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Monday, August 31, 2015

Finding Serenity for Writers

by Joe Kopp
I have had a rather stressful year for a lot of reasons. And as I've stated on The Muffin a couple times, I've had a hard time writing through it. I don't know if I'm alone or if the rest of you have ever felt this way? Have you ever had a period of your life where you were writing things--like blog posts or journal entries or articles--but not your creative work? This is what has been happening to me.

So I decided to check out this book: 

Seeking Serenity: The 10 New Rules For Health and Happiness in the Age of Anxiety by Amanda Enayati.

It is a terrific book for everyone who feels stressed out about anything. It offers science and research on the effects of stress as well as self-help advice and even better, practical lifestyle changes. Although the subtitle claims there are 10 “new” rules, the truth is readers will be reminded of age-old advice to become all around healthier and happier in their daily lives.

Amanda begins by explaining how she is a stress columnist, which means she writes essays and articles on stress and the quest for well-being and life balance for CNN Health and other outlets. She is also a cancer survivor, a former “Big Firm” lawyer, and a witness to the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. She knows stress, but she never thought to write about it until she got an assignment for a new column. From that assignment, this book was born.

The book is organized into two parts: Part One: “The True Story of Stress” and Part Two: “Stress as a Guide”. Part one is interesting and the shorter section of the book, where Amanda outlines what doctors, scientists, researchers and writers currently know about stress—the myths and the facts. From how we perceive stress to how it actually affects our bodies, the information is delivered with facts, figures and powerful stories.

The meat of the book is part two where the 10 rules are introduced. These range from “be resilient” to “be creative” (which is very important to me as a children's author!) to “be kind.” Each rule presents personal stories Amanda found to share with readers, some research to support what she is stating, and finally practice for the reader. The practice section in each of these rules is the most important piece of this book.

Rule 9 is “Be Uncluttered” and begins with a quote from Albert Einsten: “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” When she says, “Uncluttered,” she means physically—our living space. She writes, “Our . . .rule here involves becoming more conscious of how our physical space can impact our emotional space. Specifically, how clutter can affect stress levels.” This is so true for me, and really does affect my energy and how I feel about spending time in a certain space, trying to write.

The practice section for this chapter, which could be overwhelming and cause stress and less writing time, is simple and easy to follow: “Declutter slowly.” She suggests selecting the room you or your family spend the most time in and spend 15 minutes a day over a week’s time removing clutter from this room.

The end of Seeking Serenity offers an appendix full of strategies to use today when you start feeling “stressed out.” These range from moderating the amount of TV and programs you watch to using deep breathing, getting exercise, and laughing.

In Appendix 2, a list of resources (videos, books, articles, websites) is provided for further study on all the topics addressed in the book.

Besides writing about seeking serenity, Amanda is the stress and technology correspondent for PBS MediaShift. She lives in Los Angeles and San Francisco with her husband and two children. You can find out more about her on her website,

Seeking Serenity is one of those books that I will refer to time and again. I am hoping it can change my life in a positive way if I follow the guidelines in these pages. Before I know it, I hope to be back in front of that work-in-progress or maybe even a new project! Who knows where serenity could bring me?

How do you find serenity and get creative? 

Margo L. Dill teaches classes in the WOW! classroom and is the author of three children's books. Find out more at .

Emerald Lake photo by Joe Kopp. See more beautiful photography at .

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Speak Out!: Now that my Nest is Empty. . . to Become a Tent Maker or Not

by Andy Lee

I asked Google, “What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?” I was hoping to find answers aligned to my frustration, but the articles rated time management as the number one problem for writers.

Time management is often our nemesis. We work from home. Our schedule is ours to manipulate--or not if we have small children. And well, we are artists. Art can’t be forced. Our strength is not in schedules and calendars.

And on days when the sun is shining too much or the clouds are too thick, depending on our mojo, motivation wanes. Our muse goes on vacation. The blinking cursor taunts our weary brains, so we dash to the car when a friend calls for a coffee date.

But I disagree that time management is our worst problem. I mean, I get it, and at times struggle with sitting down to write too, but I think the hardest part of being a writer is the lack of income. After seven years of working on two books and writing blog posts after blog posts, I’ve become a much better writer. I even have a small following, but my checking account is bare.

I didn’t start this writing occupation for the money, in fact, becoming a writer wasn’t on my radar—it just found me. But a small, consistent paycheck would be nice.

I’ve reached a place in my life where I must either make a living as a writer or get another job and write on the side. I’m wondering if I need to be a “tent maker” as the Apostle Paul was in the Bible. He preached and made tents for income.

Will my writing help pay our family’s rising debt with two kids in college? Not at the moment.

My husband cheers my writing. He’s supportive, but he wouldn’t mind if I got a “real” job. My advances for two book contracts were minimal, and once those books are released in the next six months, I won’t see a royalty check for months, maybe years.

So, the hardest thing to me about being a writer is making money doing it. My heart is torn. I feel called to this vocation. I love to write and speak. But the pay is minimal.

It seems you need to be an entrepreneur to thrive in the publishing industry. I'm not. I'm a writer.

As I face the first year as an empty-nester, my stay-at-home mom days gone, I get excited about all of the writing I could do, but I also wonder if I need to do more than write. Yet, I worry if I can promote my books successfully if I’m working another job.

What do you do? Is writing a full-time career or do you “make tents” on the side?

* * *
Andy Lee took a maternity leave from teaching Language Arts twenty-four years ago to raise three children and one husband--a soldier in the US Army. Now that everyone is raised, she's a blogger, Bible study writer, writing mentor for Word Weavers International, and mom to one kitty named Hank. She has authored two books, The Book of Ruth: A 31- day Journey to Hope and Promise (AMG, October 2015) and A Mary Like Me (Leafwood, March 2016). Andy writes about finding purpose beyond today at She and her retired, soldier husband live in Wilmington, NC.

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!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Should Writers Accommodate Infrequent, Inattentive Readers?

Has the Internet created generations of infrequent, inattentive readers?

Photo from
This blog post is in front of you on your computer screen, or maybe on your tablet or phone screen. How do you read it? From start to finish? Reading only the words in bold? Clicking on the links first and then returning to the article? Do you check the comments before reading?

While some studies have found that we are reading less than ever, others argue that we are reading more than ever, but nearly all studies have found evidence that the way we read and the mediums we use to read are evolving.

Because of the Internet, we are exposed to shorter bursts of texts, which might be limiting our attention spans. According to an article that mentions Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, our “hyperactive online habits are damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information.” In addition, The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Survey and an analysis by Jakob Nielsen suggest that we are losing the ability to concentrate on an article and/or book from beginning to end.

The Internet allows us to collect a wide range of facts and figures, but we are no longer taking the time to relate these facts to each other. College professors have noticed their students’ inability to read lengthy texts and have responded by either reducing their reading lists or encouraging them to read more print material and less online. Author Lancelot R. Fletcher coined the term slow reading, which has since grown into a small movement to encourage us to slow down while we read and take the time to think about and process it.

What does this mean for us as writers? Do we take our audience’s attention spans into consideration? Write shorter texts? Or create more breaks within texts? Shorter chapters?

What do you think? Should writers change the way they write to accommodate the reading styles of their audiences? Have you already noticed writers changing their styles to appease the masses?

These questions brought to you by Anne Greenawalt

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Public Speaking

One of the best ways to get word out about your writing is to get gigs as a public speaker. I know that you’re a writer and, most likely an introvert, but it is supremely do-able. I know because in just a few weeks I’ll be speaking at the Missouri Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Fall Conference. I’ve come a long way since my first time speaking.

