Author Spotlight & Blog Tour Announcement for Pamela Jane

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Young woman longs for an idyllic past, despite her revolutionary 
belief that everything that exists must be destroyed.

Pamela Jane recently announced she has scheduled a month long book blog tour with WOW! Women On Writing as a way to get the word out about her memoir “An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer's Story". Her memoir is releasing on Monday and the WOW! tour will begin March 7th.

Paperback: 246 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Open Books Press (February 1, 2016)
ISBN-10: 1941799213
ISBN-13: 978-1941799215
Amazon Link: click here

It is 1965, the era of love, light and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her husband plots to organize a revolution and fight a guerrilla war in the Catskills.

Their fantasies are on a collision course.

The clash of visions turns into an inner war of identities when the author embraces radical feminism; she and her husband are comrades in revolution but combatants in marriage; she is a woman warrior who spends her days sewing long silk dresses reminiscent of a Henry James novel. One half of her isn't speaking to the other half.

And then, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get more explosive, her wilderness cabin burns down and Pamela finds herself left with only the clothes on her back.

From her vividly evoked existential childhood ("the only way I would know for sure that I existed was if others lots of others acknowledged it") to writing her first children's book on a sugar high during a glucose tolerance test, Pamela Jane takes the reader along on a highly entertaining personal, political, and psychological adventure.

About the Author: Pamela Jane has published over twenty-five children’s books with Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, and Harper. Her books include Noelle of the Nutcracker illustrated by Jan Brett, Little Goblins Ten illustrated by NY Times best-selling illustrator, Jane Manning, and Little Elfie One (Harper 2015). Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp Through Jane Austen’s Classic (Skyhorse) was featured in The Wall Street Journal, BBC America, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Sunday Book Review and The Daily Dot, and has just come out in paper. Pamela Jane has published short stories and essays with The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Antigonish Review, Literary Mama. Pamela Jane is a writer and editor for

You can find Pamela online, at: 


Twitter: @memoircoaching, @austencats

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 Pamela Jane or one of our other touring authors (or schedule a tour of your own), please email us at
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Stepping Out in Your Own (Writing) Style

Saturday, January 30, 2016
I recently spent a couple weeks around my extended family and as usual, I had a moment of feeling frumpy.

You see, I have a sister-in-law who looks like she just stepped out of a magazine spread on gracious Southern living. I don’t care if she’s just come from a yoga class or the car wash, she’s always stylishly stunning. While I…well, I like to say I’m the “classic” type, but if I’m honest, I’m just lazy. I wear the same basic color scheme, the same jeans, the same boots for just about everything. And so next to my glamorous sis-in-law, I look, what my mother would call, as “plain as dirt.”

It used to bother me. I used to try to really kick up my style a notch (or seven) if I knew I was going to be around her. Until I finally realized that, to paraphrase Popeye, “I am what I am.” So the frumpy moment passes, and I’m fine. I’m comfortable in my own skin (and boots).

It was an important lesson to learn because as a writer, I did the same darn thing.

In the early days of writing fiction, I tried to write like a handful of amazing writers I admired, like Harper Lee or Flannery O’Connor. (I know, right? I’m blushing just writing that last sentence.)

Of course, editors didn’t buy my copycat stories. The prose was plodding; the voice was false and strained. But fortunately, after a (long) while of writing, and sharing my work, I found my own voice, my own style. (That, and my mother told me to quit trying to be someone I wasn’t.)

Now, we can’t always count on a mother being around to set us straight. That’s why it’s so important to have a trusted critique group, a few people who meet faithfully, particularly in early writing days. These are the people who will come to know your strengths (and weaknesses); they will recognize your authenticity and call you out when you get pretentious. They will encourage you along the path where your true voice shines and politely steer you away from the missteps. In short, a great critique group can make all the difference in the world in your writing journey.

January is just about to end, and many of your good intentions will end along with it. But it’s not too late to join a critique group (or whip your present group into shape). So seize the moment! Find your voice! Embrace your style! Maybe even pull on your favorite boots. You’ll be ever so much happier, stepping out and writing in your own comfort zone.

~Cathy C. Hall

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Friday Speak Out!: I Don’t Write in the Kitchen!

Friday, January 29, 2016
by Claudia Mundell

Food…an issue for writers who are wives and mothers too. Does James Patterson have to set a timer so he doesn’t forget to tend scalloped potatoes in the oven while he writes? Does Nora Roberts tie a string on her pointer finger as a reminder to boil the spaghetti? Every writer knows how muddled her mind becomes during interrupted inspiration and creation, how the house could burn down as she thinks the smoke is just from her blazing hot love scene on the computer screen.

Food at my house is a complex issue due to diabetes and Crohn’s disease. Since certain foods are prohibited, prepared food can have an abundance of both sugar and salt, and throwing a sandwich on the table every day is not permissible, I have to plan ahead for meals. That means having a well-stocked kitchen, allowing a stretch of day for chopping, dicing, cooking, and plating….oh, and cleaning up! All that takes time and when a scene is racing through my head, I can’t always stop and get it written down. The nature of intense and roiling ideas isn’t always to wait for me!

This winter I am trying a new plan. I take one day to ignore writing completely and devote it to cooking and make enough for leftovers to last the week. Thankfully, hubby isn’t too discriminating and doesn’t object to repeated foods…for a week at a time. A huge pot of soup on Sunday will last until the next weekend. Soup with crackers, soup with cheese sticks, or then the last of the soup vegetables ladled over rice. A large old fashioned meatloaf added to an oven full of baked potatoes with serve again as rewarmed meat and chopped baked potatoes pan fried. At the end of the week, a meat loaf sandwich is so good. Even baked oatmeal with fruit can be warmed in a microwave getting one or two extra easy meals. Cooks and writers get the idea.

The idea is to have food that can be thrown on the table, eaten and the mess picked up fast. Knowing ahead that the meals are at least semi-prepared allows my mind to concentrate on stories and poems the other days. My day isn’t chewed up by cooking chores or the resentment of doing them. I have some extra minutes, even hours, built into my week.

When the writing goes well, maybe a story is not only finished but submitted, I treat both myself and hubby for his patience. We leave kitchen and office behind and step out for a meal. If I’m lucky, even enough leftovers will remain to bring home in Styrofoam boxes…the beginning for tomorrow’s meal. He thinks dining out is for treat or reward. Only I know it is writing research: people-watching and eavesdropping to gather sights and sounds for a whole new story idea!


Claudia Mundell loved words when she first met them. Reading and writing were keys to the world outside of Southeastern Kansas. She started collecting snippets of great thoughts as early as third grade, was writing poetry by fourth grade, and never stopped putting thoughts to paper.
Writing is both work and hobby. It is satisfying to work hard on a piece, to bring it to creative completion. Once into a story, it is hard to leave and come back to the real world cooking and cleaning. Her other hobbies are knitting, reading, collecting Blue Willow dishes, and drinking good tea. 

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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The No Pile

Thursday, January 28, 2016
If, like me, you like to keep your writing sharp (and have a firm deadline) by entering writing contests I'd like to share with what I learned after getting an insider's view of writing contests. Let me start by saying that contest judges are strict! Of course, if you had hundreds of entries waiting to be read you would be too. Faced with all those entries it seems the judge's first job is to narrow the field. And they do so ruthlessly. So make sure your manuscript makes it past the first round.

