You May NOT Have Cake Right Now

Monday, July 31, 2017
I just got done chatting with a lovely friend. We had a great laugh because as you know, today is Monday and she's human and like the rest of us dreads Mondays. She and her husband were talking about how they would love to take Monday off and enjoy another family day. I said something I have a feeling I'll be using again:

" It's like dessert. 
If you don't eat the broccoli too, dessert isn't quite as sweet.
You need the contrast. The balance."

Isn't that good? As soon as I said it I thought I must write this down. Then I thought of how it applies to my writing life. I love reading and promoting the work of other authors. I also love writing, but it's more difficult with a house full of children, a job, responsibilities, etc... Reading has become my cake and writing has become my broccoli. They are both equally delicious, but one of them is going to get me to my goal much quicker than the other. In the case of food, broccoli is going to help me slim down and feel great. In the case of writing, I'm going to feel much better once I finish my novel. It's no longer going to be 'yet another project Crystal started'.

Who is going to help me stay on track? Who is going to help me by saying in a firm yet loving voice:

"You May NOT Have Cake Right NOW!"

Here's where you come in dear reader and writer friends. Share your wisdom with me. Several authors have already been gracious enough to help me by answering the question of how they balance their writing life with their real life, but I want to hear from you too - please leave a comment with what works for you. And while you're thinking about that, feel free to share in the wisdom from these amazing author friends of ours here at WOW!

David Berner was asked: How does real life fit into a writer's life? As part of his recent tour for his latest book "October Song", he responded:

David: I don’t see them as separate things. A writing life is a ‘real’ life. It is central to much of my everyday existence. Do I write each day? Not always. But if two-three days go by without writing, I get antsy. Like working out or walking the dog, I try to make it part of my daily life. Even if it is not on a specific project, I write. I put down words. Sometimes they are not worthy words, but they are essential to get me to that next level. That next project, that next story, the trick sometimes is “training” those you love, those in your life, that writing – going off on your own to think and write – is not some vacation or getaway. It’s your work, your calling, your inner peace. It’s important for me to write to be the best person I can be. I truly believe that, so, I write. And it’s not an off-shoot of my real life, It is my life.

Donald Dempsey was asked: What words of encouragement would you give someone trying to put together their memoir or story? As part of the book blog tour for his original memoir "Betty's Child". He responded: 

Donald: Don’t be afraid to let it rip. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Just let it out and read it later. You can always edit and tidy up the emotional content at some point, but most of what readers seem to like about my book wrote itself.

Judy Mandel was asked:What's the most useful piece of writing advice you've ever received? as part of her WOW! Women on Writing launch of "Replacement Child". She responded:

Judy: Not to expect your first draft of anything to be great. It takes editing and revising to create good writing.

All these great tidbits of advice for such lovely author friends. Thank YOU dear reader in advance for the tips and ideas you'll leave in the comments - your support and encouragement (as well as your readership) mean so much to all of us here at WOW!

Crystal is a council secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering
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, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora due this fall), two dogs, 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 here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Creating a Story that Pulls the Reader In

Sunday, July 30, 2017
Recently I read a blog post about successful fiction. The author’s claim was that all successful books are mysteries because there is a question the main character needs to answer.

I’m currently reading Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. In this middle grade historic fiction, Crow wants to know who her people were, where she came from, and why the people on the Elizabeth Islands are afraid of her. Those are big questions and this book definitely pulled me in.

Before that I read a piece of adult nonfiction, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Grann organized his book in three sections, each answering a different question. Was someone systematically killing wealthy Osage? Who? And how far reaching was it? Like Wolk, Grann presented the reader with big important questions and pulled me in.

Big questions do work to pull readers in. But I hesitate to say they are the only way to do it.

Some stories pull readers in because the character’s survival is in question. In a sense, that’s what Grann did in Killers of the Flower Moon. I wanted to know if the FBI would find the killer before he got to Mollie Burkhart. This “will she survive” technique is used in any story where a killer is stalking the streets and the main character could be next. Survival is also up for grabs in stories that pit the main character against nature and also in war stories. In the nonfiction title Unbroken, Leo Zamperini must survive first in a deteriorating life boat and then in a Japanese POW camp.

Other stories employ romance to pull readers in. Will the couple get together and live happily ever after? Or will they at least have a rollicking good weekend? I have to admit that I’m not a romance novel fan but give me a book with a romantic subplot and I’m there. Even spy novels such as those written by Suzanne Brockmann include romantic subplots. I keep turning the pages because as much as I want the hero and heroine to save the city or the nation, I want them to end up together too.

Another great way to pull readers in is with humor. Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Gregory Mone did this in the middle grade series Jack and the Geniuses. In the first book, At the Bottom of the World, the characters have to survive an Antarctic adventure and also rescue a missing scientist. They are also working around a wide variety of inventions including a nose vacuum, bionic leg extensions, and anti-stink socks. It is middle school humor at its finest but it works for me too. What can I say? Sometimes I think I’m a 12 year-old boy at heart.

Great stories pull readers in. Some do it by asking big philosophical questions. Others tell stories of survival or romance. Still others keep readers laughing. Some of them even manage to do more than one of these things at a time.

A successful story? It keeps readers reading. That means different things for different writers and different readers. The key is finding what works for your story and doing it well.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 
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Three Reasons Why the Raven Should Say "Evermore" instead of "Nevermore"

Saturday, July 29, 2017
         Last week I was in Arizona. We spent a day in Sedona, a day in Williams (at Bearizona) and a day gaping, open-mouthed, at the Grand Canyon (we arrived before sunrise and left after the sun set). We saw lots and lots of ravens while we were there, along with learning some interesting tidbits about these brilliant birds.

photo by Riley Reynolds

       The more I learned about ravens, the more I admired them... and the more respect I gained for them, the more I connected to them as a writer.

        When I was 12 or so, I wanted to catch a crow (since I saw lots of crows but few ravens), make it a pet and train it to say, "Nevermore! Nevermore!" Of course, it never happened. However, on this trip I found out just how smart ravens are... and how we should follow their example.
  • Ravens are the one animal that's truly playful. In fact, they spend a great deal of their time enjoying life. They do what's necessary--eat--and then they have fun. Most of the time their idea of fun is at the expense of other animals (including us people), so everyone else better be wary when ravens have time for mischief.
          What happens to writers when they don't take time out for joy? Do we get burned out? Does our writing lose its luster? 
  • Ravens make many different noises, everything from mimicking the toilet flushing to a car engine starting to a wolf.
          As writers, we have to mimic people around us. If we're writing fiction, we have to be able to imagine how different characters act, think and feel... and then we have to be able to use words to paint that onto the page. If we're writing nonfiction, we have to be talented at mimicking a historical period or in the case of memoir, we have to be gifted at recreating a past moment.
  • Ravens are clever. They know the work is possible as long as they work together.
          One of our guides told us that now they have raven-proof trashcans, but the ones they had just previously were not. The old trashcans had 12 different locks on the lid. Humans could undo them with just two hands. The inventor figured they were foolproof.