The first time was at the local historical society. I kept a death grip on the podium through my entire talk. I only let go with one hand to turn the pages of my printed speech. I needed that grip to keep myself upright. I was that terrified.

That’s not the case anymore. Now I can actually roam around the stage. Of course, that’s how I kicked my water bottle into the audience but that’s a story for another day. Here are 5 tips to help you get beyond your fears about public speaking.

  1. Say yes. You’re not going to get over this by not doing it. If someone asks you to speak, say yes. Practice may not make perfect but it will help you get better one stutter or misstep at a time. Really. No one suffered because of the water bottle incident.
  2. Get the Details. What are you speaking about? How much time do you have? I’m pointing this out for a reason. You don’t want to prepare a 20 minute talk, only to find out you have an hour and the reverse is just as panic inducing.
  3. Prep It. This next step varies a bit person to person but you need to get your talk ready to go. For some people, this means writing it out word for word. I don’t do this anymore because I don’t want to read my talk. I write an outline. You can try both as you …
  4. Practice. Actually give your talk several times. If you can get your children or spouse to listen, that’s great. I’ve been known to explain research to the cat and oral history interviews to the empty dining room. This step helps you see how long your talk is (do you need to add or cut) and also make sure it flows.
  5. Take Your Time. Last but not least, when you get up to give your talk, take your time. I consciously force myself to speak slowly. Speaking from an outline helps me do this since I can’t just quickly read word-for-word. I look down. Read a line. Take a breath. Then I look back up and speak some more.

Public speaking really is doable even for an introvert. The effort will be well worth it when, afterwards, someone compliments you. “You’re a natural. I could never be that relaxed.” It’s up to you to decide whether or not you tell them about the death grip on the podium.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults.  The next session begins on September 7, 2015.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Meet Flash Fiction Runner Up, Linda McMann

Linda McMann is a 60-something retired pharmacist who spent most of her working life in pharmacy management at a large Portland hospital where she wrote many newsletters, evaluations, and memos. Her move to creative writing started with a retirement goal of writing a short story for each of her eight grandchildren. After multiple on-line writing courses, conferences, and seminars, she now posts short stories, poems, bits about daily living in Warren, Oregon, and chapters from her current work in progress on her writing blog Please stop by for a visit and leave a comment.

She is currently marketing her second novel, Counterfeit Chemistry, a contemporary romantic suspense story about a young divorced woman who uncovers a counterfeit drug operation in her small town, and when she tries to identify and expose the people involved, finds her life and her son’s life in danger. Her WOW entry winner is the prologue to this novel. She is three-quarters of the way through its sequel, When We’re High, about a family dealing with meth addiction and its connection to identity theft.

When she’s not writing she can be found working with her husband in their small vineyard, taking care of the gardens around their two-acre lot, traveling to Northwest car shows in her husband’s latest hot rod project, or enjoying the company of her eight grandchildren.

She thanks the organizers of the WOW contest and agent Stacy Testa for choosing her story as an award winner this quarter.


WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2015 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Linda: I was introduced to the WOW blog and writing contests by another writer friend and have been a devoted follower ever since. I've submitted multiple contest entries over the past several years and I appreciate getting helpful feedback for a few dollars more. My entry for the Fall 2013 contest ("Hank's Reveal") made it to the honorable mention list, so I've kept submitting stories. I'm excited to have placed in the top ten this time. Next goal: in the top three!

WOW: Keep submitting! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Counterfeit Chemistry,” which is also the prologue to your novel?

Linda: I combined two pieces of advice I've received about writing in this novel: write what you know and write what you like to read. I'm a retired pharmacist who enjoys reading romantic suspense novels (Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Jude Deveraux.)

I'm concerned about the rise of counterfeit drugs being sold to the public. I was inspired to write this novel to show the dangers of purchasing drugs off unknown internet sites. The counterfeit drug industry is a $40 Billion international criminal enterprise and growing. I've found no other novel with this story line and am hoping the people who read this novel will wonder if this could happen to them and be more diligent about their medication purchases.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Linda: I share a home office with my husband and find mornings are my best time to write. I'm also learning to use Scrivener (writing software for novelists) which seems to help me stay organized. I enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo; it's the perfect motivator to get me back in the seat, writing daily, after a busy summertime of off-and-on writing. The goal of 50,000 words in a month requires me to set daily goals and this carries on after the month is over. I've started three novels and finished/revised two of them during NaNo, and will be at it again this November finishing the last quarter of my third novel.

WOW: You mention that you’ve taken multiple online courses as part of your writing education. What were the main benefits of the classes you took, and how did they help your writing?

Linda: I've taken nine online writing courses through our local community college. The content of the courses has been extremely helpful and the relationships built through the classes have provided a great network of like-minded writing friends who help with critique and commiseration. The first class, "Beginning Writers Workshop" was a perfect starting point and instilled the enthusiasm and excitement I still feel as I write today. Other courses have been specific to romance writing, mystery writing, children's writing, and descriptive writing, editing, and publishing.

Another person who has been extremely valuable to me is Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering, Story Physics, and I've attended several of his workshops and follow his principles of story structure, which help with the evolution of the story. He's shown me how to identify the concept, theme, premise and to find the core story which guides me as I write.

WOW: You've inspired us to keep up our writing education! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Linda: When I sit down to write, I read the last two chapters to get me back into the time and place of the story (and I try not to revise them.) If I'm having trouble with dialogue, I read it out loud. It's amazing what you can pick up by hearing it spoken. Probably the best advice is to find a teacher that resonates with you (via books or lectures), read and learn as much as you can from them, and then sit down and do it: write, write, write!


 For details about our quarterly Flash Fiction contestvisit our contest page

Monday, August 24, 2015

How Blogging Connects Authors with their Target Readers

A following of targeted readers curated from blogging isn't built overnight. It’s a long term strategy and takes a great deal of effort, time and planning. Authors need to be reminded of the benefits of blogging from time to time, because they aren't always convinced that someone is reading their blog somewhere in the world.

There’s no magic recipe for hunting down target readers, but lots of evidence in this post proves that blogging increases online visibility as well as sales, and is the hallmark for showcasing one’s expertise.

The strategy itself is simply a combination of deciding on a niche or topic, aligning the content of your posts to suit your chosen topic and niche, and finally, developing a strategy to strengthen your blogging efforts and platform.

Based on tried and true experience, these strategies will help build a following of devoted readers over time:
1. Niche blogging. Your target reader is reading other noteworthy blogs on your topic and perusing forums and threads connected to your topic. That’s why it makes more sense to blog the topics focused on your niche. This is a good way to set yourself apart in such a competitive and crowded writing marketplace. 
2. Strategy for blogging your book. Once you have a clear idea of what your book is about, it’s time to blog it. There are many ways to blog a fiction or non-fiction book. One popular way is to gather a list of themes and lessons that can be supported with excerpts from your book.
For example, the niche topic for my memoir about leaving New York City to serve in the Israel Defense Forces fits in perfectly with transformation type blogs, because of the running theme of courage and leaving one’s comfort zone. One blog post focused on the 7 Courage Scenes that didn’t make the cut for my memoir Accidental Soldier. Another post focused on how to have the courage to make life changes – either extreme or minor.
3. Guest blogging. Once you’ve determined your niche and topics, as well as keywords and brainstormed a list of potential blog posts, the next step is finding guest blogging opportunities. These exist everywhere, but the key is finding the right ones that dovetail with your niche. Like anything, the key is to start small. I gathered six different guest blogging opportunities just by asking on my Facebook wall.
The challenge of course for any author is to maintain consistency over time. How does one stay focused, with patience, faith, self-confident and productive – in short, to “stay the course?” When you have a plan to stay accountable as indicated in the course I’m teaching Blog Your Fiction or Non-Fiction and Reach Your Target Readers, you can in fact, remain focused for the long haul.