Follow the directions - If you were asked for 5000 words or less and yours is obviously 10,000 words, if you submitted the dreaded single spaced manuscript, if you included your name on the front page -- any deviations from the rules will land you in the "no" pile. Think they will read it and love your work so much they will overlook an extra 5,000 words? No, chances are they won't even read the first line.

Submit to the wrong contest - Think you can shoehorn your romance into a paranormal short story contest by adding a last minute ghost story told by one of the characters? True, the judges will read but once it becomes obvious that your submission belongs in another contest and every other submission is more fitting to their contest your manuscript will go in the "no" pile.

Have a worn and tired manuscript - If your manuscript has seen better days (and better contests) it might end up in the "no" pile simply because the judges assume that, since everyone else took a pass on it, it must not be very good. Instead of reusing manuscripts that have been returned from other contests or that sat on your desk gathering dust (and dog eared corners), print out a new copy. And don't commit the cardinal sin of mistakenly sending a cover letter you sent to another contest or addressing the judge by the wrong name in a cover letter!

Avoid typos - True, judges will overlook the occasional typo or grammatical mistake. But if the same mistake crops up again and again or there are dozens of typos they will assume you simply didn't care and into the "no" pile for you. So look over your entry with as much intensity as you would if you were submitting it to someone in the publishing industry (which judges often are).

Have fun with writing contests, but also improve your chances of winning by treating them just as seriously as you would any other writing assignment you receive.
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A Scary Blank Journal or Page

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
One of my friends wants to journal this year, but the blank journal is giving her trouble. She doesn't know how to start. Should she just write: "Uh, hi, it's me"? Or should she have something profound to start with?

This is a problem many people have--with journals, with manuscripts, with anything they are trying to start. It's difficult to know where to begin. Actually, sometimes, it's just hard to begin.

Several of us on a group Facebook message gave my friend some suggestions to get started. I decided these suggestions might help some of us get started on journaling or even a manuscript we are stuck on.

If you are currently staring at a blank page:

1. Write about a great thing/event that just happened.
Our friend had been on a vacation in Florida. She had a great time, and one of the suggestions was to begin writing in the journal about a fun experience she had on the trip. I thought that was an amazing idea. I think sometimes we believe we have to write something profound when we start--the perfect entry, some deep thought, the best first sentence ever. But we don't. We just have to start. And why not start with a great memory. Wouldn't it be great to open the journal every day and see a great memory? With a manuscript, write a happy part of the book or a part where the action has slowed down. You don't have to go in order. If a particular scene is giving you trouble, skip it. You can always go back.

2. Make lists.
When I feel overwhelmed with a blank page, I like to make a list. In a journal, it could be a list of anything--goals for the month, TV shows that make you relax, books you want to read, places you want to visit--you get the idea. A list is sometimes more manageable for our brains than pages and pages of prose in our best handwriting. If you are stuck on a manuscript, a list will also work. Create a list of things your character could do next or a list of personality traits and how you will portray those in your book. If your right brain seems to be on hold, sometimes your left brain needs to take over somewhat and jump start the right--a list is perfect for this.

3. Don't use words at all.  
Words are not always needed to convey ideas--we all know that. And even if you are a writer, you don't have to have words to express yourself. Use pictures or photos or drawings. I suggested to my friend to cut photos out of a magazine of things she likes and glue those into her journal--then the journal isn't blank, and it might inspire her to write something. I have seen writers do this with their characters, too. Sometimes, they have a notebook where they draw or cut out photos of things their characters like or their characters' appearance. Pinterest also works for this--writers have boards dedicated to their characters. If words aren't coming to you and you are still feeling creative, use pictures. The words will come back.

If these three suggestions don't work or you are looking for some resources for journaling, check out WOW!'s good friend, Mari L. McCarthy's website, Create Write Now. She has some amazing resources for journaling and her own journaling story is also amazing! She basically used journaling to heal Multiple Sclerosis.

Don't be scared of that blank page. It only has that power as long as you leave it blank. Heck, you could even write: I'm not scared of you! Watch out! Here's what I have to say: 

Happy writing!

Margo L. Dill is a children's and YA author and writing instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. Find out more at .

Photo above by Matt Roberts on
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Interview with Sarah Angleton: 3rd Place in 2015 Summer Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
A writer at heart, Sarah Angleton decided to shift gears after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and went on to earn her MA in Literature through the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri. Her first novel was recently accepted for publication by High Hill Press and her short and flash fiction has appeared in several anthologies and in the literary journal Goldman Review as well as the online magazines 100 Word Story and Red Fez. Sarah lives in St. Charles County, Missouri where she writes historical fiction and blogs as the Practical Historian at

If you haven't done so already, check out Sarah's award-winning story "The Greatest of Ease" then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing 3rd in the Summer 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?

Sarah: I remember going to a circus when I was young and watching the tightrope walkers and the trapeze artists performing their amazing feats. I watched, mesmerized, but also terrified that I might witness a devastating accident. When the ringmaster announced that the safety net would be removed for the final act, I felt sick and turned away. I couldn’t watch. To me it was a singular terrible moment in time.

I think what I love particularly about flash fiction is the challenge of stripping away so many of the details longer stories allow us to explore, and focusing instead on just that one moment which defines all others. I couldn’t imagine a more defining moment for a character than the instant between life and death, between the power of decision and the powerlessness of having no choice.

As a child I looked away from the trapeze because I was scared that the performers would fail. Now, of course, I have a better sense of the years of training, the endless practice, and the muscle memory that makes it unlikely for tragedy to occur. But I might still look away because the moment when an individual is flying through the air, preparing for, and trusting in the catch, strikes me as intensely personal.

I really liked the idea of exploring that moment with a character, and in this case, a character with mixed feelings about the coming catch, and about the endless practice, and about the body she has worked so hard to train for this very feat, but that has ultimately failed her. When we meet her, Charlotte’s story is already ending, beyond her ability to control it. As the viewing audience cheers Charlotte’s triumphant victory over certain death, the reading audience, like Charlotte, knows of its imminent inevitability.

WOW: Amazing insight into your story and your thought process behind it. Thank you for sharing that with us. In addition to this story, we want to congratulate you on the acceptance of your first novel! That’s quite a feat! Can you tell us about the novel?

Sarah: Thank you! The novel is a work of historical fiction set in 19th century New York State. Ada Moses is a diviner known for her uncanny ability to uncover hidden items. One night she receives a visit from a Mormon apostate, seeking help in tracing the path of a mysterious manuscript, one with the potential to unravel the foundation of his former faith. Ada immediately understands that while grasping for clues, the man has inadvertently stumbled into that which he seeks, both the manuscript and the woman who has long safeguarded its secrets.

Unsure of how to proceed, Ada sends him away and soon learns that he has become the victim of a grisly ritualistic murder. Fearing for her life, Ada seeks an audience with the one man to whom the manuscript may rightfully belong, and in doing so, faces the demons of her own past, the danger of maintaining the secrets of the prophets, and the devastation of unshakable belief.

WOW: Fantastic – sounds like it has the flavor of suspense and excitement! What do you enjoy most and/or the least about writing?