           However, the ravens fooled them. Twelve ravens would get together, each putting their beak under the lid's lip, and pull up. They'd fly up with the lid, drop it off on the side, and then proceed to take everything out. Picking and choosing what they wanted, they'd leave the rest of the mess for a human to clean up.

           Writing is much easier and much more effective if we work together. Become part of a critique group if you aren't already. Attend a writing conference and network. Follow writing blogs and note the resources available. Ask. Many times you only need to ask a question or make a request for a beta reader to get what you need.

          If you'd like to learn more about ravens, check out this page.

          I used to think I'd love being an otter. They look like they have a blast. Now I'm rethinking my choice. Perhaps I should choose the raven as my totem animal?

         What is your totem animal, and why? Mischievous minds want to know.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a dog rescuer for Love a Golden Rescue, a wife, mother, grammy and part-time writer. In her spare time she knits, zentangles, reads voraciously, works with the Gateway Writing Project and plays with Radar, her 78-pound blonde hunk of fun. If you'd like to read more from her, check out her blog.

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Friday Speak Out!: Maintaining Momentum Through the Dog Days of Summer

Friday, July 28, 2017
by Joey Lynn Resciniti

This summer has been glorious. Carefree, sunny days slip by while we sleep late and lounge poolside. The rapture of summer break is interrupted occasionally by reality. I should be writing. Or promoting. Or doing something productive.

But it's hot and my daughter is twelve. Surely she's not going to want to spend this much time with me next summer, is she? The demands of house and home win out and another day passes without any creative thought or productive activity.

Since too many deadlines will have passed by the time school resumes at the end of August, I must refocus my efforts. We're approaching the dog days of summer and it's time to develop momentum that will last to the fall. Here's the plan:

1. Get up before the rest of the house. Morning isn't my most productive time for writing, but a quiet hour in the home office can be beneficial in other ways.

2. Keep a running list of goals and deadlines organized and always visible. Crossing things off of a list always gives me deep satisfaction. Tasks need to be accomplished according to their importance, not just their palatability at the moment I undertake to do "real" work.

3. Be more selective about the little moments here and there that are so easily filled by scrolling a social media feed. Read a blog with a guest post opportunity, jot some notes about one of many works in progress, research, read, but please, stay off Facebook!

4. Make a meal plan for the week. The indecision surrounding mealtime is draining time and creativity from each day.

5. Carve out one hour per day for writing. Before bed, while dinner bakes, any quiet time when it's possible to slip away undisturbed, write!

6. Get as much mother-daughter quality time as possible. It's true that she probably won't want it next summer, so balance all of the productivity with adequate downtime.

With a little more structure, I should be able to achieve some of my writing goals during these last weeks of summer. How do you maintain your productivity this time of year?

* * *
Joey Lynn Resciniti released her first novel, No Room For Hondo, in June. She enjoys procrastinating future projects at her home in the north suburbs of Pittsburgh while spending long summer days with her husband, daughter, and the family's two shih tzus. Read more about their adventures at the Big Teeth & Clouds 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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Finding Characters in All the Right Places

Thursday, July 27, 2017
I’m never one to turn down a great idea, so when my husband suggested we try writing a script for a sitcom, I jumped on board. We had a clever idea, but needed interesting characters to fill it.

As I pondered this problem, my eyes wandered out the window. It was a beautiful morning. The oppressive Virginia humidity had not yet set in, and our neighbors were outside, grooming their lawns. We’ve only lived in this house for six months, but we know many of our neighbors by now. There’s the couple who run a pizza place. The newlyweds. The family who has a massive trampoline that all the neighborhood children treat as their own. The couple with a newborn who insist on using a plug-in lawnmower. The couple who eats all their meals at a table in their garage. So many different people in such close quarters.

I didn’t just see my neighbors. I saw inspiration.

When people find out I write books, one of the first questions I’m asked is if my characters are based on real people. My answer? Yup. They sure are.

You see, people ARE characters. Their lives practically write themselves. If you think about how complex people are – their likes and dislikes, their quirky nuances, their jobs (interesting or boring) – THIS is the stuff of which characters are made.

They aren’t hard to find. Think about your coworkers – that one who does that annoying thing you can’t stand. Character. How about the quirky woman at the beach – the one who prances across the sand and stops every twenty-five yards to throw her hands at the sky (yes, I saw this yesterday). Character. Or how about your best friend – the one whose secrets you’ve kept she was five? Modify her looks and age and voila! Character. Your friend will never even recognize herself.

To find interesting characters for your writing, all you need to do is pay attention. Potential characters already exist in your life. And if you think everyone in your life is boring, head to the beach, or the park, or the mall. Multi-dimensional characters are everywhere, and they are ripe for the picking.

Do you have a hidden resource for character ideas? Share it in the comments!

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.
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Interview with Lew Gibb: 2017 Winter Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Lew’s Bio:

Lew lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two dogs and has been reading anything he could get his hands on from the time he discovered the Dick and Jane Readers. He devoured the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, often by flashlight under the covers, as a child and has always dreamed of writing his own stories. It took until 2014 and National Novel Writing Month for him to act on that dream. In an uncharacteristic show of diligence, he completed a 100,000-word novel, Zombies For Breakfast and a new obsession. He’s been learning about writing and editing ever since. He’s now working on a thriller, Cufflink Conspiracy, as a student of The Book Project at The Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver. His flash fiction story, A Woman Alone was published online.

If you haven't done so already, check out Lew's award-winning story "Letting Go" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write it?

Lew: My inspiration for “Letting Go” was a story that just sort of came to me while free writing one morning. I do that sometimes to try and invite the creative muse into my brain. I started with a woman hiking and just sort of wondered what she was doing there and who was with her. Her brother appeared and of course siblings are going to argue so they started arguing about their different experiences growing up. This was originally a 1,500 word story that I condensed for the contest. It was a great exercise and the revision process made the story so much better. I was forced to cut everything that isn't directly advancing the story.

WOW: That’s so interesting to know how far you cut it down for this contest. What a great writing exercise! What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?

Lew: I love writing and being able to watch the story unfold as I go. I love when I'm really into a story and it's like I'm reading along while being able to affect the direction things take. So much fun.

WOW: And it sounds like that’s how “Letting Go” came to be: you put characters into motion and watched it unfold. I agree; I love that, too. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Lew: I'm reading the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown right now. It was recommended by a classmate in my Writing Apocalyptic Fiction class at The Lighthouse Writer's Workshop.

