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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Margo Dill--You Stopped Me From Writing

I recently hired Margo Dill to critique my manuscript. Dill delivered what she advertised: feedback.

However, what she wrote about my story stopped me from writing myself off as a writer who would have always wondered "What if...?"  

Here's the quick backstory: I'd written a middle grades novel for NaNoWriMo of 2016. I'd done lots of research (it's historical fiction). I'd revised as I wrote, so I knew it was perfect. Okay, deep in my head (but not my heart) I figured it wasn't completely perfect. I could probably be forced to begrudgingly admit that my manuscript needed a bit of minor tweaking, but just a few adjustments here and there.

Margo did not agree.

Here is some of what she suggested:

  • Kill off one of your characters--literally. My main character has two younger sisters. Margo thinks I should get rid of one. Moving the story along doesn't require both of them, and it would make my story easier to tell. (Making this revision process less work? I'm all for that.)
  • Cut scenes but delete nothing. She thought I should cut the unneeded scenes, but paste them into a file for possible later use. (For example, if in the future an editor says, "You need a scene right here where the main character is eavesdropping on his parents," I could let them know I already have one that I cut during an earlier revision.) After reading her critique and reflecting upon my story, I knew beyond a doubt Margo was right. My story has lots of unnecessary stuff in the first three quarters of the story... and then the last quarter is rushed through. (Yeah, I admit it. I did do that. I spent way too many pages setting up the story--which is the stuff I could write, and then hurried through the exciting part like it was an afterthought--because it was completely foreign soil for me as a writer and I didn't feel very confident when writing about it.) Which brings me to the next suggestion...
  • Plan out the story. Divide it up into 3 acts. Create a story arc. Really? Are you serious, Margo? I'm a pantser, not a planner. I fly by the seat of my pants. Outlining my story? Creating a storyline? Making a tension graph? It's never been my modus operandi.) With very specific suggestions, she gave me the beginning of a plan. I had definitely yadda-yadda-yadded my way through a tension-filled historical event... and I'd managed to do it with only a whiff of tension and precious little excitement. (That takes true talent, right?)

Oh, don't get me wrong. Margo gave me lots of specific praise. The constructive criticism was just that--constructive. It was far from disheartening. In fact, the experience was energizing and validating. 
I've now pasted her feedback to the beginning of my manuscript, to help keep me on track. I'm now excited over the prospect of completely revising my manuscript. I've even done some preliminary research to fill in my story's huge gaps. 
And how did Margo stop me from writing myself off as a frustrated writer... as a writer who would always wistfully wonder What if 
Well, if I keep the manuscript as is, due to my stubbornness/laziness/conceitedness, it will never ever get published. With some lots of work, it has a chance... 


Sioux Roslawski is now wearing a hardhat and is in the middle of taking a wrecking ball to her manuscript... which is okay, because when the construction tape is torn down, she'll (hopefully) have something shiny and pretty to shop around to various publishers. This summer she's teaching, but July is completely free. If you'd like to see more of her writing (if she ever writes a new post), check out her blog.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Weigh Your Words

Side with Roseanne. 

Demand the Chew also be “fired”. 

I still love ya!

Just don't go barefoot in your cowboy boots cuz ain't no one got time for that kinda stink.

But seriously....

I believe in freedom of speech but I also believe in the right of an employer to terminate an employee who doesn’t align themselves with the mission and vision of the employer. I also believe there is a gift in every ugly situation and that gift is the lesson learned or the take away. My take away from all this publicity is that each of us needs to weigh our words carefully.

I cannot teach my children that bullying is wrong and still amuse myself with social media photos and videos of people different than myself (intentionally not naming them, because I see absolutely no reason to call attention to their bad behavior – you know what I’m talking about). I cannot teach my children to love themselves if I look in the mirror and criticize my body or call myself names when I make a mistake. This goes for anyone. It is twice as important for those of us who put pen to paper. Yes, we can later apologize for hurting someone’s feelings or for something coming across the wrong way, but in today’s social media world the truth is: once it’s out there, it’s out there. The damage is done.