Sarah: I am not fond of the drafting process. That first terrible rough draft, when the goal is just to get the story told, is by far the worst part for me. It’s always difficult to turn down the volume on the internal editor, the one that wants to agonize over sentence structures and word choices or whether the main character is eating period appropriate breakfast foods, when what she should be worried about is whether or not the main character murdered her husband.

I suppose it stands to reason then that my favorite part of writing is revision. I love to grapple with language until a sentence begins to sing on the page.

WOW: I’m with you there – drafting is the most agonizing part for me, too, for all the reasons you stated. But revision, I think, is where the writer’s craft shines. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Sarah: I’m finally getting around to The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, a truly wonderful novel that I’d been hearing about for years. I am the mother of two enthusiastic middle grade readers who love to share their favorite books, so I am also reading the delightful Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. And because I am a history enthusiast, I have recently picked up Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates, a nonfiction work by Brian Kilmeade, which is proving to be an accessible and fascinating read.

WOW: Great choices! I always find it delightful to dip into the middle-grade and YA market for reading pleasure. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Sarah: Read everything and read with purpose. I find the best way to improve my craft is to read what others have done and are doing, both inside and outside my genre. I recommend reading both the great and the not so great, because every work can inform your own in some way. Perhaps you will admire the way a particular author chose to juggle concurrent scenes or how he managed to create sympathy for a fairly despicable character. Or maybe the way she approached a challenging love scene felt unconvincing to you as a reader. Regardless of whether you admire or dislike the work, you’ll have learned something that can prove valuable during your own writing process.

WOW: Wonderful advice! Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt
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Give Your Reader Space

Monday, January 25, 2016
Give your reader space to move through your story.

When you write, don’t tell your readers everything. Leave space for them to make the story their own. That’s a common enough piece of advice, but what does it mean?  You can read a great example in Sandra Havriluk’s “Five Words,” a runner up in the WOW! Summer Flash Fiction contest. If you haven’t read it yet, and are likely to have a tantrum about spoilers, go read it now.  Seriously.  The next paragraph is riddled with spoilers.  

“Five Words” is a story about a woman who had to make a choice.  She had to decide whether to have her addict brother arrested or not. She chose “not” so her husband took their son and moved out. He has filed for divorce and she must decide if she wants to sign the papers or fight for her family. The problem is that fighting for her family will mean revealing painful childhood secrets.  In the end, she reaches out to her husband, sending him a text. Do they reconcile?  We don’t know. Readers have the space to spin their own conclusions about what happened after she sent the text.

Sandra and I have already discussed this but I’m a reader that loves wide open endings. If you want me to like a piece, don’t just stop. Instead, give me enough detail that I can extrapolate an ending. Don’t leave me hanging. 

That’s the kind of open ending that Sandra has created. Things aren’t neatly tied up, but the ending is still satisfying because we know something about the characters. Because of this, we can imagine how the story will end. It’s open but not formless.

The ending isn’t the only place that you can leave space for the readers.  You can also do it in how you describe the character’s emotion. Get it. I said describe the characters emotion.  Don’t tell us the character’s emotion. Trish was frightened. That’s too easy. Instead show us how Trish is reacting to the ongoing situation. How is her body reacting? You don’t have to make a big deal about it but slip in a detail here or there. Trish’s hand shook as she reached for the door. She struggled to draw in a deep breath as she pulled on the handle, the door slowly swinging toward her. This doesn’t tell the reader how Trish feels but it gives enough information for the reader to come to that conclusion.

Don’t spoon-feed your readers every detail.  It’s good advice, but it isn’t the sort of thing that you’re going to manage in your first draft.  It is only going to come out in subsequent drafts as you look for ways to leave spaces for your readers to occupy as they move into and through the world of your story.  Those are the spaces that they will use to make your story their own.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on March 21, 2016.

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Two Top Tips for Writing Flash Fiction

Sunday, January 24, 2016
I have had the pleasure of reading some of WOW’s flash fiction contest entries, and I’m continually impressed that so many of you share your stories – a.k.a. bare your souls – to us each contest.

Having now read hundreds of flash fiction stories – from this contest, from my students, from other flash-fiction publications – I have seen what works well in flash fiction, and what does not.

I want to share two tips with you and hope that you will use them to revise your flash fiction and submit it to WOW’s next flash fiction contest (see here for contest deadlines and requirements).

1. Show, Don’t Tell
That’s good advice for all types of creative writing. In flash fiction, however, it’s common to think you have to summarize a lot of information so you can condense the story into the limited word count, which results in telling rather than showing.

For example, writing “I was elated” tells us that the character is excited, but how would you show that?

“I jumped up and down with my fist pumping the air, yelling ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’” shows us that the character is excited and also provides more about the character’s personality.

Showing, rather than telling, strengthens your writing, but it can also increase your word count, which leads me to my second suggestion, which can help reduce the word count:

2. Avoid Adverbs, Clichés, and Other Unnecessary Words

It’s tempting to default to commonly used phrases or to write the way we speak. But writing is a craft, which means we need to chisel out all of the triteness of language from our stories.

Let’s deconstruct this sentence: “I threw all caution to the wind when I took the plunge over the bridge and fell quickly into the bitterly cold and rapidly moving river below.”

Adverbs: quickly, bitterly, rapidly

Adverbs are rarely needed (see, I just used one, so sometimes they’re OK), but when writing fiction, it’s best to use strong nouns and verbs instead.

Clichés: threw all caution to the wind, took the plunge

These words have been used in this order too many times. You’re a creative writer – find new ways to describe your scene and characters! Eliminate all over-used phrases.

Potential revised sentence: “I jumped off the bridge and the river’s icicle fingers carried me past the old hotel before depositing me into the rocks on the other side.”

There are plenty of other ways to revise the sentence, but my revised example provides more images and sensory details, which help a reader to see and maybe even feel the scene.

Notice that I didn’t specifically write about landing in the water, because if someone jumps off a bridge over a river, it’s implied that she’s going to land in the water; therefore, you can eliminate that detail.

I hope these tips help you with story revisions. Good luck and happy writing!

Tips provided by: Anne Greenawalt
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Spotlight: A Must-See Film for Writers

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Have you ever seen a movie that made you proud to be a writer? For me, that movie is Spotlight, the movie that chronicles the real-life case of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigation into child sexual abuse by the district’s clergy members.

The screenwriters were determined to make the film as authentic as possible, and the cast spent a lot of time shadowing and interviewing the reporters who worked on the Spotlight team. They even went to great lengths to produce an exact replica of what the inside of the newspaper’s office looked like at the time of the investigation. The film also showed the tedious side of reporting, from the interviews, to data entry, to tracking down sources and double checking facts, but it never got boring. Knowing that what I was watched simply wasn’t a loosely based adaptation impressed me all the more.

I was worried that the movie, with it’s R-rating, would be gratuitous. I knew I didn’t want to see any scenes with actual abuse of children occurring. The filmmakers handled this tastefully, with the R-rating most likely coming from one particular scene where a grown victim describes how his abuse occurred slowly over time. The film was as fast-paced as any action movie, and I was still on the edge of my seat when it ended. How many films about a newspaper investigation can actually do that, save for “All the President’s Men?”