WOW: Can you tell us more about your novel Cufflink Conspiracy and your experience as a student of The Book Project at The Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop?

Lew: I just completed the first draft of my novel Cufflink Conspiracy. My current elevator speech: Professional poker player Jessica Banks arrives for a training session at her Krav Maga studio and discovers David Mizrahi, her teacher and best friend, dying amongst a pile of dead bodies.

One of the bodies is a colleague of David’s from his days in Israeli intelligence; a computer security expert who’s wearing a pair of cufflinks concealing a computer program that could change the world. Before she has a chance to think, Jessica finds herself fighting for her life and on the run from the Mossad, a vicious billionaire, and a ruthless crooked cop with a bad attitude. Jessica must evade her pursuers and uncover the mystery of the cufflinks before she ends up dead too. For fans of Robert Ludlum and Neil Stephenson, Cufflink Conspiracy is a nonstop, techno-thriller with a strong female protagonist (a mix between Sarah Connor and Ronda Rousey) that explores the themes of sentient AI, trust, friendship, and what it means to be a person.

I have learned so much at the Lighthouse. The teachers are fantastic and I can't say enough about all the really creative writers who are participating in the Book Project program. It's a two year program, during which students take classes and work with a mentor to produce a full-length book. Along the way our mentors guide us through the process and help with the mechanics of getting started, keeping it going, revising, and ultimately publishing.

WOW: First of all, congratulations on completing the first draft of you novel! And second, thanks for sharing that information about the Lighthouse. It sounds like an exciting experience. If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

Lew: My advice to other creative writers is to write every day and never stop trying to improve your writing.  And, finally, read every day. Read a lot.

WOW: Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.
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Respect the Art of Writing

Monday, July 24, 2017

I had a rough week that I’m glad is behind me. I was hormonal, my side hustle (part-time job) is draining me so much it’s cutting into my writing time, and I’m trying to figure out if I should polish off my resume and start applying for full-time jobs in lieu of freelance life. Plus, I had all these plans to be more productive this summer and back-to-school supplies are already back on the shelves! Need more time!

While trying to gather some perspective, I scrolled through some of the writing e-newsletters that routinely show up in my inbox. In the most recent issue of “Funds for Writers,” penned by author C. Hope Clark, she discusses the topic of trying to figure out whether you should get your satisfaction from writing for reward (notoriety and compensation, for example) or writing for joy.

I feel like I come to this particular crossroads a lot. I’ve had family members say things like “Well, maybe one day you’ll get something published …” and I have to politely explain to them that I’m published at least once a month in local magazines, for pay, even. But because I don’t have a book gracing the shelves of the local bookstores they don’t see it that way. And then I start to think that perhaps they are right—that I’m not a “real” writer because I can’t seem to get off my duff and publish a book.

But then I remember why I started writing in this first place. It was the only way I could make sense of the world. It was how I processed surviving a childhood of moving three or four times a year with my parents. Writing was how I dealt with the highs and lows, and then in college, I realized I could make a career out of telling other people’s stories. I’ve met so many writers over the years. Some write for children, some write for magazines, some write web content, some write poetry, mystery, etc.

I think what we all need to realize (that means, myself, too) is that it doesn’t matter what type of writing we do. Whether we write to earn income, to reach other like-minded people, for our sanity, etc., we need to respect the process. Just as we would respect someone who loves to cook, craft, sew, paint—writing is an art form. It soothes our souls. Not everyone artist makes money from what they create—but it should be respected nonetheless.

Do you respect your writing, or do you downplay what it means to you for others? Share in the comments what it is about writing that brings you joy or peace.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose work regularly appears in regional magazines.
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Find Out Why You are NOT Writing

Sunday, July 23, 2017
I have to share a recent writing coach story with you because I think it's a typical example of what happens to some writers, if not all, at one time or another. One of my clients has a great idea for a paranormal mystery/romance series, and she is a terrific writer. We have met a few times (over Skype) and discussed plot and character ideas, her story outline, and chapter 1. But now she is stalled, and so the last coaching session, we spent discussing why.

I threw some typical ideas and questions out there: Have you tried scheduling your writing like a doctor's appointment? Do you have unreal expectations--maybe you should just write 500 words a day? Should you start with a shorter project, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment?

Finally, after listening to her telling me what she labeled herself as excuses, I said, "It sounds like you're not working on what you're actually passionate about. You have a good idea. You could potentially make money on this, but it seems like maybe something else is calling to you."

She thought this sounded right, but she still didn't 100 percent agree, so we went back to the drawing board. I listened to her talk a while longer and heard her say, "Well, when I was writing my other two books, I had no problems." (They are non-fiction and about a medical condition she is passionate about.)

I asked, "What have you done with those two books?"

"Nothing," she said. And then I figured out the problem. She wants to write for publication--but she is never pursuing it. No wonder she doesn't have any desire to finish this mystery novel--will it too sit in a drawer or in a computer file, never to be read by anyone?

So we decided she should edit these books, work on her website, and find a way to self-publish these. By the end of the conversation, she was excited to work on this project and her entire attitude changed. Will she be any closer to finishing the novel? Well, no, but she will have experience and dedicated daily time to her writing career, which she can then use to propel herself into the world of finishing a novel.

So what's standing in your way? Currently I have a middle-grade novel that is close to being ready to send out. But another novel idea was calling to me--so I am working on that. I have to get it out of my system, and then I can turn my attention back to the middle-grade novel. 

A writing coach, partner, critique group, friend--anyone can help you with this exercise if you are making every excuse in the book NOT to work on your current WIP. Or leave a comment and let us help you here! 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO. She teaches a course for WOW! called Write a Novel With a Writing Coach. Check it out in the WOW! classroom

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Cue the Heartstrings

Saturday, July 22, 2017
In most movies and books, it's easy to tell when characters fall in love. Cue the wobbly knees and sweaty palms as two people embrace for their first kiss. Cue the birds singing in the background, the music, and the panoramic view of the New York City skyline, preferably with the Empire State Building windows lit in the shape of a heart.

There are many examples of extraordinary feats of strength and courage that prove someone has been struck by Cupid's arrow. These scenes are often powerful and beautiful. But there are times when it's just as effective to use a small, sweet gesture to melt the hearts of our leading characters.

Recently I watched The Way We Were. My new favorite scene is near the beginning of the movie when Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand were talking one night at an empty, outdoor bar/cafe. They don't know each other well, and the conversation isn't as smooth as it is later in the movie when they know each other more intimately. The dialogue stops and starts, and I already want them to like each other and want one of them to say something witty to make them fall in love with each other. But they don't. Not yet.