I don’t think we necessarily have to sit idly by and stifle our thoughts about particular sensitive topics. I just think we need to consider carefully what we are putting out there. We need to weigh our words carefully. I’ve ranted about things and later found out I hurt the feelings of those I would never want to hurt. It’s an awful feeling. I suggest that we ourselves read and re-read our words and then if we are in doubt, have someone else take a look at them. This is where a writer’s group may come in handy. Taking it to the group gives us some different perspective but also allows us to “sleep on it” as my daddy would say. The time and perspective may help us say what we want to say in the way we wanted to say it without hurting others.

If there is no place in our schools for bullies, there should be no place in our homes either. I challenge each of us to do our part to weigh our words carefully so as not to hurt others. Another quote from Daddy to end this little piece is this: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. He’s been gone nearly 30 years and this advice (as well as plenty more) still seems pertinent.

We would love to hear from you. So here are some questions to ponder – leave your answers in the comments!
**What’s something someone said to you as a child that is still sound advice today?

**Have you ever said anything on social media and regretted it? 
What did you do to try to remedy the situation?

**What advice do you give to your children or family members 
concerning social media and cyber bullying?


PS – I think you’re all pretty fantastic!

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, five young children (Carmen 11, Andre 10, Breccan 4, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora), 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!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

My computer is full of recorded ideas that have not been fleshed out, projects that are halfway finished, or finished and looking for a home. Sound familiar?

As a member of a writer's group, I've found the support and encouragement I need to work on/finish these projects, and I'm making progress. But recently, it seems like my computer hides files and documents that contain the perfect paragraph or description of a sunset or character sketch I know I wrote, but can't find.

Earlier this year a writer friend asked for advice regarding which project to work on next. He had made a list of the projects, and determined that the simple act of making a list helped him organize the tasks at hand. Viewing his options meant that he could measure them, and then manage them.

I decided to follow his example, and realized that naming them and placing them in one folder titled WIP (Work in Progress), also made me feel more organized. I discovered that I have seven major projects I'm working on, and my list looks like this:

Novel 1 Contemporary - Finished but not polished
Novel 2 Eco thriller - Plot hole problem that I recently solved but haven't actually written
Short Stories - A bunch, one in particular that I just figured out how to finish, and another one with a complete plot, but needs more depth and emotion
Poetry - Way more than I realized, with one group/collection going out in a few days
Nonfiction article/book 1 - Women's History
Nonfiction article/blog/book 2 - Minimalism
Nonfiction book/article/blog 3 - Education/Teaching

My work has been divided into the seven writing projects listed above, coincidentally, one for each day of the week. I made a folder for each one and inserted all pertinent files, which took much longer than I thought.

All of the projects are rather lengthy except some of the short stories, which I'm close to finishing. I don't always work on a regular schedule, and don't necessarily start one project and work until it's finished. I tend to jump back and forth between projects.

If I have an hour, I can pick one and knock off some writing that puts me closer to my goals, instead of spending time trying to find that perfect description of a sunset I know I put somewhere. Adding five pages a week to any of these projects means 260 more pages at the end of the year.

If I don't write, I can submit to literary journals or promote something on social media. There is no shortage of projects, so there is no shortage of work to be done. But now that I can measure it, I can manage it.
Mary Horner is a certified medical writer, teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges, and earned the writing certificate from UM-St. Louis.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Authors Joining Together For Marketing Help

A couple of the writers in my critique group are published authors in the cozy mystery and paranormal romance genres. They're both actively writing and publishing a series of books and getting connected with other writers in their genre through social media. These connections are helping them market their books in new and innovative ways. Although, working in author groups isn't that new of a concept.

I remember the Three Silly Chicks (picture book writers), who were three picture book writers who had a successful blog reviewing silly picture books about six years ago. But I'm noticing it more and more with published writers I know, especially in genre writing, and so here are three ways authors are joining together to market their books and gain new readers. The key, in my opinion, is to find authors that write for the same audience that you do.

1. Facebook groups/pages: Many authors for adult readers are joining together on Facebook and creating groups, pages, and parties, where they are attempting to connect readers with writers. The hope is that readers and writers can interact and connect on these pages because readers are invited by an author they already love, and they will find another author or two in the same genre to love also.

