What is Your Dream Project?

Saturday, April 30, 2016
A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

I once bought a journal with the words “Dreams invited here” written on the cover. I was drawn to where it sat upon the shelf, and the words spoke to me. I later wrote a poem using that opening line.

As writers, we all have dream projects. Maybe it’s the great American novel, an award-winning short story, or a book of published poetry. Chances are, you have more than one. I know I do. My list of dream projects changes every few years. There was a time when I wanted to see my work published in a city newspaper. Once I achieved that, I moved on to magazine writing. After winning an award for feature writing, I transitioned to writing fiction. After completing a few different manuscripts for children, I now have raw material to continue working with to take the writing dream to the next step.

But about a month ago, I started working on Mari L. McCarthy’s “28 Days Weight Control” ebook. A lot of the journaling prompts focus on writing out specific goals you want to achieve with your weight and eating habits. The exercises have helped me hone in on what it is I need to do to eat healthier, but it also got me thinking about how writing down some of my other goals would be beneficial. As part of this process, I’ve seen another dream project unfold.

I want to work on a true crime piece. I often follow missing person cases and try to theorize what could have happened to the person based upon the clues. I love watching the TV show “Vanity Fair Confidential” and find myself on the edge of my seat, wishing I could be one of the journalists on the show who unearthed a big story. There are a few cases that have given me ideas for magazine articles in some of the larger women’s magazine. I think it might be time to flesh out one of these ideas and move forward. Don’t the things we’re passionate about always make the most compelling (and difficult!) subjects?

I’m thinking about starting a journal where I can keep track of cases that catch my eye and write down story ideas, both nonfiction and fiction. Call me an amateur sleuth, but maybe there’s a reason I’m drawn to such stories. There’s no reason not to try, right?

And now I want to hear from you. What are some of your dream writing projects? Have you achieve any of them, and if not, what steps are you going to take to do so?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who spends far too much time browsing through the cases on The Doe Network. She hopes it will all pay off one day in the future.

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Friday Speak Out!: 9 Tips To Help Overcome Your Introvert Creative Self

Friday, April 29, 2016
by Brenda Moguez

If you're a creative person following a passion you've come to the harsh realization attracting fans to your own Field of Dreams isn't quite as simple as building it--the it being your blog, your INDY book, your paintings, your poems, or the handmade jewelry you've invested countless hours creating. All Ray Kinsella had to do was build the field, and they came.

From the moment, I decided to release the voice in my head onto the page I expected the masses would flock to my site and devour my words eagerly. It was shocking to learn to write a book wasn't the hardest part of becoming a writer. Writing, as it turns out, is actually the easiest part of being a writer. What was/is the most challenging aspect was/is shedding my natural loner/shy inclination. How to break down my barriers, quite frankly, has challenged me, even woke me at 3 am.

Unlike other closet introverts, I am not enamored with social media. Honestly, there is the issue of time and my lack of it. Social media hasn’t liberated me. I prefer up close and personal intimacies, thrive in the space I inhabit inside of my imagination and absolutely love the quiet time when I am inventing.

I know there are others out there in the vast universe who are like me. We would probably be besties if we weren't so circumspect, but…well, we haven't taken the plunge, batted our eyelashes and said, "Hey, do wanna chat, maybe share digits, even write a blog post together. Oh to be so daring, so bold and brazen. If you are out there and looking for a kindred spirit…

Until I find you, here is a guideline on how to overcome your own quirky self and be less shy:

1. Allow your inner confident self to shine.

2. Use your voice to express the thoughts you’re thinking, don't fret if someone disagrees. An opinion, is just that, a person's point of view. Conflict can be creative.

3. When nervous about stepping outside of your comfort zone, remind yourself what you have accomplished to date.

4. The next time you are staring down the Twitter window. Go for it, share your quirkiness with Twitterdome, tell them how you feel about Miss Piggy and Kermit's breakup and Mr. Trump's hair fashion.

5. Take a deep breath and then let go of what you think you can't do. Also, don't be disappointed when whatever you say or do goes unnoticed. Trial and error, baby. Modify. Be prepared to edit.

6. There is no wrong way to be you--the right way is whatever you decide.

7. Put it out there--tell the world you have a little stage fright when it comes to tooting your own horn.

8. Confess what you have always believed: Passion is meant to be shared and spent freely, never hoarded or wasted. Share yours, now.

9. And finally, don't worry, be happy. In the grand scheme of things your reserve is part of who you are and when ready you will overcome whatever it is that holds you inside and your inner self will break free.

What is the hardest obstacle you've had to overcome?

* * *
Brenda Moguez writes the kind of stories she loves to read—women’s fiction, starring quirky, passionate women who are challenged by the fickleness and complexities of life. She’s particularly drawn to exploring the effects of love on the heart of a woman. She has aspirations for a fully staffed villa in Barcelona and funding aplenty for a room of her own. When she’s not working on a story, she writes love letters to the universe, dead poets, and Mae West. Her second novel, Nothing is Lost in Loving, is set to release April 2016. You can find her at http://www.brendamoguez.com where she explores passionate pursuits in all its forms.
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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I Will Never...

Thursday, April 28, 2016
Did you read Sue's post yesterday "WOW! Women On Writing Blog: Editor: Ally or Adversary?" It began with the following quote: “After that experience, I’m never working with an editor again. It’s strictly self-publishing for me.” This reminded me of a recent conversation with a fellow mom. In retrospect I feel really silly for all the times in life I've uttered the words "I Will Never...". The list is quite lengthy and most of these were expressed in my youth:

- I will never drive a minivan
- I will never spank my children
- I will never wear yoga pants in public
- I will never bribe my children to behave in the grocery store

The list goes on, and I'm sure you've got a list of your own. I couldn't picture myself driving a minivan, but then again I couldn't have known I would have four children. Now I'm a minivan mama and I love the extra room, the DVD player, and the sliding side doors. It has really simplified my life. Same thing with spanking. I happen to have one particular child who is strong willed. She has received a spanking or two in her lifetime and she is better for it. When I was sixteen-years-old I had no way of knowing what type of child I would have, much less what type of parenting style I'd have to adopt in order to raise said child. As for the yoga pants in public, I've seen worse, and at this stage in the game I'll choose form over fashion any day and crawling on the floor playing Legos is much more comfortable in yoga pants. Bribery in the grocery store is a different story. I never bribe my children to behave in the grocery store--and if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you. I have four children, so on a good day, one of them will have some sort of meltdown or temper tantrum in the cereal aisle. On a bad day, they'll ALL have a meltdown. I've often bought the Cookie Crisp or promised them a trip to the park if they'll just let me get out of the store with my groceries.