But here's what does happen: The camera cuts to Streisand's untied shoe. Redford is sitting on a table, or short wall (I can't remember exactly), but he sees the shoe and she sees that he sees the shoe and he pats the front of his thigh and tells her to put her foot there. And she does. And he ties it. When he's finished, he gently touches the top of the shoe with his hand for just a moment.

This scene captured everything they were feeling through a simple gesture that spoke volumes. She was vulnerable, he was caring. A kind act that shows a character's emotions in a way that isn't sexual can increase the heat factor to be explored later, while also building tension.

Here's two examples of how other movies effectively capture these small moments:

In Stranger than Fiction, IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) brought bakery owner Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) an assortment of flours (also a play on words). She, of course, immediately invites him to her place.

And finally, who wouldn't want Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) from the movie Say Anything... standing in their driveway holding a boom box playing In Your Eyes, by Peter Gabriel?

So take these cues from the movies to show your characters falling in love through a small gesture. And if you have a favorite example, please share it!

Mary Horner is a freelance writer and editor, and the author of Strengthen Your Nonfiction Writing. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.
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Friday Speak Out!: No Fear of Flying

Friday, July 21, 2017
by Susanne Brent

Write what you know is often advised, but when it’s time to write sex scenes I’m unsure what I know is adequate. My insecurities and inferiorities feel exposed when writing sex scenes. I feel literally naked. My performance on the page always feels lacking and, unlike sex, there is no one to ask, “was that good for you?”

I once shared with a writing friend a chapter of my novel involving sex between my two main characters. Afterwards, my friend said I needed to read more books with sex scenes. Apparently, it wasn’t good for her. I felt as if she had gotten a glimpse into my own sex life and it was not page worthy. If in a critique someone says the dialogue is stilted, or the plot confusing, the comments might sting, but to have someone say my sex scenes were poorly written made me fear attempting to step into the bedroom, the shower, or the back seat of a car, wherever my characters might become intimate, ever again.

Still, I wanted my characters to be fully human. I could avoid having my characters do nothing more than kiss or hug, but then I wouldn’t be challenging myself. Besides, what if my characters wanted sex? That seemed unfair to them.

As my blunt friend suggested, I could search through books for well-written sex scenes, but I remembered I had taken a writing class several years ago specifically on that subject. I dug through my treasure trove of resources, and found a class handout taken from a book by Elizabeth Benedict titled The Joy of Writing Sex.

In her book, Benedict used examples from literature to explore ways to illuminate her premise that writing a sex scene is not writing a sex manual. A sex scene should enhance characterization, tell us about our characters “sensibilities, circumstances and inner lives. Sex needs a purpose in your story. It needs to reveal something about them.”

Your characters should want, and want intensely, and not just for simple release. Bad sex in real life. Bad. Bad sex for your characters. Good. In fact, disappointing and unfulfilling sex can enhance readers understanding of a character especially when it has evoked strong emotions within them.

By this time, we all know the mechanics of sex. What a writer needs to do is recognize sex is the most complex of human exchanges and we are rendered vulnerable in our desire to connect. Strip psychologically naked your characters.

Which might just make you afraid to write about sex. That’s a positive thing. Benedict said what you are most afraid to write about is where the writing energy will reside. And take your cues from your character, allow them to show you the way. That takes some of the pressure off.

Finally, and I liked this suggestion the best -- it’s okay if a writer is aroused by her own writing. Maybe there can be joy in writing sex, after all.

* * *
Born in Chicago, I grew up reading the Chicago Sun Times that my dad brought home every night after work. The newspaper inspired me to become a journalist. I earned a journalism degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver and moved to Arizona to work on a weekly newspaper. I wrote on a freelance basis for a variety of publications including The Arizona Republic. I am hoping to complete my novel this year, and I write a blog. Find me at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Reading to Write

Thursday, July 20, 2017
What are you reading right now? What do you mean you don’t have time to read? Look, it isn’t me. It’s Stephen King, but he’s pretty clear on this – if you don’t have time to read, you simply do not have the time to write. He said so. And I have to suspect that the man might have a wee tiny clue.

But the truly shocking thing? The number of writers I know who don’t read or don’t read much. Their excuses vary as widely as the areas in which they write. They just don’t have time. They have families and day jobs. Or they don’t like much of what they’ve tried to read. It just isn’t any good. 

Honestly, I have to back Stephen up on this. You need to find time to do both. Don’t give me that look. I spend far too much time with teenage boys, the kings of scorn, masters of the scowl. You, my dear, are not intimidating. Maybe if you’d read you’d learn how to do it?

Because that is Stephen’s point. Read and you will develop the tools that you need to write. Here are just a few things that you can learn from reading.

Read your favorites, the books, essays, or poems, that made you want to write. Look for the things that you loved. When I was a kid, I was hooked by Marguerite Henry. I loved how she could take factual stories and spin them into compelling fiction. With this true-story vibe, her work has the ring of Truth.

Read things published in the last 2 years and you’re going to learn about the market today. This is important because it is vital to know what is out there now. Look at how it differs from what was published back when your inspiration took root. No way, no how would publishers have touched Maggie Stiefvater when I read YA. Stiefvater's YA has a raw edge. When I cut my teeth, S.E. Hinton was all the rage. Yes, I still love her stories but her books are very different from what publishers are buying today. You need to know about today.

Read, read and read some more. And as you read, pay attention to how the authors do various things. Stiefvater has created an anti-hero I adore. He’s edgy and a more than a bit mean. But he’s also frighteningly compelling.

I’m currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. He has spun a true story, 100% nonfiction, into something fast paced and compelling. He uses his timeline masterfully to pull you into the story. He plays with reality, giving you the facts as mainstream society originally saw them and then letting the reader in on what the Osage knew from the start.

Jane Yolen? I read her for a literary air, amazing vocabulary and masterful tellings.

Asia Citro? Her ability to teach science through fiction, combining fact and fantasy.

Lisa Wheeler? Fun word play.

April Pulley Sayre? Her use of rhythm.

Read to study what’s out there. Read to study good writing. Read so that you too can write. Seriously, just do it. It is well worth the time and effort and don't overlook audiobooks.  They can accompany you on a long commute, to the gym and even into the kitchen when you fix dinner.  Just find time to read.  Otherwise?  I'll have to go get Stephen.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins August 14th. 
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The Off-the-Grid Payoff

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Staying at my parents’ house, which is now my house, led to quite the writing epiphany.

You see, I’m too cheap to pay for an Internet connection (and lots of other stuff that may not be apropos to this discussion) while I was there. So I was forced to make a few changes.

I checked my email on my phone, once in the morning and once in the evening, because I didn’t want to eat up my data. I kept to necessary business only (like writing, friends, and family). And found out that I have about two minutes of necessary business every day. What the heck?

I skipped all my social media because, as I may have mentioned, I was pinching pennies. And found out that any important news with friends and family and sometimes, even writing, ended up coming to me in a text. Yeah, apparently, I don’t really need social media.