Dorit Sasson is the founder of the Giving Voice to Your Story website and global radio show. Her mission is to help authors and entrepreneurs give voice to their stories and the powerful messages that lie within their book by blogging as an engaging way to build their platforms. As a memoirist, blogger and copywriter, Dorit models vulnerability and authenticity that help break down barriers and allow others to weave their stories with content. Dorit is a regular contributor to the The Huffington Post. Her cultural memoir, Accidental Solder: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Love is a heroine's journey of how Dorit was able to find her own voice in a foreign, militaristic society.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How to Make More Money as a Freelance Writer

Let’s be honest for a minute here—we all want to see our byline attached to feature-length articles in magazines, newspapers, and blogs, etc. But sometimes the cash flow of a freelance writer can move in the wrong direction. When that happens, it may be time to tap into your work experience and see how the skills you utilize as a writer can also earn you a paycheck. Here are a few ways I’ve filled in the gaps over the years:

Fact-checking. Tap into the relationships you’ve built with editors. There is one local magazine I’ve worked with in various capacities. I’ve written articles, edited, proofread, and worked as the calendar editor, all at different times. They recently contacted me because they needed an extra set of eyes during the copy editing process. I check each piece of content before it is flowed into the layout for AP Style, consistency, typos, etc. This magazine also publishes several annual publications (such as travel or education guides), which are typically chock full of short articles, stock photography and resource listings. This is where you come in. There is usually one person in charge of updating all the resource listings and other repeating information in the publication, and freelancers are perfect for this. Keep an eye on the various guides your clients publish and go ahead express interest at least six months ahead of time. It can provide steady work and larger paychecks than merely writing feature articles.

Calendars. Smaller magazines and newspapers have also been known to farm out calendar listing duties. I’ve done this in the past, and while it wasn’t as creative as some of the assignments I normally work on, it allowed me to work remotely and provided a monthly check I could count on. Take a look at some of your favorite local publications and you’ll find that most of them include a calendar of some sort. It’s worth contacting the editor to let them know you’d be happy to help them with that portion of the magazine if they ever get short-handed.

Public Relations and Marketing. My position as a blog tour manager requires some writing and editing, but it also involves networking, public relations, and thinking outside of the box, a skill set that can be found in the most successful and prolific freelance writers. There are writers who specialize in writing bios for small business owners, and I once had the director of a preschool pay me $200 to write a short advertorial about her school that she could send out to the local media outlets. Browse through the portfolios of a few freelance writers you trust in order to brainstorm and get ideas of other ways you can expand your own services.

While these types of jobs aren’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination and probably won’t pay as much as an article in a national consumer magazine, they can provide monthly contracts or assignments that can help keep your writing cash flow in the right direction with prompt payment terms. And by showing your clients that you’re not afraid to take on the occasional grunt work and do it well, they’ll most likely show their appreciation by throwing a few extra writing assignments your way.

What are some ways you've earned extra income freelancing?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and blog tour manager for WOW! Women on Writing who isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves for her regular clients. Visit her website at

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Making Friends Out of Blog Readers

The other day on my blog, I shared a funny anecdote (Technically, it was my mother’s). I’d used an incident from her teaching days as writing inspiration for a story, and so a year ago, I submitted “Snake in a Box” to a foreign children’s magazine market. Out of the blue, I heard back from the editor, asking if my story was still available.

Yep. A year later.

I had intended to blog about time in the publishing business and how one can never quite give up, ‘cause you never know when a story or poem or article might be picked up. But that little gem about persistence was lost somewhere in the post, because honestly, I got a little carried away, telling mom’s story and completely forgot to make that point.

It wasn’t until a day or two later, when checking my blog statistics, that a different point sort of knocked me over the head. Namely, that I had more views than normal on that post. And more comments, too.

Well, you don’t have to shake a snake at me to get my attention. (Or maybe you do. Hmmm…) A funny story had really engaged readers, and isn’t that why I blog? To engage readers?

Not that my blog doesn’t serve other purposes. I search out writing tips or advice, and if I have good news, I share it at my blog. But looking at my blog stats reminded me of the importance of …well, being personable. That a post that invites readers in, pulls back the curtain to the person behind the post, offers a little more than facts and figures.

Sure, sometimes, details are great. A contest, a new market to submit to, the link to a published essay—that’s part of the work my blog does. But there’s more to Cathy C. Hall than the business side of writing. There’s joy and jilts, hilarity and heartbreak, family and friends. There’s Cathy C. Hall, the person. And when readers come to my blog and find a story along with the good news or the contest particulars, we make a connection. We become friends, friends who’ll stand by and support through the ups and downs of the writing journey.

So give your readers a glimpse into your world and make new friends. (But before you go, zip over and read about mom and the challenging student and the high school principal. I promise you, it’s a doozy of a story!)

~ Cathy C. Hall

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Speak Out!: The Wiregrass and Whole Brain Writing

by Pam Webber

Many years ago I heard a well known nursing leader say that women in general have been multitasking since the cave days and that, consequently, women’s brains are quite adept at whole brain thinking in everything they do. She is right and today we have the science to support her assertion.

We know effective multitasking requires the use of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain and a strong corpus collosum connecting the two so they can communicate quickly and smoothly with each other. The stronger this connection is, the better and more comprehensive the thinking.

In general, men are more adept at using the left hemisphere of their brains where logic and calculation functions reign, whereas women have a greater ability to integrate right brain sensory functions such as visual imagery, spatial perceptions, and interpretation of nonverbal communication. In particular, women identify a wide array of feelings and articulate the physical effects of these feelings as well.

Compare several of your favorite male and female authors and see if you can discern who integrates right brain functions more into their writing. Which ones not only put you in each scene, but also enable you to see, hear, and feel through the eyes of the character?

There is a fine line authors dance with between too much on the page, and leaving too little to the imagination. Good whole brain writing allows you to select just the right word or words to evoke the reader response you want. A successful male author friend of mine insists that writers must interview every word they intend to use to make sure only the most effective and concise ones end up in print. In essence I agree with him, but I’m inclined to let those few words emerge from my right hemisphere as opposed to my left.

When writing my novel, The Wiregrass, I wanted the reader to be in the Deep South with the characters, to see the lush beauty of a clear water lagoon, feel the radiating heat, sweat in the humidity, smell the tropical flowers, and be in awe at the power of an afternoon thunderstorm.

I also wanted the reader to feel and remember what it was like to go through puberty and experience their first crush, tremble with young love, and go cold with fear. If readers are looking through the eyes of the story’s loveable and unlovable characters they are as much a part of the story as the characters themselves.

Maya Angelou once said that people do not remember what you do or say, they remember how you make them feel, which is exactly what whole brain writers bring to a story. Through the careful selection of words and crafting of phrases these writers enable the reader to feel a roller coaster ride of emotions, from laugh out loud funny to soul crushing sadness. If done well, the feelings and the story will stay with the reader for a lifetime.
* * *
Pam Webber is a nationally certified nurse practitioner and award-winning university-level nursing educator. She has published numerous articles and co-authored four editions of a nursing textbook. 
Pam resides in Virginia’s Northern Shenandoah Valley with her husband.
The Wiregrass is her first novel. Visit with Pam 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!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

6 Innovative Ideas to Structure Your Travel Essay and Jumpstart Your Writing

by Jillian Schedneck 

I’ve learned to jumpstart my travel writing through inventing interesting structures for my story. Innovative ways to organise the elements of my travel essay can help me locate where my essay begins, and it can even help me decide the entire arc of the story I’m going to tell. Inventing different ways to structure an essay even gives me more ideas for essays that I had never thought about before.

