sites Linking In
Bounce Rate
Search Visits

Let’s break these elements down:

Pageviews per visitor refers to a view of a page on your website by a person/visitor. Factors such as reloading a page and moving to different pages count. The more pages a visitor looks at the better.

Daily time on site is the amount of time (in minutes and seconds) a visitor stays on a site during one visit. The ‘pageviews’ plays a factor in this. If your content (blog post or website page) contains links to other pages or posts on your site, then the ‘time on site’ will likely increase as the visitor clicks on those links. This is deep linking.

Another strategy to increase the ‘time on site’ is using video or audio. Even short 30-60 second clips keep the visitor in place.

Sites linking in reflects the number of websites that find your website informative and valuable enough to link to it. In other words, if a site links to you, it’s considered an inbound link for you.

‘Sites linking in’ is an important SEO factor, if the sites linking in are relevant to your niche and are perceived as ‘quality’ by Google.

Search visits are those visits to your site that are a result of online searches, usually for a particular keyword.

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave within a few seconds (3-5 seconds) after visiting just one page on your site (the page they originally land on). High bounce rates are usually an indication that your keywords aren’t really relevant to your content. Or, your site may be difficult to navigate or read, or confusing. You want a low bounce rate.

If you’d like to check these metrics for your own site, you can use It’s free and will give you an indication of how your site is doing.

Karen Cioffi is a former accountant who is now a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

In addition to this, Karen’s website, Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing, was named Writer’s Digest Website of the Week, June 25, 2012.


Join Karen Cioffi's upcoming online class, 

Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

Read More »

Interview with Trudy Swenson, Fall 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Trudy ’s Bio:

Trudy Swenson is an editor and writer living in Roxbury, Connecticut. After 16 years as an editor specializing in leather-bound reprints of the classics, she moved on to work for a hedge fund manager, an international lighting designer, and as a grant writer. She holds a Master’s degree in writing and a Bachelor’s degree in English.

A fervent lover of words and ardent scribbler, she has kept journals most of her life to scrutinize and consider, to observe and record. Her current work-in-progress, The Uses of Pretend, is drawn from those journals, specifically the years spent raising her two children as a single mom. Her youngest son, Trevor, was born with a rare disorder, Crouzon Syndrome, affecting both form and function. You can sample part of The Uses of Pretend and other writing at Trudy’s blog,

Living in the woodlands of Northwest Connecticut, Trudy is an avid hiker and outdoorswoman. As a member of her town’s Conservation Commission, she writes an advice column, Dear Crabby, used to entertain and inform local property owners on conservation issues.

If you haven’t done so already, check out Trudy’s award-winning story “Casualties” and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the 2014 Fall Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Trudy: Casualties tumbled out of me shortly after the beginning of the war on Iran. There was a photo on the front page of the New York Times. It was of a young widow standing in fresh grief as her husband’s casket was unloaded from a large jet. He was one of the first casualties. This was among the first images of that newly declared war. Shortly afterward those running the war decided to censor those images, ostensibly out of respect for the grieving families. I strongly disagreed with this prohibition. I felt the American public should experience and share this grief, not viewing the stark consequences of the conflict would help prolong the war and blur the reality of it.

I combined the story with some of my own family history. My mother’s brother was shot down over France in World War II when he was twenty years old.

WOW: That is a powerful and timely story premise. Thank you for sharing it with us. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Trudy: I enjoy playing with words: selecting them, learning new ones, using them in surprising ways, stringing them together to convey meaning, be provocative, communicate information, and spin tales. I am more adept at writing than speaking. Writing gives me the opportunity to reflect, consider my intent, and express myself.

WOW: In your bio, it says you have worked as a hedge fund manager and an international lighting designer, and these positions aren’t ones traditionally related to creative writing. Have these positions had any effects on your writing?

Trudy: A simple misreading there: I worked for (not as) a hedge fund manager and an international lighting designer, a three letter word that makes all the difference. My job position in these high-powered and intense offices can best be described as personal assistant, office manager, travel planner, financial wrangler, gofer, handmaiden, and doormat. I was a single mom working my way through grad school while supporting two children on my own. Both positions were difficult, unfulfilling, but well-paid. I learned much about the fabled, but all-too-real, disconnect of extreme wealth and the trench warfare of small offices. I gained experience moving millions of dollars around at a moment’s notice, arranging car service in countries eight time zones away, and overnighting forgotten sunglasses to cruise ships off the Alaskan coast. There are stories, many stories.