And finally, even with all the cleaning and work I had to do at the house, I still found a couple of hours almost every day to write. A couple of hours! Daily!

Flash forward to back-at-home—with my always-available and magical Internet—and bam! The epiphany smacked me upside the head. Namely, that I waste an awful lot of time on the interwebs. I mean, it truly is awful the hours I can piddle away on cruising around social media, reading funny emails, and looking up stuff just because I can. (How old is Jane Fonda? Where is that Bigfoot museum in Georgia? What are those little green people in Guam called?) And all that writing time I found the month before? Gone with the wind-ernet.

If I’m being honest, I had an inkling that I wasted a lot of time out there on the Internet. Being off the grid for a couple of weeks just proved it in a pretty resounding way. But an epiphany—even one that smacks you upside the head—is only as good as the will to make changes.

So to keep from wasting time in my inbox, I still check my email on my phone, twice a day, to see if there’s any business I need to deal with immediately. Later in the day, I dump all those other emails, zip-zip-zip! Okay, I might read one funny email, but seriously, an exercise that I might’ve spent more than hour on has become a ten-minute routine.

As for social media, and I’m mostly talking about Facebook here, I’ve struggled a wee bit. It appears that I’m incapable of policing myself once I jump into those social waters. I have to have some kind of social life, after all, and as a writer I have an innate and highly developed sense of curiosity.

So, yeah. The best I’ve been able to do is limit the times I check in, which for now, is twice a day. Limiting the time I spend there is my goal; I don’t always achieve it, but hey. It’s a work-in-progress.

Speaking of which, my latest WIP is coming along nicely. I’m finding more and more time to work on writing as I spend less and less time on the Internet. And I challenge you to try going off-the-grid this summer, if only for a week or two. You might be stunned at how much you accomplish when you walk away from wi-fi!

(P.S. Jane’s 79. Seventy-nine! How is that possible? The Bigfoot museum is in Gilmer County and the next time I’m near Blue Ridge, you know I’m going there. And the little elves in Guam are called duende. You do not want to mess with them.)

Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. She's weaning herself off the Internet but that doesn't mean you won't find her words, popping up here and there. You may even find her hanging out with Bigfoot (which looks a lot like her doxie, Libby).

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Interview with Winter 2017 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up, Danielle Dreger

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Danielle Dreger is a librarian and writer in Seattle. Her flash fiction has appeared in Pinch Journal, Cleaver Magazine, The Dime Show Review, 200 cc’s and The Driftless Review. She’s a contributor to Preemie Babies 101 and her essays have appeared in The Creative Truth Journal and Her first YA novel, Secret Heart, was published in October 2016. When she’s not working or writing, Danielle is traveling with her husband and toddler. Follow her on Twitter @danielledregerb or at Check out her emotional winning entry, "Tourism for Broken Hearts," here.

interview by Renee Roberson

WOW: Welcome, Danielle! Your bio says that by day you are a teen librarian, and I also noticed you have written an essay titled "What Librarians Wish Patrons Knew." Please share some of those tips with a fellow library lover--just in case I'm doing something wrong :-)

Danielle: I'm currently the Teen Services Coordinator for Sno-Isle Libraries in Marysville, WA. One of the best tips I have for library users is, if you don't see the book you want on the shelf (or in the catalog), ask the librarian to order it! Libraries rely on recommendations, especially when it comes to books by indie authors and small presses. If they don't have the funds to purchase it, they can always ask another library system to mail the book! Another tip: people forget that libraries offer more than free books and movies. Many libraries now have access to streaming services like Freegal or Hoopla for brand new music and TV shows, offer cutting edge programs like ukulele lessons or home brewing talks, and have online resources to help entrepreneurs start small businesses, teach travelers new languages, and provide free practice tests for SATs, ACTs, and professional exams.

WOW: I love it, and so true. Libraries are such great resources. Now on to your writing. By reading "Tourism for Broken Hearts" and the plots of some of your WIPs for children and teens, it's obvious music plays a huge role in your life. Who are some of the musicians you can't live without?

Danielle: My taste in music often changes with what I'm working on, but I've been a longtime fan of Tegan and Sara, Sleater-Kinney, and Arcade Fire. Often I'll hear a song on Pandora or Spotify that sends me down a musical rabbit hole and the next thing I know I'm singing along to a song by The Strokes or Lisa Loeb that I haven't heard in 10 years. And my household is currently obsessed with the Hamilton Soundtrack and the Hamilton Mixtape. I have a feeling the next YA novel I work on will be influenced my a musical theater soundtrack.

WOW: You released your YA novel "Secret Heart" in fall of last year and describe it as "A teenage Kissing Jessica Stein with a Dawson’s Creek vibe set to a soundtrack of Sleater-Kinney, Tegan and Sara, and Taylor Swift." What was the inspiration behind the novel?

Danielle: I had the first spark of an idea for Secret Heart at a Tegan and Sara show in September 2012. They'd just released their song "Closer" and it struck me. I was working on something else one night and Avery's voice came into my head and I wrote what later became a key scene set at a GSA meeting. Avery was so funny and raw and I found that once I started writing, I couldn't stop and I wrote the very first draft of Secret Heart during NaNoWriMo 2012. A lot of the music Avery listened to was music I was into either as a teenager or what I'd recently discovered.

WOW: When those characters pop into our heads it's hard to get rid of them, isn't it? As far as flash fiction, there is an impressive list of published short stories listed on your website. I encourage our readers to check out "Bulletproof Breasts" if they are in need of a smile. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Danielle: Flash fiction is my first love. Many of my stories take place abroad and are inspired by people or situations I've encountered while traveling. I spent a day in Zagreb about 4 years ago on my way from Split, Croatia to Libijana, Slovenia and went to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Seeing those artifacts of heartbreak stuck with me and a few years later "Tourism for Broken Hearts" was born. "Bulletproof Breasts" is a riff on the fake meet-cute story I share when strangers ask how I met my husband (we met online). Plus, I always wanted to foil a robbery! And of course I get a lot of inspiration for flash fiction from writing prompts and contests.

WOW: Your son was born a micro preemie and you are a contributor to the Preemie Babies 101 blog. How did this experience shape your views of motherhood?

Danielle: So many friends warned me that nothing would prepare me for motherhood, and there was definitely nothing that prepared me for a baby born at 27-weeks who spent hist first 6 1/2 months in a hospital. To be honest, I didn't even feel like a real mother at first. I was only allowed to hold him for a couple of hours a day. I'd be consulted, but hospital staff made all the decisions about how much he should eat and what he should be doing. I was sidelined those first few months and it wasn't until I finally brought him home (still on a feeding tube) that I felt like I was finally a mother. I think that after you experience something as traumatic as nearly losing your child, you look at everything differently. I thought I'd be more of a helicopter mom after his rough start, but I find that I'm much more easygoing than I expected. Maybe because he was isolated for so long I actively seek out new ways for him to experience the world. I want him to be fearless. He travels internationally with my husband and I does surprisingly well. And I love that I can contribute to Preemie Babies 101 and share my experiences with other preemie parents.