There are times when I worry that my own writing isn’t fantastical or impressive enough. But after watching "Spotlight," I came away with a sense of pride that comes from being a writer. I’ve worked as a journalist, and while I can’t say I’ve ever taken on any hard-hitting investigative stories, who’s to say I still can’t? I do have some darned good human-interest stories in my clips. And there is a high-profile missing persons case in my city that I’ve often considered writing about.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, do so. And then go home, take inspiration from the courageous journalists who covered this story, and use your voice to write something authentic, real, and true to you. I know I will.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose college advisor/mentor was a female professor who won a Pulitzer for her work in the 1970s Synanon cult investigation in California. Visit her website at
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Friday Speak Out!: Learning To Breathe As A Writer

Friday, January 22, 2016
by Jeanine DeHoney

There are things that take my breath away. Not in a good way like a beautiful golden sunset, but in a injurious way, one that is crippling emotionally and physically.

It happened when I was one of the finalists of the 2013 Brooklyn Film and Arts and Festival Brooklyn Nonfiction Essay Contest and was invited to read my work. I accepted the invitation before the thought of giving a public reading had sunk in.

I’d entered the contest on a whim, never thinking I’d come close to being a finalist since I never had writer’s luck when it came to contests before. I told myself when I got the rejection e-mail it wouldn’t upset me because anything that forced me to write and hone my skills was a positive takeaway.

Although my stories had landed on blogs, in anthologies and in the glossy pages of magazines, I had always been timid when it came to reading my work in front of an audience of strangers and gaging their reactions or non-reactions to my words. I never had to know if there were any intersecting pieces between them and I, or worse see them yawn or text or voice disapproval of my words, as I shared the intimate details of my life. It always felt easier to absorb a readers comments in the next issue of a magazine or in the comments section of a blog in which I had the option of not reading.

The thought of reading publically literally took my breath away as the date drew near. I thought of excuses why I shouldn’t go but the night before a phone call from my sister, who vowed she’d never forgive me if I didn’t go, pushed me out the door the next day.

That evening as I sat in the audience with my daughter, son, son-in-law, and then four year old granddaughter, I wanted to sprint from the room. My breaths were rapid and shallow. Could I do this, or would I embarrass myself because of my breathlessness.

When my name was called I left my seat with my essay, all seven pages, quivering in my hand. I wanted to do this essay justice because it was about my late father. I closed my eyes.

“You can do this.”

The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Even my granddaughter had stopped fidgeting. My breaths became regular, serene. When I finished reading, applause echoed through the auditorium. I didn’t win but my words touched so many. An older man took my hand and pressed it to his heart. I exhaled a breath of gratitude.

As writers, our breaths have the ability to impede us or pulse our minds and bodies with the audacity to do what we fear the most, whether it’s a public reading or sending a manuscript to a publisher. Sometimes, we need to relearn how to breathe so we can take a breath of faith. The next year I entered again and won.

* * *
Jeanine DeHoney, wife, mom and grandmother "extraordinaire" has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines and blogs including "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul," The Mom Egg, Literary Mama, Mused Bella online, Writing For Dollars, True Stories Well Told, Underwater New York, Mutha Magazine, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby and She was a 2013 finalist in the Brooklyn Art and Film Festivals Nonfiction Contest and the winner of that contest in 2014. 
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Blogging Frequency and Potential Customers – There is a Correlation

Wednesday, January 20, 2016
by Karen Cioffi

A new study shows evidence that there is a correlation between blogging frequency and lead generation. Leads are people or businesses who show interest in what you’re offering. They’re potential customers / prospects.

Along with generating more leads, blogging on a regular basis and as often as you can matters for at least three reasons:

1. Search engines love fresh content.

2. It will increase your credibility and influence.

3. It will increase your website traffic.

Blogging frequency matters. It equates to more leads, which means more potential sales and more connections making their way to your website.

So, just how often do you have to blog?

The obvious answer is as much as you can. If you can blog daily, great. But, how many people or home/small businesses can realistically do this? Not many.

Luckily, you don’t have to blog every day to make a difference. It doesn’t take as much as you might think.

Home and small business were shown to have a significant increase in leads by publishing around 12 posts per month.

What if writing and publishing 12 posts per month is too much?

Twelve new posts a month is a lot for most writers. I used to do this, but once I started a second business it became too time consuming. So, I now post once a week to each business.

While three times a week is optimal for visibility, traffic, and opportunities, it’s a commitment.

Blogging requires creating a writing schedule, possibly working with blogging templates, and keeping up with what’s going on in your industry. All while doing your actual work, say writing your book or writing for your clients.

You need to find the right amount for you.

Strategies to help out:

If you want to post more frequently to your site, but don’t have the time to write new posts as often as you’d like, there are alternatives.

1. Look into guest posts. Post a message on your social networks that you’re looking for guest bloggers. You can also spread the word in your groups.

2. Try content curation. With this blogging strategy, you find a blog post on a ‘quality’ site. Write a short lead-in with your viewpoint on the content, then link to the original article. You’ll have a quality post in a fraction of the time.

Blogs are influential. They’re persuasive. Posting original and quality content regularly is a must if you want to bring prospects to your website and boost your sales.

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, 

Learn to Write Professional, Properly Formatted, and Optimized Content 
as the Basis of a New Freelance Writing Business 
or to Add to Your Existing Services.

Visit our classroom page for details and enrollment.

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Interview with Millie Gore Lancaster, 2nd Place Winner in the Summer 2015 Flash Fiction Contest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Millie Gore Lancaster, Professor Emeritus of Midwestern State University, has written several books for parents and teachers and presented papers across the US and Western Europe, including academic papers on the Harry Potter canon. She has studied in the archives of Westminster Abbey, served as an Earthwatch volunteer at the Chimpazee and Human Communication Institute, and spent summers as a professional horse wrangler. Her finest hour as a teenager was having the sheriff pay a visit to her father to complain that she was being friends with the African American students at school. Her finest moment as an adult was serving as a plaintiff and expert witness on multicultural issues in a book-banning lawsuit against the city of Wichita Falls (Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate), an act that earned her a spot on the No Fly List as a subversive. She shares her musings on a blog aptly named Considerable Opinions If you think Millie sounds like a fun person to know, just wait until you meet Madeline in An Adventuresome Sort of Person, Millie’s winning entry in the Summer 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! Really-- pop on over and read about Madeline, then grab your pretzel and come back to meet Millie (you’ll understand the pretzel thing when you read the story)!

WOW: Hi Millie, congratulations and welcome to The Muffin! I have to ask you, do you know Dr. Indy Jones? I think the two of you would get along famously! With kidding aside, your bio does read a bit more colorfully than that of the average college professor. So, tell us…was An Adventuresome Sort of Person biographically prompted—perhaps by your recent retirement?

Millie: I've never picked up a street musician, but the idea is delicious. Let me talk to my husband and get back to you on that...

As for the pretzel? I had an eight-hour train-to-plane layover in a village in Germany when I was nearly sixty. I decided to wander around the village until I smelled bread. Then I would follow the smell until I found the town’s bakery. My plan worked, and while I was eating my pastry, I saw the baker tie a giant pretzel on a red ribbon around a little girl's neck. When I was writing about Madeline, I was delighted when she followed her nose to the bakery and demanded her own pretzel-on-a-ribbon. I didn’t know she was going to do that.