WOW: Oops, I apologize for the misreading. I hope you continue to draw on these experiences to create award-winning stories! If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Trudy: For someone like me this is an impossible question to answer. I would be tongue-tied and star-struck by any of the many authors I admire, alive or dead. I propose a banquet. I would happily bustle around the table, supplying canapés and sluicing wine, as I eavesdropped on my favorite authors conversing with each other. David Mitchell, John Irving, Markus Zusak, Alice Munro, Anne Tyler, Annie Proulx, Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Robert Graves, John Cheever, Muriel Spark, . . .

WOW: I’d love to attend that banquet! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Trudy: I am kept awake at night by H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. It is immense and elegiac, dark, unsparing, and eloquent. I am working on a memoir and chose this book, among others, to inspire and intimidate myself. Macdonald is a master and wonderfully accessible. Her observation of the natural world is keen. Her story soars. This book is a must-read.

WOW: Wonderful. Thank you for the recommendation! Anything else you’d like to add?

Trudy: I’ll add a thank you. The encouragement and fellowship are warmly appreciated.

WOW: Thank you for your thoughtful answers. Happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor
Read More »

Blog to Book Contest Finalists: Vote for the Winner!

Monday, June 22, 2015
Have you ever wondered about how publishing houses come to their decisions about which books to publish and which to reject? Have you ever thought that if YOU were in their position you would make different (better) choices? Well, today you have your chance to look over our mini-slushpile and select a book idea that you think has a chance of succeeding in the big bad world of publishing.

Last week our Blog to Book Contest started. We had a wonderful turnout and received dozens of submissions of blog ideas that could be developed into a book with the help of Nina Amir's book How To Blog a Book. Even if you didn't submit an entry you still have time to join in the fun. You can vote in the survey below for which of the ten finalists you think has the best idea. The winner of the contest will receive a copy of How to Blog a Book (Revised and Expanded Edition) as well as a 15 minute consultation with author Nina Amir. Perhaps this time next year we'll be hearing about a new book that had its beginnings in the Blog to Book Contest!

The Finalists:

Dating for Hybrids (self-help)
Dating for people who don't fit stereotypes, who are their own individuals and would rather get to the point than play games. Flirting rocks, lying sucks and who cares who did the chasing?

At the Beach: Life's a Beach (meditation)
A series of blogs on the soothing aspects of living by the sea. Twenty-four blogs, many sunrise and sunset meditations, waking up and going to sleep at the beach, also time at the center of the day, being out by the water—with children, as young single people, or as retirees—musings, seashell collecting, Lots of photos available.

Tulip House (historical fiction)
The story of a woman who came over to America right before Germany invaded Holland. Tulip House is about family heritage, new beginnings and how one family lives out their new life in America passing on traditions of their homeland. This story is about a granddaughter's and her grandmother's love of tradition, family and of course, tulips and flowers!

Consumed with Passion (romance/cooking)
Short romance stories in which the characters enjoy a memorable meal together—be it a candlelight dinner, a picnic in the park, or a sumptuous champagne brunch. Each story accompanied by the full menu, easy to follow recipes, serving suggestions and (where applicable) wine pairings.

Life Derailed (memoir)
The story of how I survived my husband's brain tumor and brain infection.

Asymmetrically, Seyfert (science fiction)
Just when you thought you had encountered every conceivable alien, along gallops Seyfert, bringing with him disturbing physical features, high intelligence, quiet confidence, unparalleled dignity and masculine grace. His story is contained in a 75,000 word novel with 111 chronological flash fiction and short stories with humor and thought provoking touches. The novel and the stories each have their own beginnings, middles, and ends. In addition, each major character has his/her own arc throughout the novel. One of the major characters is Lucinda-Lucretia-Louise (L-3), a holder of dual PhDs, who, with perseverance and humor, faces and conquers her own professional and personal struggles, not that dissimilar from highly-educated Terran women.

Worker Bees (women's biography/history)
Unknown women who changed their local world around the beginning of the 20th century—women who were steamboat pilots, tailors/real estate barons, librarians and suffragettes. The worker bees, not the headliners. I think blogging will raise interest in them as well as help me to know which ones other women might be interested in reading about.

Reluctant Reader (parenting)
Targeting the parents of a child that is struggling to learn how to read. I would use my experience as the parent of such a child, along with what I have learned by reading information sent to me by online experts, and information I have gathered from conferences.

The Historic Romance of Savannah (travel/history)
The 22 squares that make up the city of Savannah, Georgia will form the nucleus of this blog...and later a book. These well-researched stories (one for each square) involve people who lived in Savannah but whose lives played out nationally and internationally, covering a stunning width and breadth of life experiences. For instance, a young girl from an isolated island of Rhode Island who marries a Revolutionary War general, moves to Savannah and becomes a supporter of Eli Whitney who invents the cotton gin, forever changing the cotton industry, and the South. Also, a young man who escapes the Haiti Uprising in 1790 for Savannah where he protects a family secret while becoming a successful businessman and raising a family full of dramatic life stories.