WOW: Thank you so much Danielle! I know our readers will enjoy learning more about what inspires your work. 
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Where is Your Writing Path Leading You?

Monday, July 17, 2017
Did you read Renee's awesome article yesterday? I did! It really got me to thinking about her article, about an article I wrote a while back about being content, and that led me to today's post as I ponder where my own writing path is going.

Personally, I had been known for my technical writing skills in my professional life. I wrote many technical training manuals, then that morphed into motivational materials in the work place, articles in trade magazines, etc... When I left my corporate job, I started blogging which turned into writing short stories, starting books, and working with authors.

I've never finished a book. I keep thinking I've been derailed. Have I fallen off the path? Has the road come to an end? Or am I right where I'm supposed to be? Maybe I'm not supposed to be the next great american novelist.

Have you published several books that sell well and are well received? Are you still working towards that one book that is going to put you at the top of the NYTimes Best Seller list? Are you writing for you or are you writing for others? Are you afraid of writing because of others?

What motivates you as a writer and where are you going? Will you know when you get there or like me, will you still feel there's more to come? This makes me think of some of the great artists who were never popular or wealthy while they were living. Maybe we will never know in our mortal life if we have "made it".

What do you think?

Share some of your thoughts and ideas here - you never know, something you say may have a profound and lasting meaning for someone else.


Crystal is a secretary and musician at her church, birth mother, babywearing cloth diapering 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, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin with her husband, four young children (Carmen 10, Andre 9, Breccan 3, Delphine 2, and baby Eudora due this fall), 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 here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Maybe in Another (Writing) Life

Sunday, July 16, 2017
I’ve been reading a chick-lit novel called “Maybe in Another Life” this week by an author named Taylor Jenkins Reid. In a premise similar to the Gwyneth Paltrow film, “Sliding Doors,” the reader is treated to alternating chapters on what would have happened if the protagonist, twenty-nine-year-old Hannah, had accepted a ride with her first love after returning to her hometown. In one scenario, she leaves a party with him. In another, she leaves with her best friend. The two storylines that play out are vastly different.

I’m enjoying the novel—even if the main character seems to worry a little too much about her love life, in my opinion (she has been wandering aimlessly from city to city with no real career path, for starters), and it did get me thinking about my own writing life. Along the way there were so many paths I could have taken and they all would have taken me down very different roads.

For example, upon graduating from college:
I considered taking a job as a reporter at a small, conservative newspaper in a town where I knew no one. It would have been a completely fresh start at the time, and I could have gained valuable reporting experience, even if the pay was pretty minimal.

Instead, I went to work as a media assistant at an advertising agency in town, where I did a tiny amount of public relations writing (mostly, I bought TV and radio ads for clients). It was a job that didn’t pay a lot (I had to work a second job on weekends), but it did have great benefits. I did also meet the guy who would eventually become my husband there.

And then, in my mid-20s:
I was working at a medium-sized advertising agency in a different city, when I was laid off from my media buying job without about a 100 other co-workers. We all scattered throughout the city applying for the same marketing and advertising jobs. I was offered a job selling automobile ads at a newspaper, which I took. But after the first day, I was so miserable and worried that I would never write again that I didn’t return to work.

Instead, I ended up waiting tables at an Outback Steakhouse while applying for any writing/marketing job I could find. After about six months, I heard back from a small public relations agency who just happened to have an opening for a public relations specialist. I interviewed and took the job, along with a great salary and a five-minute commute to my house, and slowly started writing again. I wrote client copy, press releases, stories for a local university’s alumni newsletter, and much more. And a few years later after my daughter was born, I had the courage and experience necessary to break into freelancing.

Now I find myself in my early forties with three manuscripts in a drawer and the idea for an adult suspense/thriller brewing in my head. (Aaagh!) But I’m trying to tell myself that there is still time to be published. I control my path, and I can make things happen if I buckle down. I could be sitting at a corporate office somewhere writing and editing digital content (I actually do that for a few freelance clients), or I can take the time to dust off a few projects and outline a new one. Which path would make me the happiest?

I’m pretty sure I know.

How has the path to your writing life been? Has it taken you unexpected places, with twists and turns? Is there a path you’re considering that you haven’t ventured down yet? I’d love to hear about it.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also obsessed with true crime. To be continued . . .
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TIps For Holding a Book Giveaway Contest

Saturday, July 15, 2017
Offer book prizes & gain readers
About seven years ago now  (I can't believe it has been that long), I wrote a blog post for Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes website about having a book giveaway contest. At WOW!, we host a lot of book giveaway contests for authors who are going on a blog tour with us, and many of the blogs they visit also hold giveaway contests. The philosophy for authors is that you want people who haven't heard of you or your books to visit a blog and read about you and your books. You also hope that they will be interested enough to enter to win or even purchase the book for themselves or a friend!

The flip side is what I wrote about on Darcy's website, which is how it can benefit the bloggers. When I first started a blog probably in 2008 (?), I called it "Read These Books and Use Them," and I hosted a ton of book giveaway contests. They are a good way to attract blog readers who will hopefully stick around and come back another day (or even sign up to have posts emailed to them).

So here are the tips that I came up with (edited to go with the 2017 publishing world) if you are interested in trying to hold a book giveaway contest on your blog for your book or someone else's.

Low cost. Whenever I hold a book giveaway contest, a publisher or author has provided a free copy for the contest or for my review. Very rarely do I purchase a book and decide to give it away. People will often contact bloggers about giving review copies or ebooks, which you might be able to give away on your blog, if it is okay with the author or publisher. If you haven’t had your blog for very long, you can contact publishers and authors yourself.

Plan the date. Probably the best days to hold a blog contest are at the beginning of the work week—Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. However, you can look at your own blog stats and see which days you have the most traffic to decide when to hold a contest. Once you have your copy and choose your day, let the fun begin!

Plan the contest and your posts. What are you going to do for your post? Book giveaway contest posts can be a review of the book, an interview with the author, or a guest post by the author. A book review can work well for a contest—especially if it’s a book you really enjoyed. If you can secure an interview with the author, these are often popular—everyone likes to hear what an author has to say about her book and the writing process. Guest posts are, of course, nice for you because they are less work. It’s really up to you which kind of post you want for the contest.