My reality looks far different than the picture I painted in my head when I was young and naive. I've learned to take a step back and look at the situation without judgment. I feel I'm a better person because of the lessons life has taught me. Now, how does this apply to my writing life? Publishing a book is a lot like picking out a great pair of jeans and instead of saying "I will never..." I think it's important to try on a few different pairs of jeans before deciding what you do and don't want. Same thing with writing and publishing. Those of you who have said "I will never self publish" may just want to brush up on the topic. You may find a self-publishing platform that is just right for you, or you may find a publishing firm that is such a good fit you couldn't imagine publishing any other way.

We evolve with time. I remember my daddy saying "I will never pay more than $1 for a gallon of gasoline" and I wonder what he would be doing today. He actually never did pay more than a dollar, because he passed away before fuel prices got silly. Chances are, if he were still around, he would gladly pay $1.87 per gallon if it meant being able to visit his grandchildren.

The moral of the story is this: We change over time. Technology changes of time. If we aren't open to learning about something different, we are limiting ourselves.

This can be applied to our parenting, our marriage, our writing, and our career. Do you have an "I will never ___________" story to share? Leave it in the comments and we can giggle together! Thank you as always for taking a moment to read my post. I hope it made you smile, and gave you a little different perspective.


Crystal is a church musician, babywearing mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 9, Andre 7, Breccan 2, and Delphine 1), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/ and here: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/
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Editor: Ally or Adversary

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
“After that experience, I’m never working with an editor again. It’s strictly self-publishing for me.”

While there are many reasons to choose self-publishing, not wanting to work with an editor isn’t one of them. The fact of the matter is that a top-notch editor is your greatest ally for a variety of reasons.

  • They give us that little push. Most writers I know reach a point with their manuscript where they are just done. They don’t want to see it again. They don’t want to think about it. They want to go on to something new. An editor can give you that push you need to take a good story and make it great. Nine times out of ten, when my editor asks me to make a change, it’s something that I suspected needed to be done but I just wasn’t sure. Or, perhaps more honestly, I just didn’t feel like doing.

  • They maintain a bit of distance. Part of the reason that it is so hard to make our writing great on our own is that we are just so close to it. It is too familiar which means that we don’t always see the story that we have written down. We’re still seeing that perfect creation we had in mind when we started writing. The editor is going to be better at spotting things that should have been cut, reslanted or polished to a high gloss. With their help, we can take the story we wrote and make it the story we meant to write.

  • They know the market. We may think that we know the market, but if you are like me you write for several different markets. That means you just aren’t going to know the market as well as your editor. The good news is that they can use this knowledge to shape your work. Yes, I’ve been asked to take out things that I thought were brilliant, but I’ve also been told to add things that I regretted leaving out. The good news? I didn’t have to leave them out. My editor, who knew the market, encouraged me to add something that I thought would be too dark and grim but it’s the gory, icky detail that young readers love.

I’m not going to say that the editor is always right. I worked once with an educational editor that didn’t know what leveled vocabulary was or that individual words had known reading levels. He ignored our contracts and heaped on as much work as we allowed. When I finished with that particular project, I told him that I had another contract with someone else and didn’t have time for a second assignment.

Not every editor is top-notch, but work with a great one and you’ll definitely see a difference in your writing even if you chose to self-publish.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.
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Meet Flash Fiction Runner Up, Nina Skaya!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Nina Skaya grew up in Westport, Connecticut, studied philosophy at Princeton and music at the University of Michigan, and has worked as an acquisitions editor for Greenwood Publishing Group and as a regular contributor to Music Alive!, an educational music magazine. She plays oboe and English horn in several ensembles in her new home of Washington, DC.

Nina has studied writing at the Write Yourself Free school in Westport where she has learned, among many other things, to write more, faster, and better. Her first published short story appeared in Niche Lit Magazine in 2015. Inspired by a year-long trip to Italy, Nina is working on a humorous novel set in Rome and New York City.

You can read Nina's flash fiction piece here.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Nina: I had a bunch of short pieces in my files and I wanted to see what flash fiction contests were out there. Fortunately, I stumbled across the WOW contest. I liked the way the website features the winning entries. It feels very friendly and personal.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Tuesdays and Fridays?" I really enjoyed it and I felt like I was there, living through the character.

Nina: Thank you! I went through a period of using song lyrics as prompts for free-writes, and “Tuesdays and Fridays” came out of one of those exercises. I was making my way through one of my favorite albums: Palomine by the Dutch band Bettie Serveert. The song "Leg" has the lyrics:

Tuesdays and Fridays

I'd wait at the bus stop

And guess who won't show up

I'm tired of waiting for you.

I hope that the band is flattered by the use of their lyrics and doesn't mind lending me a few phrases here and there!

WOW: I would think they'd be pleased to have inspired a winning fiction piece. You mention that you learned to write more, faster, and better at the Write Yourself Free school in Westport, Connecticut. We’d love to know how to do that!

Nina: The lyric prompt exercise came straight out of a class with Patrick McCord of Write Yourself Free. Timed free-writes are a good way to get yourself writing faster. Find a prompt, set the timer, write longhand and just go for it. Don't stop to think. Just write. A lot of my favorite pieces have come out of exercises like this. I wind up with things that I would have never come up with if I'd stopped to plot out my writing. Now that I've done a lot of these exercises, I can channel that feeling into my longer pieces.

Another important thing I've learned is that you can write a lot in just 10 or 15 minutes. Waiting for a large block of free time isn't really necessary.

That’s my little bit of insight into the “more” and “faster” parts. Writing better came from taking classes with a great teacher.

WOW: Great ideas. Can you also share any good books you’ve read lately?

Nina: I’ve been reading mostly short stories lately. Here are some of my all-time favorite books; the kind that I buy multiple copies of to give away:

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtyengart

White Noise by Don Delillo

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Farina

First Light by Charles Baxter

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Nina! Before you go, do you have a favorite favorite writing tip or advice for our readers?

Nina: Deadlines. I've accomplished the most when I've set a deadline for myself. Actually, that's only half of it. The other half is telling my friends about the deadline so that I convince myself that I really must meet it and it's not arbitrary. I've noticed that having a deadline removes the idea that I have a choice about writing every day. Making that choice every day is exhausting. Better (at least for me) to make one choice, set the deadline, and know that every day I'll write in order to meet my goal. Of course, I have to pick the deadline and the goal... and sometimes that can take a while!


Our Spring Flash Fiction contest is OPEN.
For details and entry, visit our contest page!