So for example, if you love to read mysteries, trust me--there are Facebook groups that will connect writers and readers together. The same is true if you write them! Many of these you have to request to join because they're trying to keep spammers at bay; but usually, if you are legit, you will not be turned down.

2. Anthologies: Some writers in the same genre or for the same audience (like YA) are joining together and publishing anthologies. Again, the hope is that one author's fans will buy the book, read all the stories or poems, and discover other authors of the same genre to check out their books. So if you are asked to join an anthology, find out who else will be in it. If any of the writers have a good following, it is in your best interest to write a fantastic story for those readers and include a bio with links to your social media and titles of your books for sale.

3. Contests: Recently I entered a contest where several authors (in the same genre--are you tired of me saying that yet?) joined together to offer a great prize (like a Kindle) and sent the announcement to each of their mailing lists and advertised it on their social media pages. To enter to win the Kindle, interested readers needed to sign up for at least one new newsletter and then they also received extra entries for checking out other authors from the list.

Be smart with this kind of promotion. It may cost you some dollars to help buy the prize, but make your Facebook page engaging, your blog active, and your newsletter helpful if you get new subscribers because of the contest. Let them know about you and your books to hopefully gain some new readers out of people trying to win the big prize!

Have you been a part of an author group like this? What did you do to join together?

Join my new marketing class! says Margo Dill, who wrote this blog post! Margo's marketing class will help authors in all genres figure out individualized plans and learn from working authors in the trenches marketing their books. Editors with their own businesses will also benefit from the class. Check it out here--it's being offered in July and September.  

photo above by thomasbrightbill on 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Interview with Jeanne Golden-Burke: 3rd Place Winner in the Q2 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Jeanne’s Bio:

Jeanne Golden-Burke is a financial consultant in the healthcare industry and lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 3 four-legged furry friends.

A deep fascination with the minds of serial killers inspired her to earn a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she lived in NYC for two years.

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

A creative writing class in her undergrad years (and an active imagination) inspired her to put her stories to paper. And she’s been tapping away at the keyboard ever since.

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in WOW!’s Creative Nonfiction Contest! I love the way you’ve structured your essay, with the repetition of addressing the narrator’s father, and how that salutation changes over time. How did you begin writing this piece, and how did it and your writing process evolve to use this structure?

Jeanne: I was struggling with processing some things and a friend recommended that I write a letter (even if I never sent it to anyone). It started with the end and morphed into snapshots from important moments in my life. I was inspired by an audio clip I heard on Facebook from a little girl who was recorded giving messages to her father at various stages of her life (he had died in the 9/11 terror attack). It was so poignant and emotional, and it really hits home when you hear it from that person at those specific ages in their life. It felt so much deeper that way. And was maybe therapeutic at the same time.

WOW: And your essay is also quite poignant and emotional. I think you nailed it. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by writing this essay?

Jeanne: I learned that I can pull emotion from other people with my writing. It was surprising how many folks have told me that it brought tears to their eyes. That was, to me, a compliment to my story and writing and I am deeply grateful for the sentiment.

WOW: It’s heartwarming to hear that you got a meaningful response from your family. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Jeanne: There is one book, The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, that really spoke to me. Her story resonated with me, for the content but also the artistry in which she spun the story. It wasn’t a feel-good book, but it kept me reading to the end. Anytime I read a good book, I think about what makes it a good book and if I could ever hope to recreate what I felt for someone reading my work.

WOW: I also enjoyed The Glass Castle, which gripped me from beginning to end, too, because of the way she tells her story. How does your background in Forensic Psychology inform your writing?

Jeanne: Oftentimes it leads toward more dark, thriller type topics. It’s always been a fascination and has never really gone away.

WOW: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Jeanne: Don’t over think it. Put it all down on paper and then go back and slowly change phrases or words that you aren’t happy with. And stop judging yourself. For me, so far, writing has been more about the journey, so I want to enjoy every bit of it and not stress about getting everything perfect or just so.

WOW: Yes, I think that’s important to consider the journey, and it’s something I often overlook. Thank you for that reminder. Anything else you’d like to add?

Jeanne: Writing can be therapeutic, even if no one ever reads it. Allow yourself to experience the amazing moments in your life and let go of the horrible ones. Take care of your soul, you are the only one who truly can.