Intuitive Writing, Intuitive Living (writing how-to)
For my doctoral dissertation, I researched in part how intuition functions for working mothers. I would like to build on that research and to expand upon it for a book exploring how women can succeed both as writers and have more fulfilling lives. Using a blog to build this book seems like a smart and relevant approach because I could use a blog to introduce using intuition piece by piece, and in the process develop a cohesive book.

Cast Your Vote for the Winner!
Click here to vote:
Please only vote once. Your vote will remain anonymous.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Blog to Book Contest and a big thanks to Nina Amir who decided to celebrate the release of the revised and expanded edition of How to Blog a Book by offering our writers/readers a chance to win a copy and a 15 minute consultation. Learn more about the blog to book process and Nina's other writing books (The Author Training Manual, Authropreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book, The Write Nonfiction Now! Guide to: Writing a Book in 30 Days and The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified) by following her @NinaAmir.
Read More »

Father's Day Thanks

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trying to pursue a writing career is not easy. It requires a thick skin, loads of tenacity, and a phenomenal support system. While we would all love to write in a vacuum, if you’re juggling a writing career with raising a family, that is not going to happen. Most of us have someone in our lives who motivates us to keep going, tackle that next revision, and also lets us know when the work we’re producing isn’t quite up to par.

As we celebrate Father’s Day today, I’d like to take the opportunity to say a few words of thanks to a very important “Dad” in my life—my husband, Daniel. Without this guy, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. Here are just a few ways he’s encouraged me:

1. When I first started freelancing after our daughter was born 12 years ago, he told me to stick with it. Never once did he say, “Are you sure you’re going to be able to make enough money doing that?”

2. Daniel is the glue that holds our family together, in more ways than one. I am thankful he has a good job with benefits that allows me to provide the supplemental income to our household while keeping up with our kids’ schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Even though I’m sure he’d love it if I worked a tad harder to bring in a steady paycheck, he doesn’t voice that opinion out loud. One day I hope to be able to contribute as much he as he does, but I’m just not there yet.

3. He puts up with my moods and tendency to get cranky when I’m working on a tough project under a deadline. He gives me space when I need it, keeps the kids entertained, and provides me with plenty of coffee to get me through every single time.

4. He models positivity for our kids. He rearranges his schedule so I can attend conferences, he takes them to shop for thoughtful writer gifts for me, and he tells me how proud he is of me in front of them. Because of that, I sometimes feel I have my own cheer squad living right inside my house—and that's a great feeling.

5. Even though he doesn’t necessarily enjoy reading novels, he’s pored over countless revisions of my YA novel and given me honest feedback, all while telling me not to give up. Nor does he groan outwardly when NaNoWriMo rolls around and I retreat into my office for an entire month in order to crank out those 50,000 words as many would do. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

I'd love to know--who motivates you to keep writing even when you’re ready to throw your notepads and computer out the window?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. She is currently seeking blog hosts for Susan Weidener's tour for A Portrait of Love and Honor, scheduled to begin July 20. Visit her blog at Renee’s Pages.
Read More »

Friday Speak Out!: Bending the Facts in Historical Fiction

Friday, June 19, 2015
by Elizabeth Maggio

Fiction, says one Webster definition, is “literature that tells stories which are imagined by the writer.” But what if your novel is based on real events or people or places? What do you do about the facts that just don’t fit into your storyline?

I’m writing an archaeological novel set near a small town in the hills outside of Rome. The story relies heavily on what’s left of an ancient sanctuary, its complex history, and its captivating deity. I can’t resist the real story. I am so enamored of the facts that I have a hard time allowing my creativity some freedom in bending them, just a little, to make my fiction work. The result is that my first novel has taken ages to write, but I’m getting better and my story is moving ahead faster.

Here are a couple of examples:

Fact: A small train line runs from downtown Rome into the hills and stops at several towns. I am familiar with the stop at one town, its tiny train station, and the fact that getting from the station to the town means walking up the hillside over a few switchbacks to get to the main piazza. Great visual for my novel; the only problem is that this train stop is not at the town I’m writing about.

Fiction: I thought of moving the setting of my novel to the town with the train station, but that wouldn’t work. So I relocated the train stop.

Fact: Early excavations, mostly by artifact hunters, uncovered ruins of several structures in this monumental complex that were then reburied. A few reports exist saying what was found, but no one has had the time or financial support to excavate the site completely and properly and recreate what exactly was there.