Amritsar, India, January 2013

Here are five innovative essay structures I’ve used to jumpstart my travel essay writing:

1. Your expectation vs. reality

This kind of essay would describe your mental image of the place you are going before you arrive, and what you expect will happen there. The following section would focus on the actual details of your travel journey. Whether your expectation was better or worse than the reality, the distance between our expectations and actual experiences is an interesting space to explore.

2. Love and hate

This essay could be set up in alternating sections, first describing all the wonderful things about the place where you’ve visited or lived, and then describing the things that bother you, that are unjust and ugly. The two sections can work together to highlight the strong and contradictory emotions this place evokes in you.

3. Jump cut to different scenes

This is an interesting way to get to the action of your story. Each section could be a small or even important moment of action in your travel story. You can leave out the summary details and give the reader only those moments of interaction of exchange between yourself and other characters, or within the place itself.

4. A braided essay

A braided essay traditionally has three parts, or three separate but interrelated stories that inform each other throughout. These essays are often reflective and lyrical, and require some work from the reader to put together the meaning of the three pieces of your essay. An example might be the story of your first night in a new place, a connected story based on an important historical event or person from that place, and the story of one of your important relationships that relates to why you decided to go on this trip or why you decided to leave. All three of these stories would be woven together in a braided essay.

5. Describe one night, or even a memorable hour, of your travel experience

Zoom in on one particular night or moment from your time in this new place. It could be your first night there, or your last, or somewhere in between. This should be a moment of change or realisation, when your perspective widens in some new way. Get up close and make the reader feel like they are there with you. Use all five senses to bring the reader into this important moment.

6. A reflective essay of a travel experience from five or more years ago

This essay can focus much more on summary than number 5. Zoom out to give the reader a wider perspective on that past travel experience and its meaning to you. Describe how you now feel about what happened on that trip all those years ago. Who was that person? How have you changed since then? What does that younger you have to teach you now, and what do you have to teach her?


Jillian Schedneck is the author of the travel memoir Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights, published by Pan Macmillan in 2012. Her travel writing and essays have appeared in over a dozen international literary journals and magazines, including Brevity, Redivider, The Common Review and Literary Traveler. She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from West Virginia University in 2006 and a PhD in Gender Studies from the University of Adelaide in 2013. She is currently completing her novel Hungry for the World and Its Glow, which focuses on three young women's very different travel experiences.

For travel writing classes, visit our classroom page.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

You Don’t Have to Be the Best Writer to Get the Best Job

It doesn’t matter if you write the most intriguing query letter and it doesn’t matter if you write the perfect article if you’re making any one of the mistakes I’m about to share with you.

The hard truth is, the best writers don’t necessarily get the best writing jobs.

The best writers don’t necessarily get any jobs. Talent alone will not get you hired.

Depending on how you feel about your own writing skills, reading that might have made you feel better or worse. But whether you believe writing skills are the product of inherent talent or years of practice, there are simple steps you can take to ensure you score regular gigs. These steps really don’t have anything to do with talent, but they do indicate whether you are a professional.

As a managing editor of a major website, I look for professionals. Typos, misspellings, factual errors, and sloppy writing are all hallmarks of unprofessionalism. You don’t want that label.

You want to be the opposite of that. You want to stand out from the crowd because you do care and you do comb through every detail of your work. Remember, an editor is typically overworked and overwhelmed. He or she is likely primarily looking for a reason to delete emails, and secondarily looking for quality materials.

So, here are six things you should look for in your article, manuscript, pitch, or query before you hit the send button. These might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I see them in my inbox. And let’s be real, we all know we’ve committed at least a couple of these.
1. Spelling – Misspellings are an instant reason for an editor to hit “delete.” Keep an eye out especially for things that spellcheckers won’t recognize, such as “their” instead of “there.”
2. Adjectives and adverbs – These should not be the heart of your writing. Superfluous use of them is the sign of an immature writer (in years or in experience). Delete as many as you can.
3. Grammar – I don’t expect all writers to be grammar nerds, but I do expect them to have a general understanding of their craft. Look for non-sequiturs and noun-verb agreement in particular.
4. Repetition - Repetitive use of the same word is another sign of either a young writer or someone who hasn’t reread and refined her draft. If you see the same word popping up, it’s time to bust out your thesaurus.
5. Clichés – By definition, clichés bring nothing new to your work. Delete them all.
6. Incorrect clichés – It is not a “mute point” and there’s no such thing as “intensive purposes.”
Aside from all that technical stuff, there’s another level editors look for in potential writers. They look for people they actually want to work with. People they might even enjoy working with. This is something you should seek out, as well, because if someone enjoys working with you, he or she may hire you again.

When selecting writers, I look at three qualities (I didn’t come up with these, they came from reading many business books):
1. Does the person turn her work in on time?
2. Is she pleasant to work with?
3. Is she skilled at writing?
“Yes” answers to any two out of those three will result in a positive and productive situation for both the writer and me. So, first, get your article, manuscript, pitch, or query in tip-top shape by rereading and checking it against the list above. And then be punctual, pleasant, and good at what you do.

If you can handle that on top of having an excellent query letter and article, then you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with a small percentage of capable people any editor would be eager to hire.

Becca Borawski Jenkins is the Managing Editor of a major health and fitness website—a job she earned based on the success of her personal blogging. As the editor of she oversees a team of writers and editors, publishing 24 high-quality articles per week to an audience of almost 5 million readers each month.

Though she was born with the instinct to write, as a teenager she decided that a career in film and television would be more “practical” (don’t ask her the logic behind that). But even while studying filmmaking, she excelled as a writer, having a play produced in undergrad and a script turned into a short film in graduate school. While earning her MFA in Cinema-Television Production at USC, she focused mainly on scriptwriting and editing—both core elements of good story telling and fantastic ways to study story structure.

You can find out more about Becca by visiting her website:


Join Becca's upcoming online class, 

Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Interview with Cheryl Eichar Jett, Runner Up in WOW's Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Contest

Today we're talking with Cheryl Eichar Jett, runner up in our Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Contest. Read her winning entry, Circus Blood, and then come back here for a fun interview with Cheryl.

Cheryl Eichar Jett is a historian, author, and blogger. Currently working on her sixth nonfiction book for Arcadia Publishing, she is also a regular contributor to several regional publications including a monthly column, “Along Route 66,” in the paper-plus-online She blogs about her adventures at as the Route 66 Chick, a mostly lighthearted look at her travels, Route 66 and other history, and Route 66 events and tourism.

As a small child, she learned how to read road maps from her parents and soon put this skill to work in the back seat of the family car on road trips. Many years later, she began writing about history, Route 66, and travel and found herself published. She believes there’s a connection between the two.

Between then and now, this daughter of professional musicians/music educators worked as a salesperson, bookkeeper, music teacher, professional musician, grant writer, and nonprofit executive director. Cheryl holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in history from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and has done additional study at the Santa Fe Screenwriters Conference (in person) and from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (online).

Now about that fiction! This is her first placement in a fiction writing contest and she feels excited and inspired to aim for more. She has been writing short stories and parts of novels for 30 years. Her stories are usually framed by historical settings and she is drawn to themes of the impact of loss, ties between the past and the present, second chances, new beginnings, and travel (including time).

Cheryl lives in Illinois, where she works on a volunteer basis promoting Route 66 tourism. She is a member of Eville Writers (a play on her city, Edwardsville). In any spare time, she enjoys reading, genealogy, travel, music, and visiting her adult children and grand-dogs.