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Journal Number Three

Monday, April 25, 2016
Do you have any guilty pleasure movies you have to watch whenever you run across them on the TV, no matter how many times you've seen them? One of those movies for me is "A Walk to Remember"
based on the Nicholas Sparks' novel of the same title. It is a sappy story that breaks your heart--I literally start crying the first time the main character begins talking and sob off an on throughout the entire movie.

The last time I watched it (yes, it was just last month) I was intrigued by the fact that the female character has a journal of sorts kept by her deceased mother where she collected quotes, advice and excerpts from various places that she found helpful. In the past I've kept two types of journals:

  1. The "Dear Diary" type that records what's happening in my life.
  2. A writer's journal that I use to record ideas, work out problems in my WIP and set goals for myself.
But after watching "A Walk to Remember" I decided to try another journal...a collection of others' thoughts that I don't want to forget. After just a month I have pages of poetry, favorite quotes, song lyrics, even an essay I copied off a fast food bag (it was about chocolate!).

I haven't worked out the purpose of this new journal except that I finally feel secure that I won't forget these things I read and think "That's great. I have to remember that." Sure, we think that with the Internet we can search our way to everything have forgotten but a search like "quote about dreamers" after seeing something written on the chalkboard at your local coffee shop and you'll realize just how VAST the Internet is. 

It is part inspirational, with lots of "you can do it" cheers. It is part humor, with funny poems about dogs, growing old and raising children to make me laugh. It is part challenge, with the words of other writers that have become embedded in my memory the way I hope one day my words will find a part of other people's lives. I page through it often and many times find what I need.

Do you collect others' writing in a journal?
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National Poetry Month: Checking In

Saturday, April 23, 2016
2016 Poetry Poster from Poets.org
It’s April, which means it’s National Poetry Month!

Earlier this month, Jodi Webb posted about National Poetry Month and the 30 activities you can do to celebrate.

I’ve been participating in Writer’s Digest’s 2016 PAD Challenge to write a poem every day in April. Writer’s Digest writer, Robert Lee Brewer, provides a prompt every day, an example poem he wrote, and space for others to share their poems.

As a self-proclaimed non-poet, this is a challenge for me! I have participated for the past several years, never writing 30 poems in the month, yet it has been so rewarding.

Making the switch from prose to poetry allows me to:

  • Concentrate on every single word choice
  • Focus on word order by noticing the rhythm of word choices
  • Enhance descriptions and emotion by using strong imagery
  • Avoid telling rather than showing

And these benefits are in addition to the multiple benefits Jodi already listed!

Like Jodi, I am not suggesting that you need to become a poet. But for those of you who are not poets, I encourage you to dabble in a bit of poetry now and then because it allows you to take residence in a different part of your brain, to see language differently, to feel stories differently. A new perspective can give your writing the boost it needs.

You don’t need to wait until next April to practice writing poetry: the 2016 PAD Challenge prompts are available year round so you can take the challenge at your own pace at a time that’s convenient for you.

How has National Poetry Month been going for you? What have you learned from reading and/or writing poetry this month?

Written by Anne Greenawalt
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Friday Speak Out!: Give the Writer a Sandwich. Please.

Friday, April 22, 2016
by Vicki Wilson

I was on a diet.

It was a few months after the holidays, over which I’d eaten much chocolate and more prime rib than a good-sized tyrannosaurus rex. And then everyone in my family had a birthday with cake and ice cream and then it was after Easter and I needed to drop a few pounds.

I’m a writer. A work-from-home, hungry writer. I measured, and the refrigerator is thirteen feet from my desk. The pantry is closer. The pantry has potato chips.

On the first Day of the Diet, I sat down at my computer with an apple and my cup of coffee all creamed up with skim milk. I sipped and nibbled while I opened my emails. “This isn’t so hard,” I thought. “My mind is occupied. My coffee is good. I don’t need a bagel. I don’t need cream cheese. I don’t need one of those Boston cream doughnuts. I certainly don’t need scrambled eggs.”

In one email response, I typed “steak” rather than “stake.”

Lunchtime came (at 11:30 a.m. because 11:30 a.m. is lunchtime when you’re on a diet). I made a healthy turkey wrap, sat back down at my desk, and felt as though confetti should fall from the ceiling, both to celebrate my dietary parsimoniousness and that it was lunchtime. When I looked up from the writing I was working on, I was surprised to find my turkey wrap gone. Writing is a hazard when you’re on a diet. You can become too absorbed in what you’re composing and completely miss that you had a meal. This is not encouraging for your dieting mind, which by this point was obsessed with a turkey bacon club with extra mayo with a side of fries and a large Coke rather than a nice turkey, lettuce and tomato wrap (which had already been eaten).

Then, dinner.

No, not yet.

2 p.m. I ate baby carrots and thought about pitching someone an article on whether hunger can make you wild-eyed and nutty as a fruitcake (I noted that the mention of fruitcake did not make me want fruitcake and I congratulated myself on not being too far gone).


Nope. 4:30 p.m.

The phone rang and I jumped on it like I was grabbing for a rope to leap out over a swimming hole. Hunger distraction. It was my husband. We made small talk. Then, “What do you want for dinner?” he asked me.

Oh, goodness. What did I not want? I wanted mashed potatoes with butter. I wanted lasagna. I wanted macaroni and cheese.

“Maybe a grilled chicken salad?” I said. “I’m on a diet.”

“Right,” he said. “Okay. You want me to pick it up?”

“Sure. Or, maybe, why not just a cheeseburger?”

“A cheeseburger? What about the diet?”

“Okay, just a hamburger.”

“Okay,” he said, and hung up.

I didn’t need a cheeseburger. I was a work-from-home writer. I had cheese in the fridge, thirteen feet away. Right beside the pantry with the Lays.

I had everything I needed.

* * *
Vicki Wilson is a freelance writer and author who also occasionally writes plays. She lives in New York with her husband and son. You can visit her at www.vickilynnwilson.com or follow her on Twitter (@Wilsvick).
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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A Change of (Blogging) Heart

Thursday, April 21, 2016
The path of my personal blog has taken quite a few turns over the last nine (NINE?) years, with a fair share of highs and lows. But through all the ups and downs, I’ve kept up the pace, posting faithfully and purposefully. That is, until the last year or so. And then I just sort of…well, putt-putt-puttered out.

For a while, I told myself that I’d get back on track. That I’d get at least two posts out a week, if not the three I’d been diligently writing. But time passed and I didn’t get back to my routine. More time passed and I didn’t feel too bad about missing posts. Still more time passed and I realized I’d had a change of heart about blogging, a change of heart that was as purposeful as my one-time schedule had been: I would post on the blog when I needed to post.