Fiction: Taking advantage of the incomplete knowledge about this site, I reorganized its layout to fit my plot.

The changes I’m making don’t alter the core facts--the site and its history will be recognizable to the archaeological community and to nearby residents. I feel however that my changes need to be acknowledged in my novel, and I will do that in an Author’s Note at the beginning.

* * *
Elizabeth Maggio is a retired science writer who is transitioning to fiction. She was a third place winner of the WOW! Women on Writing Fall 2012 Flash Fiction Contest. You can read her winning entry “Extant, Not Extinct” 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!
Read More »

Word Count: Why It Matters

Thursday, June 18, 2015
With so much writing published electronically, I often wonder if word count really matters. Sure, the editor has a length in mind but how important is it that I hit that range?

Recently, I read a post explaining why word count is still important.  Write too short or too long and you harm your Google rank. A too short piece feels slight and doesn’t impress readers. But a piece that is too long may be skipped altogether by readers on the run. There’s a reason your editor asks for a specific count. She knows her market and what they want. Unfortunately few of us hit the number on the first try and have to massage our work to get it right.

To cut a little:

  • Cut –ly words. If you have to modify a verb, you may not have chosen the best verb. Don’t walk quickly. Depending on the situation, scamper or run or pelt.
  • Cut “begin” and “start.” I admit it. Start is one of my downfalls. My characters start to pack, start to study and start to fix dinner. Instead, they need to pack, study and cook.

Need to cut even more?

  • Cut repetition. When I want my reader to get a point, I sometimes repeat myself. Most often, one or more of these repeats can be cut. If not cut, they can always be tightened.
  • Cut multiple examples. Especially when I write nonfiction, I sometimes give more than one example of a phenomenon. It’s my way of using all the great information that I’ve found. Sometimes I need more than one example, but most often I should cut the weaker example.

Most often, I write too long and have to cut, but that works in my favor. When I cut, I can make sure my piece is tight and professional. One of my writing friends actually recommends cutting 30% from every manuscript.

Every now and again, I find that I’ve written too short. This isn’t typical for me but it happens. To solve this I need to beef things up without padding my manuscript.

  • Add a sidebar. Not all publishers want them but sidebars are a great way to include research that wasn’t quite on-topic enough to make the main chapter.
  • Add a chapter. Sometimes I leave things out because I don’t think there will be space. Now is the time to add them but only if I have enough remaining words for a chapter that won’t look slight among the others.
  • Add examples. Instead of telling my reader that World War I trenches were disgusting, I can show it with feces and rats and death. Three or four examples can easily eat through 700 words.

There’s a reason your editor wants things to be a certain length even if the piece is electronic. The closer you get to that mark, the happier your editor and your bank account will be.


The next session of Sue's class, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults begins on July 6, 2015.
Read More »

Book Clubs for Accountability?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
I haven't been great about writing lately. To be honest, I haven't been able to focus on writing in two
years. I have been quite diligent about reading, but not to the extent where it's helping me with my writing. Several authors I've had the opportunity to interview have mentioned how their book clubs and writing groups have really helped them stay on task. I was mulling this over (which is a several day process for me), when I ran into a friend in the school parking lot. We were both there to either pick up or drop off one of our children. As busy mother's (we each have 4 children), we seem to spend the majority of our day chasing children from here to there. This friend mentioned we should start a book club. I guess I took that as my queue to start a book club.

My husband gave me that smile. The smile that says "honey, you barely sleep now, and you want to do WHAT?" as I explained we would be having a group of people over to discuss a book each month. I told him how within a few short hours I had recruited a group of people to read with as well as several younger people to watch the children. I excitedly told him how we would be reading one of my favorite books and how this was going to help get me on track for writing again. It is my goal to use our writing group to help me with my accountability to myself. I will have to read a book within a set amount of time, prepare discussion questions, share ideas, etc... and hopefully through the sharing within the group I will once again find my inspiration to start writing.

Now dear reader, I ask you: Please share your thoughts on book clubs and/or writing clubs? AND share: What are your thoughts on accountability? How do you stay true to your dreams?

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, four young children (Carmen 8, Andre 7, Breccan 20 months, and Delphine 15 weeks), 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:
Read More »

WOW! Interview with Jeanne Golden-Burke, Fall 2014 Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Jeanne Golden-Burke is a financial consultant in the healthcare industry and lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 3 four-legged furry friends. A deep fascination with the minds of serial killers inspired her to earn a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC.

She likes nothing better than sitting down with a good book. And enjoys a variety of topics ranging from history (especially prominent women in history) to a good gory zombie novel! When she’s not snuggled up with a good book, she loves to write and paint in her spare time.