I’ve been an adventuresome sort of person ever since my junior high band director taught me to be brave enough to live life on my own terms--to grow a pair.

WOW: In your story, Madeline is about to embark on a new adventure. What has been your biggest adventure so far?

Millie: My answer to this question is my answer to your next question.

But I’ll tell you the biggest adventure of my teenage years.

My senior year of high school, I was elected Senior Attendant to the band queen. Arthur, one of my friends who was an African American, was elected Senior Attendant to the band king.

A few weeks later, the yearbook sponsor called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble.

He said, “Millie, I’ve talked to the principal, the assistant principal, and the school counselor because I don’t know what to do.”

My heart pounded. I said, “About what? Have I done something wrong?”

He said, “No. But you know how the yearbook always has a picture of the band’s king and queen together, and a picture of the band’s senior male and female attendant together?”

“Of course.”

“Well, we’ve never had a white girl and a black boy in a photo together in the high school yearbook unless they were just part of a large group photo. Never as a royal couple. Never just a white girl and a black boy in one photo.”


“So we’ve decided that you can choose to have your and Arthur’s photos separate instead of together, or you can choose to have both of your photos omitted altogether.”

I blinked and frowned. My temperature began to rise. I said, “Sir, I want our photo in the yearbook just like every other band royalty boy and girl ever has.”

He leaned back in his chair. “You realize there could be serious consequences,” he said.

“I do.”

The next night at dinner, my father said, “I understand that you and Arthur will have your photo in the yearbook together as the senior band attendants. Why didn’t you tell your mother and me?”

I smiled, took a bite of green beans, and said, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

In the coming weeks, I began to understand what we now call White Privilege: why I alone was allowed to make this decision that would affect both Arthur and me, rather than our being asked to make the decision together. The consequences for Arthur could have been far, far worse than the consequences for me, yet he wasn’t asked what he wanted.

But like me, Arthur wasn’t afraid to look fear in the face, and I think he would have told the yearbook sponsor exactly what I did.

I never told Arthur about my meeting with the yearbook sponsor, and as I waited the weeks until the yearbook came out, I wondered what might happen on the big day. Turned out, nothing did. It was a nonevent. Nobody cared.

Notwithstanding the nonevent outcome, that was the greatest adventure of my high school years.

WOW: Many writers wonder if they will find themselves “blacklisted” because of all the strange searches they do on the Internet. You found yourself on “the list,” but not for searching--for speaking up. Will you tell us more about this experience?

Millie: A Wichita Falls preacher held up the public library's copies of Daddy's Roommate and Heather Has Two Mommies during a sermon in 1998 and declared that he wasn't going to return them to the library. The entire town sat up and took notice.

In response, a group of freedom-lovers immediately formed the Wichita Falls Coalition Against Censorship (WFCAC) to fight what we all knew was coming. I joined the group.

Under the preacher's influence, the city council passed The Altman Resolution that required the library to remove any book from the children's section within 24 hours if 300 registered voters signed a petition objecting to it.

WFCAC immediately asked the ACLU of Texas to represent us in suing the city for violation of the First Amendment (See Sund v. The City of Wichita Falls.), and the ACLU agreed.

First, I became one of nineteen plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Then I was appointed as an Expert Witness because the issues in question were within my field of expertise as a Multicultural Education professor.

Colleagues said my career would be over if I didn't withdraw from the suit, but I said, "If I back down, I'll never be able to respect the person I see in the mirror." My husband feared that some fanatic book-burner would assassinate me. I was scared for my job and my life, but my commitment to the First Amendment, my religious faith as a liberal Episcopalian, and Eleanor Roosevelt's quote on my bulletin board sustained me: You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.

I ended up spending two hours on my 47th birthday on the witness stand in Federal Court. I had jammed two brown paper bags with banned books, and I looked like a bag lady as I toted them up the long aisle to the witness stand.

When I held up A Day No Pigs Would Die, the judge told me it was one of his favorite books and asked why anyone would want to censor it.

I was on the witness stand so long that I finally had to tell the judge that I had to use the toilet, so he called recess.

Of course, the First Amendment is non-negotiable, so we won the lawsuit.

A few years later, in appreciation for the ACLU’s service to WFCAC, I ran for, and was elected to, the ACLU of Texas State Board.

Apparently, that made me an enemy of the state under the George W. Bush administration.

Soon thereafter, I could no longer check my baggage at airport kiosks, and I kept being pulled out of line for extended pat downs and intensive luggage searches. I knew that my being “one of two people per plane randomly selected for further security searches” on three out of three trips was highly statistically improbable, but I shrugged it off. Statistical anomalies do happen.

Then on the next trip, a pugnacious colleague caused a scene at the airport kiosk when the skycap took his luggage but wouldn’t take mine. The kiosk supervisor looked my colleague straight in the eye and told him point-blank, “She’s on the No Fly List.” My colleague dropped his jaw. I laughed until I wet myself.

I soon heard that other members of the ACLU state board were also being “randomly selected” at astounding rates.

Several years later on a February 14 when I, a white-haired, saggy-boobed, senior citizen was once again “randomly selected” for further security checks, I asked the sixty-something man who was searching for explosives in my luggage, “I’m still on the No Fly List, aren’t I?”

He looked up from my suitcase, grinned, winked at me, and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs. Lancaster!”

WOW: I was checking out your blog, Considerable Opinions. Your post on “What is the most important question anyone ever asked you?” intrigued me. As a play on that post, I would like to ask you this, “What is the most important answer you’ve been waiting to share.”

Millie: Grow a pair.

I’m a feminist, but Grow a pair is the most memorable way I know to say Learn to be brave. Each of us is born with a genetic tendency to be either more brave or less brave, but regardless of our genetic makeup, we can become braver today than we were yesterday. We can either learn to be brave, or live as cowards.

We learn bravery a little at a time by being brave when faced with increasingly fearful situations. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.”

My father, who called himself “just an old country lawyer,” taught me by his words and deeds that good people have a duty to stand up for what’s right. But in order to stand up for what’s right, you have to be brave, and Daddy didn’t teach me how to be brave.

Then along came the junior-high band director who became like a second father to me. He taught me how to be brave. By giving me big responsibilities. By showing me that failure wouldn’t kill me. By telling me that if I failed, I’d darn well better dust myself off and get back in the fight. And I learned from those experiences that bravery begets bravery. The braver I was, the braver I became.

Now that I’m old, I can look back and say, “Damn, but I lived life the way I wanted to. And I made the world a better place.”

Because I grew a pair.

WOW: We’ve just begun a brand new year! What are your goals for 2016?


1. Finish polishing my collection of interwoven short stories about adventuresome sorts of old persons living at The Mansion at Two-And-Twenty in Academia, Arkansas. Feisty, sexy old people who aren’t afraid to go after what (or who) they want. People like Madeline.

2. Grow a pair by submitting it to an agent.

3. Pick up a street musician…

WOW: Millie, it has been delightful chatting with you! We hope to see you here again, perhaps with your finished short story collection (feel free to bring along the musician).
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Afta-U by Jennifer-Lynn Keniston: Blog Tour Launch and Giveaway

Monday, January 18, 2016
Sometimes decisions made in an instant can echo throughout a lifetime.