WOW: Congratulations, Cheryl, and welcome! You've published six non-fiction books through Arcadia Publishing. What are some of the topics you've written about?

Cheryl: All six are community histories. The first two were Alton and a Postcard History of Edwardsville (both cities in Madison County, Illinois), published in 2009. By then, I'd been seriously bitten by the Route 66 bug and approached Arcadia about doing a couple Route 66 histories. Route 66 is a linear community, after all! The result was two consecutive contracts for Route 66 in Madison County and Route 66 in Springfield (Illinois' capital city), both published in 2010. Life got in the way for several years then, with the illness and passing of several loved ones. In 2013, Joe Sonderman, a good friend, fellow Arcadia author, and author of well over a dozen books on Route 66, and I partnered to do Route 66 in Illinois, which covered the 300 miles of the famous highway between Chicago and St. Louis. That one was published in 2014, and the two of us are now working on Route 66 in Kansas, which will complete the Arcadia Route 66 series. I have two more Route 66-related book projects that are roughly outlined, with some research completed – I think those two might go to History Press or Quayside.

WOW: I loved hearing about your job as the "map reader" on childhood family road trips. These days it's almost a lost art. I'm curious if you prefer the paper version of maps when you travel.

Cheryl: Pun intended, I suppose, but I'm all over the map with that! I love paper maps and collect vintage highway maps. But I'm very comfortable with technology as well. I have a Garmin GPS and use the smart phone for directions as well – it depends on my mood and the expediency with which I need to get somewhere!

WOW: Tell us more about your work as a volunteer for Route 66 tourism and why it is such a passion of yours.

Cheryl: Over the past several years I've gotten more and more involved with Route 66 tourism, particularly in Illinois, to the point where I'm serving as president of Illinois Route 66 Blue Carpet Corridor, on the board of directors for Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, and as Conference Director for Miles of Possibility: The Edwardsville Route 66 Conference. In June, we held our first annual Blue Carpet Corridor weekend. This involved 18 communities along a portion of the route actually working together to produce a rolling two-day festival. It got good reviews despite a weekend of rain really putting a damper on attendance. One event done for the year! The conference, a rather unique event, is planned for Halloween weekend at a marvelous restored theatre. I'll be involved with Blue Carpet Corridor annually, but the conference is a one-time event.

Route 66 is just a win-win for everyone. Tourists and travelers get interesting places to stop, take photographs, revisit childhood family vacation memories. The businesses and communities along the route benefit from tourism dollars. Those of us that are Route 66 authors or artists get to make a couple bucks to put toward all the gasoline and food we buy traveling the route. And we all get to do something we like.

As far as the pull of Route 66, it is the most famous highway in the world. So much of our American history is tied up with the history of the route, from the Prohibition and liquor-running days of the 1920s to the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl and driving 66 to California in the 1930s, to the military traffic in the 1940s, to the Famous Fifties with drive-ins and rock and roll, and beyond.

WOW: I always love a story with a traveling circus as the setting. What inspired you to write "Circus Blood?"

Cheryl: I have to be honest here and tell you that the entire first sentence of the story was a writing prompt for another contest several years ago, which I entered but did not place in. “Circus Blood” as I submitted it to WOW! Women on Writing was just as I had written and submitted it to the other contest. I had a good feeling about the story back then and feel so validated that it did so well with WOW! But past that initial sentence prompt, I began to see and feel some parallels with my own father's story. You see, my father was about 30 years older than my mother...he was actually born in 1892...and I was born later on to them. My father, although not abused as the boy in my story was, left home at about that boy's age and went on the road playing piano for silent movies. After the “talkies” came in, he switched to playing vaudeville. As I wrote about the boy with his desire not only to get away from his abusive pa, I felt also that he wanted to honor his mother and other family members' life work by practicing for years with the juggling balls. It was easy enough to equate this in my mind with my dad's musical talent and the young years he spent practicing to be able to go on the road.

WOW: What an interesting history! How do you fit your writing projects into what sounds like a very busy schedule?

Cheryl: This year has become a bit of a tightrope! I wish I could say that I have a very organized method of fitting it all in, but it seems that I spend a few days or a week on the event work and then flip back to writing for a similar time period. Sometimes I treat the event work as my “job” and write to relax in the evenings and on the weekends. I do keep lists, schedules, and calendars of my various projects so that somehow I manage to balance them all. I'm looking forward to less event work and more writing time in 2016. I'm finding so much satisfaction in working on my fiction, and I can hardly express how thrilled I am to have just now placed in the second Top Ten in a row at WOW! After decades of writing fiction with no recognition or encouragement, this is very sweet. I love telling stories that are set anywhere in between the late 1800s up through the '40s or '50s. Kudos to all of you for such a wonderful and useful website, blog, and series of contests!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Marketing: Don't Forget Your Public Library

My friend, Camille Faye, author of Voodoo Butterfly, and I were having a discussion about some marketing events she has coming up in the fall. She mentioned how she had been featured in a couple of small-town community newspapers, and because of one story, a local library had called her and asked her to have a book signing at their branch.

This past spring, a librarian at a smaller library a few hours away contacted me and asked if I would consider Skyping in and presenting a program. They had received a grant and were looking for a young adult author to present. I was happy to do this, of course!

Recently, I received the annual e-mail from a library branch near where I live that hosts a local author open house, each year in November, to give readers a chance to start their Christmas shopping early and authors to have a chance to connect with readers without paying any cost to participate.

Libraries are wonderful—of course, we all know that. Since we are writers, most of us probably have a longtime relationship with the library, remembering fond times from our childhood, checking out stacks of our favorite books for free, devouring them in record time, and begging our parents to take us back for more.

Don’t forget the libraries now that you are a published author. Most libraries want to do events with local authors—you may not get paid to speak or you may if they have a budget, a grant, or a library foundation with money to pay speakers. But it is at least a free place to sell and sign books and hopefully gain some new readers.

Many published libraries have a request system—where interested readers can ask the library to purchase certain books. If your library has this, ask someone who loves your book to request it and get it on your librarians’ radar. Some libraries also have special local author sections. This means, your book is in circulation with everyone else’s, and people can check these out of the library. How cool is that!

Libraries have many community events—craft fairs, reading nights, game nights, etc, and if you can fit your book into their programming, then call and explain how. Sign up for the event e-mail list, find out what’s going on, and get involved if possible.

Finally, many libraries have book clubs. Contact the librarians (are you tired of me saying this yet?) and ask if they would consider reading your book. Be prepared to explain why your novel would create a good discussion and maybe provide some questions to consider. Also offer to come to the club or to Skype in. If the library or the reading group members are willing to buy your book, you can add this appearance as a bonus and get to hear firsthand what readers think of your book!

Libraries are still there inviting readers in and authors, too. Don’t get overwhelmed with all these ideas—pick one and go for it!

Margo L. Dill is a children’s author and WOW! online classroom instructor. Find out more on her website at or in the WOW! classroom,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bette Lee Crosby is at it Again - The Loft (the Second Book of the Memory House Collection)

Overview of The Loft


Annie Doyle believes the answer is yes, but will she find it in time?

Fifty years of memories are hidden in the walls of the loft. Now Ophelia Browne is leaving the house and she’s leaving some very powerful memories behind. Annie needs to find just one… the one that will save Oliver’s life.

On the day of their wedding, Annie sees only happiness ahead, but when an accident calls her and Oliver back to Memory House, her world is changed forever.

After only three nights in the loft, Annie must now find the single most meaningful memory in Oliver’s mind. If she finds it in time, she can save his life, if she doesn’t…well that’s something she can’t afford to think about.