A creative writing class in her undergrad years (and an active imagination) inspired her to put her stories to paper. And she’s been tapping away at the keyboard ever since. Jeanne placed in our top ten with the sad story of The Little Girl. Please take a moment to read her story, and then return here for a short interview.

WOW: Hi Jeanne, congratulations on placing in our top ten! I was just checking out some of the topics you enjoy reading and writing about. Hmmm, zombies, homeless and serial killers—what do you suppose is the common link that hooks you in these stories?

Jeanne: I enjoy suspense, all of the little details that lead up to an amazing finish. That and trying to solve a good mystery!

WOW: Yes, the allure of the puzzle! What prompted you to enter WOW’s contest?

Jeanne: This is the first writing contest I’ve ever entered, and I wanted to try it out and see what happens. I wasn’t even sure that I write well, this was an experiment.

WOW: I’d say your experiment worked! The Little Girl is a heart wrenching story; what was your inspiration?

Jeanne: People experience loss and hardship every day. To me a good book makes you feel, whether it’s happy or sad or scared. Writing about loss or hardship definitely evokes a strong feeling for the character.

WOW: What do you enjoy most about writing?

Jeanne: When I was little, I would tell stories to myself in my head. I suppose this is just an extension of that by putting it to paper. I LOVE to read, I spend 95% of my spare time pouring over books. Reading other people’s stories takes me to a different reality where I can explore someone else’s pain, pleasure, fear, triumph, etc. Writing, to me, is just an extension of that.

WOW: Which book has left the greatest impression on you?

Jeanne: I love all Jodi Picoult books, her novels inspire me to truly think about all the different characters’ points of view. You gain sympathy even for those you would think would be the worst villains. She also researches her topics and I find all of the information she imparts fascinating. Personal favorites of hers: Change of Heart and Nineteen Minutes.

I also enjoy reading true crime novels and biographies. I spend a lot of time reading about British History and famous or influential women from history (Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc).

WOW: Well, I’d say The Little Girl could sit on the same shelf with your favorites, if you ever decide to flesh it out into a novel. Thank you for sharing your story with us; maybe we’ll see here again with another one!
Read More »

Marketing is All About Connecting

Sunday, June 14, 2015
Writers, published or not, have to think about marketing. I recently read an article, where the author stated if you're planning to publish a book, you must start building your marketing platform three years in advance. But what does this really mean? Are you supposed to have a certain number of Twitter followers? Blog on a regular schedule? Create business cards and brochures?

Sure, all of those are important. But what's really crucial and what builds your contacts is connecting with your audience. It's really no different than your personal life. With your loved ones, you make connections--there's a give and take in these relationships. It should be the same with your marketing. You need to connect with your audience. You need to provide information or service, and you can also be a little personal, as long as you stay professional.

So how do you connect with your audience and build your contacts?

1. Show your value: No matter what you write: memoir, self-help books, romance novels, or children's picture books--you have something of value to share with people. This marketing strategy is easier for nonfiction writers because the content of their work is usually what their audience wants to learn about. For example, if you write books about saving money, you can provide tweets and blog posts with tips about saving money. Your audience will follow you because they want to learn more.

Fiction writers have a harder time with this, but it is still important. For example, I write children's books. What is my value? My books entertain and teach about a child's world. As a teacher, I also know a thing or two about kids and reading. So, I can provide information on the value of reading, fun kids books, books similar to mine, questions to go with books, and more. I could even point out sales on Amazon or library programs to check out. All of these things have value to people in my network, and they help promote my books and me as a speaker and teacher.

2. Be honest. This sounds so simple, but it's true. Sometimes, we struggle. Sometimes, we fail. I think one of the problems new writers have is that they read a lot of blog posts or writing craft books, which make it sound like if you just try hard enough, a publishing contract will be waiting for you at your doorstep. I mean, the likelihood of eventually having success if you work hard is high, but it's not guaranteed.

Honesty is one reason why I love Stephen King's On Writing so much and recommend it to all my writing students. I don't like reading horror books. But King's honesty in the first part of On Writing , about his struggles with drug addiction and becoming a successful writer and then years later, recovering from being hit by a car, is amazing.

Be honest with your network, but remain professional--this is what King did. How can you do this too?  Let's say: you are struggling with finding time to write. You could send out a tweet: I'm not writing every day. What works for you? Let's say you received a rejection or didn't win a contest, you could write a blog post about this failure. But then give it a positive spin: so I am reworking the beginning of the story and sending it back out to these five places tomorrow.