Twenty-nine years after the tragic death of her childhood best friend, Hope, Jean Cartwright Rhodes returns to her hometown with her husband and daughter after she inherits the house her friend’s family once lived in. Now, years later, she finds herself haunted by a dark truth – and by the specter of Hope herself. Every time Jean looks through her kitchen window, she sees two stark reminders of her troubled past; the Afta-U sailboat, ironically named after young Hope, and the old oak tree where her eleven-year-old friend met her death at the hands of another child. Afta-U unfolds as a psychological chess match, a complex web of intrigue, unexpected relationships, lies, and devastating secrets as Jean struggles with the impact of decisions she made long ago on all the lives around her. When Jean confronts and tries to come to grips with Hope’s killer, she finds herself waging a personal battle between madness and redemption.

Afta-U is an adult mystery/suspense novel for ages 17 and older. The book is complex and sometimes dark, and filled with Christian messages.

Paperback: 212 pages
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Tate Publishing (November 24, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1680284274
ISBN-13: 978-1680284270

Afta-U is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of Afta-U please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, January 24th at 11:59 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About Jennifer-Lynn Keniston:
Raised in Hanson, Massachusetts, the author earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Jennifer-Lynn currently works as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In April 2014, she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. She now lives and writes in Concord, New Hampshire, and enjoys teaching Spinning classes in her free time.

Twitter: @jenkeniston

-----Interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Who was the hardest character to write in Afta-U? Why?

Jennifer: I think Nick Rhodes was actually a difficult character for me to write. I wanted him to be similar to a Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, and remain trustworthy practical, rational, and have a high moral code. While he needed to be somewhat non-judgmental, it did take me a few drafts of the novel to show him not just always agreeing with Jean, etc. I was surprised when a good friend of mine told me that Nick was actually one of her favorite book characters – although almost too good to be true as a person and husband!

WOW: I would have thought the main villain would have been the hardest--but I can see your point about wanting to write Nick just the right way. Your story involves the use of flashbacks as Jean remembers her friendship with Hope, the accident surrounding Hope's death, and other childhood memories. Do you have any tips for those who might be incorporating flashback scenes into a novel?

Jennifer: One concern when I started to write flashback scenes for Afta-U, was how I was going to ensure a reader would immediately recognize that there was a time lapse or shift in the story. So, when I was writing the novel, I decided that it would be best to use a symbol to make it easier to differentiate these time lapses, etc. After a friend, Linzi, who had read a few drafts of my novel, suggested a rope symbol, I was instantly in agreement since the boat is such a huge symbolic image throughout Afta-U. After I conducted a search, I fell in love with the final rope insertion that is throughout Afta-U and contains three infinity twists in the boat rope. These three infinity twists reminded me of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost reference and aligns with the Christian themes throughout the novel. One tip that I learned when writing a flashback scene came from my book editor, Mike Ball. From Mike, I learned not to write a flashback scene that isn’t relevant and which detracts from the story and can confuse a reader like “a story within a story.” I had written one of those exact frowned upon scenes, and this scene was carefully rewritten and edited to fit having Jean as a participant in the flashback, and not Jean recalling a story she had heard from her father growing up.

WOW: How did you find your book's publisher, Tate Publishing?

Jennifer: I honestly cannot remember exactly how I initially heard of Tate Publishing. I conducted numerous searches on-line and had been submitting countless letters to agents with sample pages and chapters of my novel, from information I located from many different reference books. Eventually, I did end up submitting my manuscript to Tate Publishing and then about two weeks later, I received a call from Tate informing me that they accepted my manuscript.

WOW: You have your own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, where you specialize in helping clients write and polish resumes and cover letters. Do you have any advice for writers who might be looking to put together a resume for writing and editorial positions?

Jennifer: Well, that is a tough question. Truthfully, each and every individual and resume is unique. There isn’t a “cookie cutter” resume out there that I follow. I also pride myself in producing heartfelt quality final products. What sets apart my business is my phone interview with a client, where I often pull out information not listed on a resume or cover letter. I suggest anyone who is applying for a position that they desire, to do research and find a certified resume writer (which I am), because you don’t have to be a certified resume writer to start a resume business. Depending on the position and company, there are many different types of formats that could be used. So, I always take the necessary time to research the positions and give thought to the format I’ll use. Also, just because one is applying for a writing or editorial position, keep mind how key words could still play a big part on the resume landing into the correct hiring hands.

WOW: All good points! Now let's talk book promotion. Your book trailer is great! Very haunting. How involved were you in the production of the trailer?

Jennifer: First of all, thank you for praising the book trailer! I also agree with you 100 percent! Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the trailer. My book editor, Mike Ball, was extremely involved and helped to write the verbiage for it. Obviously, he was so close to the project and really understood the characters in the book. Moreover, he understands me as a person, and what I would be looking for. He was instrumental in working with my outside publicist, Scott Lorenz, and the company creating it. I literally cried happy tears for an hour after I viewed the trailer and I continued to watch it over and over again.

WOW: The poems that you wove into the book were beautiful. Did you write those before the novel was completed or after you had the entire story down?

Jennifer: Thank you for the compliment on the poetry! I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child, and I’m now working on putting together a poetry compilation book entitled "Breadcrumbs." To answer your question, I wrote all of the poems in the book at different points and throughout the writing process. So, for example, the fifth chapter poem might have been written before the third or fourth chapter poems were written. When I completed writing the first draft of the book, I then aligned each of the nine poems to a chapter. Originally, I planned to only write three poems, but then I decided to write one to end each chapter and tie in pieces of the story. The story also opens up with a haiku poem, so there is a total of ten poems in Afta-U.

WOW: You also work full time as a project manager. How does that help you manage your own numerous writing projects. Do you feel it makes you more organized?

Jennifer: I might be unique compared to other writers because in almost all cases, I pick the title first (or it picks me), and then I begin to write the poem or story. However, I do not write the content of my stories in order, or have an outline drafted before I write. The outline comes together later in my writing process. Sometimes I have an idea of the overall story when I’m starting out (other times I don’t as was the case with Afta-U). As a project manager, I am responsible for understanding the overall picture and work to piece together the different parts of the project where others assigned to the project, are only concerned about their piece in it. Even though I write out of order, I eventually have to connect all the pieces and segments together. With a project timeline there are some parts that can be worked in parallel, other parts that need to wait for certain tasks or milestones to be met. The editing portion of the book reminds me of change control process in project management. As a project manager, I work with a different “cast of characters” like those in a story, called key stakeholders, who help to pull together the tasks, the milestones, and the overall project completion. Some new people appear as a project gets underway, just as when I’m writing and a new character “introduces” itself to me. With a project, the timeline, project plan, statement of work, and work breakdown structures, are all drafted upfront. I’m laughing, because you would think I’d take that same approach to writing, but it just isn’t the case. I do think as a project manager, I often need to think and work “outside of the box” to pull pieces of a project together. It is that skill which helps me to be a better writer as I piece together and try to also “think outside of the box” while writing. All that aside, I am an organized person. This trait even carries over to me making my bed first thing every morning.

WOW: Who would you pick to play the character of Jean in a movie adaptation of your novel?

Jennifer: Wow, that is a very interesting question! Let me think about that for a moment. I actually think Jennifer Garner could do an excellent job at playing Jean.