WOW: Thank you for your wonderful writing and thoughtful responses. Happy writing! And enjoy the journey!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Finding Home for Your Work Through Contests

For many, many years I was afraid to write fiction. I considered myself a journalist, had never taken a creative writing class in college, and thought that was a dream better left unexplored. I enjoyed flexing creative muscles working on different types of magazines, and it was a magazine article on alternative treatments for autism that won me my first award with Writer’s Digest in 2009 with their Annual Writing Competition.

So I had my first award. I was proud. I entered a few different essay contests, but never gained much traction. I dabbled in creative writing by using prompts to help me outline a few short stories. Around 2011, (before I started working with WOW!), I entered a story from one of those prompts in WOW’s Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest. I was thrilled when the story made it through first round of judging, but didn’t end up placing. Flash fiction was a good place to start—you have to develop and tighten up a story in 750 words or less. I worked on another story inspired by a missing persons case in the city I live in and submitted it to another one of WOW’s contest. It also made it through first round judging, but didn’t place. For that story, I felt a nagging sense that the story had merit, although I hadn’t found exactly the right voice. I polished it some more and entered it once again. In the Depths placed as a runner up and remains one of my favorite stories to date.

With that encouragement I completed a few fiction manuscripts (including a few NaNoWriMos) all while still working as a freelance writer. True crime stories have drawn me in again and again, though. After telling myself for several years that I was going to enter the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards, I sat down last fall and wrote two specifically for the contest—one for the Suspense/Thriller genre and another for the Young Adult category. I almost fell out of my chair at work when I received the e-mail that I had won first place in the Suspense/Thriller category for "The Polaroid." It boosted my confidence and motivated me to dig back into my latest young adult manuscript, which features a teenage female protagonist with sensory processing disorder.

But I had been bitten by the contest bug. I wrote another short story specifically for the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Contest (1,500 words or less) and submitted it. It didn’t place but I kept going. In early March, I noticed on Facebook that the Women’s National Book Association was holding their annual writing contest, which has four categories: fiction, memoir, poetry and new this year, young adult. I entered the 1,500-word story and the contemporary young adult story from the Popular Fiction Awards that hadn’t placed. A few weeks ago, while preparing for a run, I checked my e-mail to learn that yet another story had found a home. “The Name You’re Not Supposed to Call Women” received Honorable Mention (fourth place) in this year’s Women’s National Book Association Annual Writing Contest in the Young Adult category. I was elated.

Writing short stories has helped breathed new life into my writing. I’m more inspired than I’ve been in years and motivated. I no longer feel embarrassed that two different low-residency MFA programs in creative writing rejected me a few years ago. My advice to any writer would be to not give up. It’s that simple. If you have a feeling about a piece or manuscript, work on it, submit it, keep revising, and look for the right place to find it a home. You never know—you’d be surprised at the outcome (and contest prizes aren’t too bad, either).

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing and development director at a nonprofit theatre company. When she’s not promoting shows, she writes for several local regional magazines and polishes her short stories and manuscripts every chance she gets. Visit her website at

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Speak Out!: Solo Struggle to Quiet Satisfaction...

by B. J. Thompson

courtesy Pixabay
All the months, sometimes years, of research and editing, the same being said for characters endlessly haunting, for pivotal scenes e'er repeating in one's mind...all that seasoning is a solo endeavour. It has to be. However disquieting, traumatizing, thought-provoking the work is, the scribe prays for even a modicum of that human experience to wash over the devourer of her tale, and that a silent tremor be felt in the reader’s heart, if only for a while.

And then on to the next...from the figurative rape of Nanking to the romance of the century.

Writers must wash their dirty laundry in public. The blood, sweat and tear stains from the former work have to be mentally white washed in order to dish dirt anew. It's an onerous and exhausting task but must be done in order to write forward, as write forward we writers must.

A silent, solo struggle.

Yes, satisfaction is felt from those who enjoyed the work. Writers get to smile and experience that all-knowing, unspoken communiqué, writer-to-reader, and for a moment, souls touch—what I believe may be the true quest of an artist. Alas, the join will break, and the wordsmith must return alone to her cerebral lair. There is another path to walk, new characters to meet, new obstacles to overcome and new lessons to be learned.