Which might not seem like a big deal if you’re the kind of blogger who follows that as-needed path. But if you’re the kind of blogger who’s a teensy-tiny bit compulsive—who makes a schedule and gosh darn it, sticks to it—then perhaps you’ll understand how difficult it is to change to some kind of willy-nilly posting. It wasn’t a change of heart that came easily. But what helped me goes back to purpose.

Simply put, the purpose for blogging had changed for me.

I no longer needed the regular writing practice that my blog provided; I have plenty of work to keep me busy! My platform is established; though new readers visit and/or follow the blog, my numbers remain fairly constant. But mostly, my writing career has taken a new and exciting turn; my focus is on my author work more than freelance work.

Now, my blog is a way to share both professional and personal news with those readers who’ve stayed with me along the journey. Some months, I have lots of news; other months, not so much, and so I’m fine with my lack of a blogging schedule. (Though I haven’t gone completely rogue; I’ll always have a couple posts during a month.)

So what about you? Have you thought about your blog lately, or why you’re blogging? If it’s worth the time and effort you’re investing, then great! But if you’ve begun to feel a tug on your blogging heart, perhaps the moment has come to step back and consider the purpose of your blog.

Paths can change—and that can be a very good thing!

~Cathy C. Hall

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The Great Work-at-Home Debate

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

A few years ago, I wrote this post about the reality of working from home. It was meant to be funny at the time, but then an interesting thing happened last fall. The publisher of a magazine I used to work for full time approached me and asked if I would help out on site when the current editor went on maternity leave for a few months. The idea of full-time pay sounded great, and once I figured out the best way to tackle after school childcare for my kids and did some work wardrobe shopping, I dove in.

The first week was a tough adjustment. Dropping my kids off at school and then joining the rest of the city in the morning commute was stressful, as was trying to leave work early enough to pick them up from the after school program before it closed. The next week, things changed after my husband’s position at work was eliminated. Suddenly, he was there to take the kids to school and pick them up in between the full-time job hunt. As I settled into the job, I looked forward to getting up every morning and putting on something besides my normal “work at home” clothes. I was surprised when people sought me out at work for my opinion. It was nice getting to go to meetings and learning more about the digital content side of publishing. I even got to discuss the editorial for one of the issues during a TV news segment. I felt a sense of purpose, especially at being able to bring home a steady paycheck when we really needed it.

This went on for almost three months. My husband found a great new job, and the editor came back from maternity leave. I was offered a permanent job, but it wasn’t at the pay scale I needed, so I negotiated responsibilities I could work on from home for a monthly paycheck. After a few weeks, it hit me. I was having a hard time transitioning back into working from home. The house seemed to quiet. I missed chatting with my co-workers. I missed having a reason to go out to lunch. I missed getting to be part of a team. I felt like a hypocrite. Working from home has always been a dream for me, but once I got to experience the other side of things I could see the benefits. When I work from home I tend to isolate myself too much and it can be difficult on the weeks when I don’t have meetings or interviews with people. I can now see both sides of the work at home/work outside of the home debate. I miss the people (although I have to admit I don’t miss the corporate red tape!), but the beauty of it is, I still work for the magazine as a contractor and can go in for the occasional meeting and to catch up with coworkers over lunch. For that, I'm fortunate.

Do you work outside of the home or are you self-employed? What do you think are the benefits of both?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a Blog Tour Manager for WOW! Women on Writing. She is currently seeking a few more reviewers for the Incarnation blog tour that launches next month. Learn more about the book here.
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Jillian Ports: Runner Up in 2015 Fall Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Jillian Ports’ works as operations manager at Astor+Blue Editions, a small press publisher in New York. That’s right – her day job is all about books. But editing isn’t enough for Ports who also loves to write. Her blog, The Love Song of J. Awkward Prufrock, tells about her life of an introvert and the many awkward situations she finds herself in as she attempts to navigate society.

If you’re one of those writers who happens to be an extrovert, be sure to read Jillian’s entry in the Summer Flash Fiction contest. Her story, “Are We There Yet?” is a telling look into the thoughts of an introvert.

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your story. Book Girl is clearly an introvert and your blog is all about being an introvert. How autobiographical is “Are We There Yet?”

Jillian: It isn’t autobiographical in the sense that it was a real event that occurred in my life. But as an introvert I find myself self-sabotaging relationships. Like Book Girl, I know I could make great memories with these potential new friends, but I can also sabotage it before we actually become friends. In that sense it is autobiographical.

WOW: How did this story change from rough draft to finished product? Was there anything about it that surprised you?

Jillian: Once I wrote everything down as one complete first draft it really didn’t change much other than basic conventional revisions, word changes, etc. But my initial idea was a comical treatise, like Woody Allen or Dave Berry, on the differences between men and women. It was going to be two people sitting on a bench and their thoughts about each other, but when I sat down to write, the bench became the cafeteria. The story became “Book Girl” vs the satire that I originally had going on in my mind.

I think it just had to do with my state of mind when I sat down to write the story. I was in a very isolated environment when I was writing it. I think that caused me to create a more isolated character. A common theme in my stories, including Book Girl, is people who are presented with an opportunity to change, but decide not to.

Once the images started unfolding in my head and the characters came to life, it just sort of flowed out of me. From that point, it didn’t change very much.

WOW: What is the most difficult part in writing flash fiction?

Jillian: I love exposition. It’s my favorite thing to write and my favorite thing to read. The first book in a series is always my favorite because I love getting to know the characters and the setting. I love the details, their favorite foods and their first kiss.

Flash fiction doesn’t leave a lot of room for slipping in those details. You have to give the reader the who, what, why, when, and how. In flash fiction, you don’t have the room to get that in and build that foundation of exposition for the characters. You just have to get right into it.

But do I know the details? If asked, I could deduce in a Sherlockian fashion some of the details. I don’t have a concrete answer for “what is Book Girl’s favorite movie?” although it is something like Annie Hall. I wasn’t thinking about that as I was writing the story. When I’m writing a novel I do have those things in mind.

I have an acting background so the Stanislavsky Method is always present in my head. As a writer every character has an intention and the details have to contribute to that intention to move the story forward. Those are the most important things that have to come across.

WOW: How has your experience as an editor altered your writing process?

Jillian: In a lot of ways it has made writing so much harder. It has made me a better writer but being able to take off your editorial hat and put on your writing hat and saving the editorial hat for another time can be difficult. For the sake of the story, you have to do it if you are going to get the story told. Otherwise you get stuck on really tiny things that should be fixed later on.

WOW: As an author and an editor, what advice do you have for readers who are new to flash fiction?

Jillian: You have to be prepared to give yourself a sensory overload when you’re writing flash fiction. You have to give the who, the what, the why, the when, the where, and the how in several hundred words. Think about your favorite book and all the emotions and feelings it evokes for you. Now imagine all of that in one page. You have to be prepared for a much more intense writing experience.