3. Think about your audience.  Do not think only about yourself and what you want. You need to consider what your followers want to. This is simply a matter of putting yourself in their shoes. Does someone really want to read blog post after blog post about your daily writing struggles or about the tricks your dog can do or about all your success on the bestseller list? No, people want variety. They want value (see number 1) and honesty (see number 2). Mix up your marketing. Think about the authors you like and follow. Why do you follow them? Can you do the same with your own unique twist because that's what your audience wants?

The bottom line is marketing is about connecting. How do the writers you follow connect with you? Study this, and then find a way to do it with your own style and flair.

Margo L. Dill is the author of three books for children and teens, owns an editing business (Editor 911), and teaches online novel writing and children's writing classes for WOW!    
Read More »

Book Nerd Problems, Part Two

Saturday, June 13, 2015
Back in April, I had a lot of fun writing the post “The Never-Ending To-Be-Read Pile and Other Book Nerd Problems.” I was happy to see it resonated with several of our readers. Since then, new “book nerd problems” have been popping into my head on a daily basis, especially since it’s summertime, when I do a lot more reading for pure enjoyment. Read below for my latest set of observations.

You know you are a “book nerd” when:

1. You voraciously read Amazon and Goodreads reviews of the book you just finished. Most of the time, I immediately set the book down and head straight to the review websites. I sometimes spend up to 30 minutes reading through the reviews, from worst to best. I did this recently with The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. The subject matter of slavery on a tobacco plantation in Virginia held my interest, and I finished the book in two days. I knew there were things about the book that nagged me while I was reading it, and I was happy to see those issues pointed out in the reviews, especially, (no spoilers, I promise) the ending!

2. You receive a book store gift card and labor over what books to spend it on. A gift card, as you know, can be the greatest gift bestowed upon a book nerd. Except when the time comes to spend it. I always want to hold onto it for as long as I can, and even make a wish list, ranking the choices and comparing them to the prices of the books in the store and online. After all, I want to make the most of the gift!

3. Sometimes you cleanse your reading palette with books that in no way, shape, or form could be considered literary. Have you ever had several days in a row of eating really healthy, nutritious foods, only to break down on day four and gorge yourself on a greasy, cheesy pizza? I do that with my reading. In the past few weeks, I’ve read several “book club” novels and then came across a celebrity memoir at the library that I couldn’t resist. I’m not going to say who the celebrity is—let’s just say it’s a reality star nowhere near the likes of Audry Hepburn or any other charitable and wordly movie star. I have no excuse, other than it’s just mindless, relaxing celebrity gossip, which I have a weakness for.

4. You buy yourself a book as a reward and tell yourself you’re going to save it for an upcoming vacation or trip. No cracking the cover until then! Yeah . . . right. This happened to me when I came across a signed copy of Judy Blume’s new adult novel in Target the other day. I brought it home and showed it to my husband, who promptly asked, “Are you going to try and save it for the beach at the end of the month?” (I’m already about 100 pages into it, so we’ll see.)

Do you see yourself in any of the above four book nerd problems? Please share if so! I would love to hear that I’m not alone.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also obsessed with books new, old, and digital. At any given time you can find her reading three to four books simultaneously. When she’s not reading, she also writes fiction, articles for regional magazines, and works as a blog tour manager at WOW! Women on Writing. Visit her website at

Read More »

Friday Speak Out!: 4 Radical Revisions Every Writer Should Try

Friday, June 12, 2015
by Margaret McNellis

Some writers enjoy revision. I never used to be one of them, but after trying out these exercises, I too love revisiting my work and making it stronger. Before I fell in love with editing and revising, I would draft and then forget about my work for awhile. Sometimes I’d submit it to a market but if it was rejected, I didn’t have a solid plan in place for what to do next.

Here are four ways to revise your fiction that even fit into a handy acronym: EDIT.

1. Escape the setting.

How would your story flow if you changed the setting? If you’re writing, for example, about a detective working a city beat, how would the mystery differ if it was set in the suburbs? Or in a different era? Playing with setting can elicit a flood of ideas of how a story might be radically revised, especially if that setting also serves as a character.

2. Decimate your wordcount.

Whatever your word count is, cut it down to 10%. A short story of 3,000 words becomes 300. A novel of 150,000 words becomes a novella of 15,000. Can you tell the same story in one tenth of the previously allotted space?

Like physical possessions, stories often expand to fill the pages they’re given. This isn’t always a bad thing, but the goal of these types of revisions is to think radically. Cutting the story down to 10% forces you to focus on its bare bones; then you can build it back up again if you like.

3. Introduce a new character.

New characters come with new sub-plots, which can drastically change a story. With so many different types of characters to choose from (flat, dynamic, foil, etc.), you could actually repeat this exercise multiple times over the course of your revisions.