WOW: We often hear from authors that once you've written and published a novel, the work has only just begun! Do you have any book marketing tips you've learned so far that you could share with our readers?

Jennifer: I feel like I am behind on what I should be doing to market my book since I am so busy working a full time job, etc. I want to reach out to libraries soon to donate books and push to get my books on book shelves in stores and not just virtually in on-line book stores. I have hired an outside publicist, Scott Lorenz, and he has connected me to this blog tour which I probably wouldn’t have known where to even begin with identifying and scheduling one on my own. I welcome any opportunity to discuss my book with anyone who may want to discuss it. I think an author website is also essential and different social media links. I will soon be embarking on scheduling some book signings and I cannot wait to experience these first hand! The marketing never ends, but I know it is important to continue working on writing your second novel while you are promoting the first one. I love that some readers are already asking when the next novel will be done and available for them to read!

WOW: What writing projects are you working on now?

Jennifer: I am working on a poetry compilation called "Breadcrumbs" and also on my second novel entitled Fresnel Lens. Some of the characters from my first novel carry over into this second novel. However, it is almost a standalone story, set in the fictitious towns I’ve created named Nain Valley and Graytown. It is more of a mystery where Jean is unaware of the underlying mystery and helps to unravel and solve it. This time around, it isn’t personal for Jean.

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

Monday, January 18 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Jennifer and enter to win a copy of Afta-U.

Wednesday, January 20 @ All Things Audry
Can an author find joy while writing about an inherently evil protagonist? Jennifer-Lynn Keniston shares her experience while writing Afta-U.

Thursday, January 21 @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews author Jennifer-Lynn Keniston on her blog.

Monday, January 25 @ Choices
Jennifer-Lynn Keniston offers advice on how to leave the rollercoaster of emotions on the page/computer screen when stepping away from writing a dark novel.

Wednesday, January 27 @ Create Write Now
Jennifer-Lynn Keniston compares the joy of conducting resume interviews to receiving praise for a character in novel.

Thursday, January 28 @ Renee's Pages
Renee Roberson reviews the mystery/suspense novel Afta-U.

Monday, February 1 @ Selling Books
Don't miss this interview with author Jennifer-Lynn Keniston.

Wednesday, February 3 @ Lisa M. Buske
How does creating and instructing an interval energy zone Spinning class compare to writing? Jennifer-Lynn Keniston shows readers how at Lisa Buske's blog.

Thursday, Feb. 4 @ Adan Ramie
Learn more about how "Afta-U's" Greytown/Graytown lighthouse with its Fresnel was inspired from the sign of Dr. TJ Eckleburg in "The Great Gatsby."

Friday, February 5 @ Memoir Writer's Journey
How being a Project Manager helped Jennifer-Lynn Keniston become a better storyteller. Plus, enter to win your own copy of Afta-U!

Thursday, February 11 @ Sherrey Meyer, Writer
The author of Afta-U discusses how she embraced Christian themes while writing her novel.


Enter to win a copy of Afta-U! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce a winner in the Rafflecopter widget on Monday, January 25th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Reporter or Writer?

Sunday, January 17, 2016
Working at a newspaper I run into a lot of people who have a lot of opinions about the writing profession. The other day someone said “We have too many writers and not enough reporters.” Hmm, I’ve been puzzling over that comment for a while now. What is the difference between a writer and a reporter?

“Writer” conjures up a more creative, artistic wordsmith while “reporter” brings to mind a simple arrangement of the facts. Many people would say writers are more talented than reporters. Writers of the creative variety are able to construct worlds, events and people with just their imagination. Even writers of the nonfiction variety…essayists, memoirists…choose where and when a story begins and ends, the point of view, the tone.

But what about reporters -- they deal just with facts, right? But facts demand just as many choices and creativity. Reporters are equally – albeit differently -- talented. They hold within them the ability to unlock an interview subject reluctant to talk (for reasons ranging from shyness to hiding something). They can look at an event, a fact and choose one of innumerable angles that will lead to the best story. They can find links between seemingly unrelated events or trends. They can notice one tiny out of place comment, action or fact and dig until they find the hidden story.

Do you think writers or reporters are more talented? Do you consider yourself a reporter or a writer – or both?
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Take Time To Think About 3 Things to Improve Your Writing Business

If you've read any of my posts this new year, you know I'm not into making goals and resolutions I won't keep. I've adopted the one-word philosophy, and my word is organized. So far, it's working pretty well for me. But this doesn't mean that you shouldn't think about your writing business. Let's face it, if you are looking to get published, writing is also a business. So, what are three things you should think about in 2016 to improve your writing as a business?

1. Reflect on your past year--one accomplishment and one failure. 
What is something in your writing life that went really well in 2015--a contest win? A published book? Maybe you started that blog you've always wanted to! Then look at the other side (but don't dwell on it--we are not dwelling on the negative here). What is something that didn't go so well? Did you get several rejections on one piece? Did you stop your normal writing routine? Reflect on your year and pick your best and your worst. This will help you think about your strengths and weaknesses, which can give you a starting point for 2016.

2. Think about 2016. Decide one thing you want to accomplish and one thing you want to avoid.
What do you want to accomplish this year in your writing business? If you take my one-word philosophy, I want to be more organized. What that looks like in my writing life is organizing my time better so that I am writing on a more consistent basis and so that I know what project I want to work on--and so I give myself time to market my writing business. I want to accomplish a writing life again--I feel like I barely have one, and like I said, this also fits in with organization.

I want to avoid getting myself back in this block I've been in for the past 6 months. How about you? What do you want to avoid? Social media during your writing time? A critique partner who is not helpful? Working on non-fiction when you really want to be working on romance? Spending too much time marketing instead of writing? Look at the one failure in 2015 and decide how you can avoid that from happening again.

3. Create a long-term vision for your writing business. 
Vision boards or dream boards are currently popular because they create a picture of what someone's life will look like when she accomplishes the things she wants to in her life. Make a vision board or dream board for your writing life. What will your writing business look like in five or ten years?

For instructions on vision boards, you can visit this website or read this Huffington Post article.

Your writing business is always changing. To make these changes for the better and to fit inline with what your hopes and dreams are, take some time to reflect. If you've already made goals and plans for the new year, don't be afraid to change them--in two weeks or two months. And consider a vision board--my writing group members and I make one almost every year, and I keep this hanging in my house where I can always see it.

Best of luck with your writing business in 2016!

Margo L. Dill is a children's author and writing instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. To check out her online class, visit here. To check out her books, visit here.
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Submission: Getting Things Out and Keeping Track

Saturday, January 16, 2016
In my last post, I asked what writing hang ups you need to overcome in 2016. Elizabeth e-mailed to say that she needs to work on submissions, both keeping track of them and coercing herself into sending things out. The publishers she’s worked with use Submittable and Between these two programs, she has troubles keeping track of what is out and where it is. Then she realizes she hasn’t sent anything out in weeks.

I understand what she means about various submission platforms. I’m not 100% certain this is an actual term but it’s what I call them. One publisher I’m trying to crack uses Submittable. Another requires me to submit through a form on their web site then tracks things through Author Portal. Two others want e-mail submissions.