When it comes to what you read, the most important thing whether you are reading good stuff or not is to keep reading because, no matter what, you are going to learn from it. Not every genre is for everyone. If you are really a writer at heart and you take yourself seriously as a writer, you should be able to really appreciate a well-crafted story even if it isn’t your genre. If you are serious, you should be able to separate personal preference from genuinely good writing. If you don’t think it’s good, put on your editor hat and consider what would make it good.

To find out more about Jillian, follow her on on Twitter@AwkwardPrufrock or Pinterest @jayeepe.

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The Making of Baby Girl: Book Review and Interview with Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

Monday, April 18, 2016
It isn’t very often when you get to find out all the details of your co-worker’s life story, so when author Bette Lee Crosby wrote a book with WOW’s Crystal Otto as the main character, I jumped at the chance to read it!

Baby Girl is the best book I’ve read this year. Crystal’s character is Cheryl Ann Ferguson, a young mother faced with a heartbreaking amount of adversity who takes us on her twenty-some-year journey of love, loss, betrayal, sacrifice, and survival—each experience molding her into the exceptional person and mother she is today.

The story begins in 1991, when fourteen-year-old Cheryl Ann meets Ryan Carter, two years older, who is moving into the old Ballinger place a couple doors down. They form a close friendship, and eventually fall in love. Besides her Daddy, Ryan is her only ally against her cold, unloving mother.

When her father dies, two years later, Cheryl is left with her mom who finds fault in everything she does. But Cheryl is smart, and through the grief, she finds herself a steady job, plans for graduation, and saves up for college. When the acceptance letter from the college-of-her-dreams arrives, her mother says that she’s not allowing her to go to college. In fact, if she doesn’t get a job and pay room and board she’ll have to find another place to live. Her mother also doesn’t show up for her graduation, which brings Cheryl Ann to tears.

This is a major turning point in Cheryl Ann’s life, and from here on she must face a series of difficult decisions.

She decides to use the money she saved for college to move out with her high school sweetheart and fiancé, Ryan. They find an apartment and both find work. Cheryl Ann gets a job working for the local newspaper and quickly advances up the ladder. (This is not surprising because Crystal is one of the hardest workers I know!) They are building their life together and things are good. Yet, every time Cheryl Ann mentions marriage, Ryan puts it off by saying they need to get “established.” A house, a new car, and a boat are first on his list.

Cheryl Ann finds herself pregnant, and Ryan forces her to choose between him and the baby. She is crushed and doesn’t want to get an abortion, so she selflessly decides to give her baby girl up for adoption. I can’t imagine how hard this must have been for her.

I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Baby Girl is an emotional rollercoaster ride, an inspiring journey and a real tearjerker! Be sure to have tissues ready. You will get to meet important characters in Cheryl Ann’s life—her baby girl’s adoptive mom LeeAnn, her best friend Nicole, her landlord and mother figure Margaret, and the wise Ophelia Brown, who owns the apothecary and Memory House B&B. You will experience the men in Cheryl Ann’s life—Ryan, Nick, Vince—and the love of her life, William. And you will get to know WOW’s Crystal Otto intimately, like a best friend.

Baby Girl is book four in the Memory House series, but it serves as a standalone. This is the first book I’ve read of Bette Lee Crosby’s and it certainly won’t be the last. She has such a natural, unobtrusive writing style that allows the reader to focus deeply on the story, which is masterful storytelling in my opinion. She managed to capture Crystal’s character perfectly and respectfully. I can’t thank her enough for that!

After reading Baby Girl, I had to find out more about how they managed to put this book together, so I asked Crystal to answer some questions for me. Enjoy!

Interview with Crystal J. Casavant-Otto about Baby Girl

WOW: Crystal, I feel so close to you after reading Baby Girl. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and your life story is so emotional and inspiring! How did you meet author Bette Lee Crosby, and how did she approach you about being the main character in her novel?

Crystal: I’m so glad you found the story inspiring, and as for emotion, Bette Lee never disappoints. Each of her books has a way of tugging at my heart strings. I met Bette Lee a few years ago. She approached me about doing a WOW! Women On Writing book blog tour for one of her books. I read through the book and we discussed it, but the timing just wasn’t right for her to do a tour. We kept in touch as she loves supporting WOW! I had an opportunity to be an early reader for some of her other novels, and at one point I just tossed out the idea and sent her a private facing message saying “if you’d ever like to do a book based on a birth mother’s story and point of view, let me know and I’ll share my story with you.” She answered rather quickly and as they say…the rest is history.

USA Today Bestselling Novelist, Bette Lee Crosby
WOW: I feel like Bette really captured the essence of your character. I imagine endless cups of dandelion tea as you two chat about your life story. How did she conduct her interviews with you?

Crystal: We did most of our brainstorming over the phone. Bette Lee asks some great questions. She got me to thinking about things I had sort of pushed to the back of my mind. There were quite a few emails and private messages back and forth as well. It was exciting to see the finished product, because I wasn’t sure what was going to be usable information and what wasn’t. It felt great to share my story with Bette Lee. She was very motherly through the process and it never felt like she was judging me as we were sharing information.

WOW: Baby Girl is Book Four in the Memory House series, and I know there must be parts of the book that are connected with the others, but I think it reads as a standalone. Without giving too much away, which parts of the book were true-to-life and which were fictional? I know names were changed, and I’m assuming the character of Ophelia is fictional?

Crystal: Yes, Ophelia is fictional. I also have to go on record saying that the character of my mother is fictional. My mom is pretty amazing and has lived through more than most people can imagine. My mom and I were not close (geographically or emotionally) while I was pregnant with my daughter, but the mother figure in the story isn’t at all like my real life mom.

WOW: I'm glad for that! You shared some very intimate details in the book, including the divorce of your first husband and giving up your baby girl for adoption. How do you feel now that your story is out there for the world to read? How does your family feel?

Crystal: I’m a little nervous now that the story is out there. When I read the online reviews of Baby Girl, I hold my breath. I don’t want people to hate me (or my character in the book). So far, the reviews have been awesome though. It’s still a little unsettling to share things with the world and know it’s their right to pass judgment on you. My family is supportive. I haven’t given my mom a copy to read yet…because I’m a little nervous about how she is going to feel about her character in the book. My husband and my children are very supportive and they have known about the adoption since the beginning. It’s wonderful to hear that this book is helping not only birth mothers, but also helping adoptive parents to see things through new eyes.

WOW: It was eye-opening to me, and I'm not a mother, but I think anyone can empathize with the struggles and challenges you've endured. I’m assuming you read drafts along the way, or at least an ARC. Were there any parts of the book that you asked Bette to change?