4. Try a new point of view.

Writing in third-person limited? Try first person and bring your reader directly into the headspace of one of your characters. You may even find, when working with this radical revision, that your story revolves around a different character than you originally thought.

Radical revisions help writers explore new ways to think about plot, setting, and characters. Every writer should try these exercises at least once to get a feel for the immense possibility of every story.

Since I became a radical reviser, I no longer feel lost when a story gets rejected. Instead, I choose one of these revisions and resubmit the story elsewhere. Sometimes it can be difficult to be a persistent writer if you don’t know where to turn when your story doesn’t hit its mark. Hopefully these radical revisions offer a target for your fiction.

Happy revising!

* * *
Margaret McNellis earned her Master’s in English & Creative Writing in May 2015. She blogs about writing, and is the founder and editor of The Magical Past, a literary publication that provides a home for Historical Fantasy. She is a member of Sigma Tau Delta, JASNA, the Historical Novel Society, and the Society for the Study of American Women Writers, among others.

Her fiction has been published in The Penman Review, The Copperfield Review, See Spot Run, and Fictitious Magazine. Her short story, “A Glass of Scotch” will appear in Dual Coast Magazine in 2015. She’s also a martial artist and pianist.


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!

Read More »

The Neil Gaiman Perspective

Thursday, June 11, 2015
The other night, while watching Jeopardy!, the answer was something like, “He wrote The Ocean at The End of the Lane,” so I yelled, “Neil Gaiman!”

My husband ignored me, waiting for one of the “real” Jeopardy! players to answer. Seconds ticked by.

“I loved that book!” I shouted. “What’re you people, crazy? WHO IS NEIL GAIMAN?”

Time ran out, and Alex said, “That would be Neil Gaiman.”

“Ha!” I said, right in my husband’s face. And then I thought, huh. All three of those players missed Neil Gaiman.

I don’t know about you, but I found that sort of …comforting. I mean, those Jeopardy! people are smart—they know everything! But they didn’t know the multi-with-a-capital-M published author and amazing marketing machine that is Neil Gaiman.

Well, wait, you say. Maybe The Ocean at The End of the Lane was not one of Neil Gaiman’s best efforts. But it was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.

Oh, so it was just a British sensation, you think. But it got all the way to #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in hardcover fiction.

Honestly, the man's spoken at packed venues all over the world, still finds time to post on his blog, and he has 2.24 million Twitter followers. And yet, three different people—and not just any people, mind you, these were brilliant Jeopardy! players, for cryin’ out loud—did not know Neil Gaiman, he of the mammoth marketing platform.

So, yeah, I don't feel so bad about my minuscule marketing platform. It's a work in progress, and I'll keep at it, as should you.

Maybe you’re no good at blogging or speaking in public, and maybe you really don’t like social media, and maybe you really don’t think you have time for any or all of what marketing entails.

Do it anyway. Because the sooner you start marketing and building that platform, the more you'll grow, in the business and with your readers. Just don’t make yourself crazy over it.

Don’t obsessively check rankings on Amazon, or engage publicly (or even privately) with someone who’s written a horrible review about your book. Don’t lose sleep because you forgot to send out your daily 20 tweets, and don’t drive your friends and family to distraction with your constant promotion.

Instead, be realistic in what you can achieve. Make meaningful connections with your readers, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Grow a thick skin and always be polite. Hold a steady course and keep writing good books, and perhaps, most importantly, maintain a little perspective.

After all, even the amazing Neil Gaiman has his off days.

~Cathy C. Hall

Read More »

Blog to Book Contest - Win a Copy of How to Blog a Book and a Phone Consultation with Nina Amir! Share Your Blog to Book Ideas

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
80,000 words. That's the average word count for a novel. Can you imagine writing, editing, polishing 80,000 words? It seems like an overwhelming task but people do it. What's their secret you may wonder? Ask 20 authors and you'll get 20 different answers.

Author Nina Amir has developed a plan that will give you structure, writing in manageable chucks and feedback from readers before the book is published. Nina Amir outlines the perfect solution in her book How to Blog a Book (Revised and Expanded Edition). Blogging a book can be the ideal road to publication for writers of all types of books: fiction, craft, recipes, self-help, memoir and more. Some books that started as blogs include:

  • Julie and Julia
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip
  • Fail Nation
  • Escape from Cubicle Nation
  • Rules for My Unborn Son
  • ProBlogger
  • Stuff White People Like
  • PostSecret
  • My War: Killing Time in Iraq
  • Crazy Aunt Purl's Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair
  • The Handbuilt Home
  • The Reluctant Entertainer

Blog to Book Contest:

Do you have a book idea that will work as a blog turned book? Share your idea with us and you could win a copy of the newly released second edition of How to Blog a Book as well as a 15 minute phone consultation with Nina Amir! See submission guidelines below.