Readers will welcome back the much-loved characters from Memory House and enjoy a few new friends!

MY THOUGHTS AFTER READING THE LOFT... (review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto)

Crystal Otto
(photo courtesy of Oh! Photography)
It's difficult to put into words exactly how Bette Lee Cosby's storytelling is different than that of other authors. I've said before that she leaves out some of the detail I've come to expect as a reader. This is not to say her books are lacking. She somehow leaves out just enough details to keep my imagination completely engaged from cover to cover. It's safe to say several readers could walk away after reading The Loft and each reader would have a different "take away" as well as a different idea of what each character looks like. I was completely drawn into this story and am waiting in great anticipation for the third book in the collection. The characters and story line are written to be enjoyed as a stand alone book or enjoyed as an entire collection. Regardless of how many Memory House books you read, it is safe to say you'll enjoy each and every page!

Author Bio – Bette Lee Crosby

USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning novelist Bette Lee Crosby’s books are “Well-crafted storytelling populated by memorable characters caught up in equally memorable circumstances.” – Midwest Book Review

Bette Lee Crosby
The Seattle Post Intelligencer says Crosby’s writing is, “A quirky mix of Southern flair, serious thoughts about important things in life and madcap adventures.”

Samantha from Reader’s Favorite raves, “Crosby writes the type of book you can’t stop thinking about long after you put it down.”

“Storytelling is in my blood,” Crosby laughingly admits, “My mom was not a writer, but she was a captivating storyteller, so I find myself using bits and pieces of her voice in most everything I write.”

It is the wit and wisdom of that Southern Mama Crosby brings to her works of fiction; the result is a delightful blend of humor, mystery and romance along with a cast of quirky charters who will steal your heart away. Her work was first recognized in 2006 when she received The National League of American Pen Women Award for a then unpublished manuscript. She has since gone on to win nineteen awards for her work; these include: TheRoyal Palm Literary Award, the FPA President’s Book Award Gold Medal, Reader’s Favorite Award Gold Medal, and the Reviewer’s Choice Award.

Crosby’s published works to date are: Memory House (2015), Passing through Perfect (2015), Wishing for Wonderful (2014), Blueberry Hill (2014), Previously Loved Treasures (2014), Jubilee’s Journey (2013), What Matters Most (2013), The Twelfth Child (2012), Life in the Land of IS (2012), Cracks in the Sidewalk (2011), Spare Change (2011).

Crystal and Family - photo courtesy of
Oh! Photography
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, crunchy babywearing mama, 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 1, Delphine 5 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal and her children blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why Isn’t There a Procrastinators Anonymous?

by Aimee Levey

I don’t know how many times I have tried to finish my first book. It’s been going on for almost five years. The reason it is taking so long is because the book is crazy and I’m unsure about unleashing it on the world. Also, the main character has the most unattractive of first names. I can’t even imagine what my demographic would be. I feel like the words only make sense when read aloud in my voice in the usual I’ve-lived-many-lives-weary tone that I was born with.

I have trusted some to read the first few drafts and they promise it’s not as bad as I think it might be. They even say it’s so funny they peed their underwear on a few occasions. But these are people who know me and are already aware that I have a screw loose. And I know full well that there is a huge novelty involved in reading a book of a friend to get further inside their heads so you can judge them some more and use their thinking disguised by the thinking of made-up "characters" as blackmail further down the line if the book fails.

I was thinking of coming up with a pseudonym to protect my reputation. (What reputation? There is no reputation.) These are the names I have come up with so far: Pope Windcock-Dithers, I M Frei, Floppie Johnson. What I want to do is strike a balance between a man and a woman’s name so that nobody will be sure who or what they are dealing with when the book comes out. (If it ever does come out…) And the critics might be kinder to Pope or Floppie than me. Don’t ask me why that would be the case. Pope or Floppie sound like more upstanding, credible individuals to me is all.

I sit back in the sofa and imagine all the bad reviews from critics who definitely won’t understand, who have clearly never battled with the doubting demons associated with the novel-composing process, who never endured friends and family asking, "So, how’s the book coming along?" And I wish I never had the novel notion. And I end up getting so angry with critics and my big boastful, unrestrained mouth spouting on about "oh, I’m writing a book". And all the while I’m digging my nails into the armrest with stress and putting off writing. Why isn’t there a Procrastinators Anonymous?

Sometimes I wish so hard for a typewriter. So that there would be pressure on me to choose each word more carefully. The last thing you want to do on a typewriter is type words you’re unsure of. On my computer, I sit up in bed, my buttocks burrowed into the mattress covered in sweat from the copious amounts of caffeine consumed by me. And I’m distracted by the internet. I try to disconnect from the router and focus on Word only but I need to know all of the news around the world in every online news publication. So I write in the fashion to come back to edit later. Not the kind of killer precision and mining-words-from-the-back-of-the-mind writing employed in typewriting. I want the internet to time out on my personal computer after twenty minutes of usage and for it to tell me to "cop on and get busy." I need help with distraction management. Can’t the technology genii invent a special kind of computer for procrastinating, hard slog-dodging writers like myself?

* * *
Aimee Levey is Irish and based in Greenford, London. She has just finished her first novel and is currently seeking a literary agent. She has written poetry (thirty poems in all), songs, two TV pilot episodes with follow up episodes. 

In the last few years she has been focusing on writing, performing and producing her own plays (Cryptosporidium Town, De Backlan's, Natural State and Harder Please). Chances are you won’t have heard of any of these plays. She has put on shows at the Etc. theatre in Camden and did a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013.


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!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three Tips for Writing More Concisely

You could have the most interesting story in the world, but if you can’t write it well, you won’t attract an audience.

One of the key concepts for writing well is writing concisely. Concise writing is highly valued among business and technical writers, academics, and, yes, even creative writers.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t supply details and descriptions that extend past the bare-bones skeleton of your writing, because those are important and necessary, too. But you can – and should – write concisely even when writing creatively.

Three Tips for Writing Concisely

1. Avoid “to be” verbs.
To Be Verbs. Graphic from

Each time you use a “to be” verb, ask yourself if you can re-write the sentence to eliminate it. It’s not always possible, but often it is.

A “to be” sentence: There are so many reasons why I love sports. (9 words)

A more concise sentence: I love sports for so many reasons. (6 words)

2. Avoid unnecessary phrases/clauses

Below is a short sampling of phrases that can be reduced or eliminated in all types of writing because they don’t add any necessary information to the sentence. When revising, ask yourself with each word, “Is this necessary?”

  • My personal opinion
  • At the present time
  • By means of
  • The basic essentials
  • Connect together
  • For the purpose of
  • In close proximity
  • The reason why is that
  • This is a subject that
  • In spite of the fact that
  • Due to the fact that
  • In the event that
  • Because of the fact that
  • Until such time as
  • By means of
3. Use active voice

When you use active voice, you use active verbs, which makes sentences clearer and more concise. A time and place for passive voice exists, but in many cases, you want to avoid it. Fun Fact: passive voice always contains a “to be” verb, which is one reason for tip #1.

Passive voice: This trail is run on by some of the best athletes in the world. (14 words)

Active voice: Some of the best athletes in the world run on this trail. (12 words)

Practice Writing More Concisely

A few weeks ago, I published a post about writing micro fiction, which is a fun way to practice writing concisely and might lead to a micro publication, too!

Have other tips for writing more concisely? Share them in the comments below!

Written by Anne Greenawalt: follow me on Twitter for a fusion of creative writing and competitive sports with a twist of feminist intent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Do You Still Need a Website as the Core of Your Online Platform?