Plan your contest rules. The important thing is that you remember to post your contest rules. Most book giveaway contests are just comment contests, where people leave a comment about the book or even a question for the author. So, your rules will say something like: “Leave a comment or question on this post by Friday at 8:00 p.m. CST to be entered into a drawing to win this book. One person will be chosen randomly using Please make sure to leave an e-mail address with your comment. Books can only be sent to addresses in the United States and Canada.”

Some bloggers will allow “extra entries” if the entrants subscribe to the blog, follow the blogger on Twitter, or let others know about the contest. In these cases, the entrant is supposed to leave an extra comment (entry) for each task he or she completes, or you can use Rafflecopter, which has a free account for these types of contests and is super easy to use!

Publicizing the contest. How do you advertise your contest? Twitter, Facebook, MailChimp, Pinterest, Instagram, email--the options are endless--use the social media sites where you have the most followers and interation.

You may have a few subscribers to your blog, but you want a contest to attract new readers, too. New readers are more likely to check out a blog if there’s a chance they may win a prize. If you do no advertising, your contest will probably not be a success until you’ve built a huge readership. You can even e-mail your friends and family when you first start out and ask them to check out what you’re doing.

With a few simple plans and a little extra work on the day of your contest, you can attract new readers and have fun, too with a book giveaway contest.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, published author, blogger and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. Check out her website here.

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Friday Speak Out!: A DIY MFA

Friday, July 14, 2017
by Laurel Davis Huber

I do not have an MFA. I’ve often wondered: Is that a good thing or a bad thing? On one hand, it’s possible that having an MFA would have made it easier to sell my first book—a quick look at the daily sales report on Publishers Marketplace reveals a slew of debut authors with an MFA from Iowa or Columbia or the University of Michigan, etc. On the other hand, I have a pretty good hunch that the competitive environment, the constant feedback/criticism from peers, would have overwhelmed me. It’s possible I might have lost my truest writer self in the quest for validation. But who knows? In the final analysis, I’m happy with my invisible advanced degree, the ten-year DIY MFA.

At any rate, the issue is a moot point. As Margery Bianco, author of The Velveteen Rabbit, says in my novel, “Well, here we are now, and I suppose we must concentrate on what’s in front of us.”

I learned by stumbling along. The first step, since my novel is a work of historical fiction, was to spend years doing research. As I collected pieces of information, I found more than facts: the story line became clearer, and the characters themselves began to come alive.

For instance, some easy research for Margery was simply to read all of her books. From these alone one senses her warmth, her knowledge of children, her clear-eyed view of the world, and her great wisdom. (I would point interested readers to Poor Cecco, her largely forgotten novel for children that illuminates Margery’s humor and grace and uncanny understanding of human nature—all through characters that are toys and animals.)

Pamela, the artist daughter, was very unlike her mother. It’s almost certain that today she would have been diagnosed as bipolar, though in her time her disease was labeled simply “melancholia.” To understand her, I read widely on depression. William Styron (author of Sophie’s Choice) wrote about his own struggle in Darkness Invisible, a book that was particularly helpful in understanding the hell that is depression.

As for the actual writing—or “craft”—I have two habits. I rise at dawn (I know, I know, I can’t help it!) so most of my writing takes place in the early morning hours when my brain works best. And when I am “stuck”—when I cannot work out a transition or decide how a character should react, etc.—I go for a long walk. I take along paper folded into quarters and write notes as ideas spring up. See how easy craft is?

Not. Let me synthesize a million articles on writing for you. Good writing takes Devotion. It takes Heart. It takes An Unshakable Belief That Your Story Must Be Told. It takes Learning What Feedback to Accept and What to Reject. But most of all it takes Rewriting and Rewriting and Rewriting.

Now, in a nutshell, you have my personal DIY ten-year MFA program. It is open to all writers.

* * *
Laurel Davis Huber grew up in Rhode Island and Oklahoma. She is a graduate of Smith College. She has worked as corporate newsletter editor, communications director for a botanical garden, high school English teacher, and as senior development officer for both New Canaan Country School and Amherst College. She has studied with the novelist and short-story writer Leslie Pietrzyk (the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize winner for This Angel on My Chest) and has participated in several writing residencies at the Vermont Studio Center. Ms. Huber and her husband split their time between New Jersey and Maine. She is the author of THE VELVETEEN DAUGHTER. For more information, please visit her online at and on FaceBook
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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Two Ways to Take a Playful Break From Writing

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Okay, if you

  • are constantly driven to be productive 
  • never take a break from writing
  • wear a Depends so you don't even need to take a pee break from writing
      perhaps you should skip this post. 

For the rest of you slackers serious writers, keep reading. You might find a writing way to amuse yourself, leaving you invigorated when you return to your WIP.

1.  Twisted Revision

What about doing some revising in a fun way? Try taking a Little Golden Book in a whole different direction, like what Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett did with Birthday Bunny. What began as a sweet story becomes something... well, you'll have to check it out and decide what you'd call it. (Even though Battle Bunny is quite twisted, I know my middle-schoolers will enjoy doing this activity.)

If you just want to laugh and roll your eyes as you read the pdf, enjoy. And then get back to your current writing piece.

However, if you need to do something different--for a brief bit of time--buy a Little Golden Book, and doodle, cross out and revise to your heart's content... and then get back to your WIP.

2.  Menu Memoir

I know this is a lousy photo--it doesn't do the document justice--but what this writer did was find an image of ancient-looking paper, and did a "food memoir" on it. (The paper looks wrinkled and stained but in reality, it's flat and in perfect shape.)

A Nerinx teacher I worked with this summer created this, and I'm definitely going to do this with my middle-school students this year. It's set up like a menu, with pizza choices, domestic delights and international delicacies. It's a brilliant way of going down memory lane in a very unique way. Here is are a few excerpts from Sarah's piece:

Pizza: Street Vendor Pepperoni and Mushroom, random window, dubrovnik, croatia
           Drive-through window on foot, Kevin paid in kuna, walked through time, ate where Game of
           Thrones is filmed

Domestic Delights: Raw Oysters on the Half Shell, seedy beachside bar, jacksonville, florida
                                Slimy, briny, slurpy, gulped them down with hot sauce and lemon, laughed with
                                Robbie, he made me try new things

International Delicacies: Ham and Brie Crepe,  street vendor, paris, france
                                        Three minute crepe, oozing brie sticking to wax paper, sitting by the Siene,
                                        feeling tres chic, fulfilling a dream

Probably you wouldn't want to toss aside the novel/article/essay/short story/poem you're working on to submit and dive full-time into a memoir like this. But you might enjoy working on a couple of menu items as a short-term diversion.

How about you? What is a way you playfully take a break from writing? Could you see yourself either revising a Little Golden Book or writing a memoir centered around food?