Crystal: I love Bette Lee and I read the ARC and told her I wouldn’t change a thing. She really did an amazing job capturing the emotions of the story. My goal has always been to give people hope. Some birth mothers never have the opportunity to have a family. Some people who make the wrong choices early in life feel like they can’t make things right. I’m living proof that it’s never too late to start making wise choices and it’s never too late to live your dream. Bette Lee really captures those sentiments in Baby Girl.

WOW: I agree wholeheartedly! I would love to know more about your life from your perspective, and if the reviews of Baby Girl are any indication, others would as well. Do you have any plans to write a memoir?

Crystal: You’re sweet. I may write a memoir someday. I would love to write down a lot of stories from my life, just so my children have them to pass on to their children. My grandparents were gone before I was born and my dad passed away when I was young. I would love to capture the stories I know of their lives and pass it on. I remember vowing to write and be published by my son Breccan’s first birthday. He will be 3 this fall and I’m nowhere close. I guess I’m just busy with little people right now.

Crystal and family, photo © Oh! Photography

WOW: Yes, you have your hands full of little people! You are amazing, Crystal. I don’t want to give away any spoilers away here, but I’m sure readers of Baby Girl would love to know if you are still in touch with your daughter that you gave up for adoption?

Crystal: I have never actually received a letter or call from my daughter. I receive letters and pictures from her parents though. She will be graduating from high school in a few months and will also be turning 18. I hope that I’ll hear from her. My now 9-year-old loves talking about her big sister and would especially love if she could have some sort of relationship with her. We pray for her each and every day and regardless of what the future brings, she is most definitely a part of our story and a part of our family.

WOW: Thank you, Crystal, for the interview and for sharing your story with Bette Lee Crosby so she could write Baby Girl! It’s such a treasure and will make a perfect gift for Mother's Day. I have a major book hangover! 
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Listen Up: Why Writers Should Listen to Audio Books

Sunday, April 17, 2016
At any given moment, glance across the family room and you’ll see it.  A stack of audio books beneath the television.  I listen to novels and nonfiction, adult books and children’s books.  So far this year I’ve already listened to nine or ten books of various kinds. 

As a writer, here are five ways that your work can benefit from listening to audio books. 

Writers need to read. That’s kind of a no brainer but if you are anything like me there are days where it is all you can do to fit in your writing.  Spare time is definitely a commodity but audio books let you “read” when you can’t focus on a print book.  I read when I row, when I wash dishes and when I eat lunch.  If I’ve got a road trip to make, I may manage an entire book.  Listening to audiobooks helps me experience more literature than I would otherwise have time to take in.

Writers need to read it all. I know. I know. I’m one of the first people to admit that if a book doesn’t pull me in, I start skipping chunks of text as I look for that point in the story where things get moving again. Audiobooks don’t let me do this.  Because of this, I get the full experience where I wouldn’t in a print book.  With the full experience, I can judge . . .

Pacing pros and cons. To learn about story pacing, you need to read the whole thing.  Yep.  Even those buckets of narrative and that long stretch of backstory. Not everything I experience is going to work for me but hearing the whole thing gives me a better feel for how other authors pace their work and how they use language to speed things up and also to slow them down.

Voice.  Every writer needs to develop their unique voice.  While you don't want to copy the voice of another writer it is a great experience to hear how and why that author sounds like one of a kind.  Recently I've had an earful of New York grit and Ozark twang.  I got to hear how word choice and how it was all strung together made each of these authors truly unique.   

The Beauty of the Language. If you write poetry or picture books, you spend a certain amount of time considering the sound of the words that you chose.  The reality is that the rest of us also benefit when we consider the sounds of language. The words that we use can be musical but to hear the notes you need to actually here the language. Audiobooks allow you to do this.

Still not sold?  Think of it as story time for grownups.  You remember story time at the library and how much you loved it.  Give yourself a similar experience by taking advantage of the many audiobooks now available.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.


Sue is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins on June 6, 2016.
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Friday Speak Out!: Getting In Touch

Friday, April 15, 2016
by Stephanie Allen Crist

I’m a planner by nature. I plan out my life and my work. I wrote my memoir after creating a detailed plan and the process worked great. But, when it comes to my fiction, I’ve learned there’s something magical about writing a story by the seat of my pants!

After “fibro fog” began impacting my concentration, I needed something to get my writing back on track. My usual tricks didn’t work. It was time to get back to basics. I started writing by hand, listening as the pen scritched across the paper, feeling the ink slide from my fingers to the page.

But the scene that flared so brilliantly in my mind felt dull and lifeless. The notebook I’d used was the cheap, flimsy, wire-bound variety. The words I’d written fit the notebook so well I almost threw it away. I went shopping instead.

I found the upscale notebooks I wanted at Target. Bound like a traditional composition notebook, I found a version with a wide right hand margin. I could take notes on changes I wanted to make without getting caught up in a censor-style critique. So, I grabbed four.

The first was for the beginning. The second and third would comprise the middle. The fourth would be for the end. With Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering humming in the back of my mind, I figured that these four notebooks came with a built-in plan. I just didn’t know what it was.

I rewrote that first scene. The prose was far from perfect, but the words were worthy of those fancy notebooks. So, I kept going. Page by page, chapter by chapter, the story started to come together until I put my heroine in a too-tight spot at the beginning of the second notebook. She needed to do something extraordinary to escape. The words flowed like wine, heady and strong.

There I was, at the beginning of the second quarter of my novel, with a scene that could have made a climactic end. That meant that I needed to make things bigger and more dramatic from here on out. As the story progressed, the magic happened. I kept finding new ways to live up to that dramatic promise. Problems got bigger. I was tougher on my heroine than I’d been on any character I’d ever created. I gave her problems she couldn’t handle and I forced her to handle them. And she surprised us both when she handled them well.

Now the story is on my computer, still a work-in-progress. But I’ve noticed something else. Every time I read those big moments that come after that extraordinary escape, they still get me. I’ve read them dozens of times, but they still make me cry. And that’s magical!

* * *
Stephanie Allen Crist is a writer, advocate, and marketer. Stephanie’s first two books, Discovering Autism / Discovering Neurodiversity: A Memoir and First Steps: Understanding Autism, are available now. Learn more by visiting www.StephanieAllenCrist.com and be sure to check out Caressing the Muse, Stephanie’s writing blog.
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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What is Your Path as a Children's Writer?

Thursday, April 14, 2016
Recently and coincidentally (don't tell Stephen King I opened with two adverbs please), I have had a few children's writers approach me for editing of their picture books and middle grade novels and for writing coach sessions about their journey as a children's writer and figuring out: what's next? Because of this and my love for children's literature, I thought I would share my journey.