I could check the various platforms and search my e-mail to see what is where but I’m too lazy. I want a one stop solution, thank you very much, so I keep track of my manuscripts on Excel. I simply created a form with columns for the manuscript, the publisher or agency and the date.

When I want to know where a manuscript is, I check the last dated entry under that title. I can see who has it, when I sent it and when I expect to hear back. I can also do a search to find out which manuscripts a particular agent or editor has seen.

There might be a way to get Excel to send me an alert when I need to check on a submission, but I don’t want more e-mail. Anything electronic is easy to ignore.

Instead, I note the expected reply date on my calendar. No, not on my phone. I have a paper calendar that hangs on my office door. When the reply date arrives, I send my manuscript to the next agent listed in my Excel file.

Does this keep me from writing without sending anything out? No. That comes with goal setting.

As a new writer, my goal was to submit or query on 2 pieces per month. I did this and started making sales. To make writing a career, I needed to mind the bottom line and shifted to a dollar goal. I don’t remember what my first dollar goal was – it might have been $500 in submissions/month. I do know that I’ve raised my goal at least twice and each time the amount I subsequently earn also goes up.

Yes, there are various platforms, like Duotrope, that claims to make submitting easier and more trackable but I haven’t looked into them. Personally, I prefer my fiddly little Excel file. You could also use a Word table or even an index card file. What you need to do is find the solution that will work for you, and then set the goals that will get you going.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on March 21, 2016.
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Friday Speak Out!: My Sexy First Draft Experience

Friday, January 15, 2016
by Lois Paige Simenson

Yesterday was a milestone for me. I officially finished a first draft of my first fiction novel, hitting 95,000 words. That’s an all-time record; hadn’t written that much in one document since my master’s thesis.

I spent much of 2015 reading about novel writing. I dove into On Writing, by Stephen King, The Art of Fiction by John Gardner (that one was tedious), Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, and How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by James Frey; all have excellent tips for the beginner novelist.

The problem was, I read so much that I confused myself and hit writers’ block. God forbid that I use an adverb, an adjective, or too much description! I became paranoid of revision. So, I stopped reading the how-to’s and took a writing workshop. The instructor said, “Write from the heart, be honest and don’t sweat the rules—that’s why God invented revision.”

I took her advice, signed up for Nanowrimo and wrote ‘till the cows came home.

They arrived yesterday.

During first draft, I discovered that I’d never written an action scene or a love scene. I asked my husband to help me write the action scenes, since he’d been a firearms instructor. He tried keeping a straight face reading my descriptions. “Rounds, not bullets,” he’d say, rolling his eyes that I didn’t know the difference between a revolver and a pistol.

The next challenge was writing my first love scene. I’m not a romance reader and never read a Harlequin in my life—but I did read the Outlander series. This is where method writing comes in handy. You know, like method acting, where you actually DO the thing. Okay, so I used my own personal love and sex experiences (ahem). But turning it into words on a page is another story.

I poked around our library and met a librarian who was a member of the Romance Writers of America. Score! She gave me a crash course on romance, loading me up with Harlequins, Signets, and Silhouettes. I grabbed a Danielle Steele, a Debbie Macomber, and set out to research romance. I won’t lie, it was a steamy couple of days…

My love scene turned out to be TEN PAGES. My novel is a crime-suspense-thriller, not a romance (oddly, my tough, outdoorsy Alaskan husband was the one who said I should include romance). I made myself laugh and cry and felt like Kathleen Turner when she finished her novel in Romancing the Stone.

You know what? A cool thing happened: I’m looking forward to revision!

And who knows, maybe my next novel will be a romance.

Who-da thunk it?
* * *
Lois Paige Simenson writes for newspapers and magazines. She guest blogs and has a blog, The Alaska Philosophaster at Her writing has appeared in The Anchorage Press, The Hill Congress Blog, 49 Writers, and online at Erma Bombeck She is a playwright, with a play that received a staged reading at the annual Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, and two plays recently staged and produced by Perseverance Theatre at the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts. She’s working on her debut fiction novel, Otter Rock.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Is Your Identity Chained Up?

Thursday, January 14, 2016
Moving forward by releasing your old identity.

Have you been striving to reach that next level only to feel held back by some unseen force? You’ve read a multitude of articles on writer’s block, rearranged your office, adjusted your schedule, and changed your diet… Still, tomorrow looks just like yesterday and next month doesn’t look any different. I’m joking a bit, but the truth is that stagnation isn’t funny; it hurts. We blame ourselves for not achieving our goals, wondering in what way we fall short. Sometimes we do need discipline, or more practice. However, the one factor most people don’t question is their identity or “sense of self,” and the need to let it go.

You’re probably thinking, “Wait! I thought I needed to build my identity—my voice, my brand…” Yes, but I’m talking about the subconscious agreements and self-judgments of who you think you are. Many of us try to pull a new experience into an old life, only to find efforts sabotaged by our outdated identity. The barricade usually lies in one of three areas; subconscious agreements, how other people perceive us, or holding onto the past. Even though the old habits feel bad, they offer a sense of security. The truth is that some things are just unhealthy, and the rules of conduct must change. The quickest way I can think of to illustrate this concept is to share one of my own stories.

Change happens incrementally by result of our everyday choices, but sometimes we experience the catalyst for an overhaul. One of my most recent growth opportunities came by way of my sister (I’ll spare you the heart wrenching details). The point though, is that I found myself in a situation where I had to create some hard boundaries—and not just with my sister! What began as a disagreement between her and my significant other spread into the entire family. Honestly, it felt like a game of kick-the-can…and I was the can. Finally, I reached my limit. Planting my feet, I spoke my truth—declaring that I was finished with being stepped upon and kicked around. I thought creating boundaries was end of the lesson; I was wrong, it was the beginning.

The next few months revealed layers of limiting self-judgments created by; my subconscious agreement with “family rules,” my perceived place in the family, and the guilt I donned as a child for my sister’s unhappiness. Some of these beliefs were:
  • I can never allow myself to surpass the accomplishments of other family members.
  • I’m responsible for my sister’s unhappiness because I took her place as “the baby,” therefore, I need to placate to her (which means remaining under her thumb, dumbing myself down, and accepting verbal and emotional abuse).
  • Keeping the peace is more important than truth.
Unspoken agreements such as these, along with the projections of others, are two areas that often play into those “unseen forces”. What are projections? The judgments others make about you.

How many of us have had to face the accusation that since we work at home, we don’t really “work”? Or, that if we don’t have a degree we are unintelligent? In my family, the projections are that 1) I’m divorced and therefore difficult to live with or, 2) that I’ve had several careers and therefore I’m irresponsible. I can’t control how others see me, but I can choose whether to wear their projected identity!

So far, we’ve talked about self-judgments in the form of unspoken agreements, and self-judgments formed by how others see us. The third area to review is self-judgments related to our past. What can I say? We all have one! I can offer you this--when you find that you are holding yourself accountable for your experiences, try holding yourself with compassion and forgiveness instead. Your past will always be part of you, but you are not your past.

The key to releasing a worn-out identity is to see yourself as you truly are (on the inside—the emerging you) without judgment or fear. Review limiting beliefs with your heart, not your mind. Replace outdated agreements with truth. Before you know it, those chains will fall away and tomorrow will no longer look like yesterday.

By Robyn Chausse
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