Sioux Roslawski is a wife, mother, grandmother, dog rescuer, freelance writer and middle school teacher. After finishing a novel-length manuscript and then dousing it with gasoline and watching it burn because it still stunk (after the third draft) she's now putting the finishing touches on a YA historical novel that she's super thrilled with. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, go to her blog.
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Author Websites: Time Well Spent

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
In the midst of my first book release four years ago, I realized I needed a website. Desperate for a quick solution, as I didn’t have the time or the know-how to create my own webpage, I did what any self-respecting, resourceful teacher would do. I paid a student to do it for me.

The site had all the necessary information: contact info, my book cover and blurb, upcoming events like my online book tour (with Women On Writing, of course) and, as the coups de grâce, an unflattering photograph of myself coupled with my biography. The font on the website was adorable and artsy. A shadow of a cypress tree (my symbol of choice) crept across the top. At the time, it got the job done and required no work on my part.

I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t look at it more than once or twice after it was created.

A few months ago, some inexplicable urge prompted me re-visit the website. Initially, I resisted this impulse. I knew what I’d find - something old and outdated. Because I didn’t create it, I had no clue how to update or change any of the information. Short of paying the yearly domain name costs, I didn’t know the first thing about my website.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I’d been avoiding the moment. I know myself, and once I saw the website again, I’d be unable to ignore it any longer. And there it was. Still the same contact info. Still the same book cover and blurb. Still the same announcement of my upcoming book tour from 2013 coupled with the unflattering picture. It was, in short, embarrassing.

As authors and writers, we often neglect our online image. While we love the written word, and there is nothing more exhilarating then holding our published books in our hands, we can’t ignore the power and influence the internet has on our success. When I discover a new author, I often visit their websites, seeking information. Maybe they have a book of which I’ve never heard. Maybe they are visiting my area soon and are offering book signings. Maybe I’m just curious so see what they look like. Either way, visiting their website helps me become acquainted with that author. We would never want to deny our loyal readers the same privilege.

Even if you are not yet published, a website is a great platform to share chapters of your writing. You can also blog on your website and gain followers that way. If you are published, it’s an effective method of sharing all your books with your readers. Use the website to connect with them on a more personal level. Give them a glimpse of who you are.

I’m proud to report that I worked up the courage to erase my old website and create a new one through WordPress. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I learned through trial and error. There were some moments when I spewed four-letter words at the computer screen and huffed away in anger. Eventually, however, it began to take shape, and I regained control of my online image.

I’ve vowed to update my website at least once a month. It’s now clean and informative, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s also the first link on Google when you look up my name, which is exactly what I want.

Sometimes the one thing holding us back is our own self-doubt. Don’t make my mistake. There are many ways to create a simple website. All you need is the courage to start.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.
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Interview with Flash Fiction Runner Up, Michelle Rene

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Michelle Rene is a creative advocate and the author of a number of published works of science fiction, historical fiction, humor and everything in between. You may have also seen her work under the pen names Olivia Rivard and Abigail Henry.

She has won several indie awards under her Michelle Rene name for her historical fiction novel, I Once Knew Vincent. Her latest novel, Hour Glass, will be coming out February 2018 with Amberjack Publishing.

When not writing, she is a professional artist and all around odd person. She lives as the only female, writing in her little closet, with her husband, son, and ungrateful cat in Dallas, Texas.

To connect with Michelle Rene, please find her here...
Twitter: @MRene_Author
Instagram: mrene_author

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Winter 2017 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Michelle: I have entered your contest before and was really impressed with your organization. The judges are always great and the time you put into the competition is wonderful and noticeable. You are really passionate about this short form of writing. I love the challenge of flash fiction, and the WOW! Women on Writing contest gives me not only a deadline but a challenge.

WOW: Thank you for your kind words about WOW. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, Six Percent? It’s a bit unsettling to read!

Michelle: I'm not really sure where the initial idea came from. Something about the image of children trying desperately to act as soldiers began it, I think. That led to the idea of a disease that mainly targets adults, leaving the world to children. What a frightening thought for children and teenagers to be left with a broken world and only six percent of adults around to help. How do you fight a disease when most of the doctors and scientists are gone? The premise was a fun, if not unsettling, rabbit hole to follow. I really wanted to challenge myself and try to convey all that complexity in under 750 words. It was a great exercise in showing a lot while saying very little. That said, with the recent success of Six Percent in this contest and the overwhelmingly positive reaction I got from the story, I am currently turning into a full-blown novel.

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

Michelle: I am probably the worst person to ask this. I'd love to say something profound here but the truth is I work from home, I have a three-year-old son, and I write wherever and however I can. During naps, after school drop-off, and sometimes with Thomas the Train in the background. I carry ear plugs with me so when my husband and son are in the other room watching Star Wars for the millionth time, I can concentrate. I recently acquired an iPad Pro which has revolutionized my ability to be mobile and write wherever. People often ask how I can go straight from cleaning a poopy diaper to writing a chapter, and my response is normally that it's what I have to do to meet my deadlines. Outlines help me. Outlines keep me sane and remind me where I'm supposed to be in a novel. Outlines are my friend.

WOW: You have a novel coming out early next year. What was the writing and publishing journey like for you with this book?

Michelle: My novel is a historical fiction piece about Calamity Jane called Hour Glass. This will be my third novel published. I actually wrote the first draft of Hour Glass in sixteen days for NaNoWriMo. No one believes me on this one, but it's true. The title came to me before anything else did, and I sort of built this story about a boy, his autistic sister, Calamity Jane, and this family that came together around them. So many westerns and historical pieces of that time period leave out the amazing women who braved the west, and I wanted to change that.

As for my publishing journey, I had an agent a while back. We were not a good fit, so we went our separate ways. I sold my first two novels, a novella, a novelette, and several short stories myself to indie publishers and magazines. My novel, I Once Knew Vincent, won a few indie awards, so I decided to look for a new agent. I signed with RO Literary in early 2016, and they sold Hour Glass to Amberjack Publishing last year. Hour Glass will release in February 2018.

This sounds super easy all condensed like that, but to all you authors out there who are trying to get agents and trying to get published, it wasn't easy. There are pros and cons to all aspects of publishing whether you're agented, unagented, indie published, self published, or traditionally published. I've done all of these. The only thing I think I've done right is believe, with unwavering tenacity, that Hour Glass deserved a good home. I found that with Amberjack.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Michelle. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Michelle: My constant and only bit of advice I give is to never give up. Never stop writing. I will have three novels published by 2018 and a number of smaller works. You know how many novels I've written since Hour Glass? Three. Well, two and a half to be fair. How many pieces do I have still not published? Four and a half novels, three novellas, and a ton of short stories. The point is keep writing. Keep working. Keep learning. Keep submitting. Don't let anyone convince you that you aren't good enough. Don't stop.


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