Social media has exploded. It’s become more powerful than ever. More and more people and businesses are using it as an integral part of their marketing strategy.

In fact, the social engines are now an essential element of brand visibility, website traffic, and building authority for all businesses. It’s gotten to the point where some are questioning the need for a website.

Are websites for marketing really a thing of the past?

Here are three reasons for that question:

1. Some might reason that you can blog on venues like LinkedIn. You can also publish articles on EzineArticles and other article directories to generate visibility and authority.

2. You can sell through social networks.

3. You can build your brand and even build your subscriber list through social media.

So, it’s not unreasonable for some to wonder about the necessity of a website.

But, if you decide to forgo creating your own website or get rid of an existing one, think twice and even three times about it.

Three reasons why you absolutely need a website:

While the social media networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, allow for just about everything you need to market you and your product/service, you’re at the mercy of these sites.

1. The first and most important reason you need a website is it’s prime online real estate that you OWN. It’s like owning your own house. You can do anything you want to it.

2. Without a website you’re at the mercy of the sites you’re using, including social media networks.

Think of it as renting space in a building. Or, better yet, buying within a condominium development. You’re not in control. You’re at the mercy of their rules and regulations, their changes, their agendas, basically, their whims.

In other words, you’re not in control.

You never know when or if changes will come that will render your social media page useless.

If you use paid website hosting through sites like Bluehost or GoDaddy, you own the site. It’s yours. You are in control of what you publish, how you publish, and so on. You can put ads and affiliate links on it with no problem. You can sell from it.

3. Along with this, people trust bloggers. This gives bloggers influence and authority. It’s good marketing to have that authority, that influence, go to your own site.

If you don’t have a website, get one started today. If you do have one, make sure it’s optimized.

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.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How do you get readers to click that link?

Most of you have probably spent time crafting a Facebook post on a business page to look at the stats a few hours later and think: "Did anyone even see this?" Then you check out your site and realize no visitors came from Facebook after the update went live. You feel frustrated, and you're not alone.

Tweeting with a link may help your site get indexed by Google.

So how do you get your followers to leave the social media site and check out yours? That's what I'm talking about over at in the post, "From Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest to Your Publication: Getting Readers to Click That Link." So hop on over there and share your thoughts! We'd love to hear how you get readers to click that link.

Interview with Ellyn Hurst: Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Ellyn’s Bio: Ellyn Hurst is a recent college graduate in biological sciences, but hopes to pursue writing as a full time career. She began writing flash fiction about a year ago as a way to practice story construction, and continues to work on the short bits of fiction whenever time permits. Her piece, The Cloud, has been published with Freeze Frame Fiction, and can be found on her blog, She is also currently finishing the first draft of her novel in the hopes of publication.

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

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the Winter 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Ellyn: I've actually been playing with this idea for a long time. It started out as an idea for a novel, but when I sat down to start writing, this is what came out. Someday I'd like to expand the piece, but for now I think I'm happy with how it turned out. It is based on my own grandma, and many of the details are true. She does live on a grey road, and my brother and I grew up calling her Talking Grandma. This is probably my only piece that is based so heavily off of reality, and while it was scary putting it out there for people to read, it was also the most gratifying to write.

WOW!: We’re glad you took the risk, and thank you for sharing it with us! What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Ellyn: I love coming up with characters and putting them in difficult situations to see how they would react. It probably sounds a little sadistic, but I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about.

WOW!: I definitely do! I love that, too.

Ellyn: It's just an amazing escape, writing as different people. I get to be whoever I want.
The thing that I like the least though, I would have to say, is dealing with people who look down at my writing. I get a lot of pressure to go into research or something more lucrative, and it's hard to get people to understand that writing is what I want to do, regardless of how and when it will pay off.

WOW!: I hope you keep pushing past the nay-sayers and keep doing what you love, though I know that’s easier said than done. What have you learned as a student of biological sciences that has helped you as a writer?

Ellyn: I'd say that my time in biology helped my writing in two ways. The first is that I like to write science fiction, and having a strong base in biology, chemistry, and physics has really helped add credibility to my work. The second reason is that going through that degree solidified what I want to do. I was really good in school, but I just didn't find any joy in it until I started taking writing courses. I think if I had gone straight into writing though, I always would have wondered if I would have been happier as a scientist. It's funny how those things work out sometimes.

WOW!: It is funny, but it’s great you had that realization. If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Ellyn: That's a tough one. As much as I'd love to say Bukowski or Faulkner, I honestly think I would go with J.K. Rowling. I'm such a Harry Potter nerd, and I would love to pick her brain about her storyboarding methods and how she navigated the modern publishing world. As someone who is about to embark on the scary feat of trying to get a novel published, speaking to someone with first-hand experience in breaking into the field in such a major way would be priceless.

WOW!: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Ellyn: Right now, I'm reading The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi. I think he's a fantastic author, and love his ability to create such realistic worlds. Also, the book is set in the southwestern states, which is where I grew up, so it's pretty cool reading about the places I used to live in an alternate future scenario.

WOW!: Great! Anything else you’d like to add?

Ellyn: I just want to thank everyone that encouraged me to keep writing, including my amazing husband who is an endless supply of positivity. I also want to say thanks for having me here, it was a pleasure answering these questions, and I wish the next round of contestants the best of luck.

WOW!: The pleasure is all ours! Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Good luck with your novel and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt: follow me on Twitter for a fusion of creative writing and competitive sports with a twist of feminist intent.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Jennifer Roland Launches Her WOW! Blog Tour of 10 Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers--Perspectives on Writing

Ever wish you could sit down with one of your favorite authors and just talk about writing?

In 10 Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers—Perspectives on Writing (Glad Eye Press, August 2015), Jennifer Roland does just that.

From novelists to poets to playwrights, Jennifer interviews a variety of authors who have one thing in common—they have all chosen to make the Pacific Northwest their home. Covering a diversity of disciplines—from comics, fantasy, and detective novels to long-form poetry and illustrated children's series—10 distinguished authors provide unique perspectives about their craft, provide helpful writing advice and tips for success, and share their passion for living and writing in the Pacific Northwest.

Sit in on their conversations in this Q&A book!

10 Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers is available for pre-order at Glad Eye Press.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, August 14th at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Jennifer Roland is a freelance and marketing writer with more than 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine, and marketing environments. Jennifer also works as a virtual assistant to writers, helping them build their online presence and connect with readers so they can focus on what they love—writing.

She loves fiction and writes that under the name Jennifer C. Rodland. She hopes to put all of the lessons she learned writing this book into getting more of that published.

Jennifer can be found online at:

10 Takes website and blog:

Ed Tech Copywriter, Blogger, and Content Strategist:

Jennifer Roland author website:





----- Interview by Crystal J. Otto

WOW: Jennifer, thank you for choosing WOW! Your time is important and we are happy you've chosen to spend some of it with us. How do you manage your time and make sure your writing doesn't get neglected? What advice do you have for other writers who struggle with time management and their craft?

Jennifer: It’s hard. There are times when my creative well is completely dry and I don’t feel like I can find anything to put on the page. And that means I need a break—it’s okay to take breaks to regain your creativity if you need it.

I know Eric Witchey and I talked about this in his interview. The gist of what he said is that the question of how you find time to write is just not appropriate. The question should be “What time of day do you write?” You have to make your writing a priority. It’s not going to do that for you.

WOW: It's interesting, I always find time for coffee, but sometimes can't find time for writing. Maybe I should flip flop those on my priority scale. Now you've got me thinking. You mentioned Eric Witchey and this leads me to my question about your favorite author. Who is your favorite author and why?