Thinking, reliving, digesting, reducing, presenting...hoping for that all-too rare human touch.

No wonder I pray for Cocktail Hour...

* * *
B. J. Thompson is a retired public relations liaison and currently a Calgary, Canada-based author of three literary/historical novels all available now on Amazon; No More Blood - Epilogue to the life of Truman Capote & In Cold Blood, Eighteen Minutes to the Beast - a Nixon Watergate Thriller, and Sessions - Predator vs. Shrink Who will survive? B. J. has done extensive travelling and now lives to swim, hike and fish in the Rocky Mountains, enjoy friends and family, lead an avant garde writers group likened on the 1920s Montparnasse style, and pen her dark tales on either side of Cocktail Hour. B. J.'s upcoming historical epic, entitled AIR, tells of six US Navy sailors in 1941 as they try to hold on to life after the USS Oklahoma capsizes in Pearl Harbor. All six, trapped below the sea, find out there can be far worse things in life than death. AIR is due to be released in late 2019.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Contract with Your Reader

It doesn’t matter what you write or who your reader is. If you write for anyone other than yourself, you have a contract with your reader. Your reader approaches your work with a certain expectation based on the genre you are writing, the description of your work and even your title. Deliver or risk losing your reader.


Every genre has conventions so, judging by genre, readers approach your work with certain expectations. A mystery will have an unanswered question. A cozy mystery will probably have a murder but readers won’t “see” it take place.

Nonfiction is factual. Everything, from dialogue to details, can be found in one or more sources. Facts are not altered to create a more dramatic story because, if they are, readers who love factual writing will feel cheated.

If I submit a novel and describe it as a romance, agents and publishers will expect certain things. The protagonist is wildly attracted to someone but they can only be together if they overcome certain obstacles. If there is no attraction, I will have broken my contract with the reader. The best I will be able to hope for is a rejection letter.


How do you describe your work in your cover or query letter? While you don’t want to give too much away, you have to be honest with your reader. This means that once again, you have to know the conventions for a romance, a fantasy or a middle grade novel.

But your summary also has to be accurate. If you tell me that everyone on Earth disappears and one couple has to find out why, I have three expectations. 1. They are not from Earth because everyone from Earth has vanished. 2. There is something huge at risk that hinges on finding out what happened. 3. They have a reasonable chance of figuring this out.

Otherwise? I’ll relax with someone else’s work next time.


Last but not least, your title has to be accurate. The Secret of the Mummy’s Curse needs to involve a secret, a mummy and a curse. I know, I know. The writer doesn’t always have the final say in their title.

But when a book club reads The Bad Ass Librarians of Lichtenstein, it doesn’t matter how fascinating the history is. If the bad assery belongs to the teens the librarians recruit and not the librarians themselves? I will still be hearing about how inaccurate your title was months later because there are two librarians in this particular book club.

Genre, description, title. They all form a contract with the reader. As a writer, your goal is to keep that reader reading, not give them an excuse to put your work aside for housework, grading, or, worse yet, the work of another writer.


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 July 9th, 2018.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rainy Writing Day

Eight. Straight. Days. Of. Rain.

This is not an exaggeration. We’ve had eight straight days of rain here in Northern Virginia. Not the type of rain that lets up for several hours at a time, thus providing a welcome hiatus. Not the type of drizzle that makes your hair frizz but doesn’t require an umbrella. The type of rain that falls, hour after hour, in sheets. The type of rain that makes even a warm day chilly. The type of rain that causes your miniature poodle to choose to do her business in the house and face your wrath, rather than brave the elements outside. That kind of rain.

Writers are sensitive people. Eight days of rain may make us sad and lethargic, longing for the sun and wishing for its streaming light to flood our writing haven. But it can also be the perfect backdrop for a productive day.

Start by pulling on a warm, fleecy sweatshirt and fluffy socks (we all own a pair).  Then, go outside. If you have a porch or covered deck, sit.  If not, open a window and pull up a chair.  Don’t write. Don’t take notes. Sit, watch, and listen. You can hear the rain hit the pavement. See the steam rise from the road. Notice a cat skulking beneath a bush. It catches you watching and darts back into the woods behind your neighbor’s house. The air is cold and your fingertips might turn white, but ignore them. Take a deep breath and let your mind wander to your work in progress, to that scene you want to finish, to that new idea lurking beneath the surface.