I've talked before about how I came up with a tagline for my platform. I had to create something to tie my work together because I had a book for each age group of kids and teens and in different genres. So how did I get to this predicament? How did I get started writing for kids? How did I get traditional book contracts? Is it similar to your story?

In 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine for the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I decided to take their correspondence course, where I learned more than I ever thought was possible. I learned that nonfiction is easier to get published than fiction, how to read magazine submission guidelines, how to find and enter contests, and how to research and start a novel. (I actually started my first novel that got published in 2012 in that class, titled Finding My Place, historical fiction middle-grade.) My teacher was amazing and offered wonderful feedback and guidance. A couple of the stories I wrote for the class placed in contests—once I had that taste of success, that’s all I needed.

From there, I found a critique group. Once you have a basic knowledge of writing for kids or adults—whatever your goal—I believe you need a critique group to offer you feedback on a regular basis. Not only did the members help me become a better writer, but they also challenged me to write pieces outside my comfort zone, including essays, short stories, and poetry for adults. I learned the most about writing in this group, and I went to many writing conferences with them, too, where I learned even more. Each step of the way, I had some success and acceptances, and then I had many rejections. But the successes helped keep me going.

Now onto Caught Between Two Curses, my young adult novel. I worked on it some with this first critique group and at the same time as Finding My Place, but I didn’t start seriously working on the manuscript until I got the contract for the middle-grade. I wrote CBTC as a young adult novel, and I had two different critique groups that offered advice and suggestions on it. I pitched it at several conferences—some agents told me that they just didn’t get the storyline with the Cubs and the Curse of the Billy Goat. I tried to explain that it was just a small part of the novel—the real story was Julie’s, and her life as a teenager with a boyfriend pressuring her to have sex and a family that was stuck in the past with the curse. So either I was terrible at pitching my book or they hated baseball that much—or both.

I had a couple agents ask for more pages, which resulted in more rejection. Then I revised it ONE LAST TIME and pitched it in April 2013 at the Missouri Writers Guild in St. Louis to Robin Tidwell of Rocking Horse Publishing. She said, “I love baseball. The novel sounds fun. Send it to me.”

I also wrote a picture book during this time, went to a writing conference, and pitched the idea to a publisher there--which also resulted in a contract.

So my journey as a children's writer is filled with education, critique groups, writing conferences, hard work, and a little luck. I think this is probably true for most children's writers who are finding their way--but I'd love to hear from some of you on how you got your start--whether or not you are published yet. I think it helps us all.

Margo L. Dill is a children's author, writing coach, and editor. You can see the class she teaches for WOW! here or check out her website here

Photo above by Joe Kopp: "Wahkeena Loop Trail, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon" 

Find more at: http://www.joekoppart.com
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Boost Your Online Platform by Taking Tiny Action Steps

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
by Karen Cioffi

"Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."

This Warren Buffet quote inspires me. It's simple, yet so amazingly powerful.

1. A tiny seed can create something as massive as a tree, even a sequoia tree.

Think of the giant sequoia tree in California, USA. It averages around 26 feet in diameter, weighs around 4,189,000 pounds and reaches heights of 275 feet.

According to Wikepedia, "Record trees have been measured to be 311 feet in height and over 56 feet in diameter. The oldest known giant sequoia, based on ring count, is 3,500 years old."

The seed of the sequoia tree is 0.16–0.20 inches long, 0.039 inches broad, and 0.039 inches wide.

Hard to imagine, isn't it.

Well, this can easily relate to writing, to content marketing, to business . . . to just about everything in your work and life.

Small positive actionable steps, no matter how tiny, can create massive results. You may think your writing and marketing efforts aren't moving you forward, but think of how long it takes that tiny seed to grow into a tree that gives shade.

2. Basic action steps to move your platform forward.

A. Everyone selling something online needs a website. So, the very first step is to create one or have one created.

B. Make your website work for you by publishing blog posts to it regularly. This strategy will create visibility, bring people to your site, build authority in your niche, and boost sales.

C. Share your blog posts on social media networks, such as GooglePlus, Twitter, and Facebook.

3. What you sow today can have benefits for many tomorrows.

Time will pass whether you take action or not. If you have an idea, take action now. Don't wait for tomorrow or until you have more time or until you have more money. Take action now. The benefits may turn out to be bigger than you could possibly imagine.

You may reap the benefits of your writing or content marketing or business efforts far into your future, so take that initial step. Or, maybe it's expansion that you're thinking about, or a new strategy.

Keep in mind though that every living thing needs sun, water, and food to grow. Well, to build a business is the same thing. So, when you take that step (plant that seed), be sure to give it the nurturing it needs to become what you believe it can be.

Plant that seed today!


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 with WOW! Women On Writing: Give Your Author/Writer Business a Boost with Inbound Marketing. You'll learn about basic website optimization, blogging smart, email marketing, and social media marketing. 

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Meet Elle Marr, Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Elle Marr is originally from Sacramento, California and has been a writer since she was a kid, filling journals with short stories and sneaking into online forums for adult writers. Now graduated to full-length novels, she is currently crafting her third manuscript. Recently, she spent three years in France during which she explored the Normand countryside and obtained a masters degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris. She was devastated to learn of the November 13th attacks on Paris this past year, and wrote “The Bataclan” in a moment of cathartic creativity. She believes deeply in art and its powers of therapy, be it the act of writing or staring at a photograph in a crowded museum. Elle lives in Portland, Oregon and can be found blogging about story structure, publishing, and greenery at www.ellemarr.com or followed on Twitter @ellemarr.

It's clear from reading Elle's winning entry that France is a country near and dear to her heart, and wanderlust is something that's ingrained deep in her soul. Read The Bataclan and then return here to learn more about Elle and her plans for the future.

WOW: You are currently seeking representation for two novels, both set in France. Can you tell us a little about each?

Elle: Yes! I'm actually finishing re-writes for Hearts in Rouen, which is a Romantic Suspense set in France. Essentially, it's a love letter to my time in Normandy during which I spent two years in the city of Rouen. My protagonist, Michelle, goes to France with a broken heart and meets a seductive Frenchman who tutors her in his language. The problems arise when Michelle realizes he's not who he says he is and he's been stalking her for self-serving, medical purposes. I am currently seeking representation for my Suspense Thriller, The Paris Twin, also set in France, but which focuses more on family dynamics and what occurs when secrets and long-harbored pains are left undiscussed. Shayna goes to Paris to clean out her sister Angela's apartment upon learning her sister died in a school shooting. Upon arrival, she discovers a note in their childhood twin language proclaiming, "Alive. Trust no one." The twists ensue from there!