Jennifer: That’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid. (Of course, I’ve only got one, so I can tell him he’s my favorite as much as I want.) I’ve enjoyed so many authors over the years. I was so lucky that I learned to read when I was three, so I’ve been able to read so many books in my life. I loved Nancy Drew books as a young girl, and I moved on to horror, fantasy, and science fiction as I got older. Anne McCaffrey, Elizabeth Moon, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Kim Antieau, Mercedes Lackey, Isaac Asimov—there are just so many good writers in speculative fiction. But if I have to pick one writer, it would have to be Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale never gets old, and I’ve never read anything of hers that hasn’t been absolutely enthralling.

WOW: So many favorite authors and such little time! When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Jennifer: I think I was 9 or 10. I was such a bookworm, and I wanted to make the books that people liked to read. But I didn’t do much with that desire as a teen. It was scary. And I never wanted to put all of myself into the writing work I did in school—if I got bad marks on a piece I didn’t really work that hard on, the bad marks didn’t count, I guess.

I decided to pursue journalism in college because it helped me pursue writing without the scary part of creating fictional worlds and stories that people might not like. Facts are safe. And I love journalistic writing. Talking to experts and distilling their knowledge into something we regular people can understand is such a challenging task, and even the most arcane subjects can be made interesting.

WOW: Who has been most supportive through your journey as a writer?

Jennifer: My husband, first and foremost. He takes care of our son so I can work and write at night. And he put up with me being glued to my computer screen even before we had our son when I was working on my first book, which was a collection of articles from the education technology magazine I used to work for. He is always the one who convinces me to invest in myself, and he always talks me up to our friends. It’s pretty amazing, and I should probably go thank him personally for being so great.

Also my publisher for this book, J.V. Bolkan. He and I worked together on that ed tech magazine, and he is the one who asked me to write that first book. When he left our former employer and decided to start his own publishing company, I jumped at the chance to send him a proposal. He and his wife and business partner, Sharleen Nelson, are both so great to work with.

WOW: Sounds like such a fantastic journey; filled with successful friendships! How do you celebrate your successes?

Jennifer: Beer. I am in the northwest, after all.

WOW: Of course, we can't talk about success without the do you cope with rejection and what advice can you give to others?

Jennifer: Rejection is never easy, but the more of it you get, the less it hurts. You start to realize it has very little to do with you. Either your story isn’t the right fit for the publication or it’s something they’ve covered recently or they’ve just published too many stories by Jennifers this year. We all have room to improve, of course, but a rejection doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or even a bad writer. You just have to find the right fit for your work.

So let’s all agree to send something out and get rejected today. It will hurt. Then get rejected again tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. It’s never going to be fun, but it will be an opportunity to get you closer to the right place for your writing.

WOW: Great advice, Jennifer! So, what's next for you?

Jennifer: I’m continuing the 10 Takes on Writing series. My publisher and I are still working out the details of which topic I’ll cover next, but I’m excited about the ideas we’ve got and what they can offer the writing community.

And I’m continuing to freelance and work on my own fiction. I hope to be back here soon to talk to the Women on Writing community about my next big thing soon.

WOW: We'd love that! Okay, sort of a quirky question I like to ask: What advice do you wish someone would have given you back in high school?

Jennifer: Don’t be so afraid! I held myself back so many years because I was afraid of what people would say or think about me if they read my writing. I have no regrets about where my career has gone, but there’s always the little voice that asks “what if?” What if I’d been more willing to write all the time and share my writing with others to get feedback and criticism sooner?

I can’t go back in time, but I can make sure that I don’t let fear hold me back in the future. And I want everyone out there with a story to tell to move past your fears. Write. Share your writing with other writers. Learn how to be a better writer. Just keep doing it every day.

WOW: If you had to chose a song to go along with your book, what song would it be and why?

Jennifer: That is a tough question, because I have listened to so many songs while working on the book. I think I can narrow it down to “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos. Everything Tori Amos writes or sings is so inspiring to me, but I particularly love the storytelling aspect of that song. Each of the writers I spoke to shared so much about their own storytelling styles and the ways we can adapt our writing to integrate their experience and advice.

I want fellow writers—and those who just love knowing what makes we writers tick—to read these interviews and be immediately inspired to create something, whether it’s a fairytale or not.

WOW: Thank you again Jennifer. I know I can't wait to follow your tour and learn more about Ten Takes and you. Thanks for this opportunity!

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

Monday, August 10 @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Tuesday, August 11 @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Don’t miss today’s inspirational guest post by author Jennifer Roland as she explores the topic of “Creative Inspiration” and offers one lucky blog reader a copy of her latest book: Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers.

Wednesday, August 12 @ Katherine Hajer
Katherine Hajer reviews the latest book “Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers by Jennifer Roland. Find out what Katherine has to say and get in on the giveaway to win your very own copy!

Thursday, August 13 @ Kather Hajer
Katherine Hajer offers readers an opportunity to hear from guest blogger and fellow author Jennifer Roland as she discusses “Writers Groups” and offers insight into her latest work titled Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers.

Friday, August 14 @ Ava Louise
Recently touring WOW! author Ava Louise hosts author Jennifer Roland who writes today’s guest post “Tidbits Around the Pacific Northwest”. Find out more about Jennifer, her thoughts on the Pacific Northwest, and her latest book series Ten Takes on Writing.

Friday, August 14 @ Bring on Lemons
WOW! Blog Tour Manager Crystal Otto reviews Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers by Jennifer Roland and offers one lucky blog reader a chance to own this book for themselves! Don’t miss today’s review and giveaway!

Saturday, August 15 @ Hott Books
The lovely Gina Hott of Hott Books is hosting author Jennifer Roland who writes today’s guest post titled “Interviewing Tips and Lessons Learned”. Find out more about Jennifer, her thoughts, and her latest book Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers and participate in the giveaway to win your very own copy of this unique book!

Tuesday, August 18 @ All Things Audry
Audry Fryer hosts today’s guest post “Writing Around a Day Job” by Jennifer Roland. Don’t miss this insightful post and opportunity to learn more about Roland’s latest book Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers  In addition, a giveaway will also be offered.

Wednesday, August 19 @ M.C.Simon Writes
M.C. Simon reviews “Ten Takes on Writing” by author Jennifer Roland. Read Simon’s thoughts and get in on the giveaway to win a copy of this book for your own library!

Wednesday, August 19 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Jennifer Roland is today's spotlight author at I'd So Rather Be Reading

Thursday, August 20 @ Renee’s Pages
Renee Roberson offers readers an opportunity to hear from Jennifer Roland on the topic of “Time Management for Writers”. Learn more about this invaluable topic and get in on the giveaway for a copy of Roland’s latest book Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers.

Monday, August 24 @ Create Write Now
Jennifer Roland partners with Mari McCarthy of Create Write Now to offer readers a guest blog about “Making a Living Writing”. This is a great opportunity to learn from Roland as well as participating in a giveaway to win her latest book Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers!

Thursday, August 27 @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
Today on Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews blogs readers can learn more about Jennifer Roland and her latest book Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers and participate in a giveaway where one lucky winner will take home this fabulous book for their own collection. Jennifer Roland also offers a guest blog post about "Writers Conferences" so don't miss this great stop!

Friday, August 28 @ Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Jennifer Roland visits Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler and writes today’s guest post titled “Lessons Learned from Authors I’ve Interviewed”. This is a great opportunity to learn from Roland and find out more about her latest work Ten Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers!

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


Enter to win a copy of 10 Takes: Pacific Northwest Writers—Perspectives on Writing by Jennifer Roland! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, August 14th!

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