About the Book:

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (June 25, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1599638908
ISBN-13: 978-1599638904

How to Blog a Book teaches you how to create a blogged book with a well-honed and uniquely angled subject and targeted posts--and how to build the audience necessary to convince agents and publishers to make your blog into a book.

Inside you'll find:
  • Basic information on how to set up your blog and the essential plug-ins and other options necessary to get the most out of each post
  • Steps for writing a book easily from scratch using blog posts
  • Advice on how to write blog posts
  • Tips on gaining visibility and promoting your work both online and off
  • Tools for driving traffic to your blog
  • Information on how to monetize an existing blog into a book or other types of products
  • Profiles with authors who received blog-to-book deals

Author Nina Amir explains how writing a book in cyberspace allows you to get your book written easily, while promoting it and building an author's platform. It's a fun, effective way to start writing, publishing, and promoting a book, one post at a time.

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. Visit her website at, and her blogs and Follow her on Twitter @NinaAmir.

Book to Book Contest Submission Guidelines:

To win a copy of the second edition of How to Blog a Book as well as a 15-minute phone consultation with Nina Amir, please enter by submitting an idea you think would be an ideal subject for a book written using the Blog a Book style.

Submit: Send your blog-to-book idea to with "Blog to Book Contest" in the e-mail subject line. You may submit up to five ideas.

Deadline: The contest closes Wednesday, June 17 at 11:59 PM EST.

We will announce the 10 semi-finalists on Monday, June 22. Stop by to find out if you're a semi-finalist as well as to cast a vote for the winner! Good luck!
Read More »

Tamar Telian, Runner Up in 2014 Fall Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 09, 2015
Congratulations to Tamar Telian on placing as a runner up in the 2014 Fall Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't had a chance to read her winning story, "My Sister is Prettier Than Me," you can do so by clicking here.

Tamar is a Long Beach-based writer and English instructor. Her writing often examines the intersection of gender, culture, and beauty standards. She is currently working on a collection of short stories that follows the lives of three young Armenian-Americans as they navigate through life and grapple with love, loss, and the weight of their cultural history. Find links to her published works here:

WOW: Tamar, congratulations on your win in the flash fiction contest with your story, "My Sister is Prettier Than Me." How did you come up with the idea for this story?

Tamar: Thank you! I'm so excited to be a part of WOW! Having people come up to me and tell me how pretty my sister is--it's something I've experienced my entire life, so it's been at the back of my head for a long time.

WOW: Real life sneaking in to our fiction--it happens a lot as writers. You use repetition a lot (and well!) in this piece. What made you decide to use that technique?

Tamar: It kind of happened organically; I didn't sit down and think, "I should use repetition!" That said, I think it emphasizes how I was constantly reminded of the fact that many people believed my sister was prettier than I was. Even now, people always tell me how beautiful she is--it's the first thing they say about her, and the repetition illustrates that.

WOW: What are some themes you are exploring in this piece?

Tamar: One theme I'm exploring in this piece (and a lot of my other work) is women and society's beauty standards--how these standards impact us and how they can affect or even define our relationships. There was a long stretch of time during which this was a point of conflict for me and my sister--I let my jealousy of the way people admired her beauty and my own insecurities about the way I looked build a wall between us. For some reason, I always thought we were in competition, which I suppose is natural for siblings, but it was unhealthy. Once I stopped thinking that we were in direct competition with one another, and embraced my own beauty, my relationship with my sister and with the people around me improved.

WOW: Thank you for sharing your personal story with us! Your bio says you are working on a short story collection about three Armenian-Americans. What made you choose these characters as your focus?

Tamar: Well, I'm a huge fan of authors who focus on characters struggling with dual identities, like Amy Tan, Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie, so I took a page from them. I'm also a big fan of short story cycles, and writing about three connected characters in a collection of stories seemed like a perfect fit!

WOW: Those are some great authors to model after. Is this flash fiction piece similar to the types of stories in your collection? What else are you working on?

Tamar: I have a few flash fiction pieces in my short story collection; however, the majority of those stories are longer works. Right now, the collection is my primary focus, but I also write short pieces that have a magical realism element to them. These usually deal with women's beauty standards as well. To give you an example, one of my recently published works is about a young woman who starts rapidly growing arm hair until the hair on her arms is as long as the length of her body. The story explores our society's stigma about women's body hair and how we expect women to invest time and money to have hairless skin.

WOW: That sounds like an interesting story! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of yourself with us today and best of luck to you in the future. 

Tamar: Thank you!
Read More »
Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top