WOW: It sounds like you are definitely on your way--impressive! What qualities would your dream agent have?

Elle: Great question (one I think about often). My dream agent would have a passport and be interested in the world around us. He or she would be part editor, part sounding board, someone with whom I could work as a team. My hope is that getting my book published would be a collaborative effort. A dream agent for me would share my vision for my book but not be afraid to draw on his or her experience to suggest new ideas.

WOW: You spent three years in France and earned a masters degree at the Sorbonne. Tell us a little about how your special connection with the country came about.

Elle: I've always been fascinated with other cultures and languages. French, Spanish, Italian, and German were the choices in middle school and I chose French. I loved its sound, the billowing vowels, and its accompanying culture of cheese, art, history, and later, wine. Learning another language unlocked a world far away, similar to what I always experienced with books, and I kept with it through college and afterward. Eventually I sold my car, stored ten boxes in my sister's apartment, and moved to France for a 7-month teaching contract that turned into 3 years and a masters degree.

WOW: Do you also write as your day job? How do you fit in time for creative writing?

Elle: My day job is interesting but definitely does not pay me to write! Instead, I carve out time methodically, deliberately squeezing in 30 minutes here and an hour there. Once I have an idea planned out I work like a fiend and it's easy to dedicate my free time to something that grips me.

WOW: Binge-watching television shows. Yay or nay? If yay, what are some of your favorites?

Elle: Absolutely, yay. Binge watching enables me to pick out story structure and zero in on character arcs - both which I find integral to crafting a good story, and even a good chapter - in ways I wouldn't otherwise by only watching one episode at a time. I'm a huge fan of "Breaking Bad" and "Game of Thrones" (books first, series second), and also of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Pretty Little Liars." High brow, low brow, acclaimed or not, I think television shows offer a great look into constructing narratives.

WOW: I completely agree! Congratulations again and keep us posted on the progress of those novels. They sound intriguing!
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Selling Books 24/7

Monday, April 11, 2016
Writers often go about selling their books as if it’s something finite. But selling books is more than just an event, a couple hours at a bookstore. It’s downright infinite.

Honestly, writers are selling ALL the time. They may not be selling a book all the time but they sure as heck are selling themselves (in a completely legal and above board way).

Take me as a buyer, for example. I think I’m pretty typical. Most of the books I buy, I buy because I know and like the author. I read a ton of books for any number of reasons: I like the genre or a protagonist or the humor. But those books, I’ll check out from the library. Buying a book requires an investment. So somehow or other, that author has sold me.

I thought about book sales at a conference I attended a couple weeks ago. I, along with ten other authors, launched books. Meaning we were given three minutes to speak about our recently released books in hopes that the conference attendees would buy those recently released books. In other words, we had three minutes to sell.

But my books are work-for-hire in the education market and are only sold in Korea. Many writers in this category don’t bother to launch their books. After all, it’s not like they need to sell these books; books in the education market pretty much sell on their own.

But it wasn’t those books I was selling when I did my shtick. And I mean shtick because I brought Cathy-on-a-Stick along to interview me and have a little fun.

Before I ever stepped on that stage, I was thinking about the day when I’d have books in the trade market. I was thinking that when people hear the name Cathy C. Hall, I want them to think of humor because, well, I hope I write funny books. I was thinking of how I could sell myself as a funny writer. So I launched my Korean books with Cathy-on-a-Stick, even though no one could buy ‘em.

But when I wasn’t on that stage, I was selling, too. Talking to two or three people at lunch, or speaking to a hundred people at the conference, I was selling. The same as if I were standing at a podium, launching books.

It sounds a little commercial, or maybe even calculated, and of course, in sales, there’s always a bottom line. But it’s more than dollars and sense. It’s understanding the business of being a writer.
Whether we’re blogging or leaving a comment on someone’s blog; having dinner with friends or sitting at a banquet table where we know no one; signing books at a huge festival or for a handful of kids in a preschool, we’re selling.

It’s impossible to measure what your reach might be. The potential is infinite which is kinda scary. But it’s downright exciting, too!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Four Ways Writers Can Use Instagram

Saturday, April 09, 2016
Over the past few months, I’ve slowly started using the photo app Instagram more and more. I love the different filters you can use and I can’t help but reminisce a little about the Polaroid cameras of the past (if you’re too young to remember those, never mind!)

At first, I mostly posted photos of my kids, food, and dogs, but then I started following the accounts of other writers. I began researching different ways I could use my own account for self-promotion as a freelance writer. Think of the app as a visual min-portfolio of your work, if you will. If you're trying to decide how Instagram can fit into your writing life, here are a few ways you can use it:

1. To announce upcoming books and events.

Just this morning, one of my favorite authors, Elin Hilderbrand, posted this photo teasing the release of her latest novel. I salivated into my coffee just a teensy bit:

A photo posted by Elin Hilderbrand (@elinhilderbrand) on

Writers also post photos from conferences they’ve attended, book signings, or to drop hints on upcoming projects. These are all things that can be done via Twitter and Facebook too, but Instagram adds a more visual element.

2. To promote articles and clips.

Author and writing coach Christina Katz regularly posts shots of her clips in parenting publications, such as the one below:

This is a great idea, as it showcases her experience to editors who might be looking for a writer or a reprint on a specific topic. She also posts motivational quotes taken straight from some of her books about the craft of writing:

3. To showcase your writing skills.

The daughter of one of my friends is a foodie and started an Instagram account a few years ago chronicling her food adventures. Not only does she regularly post stunning (and yummy!) images, but her captions are always clever and spot on.

A photo posted by Traveling Foodie (@lets.eat.yall) on

Because of her account, she’s attracted the attention of other prominent food blogs. If you’re looking to pick up more work blogging or copywriting, Instagram is a good place to show off what you can do.

Also, unlike Twitter, you aren’t limited to a certain number of characters. It’s okay to post a thoughtful and longer caption to go along with an image. This past week, I posted a handwritten copy of a poem I wrote back in high school with the hashtag #nationalpoetrymonth. It was a nice blast from the past.

4. To show off your silly side creatively.

I tend to be a little too serious in my social media postings. After browsing through author Lauren Oliver’s Instagram feed, I found myself laughing out loud. Her photos show a great mix of humor, book promotion, foodie photos, snap with her pets, and motivational things like this:

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty inspired right now and know I could be using my Instagram account for much more (besides calling out my dog when he’s stalking me):

A photo posted by rlroberson (@rlroberson) on

Do you use Instagram? I'd love to hear how you use it in your writing, whether it's for promotional or creative purposes.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at Renee’s Pages. Follow her on Instagram at rlroberson.

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