It’s there – just inside the house – waiting for you. Maybe sit outside a few minutes longer. Maybe get up right now. Either way, choose the right time to make your way back inside and pull up that manuscript. As it loads, pour yourself a cup of tea. Or coffee. Or wine. Take a sip, glance back out at the rain, and relish the silence.

If you haven’t already, crack open the nearest window. You may be indoors, but it’s important to embrace the weather.

Now it’s time for mood music. You’ll want something mellow to enhance the rainy-day experience. We’ve moved away from sad and lethargic. The rain has created the perfect writing day. Get those tunes going. Find your way back to your characters, to their world.

The rainfall comes in droves, now, but you are inside, with your music and the melody of the rain intertwining together. Embrace this calm and the productivity that goes with it.

Ready? Write.

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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Interview with Mary Ellen Wall - 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Runner Up

WOW! recently announced the winners of our 2017 Fall Flash Fiction Contest and we are proud to announce Mary Ellen Wall from Owensboro, Kentucky as one of the runners up with Three Fingers.

About Mary Ellen

Roaming from Egypt to the Philippines to Holland to the Hebrides to Tasmania to a tiny Indian Ocean atoll and to points between opened my eyes to others. Being a US Navy Machinist working on nuclear submarines widened my technical knowhow. A few degrees grew my understanding of form and substance. Building my log cabin in the Kentucky woods gave me a refuge from the world’s turmoil. Brewing my own ale, bitter, porter, stout, wine, cider, kyser and mead (and drinking it) made me ready to spin some stories.

I’d love to meet you! Visit

----------interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto
Mary Ellen's Cabin -

WOW:  You have been literally everywhere – do tell how you ended up in a log cabin in the woods of Kentucky? Other than your current home, where was your favorite place to live or visit during your career as a US Navy Machinist?

Mary Ellen: As a kid in Louisville, one of our favorite treats was driving out to my Daddy’s old
stomping grounds just south of Bernheim Forest. I’d play in the creek…far downstream from where Daddy was fishing. At Twilight he’d make weird creature sounds and say the Greeps were coming for us. I certainly have been all around the planet and have seen wondrous sights from the canals of Amsterdam to the pyramids in Cairo. I stood on the beach of a coral atoll in the Chagos Archipelago and watched a distant ship with full canvas sail by. No distant marvel surpasses the scene of a creek tickling the smooth brown stones, it’s like they’re laughing. Now my log cabin deep in a thick forest has the Wild Branch running right through my front yard. I hear the owls, the coyotes and the whippoorwills as the sun goes down, and sometimes I think I hear Greeps.

WOW:  I love that you sent me a photo of your cabin along with your response. This is absolutely breathtaking! Now tell us, where do you write? What does your space look like?

Mary Ellen: The insanely big library (think ‘book obsession’) upstairs has six big windows. That’s where I sew, make jewelry, paint acrylics, write and listen to the birdsong all around me. I cozy into an old green leather recliner, within reach of a homebrew, and type away on my archaic laptop. Hours pass. Much of my writing includes a rural setting, making things, or as in Three Fingers – painting.

WOW: I imagine your environment is super conducive to thought flow - thank you for sharing!

You write about a suicide attempt; would you care to elaborate on this topic and why it is near and dear to you?

Mary Ellen: In my 20s I could not find an anchor for my soul. I was living in Southern California, in the Navy, and was very depressed about divorcing a cheating idiot I was a fool to marry. I suffered debilitating migraines and most of the men in my division showed no mercy. I’ve always been a loner, so no support group. The glorious way out in the story was a thread from the ragged cloth from that dreadful time. I am a firm believer in ‘write what you know’.

WOW: So brave of you in many ways Mary Ellen. I want to let our readers know that I provided a list of questions and you were able to choose which you wanted to answer - thank you for being brave enough to answer such a tough and personal question. I admire your strength.

What advice would you give to other writers toying with the idea of submitting their work to a writing contest?

Mary Ellen: Don’t jump into just any contest. I wasted so much money, there are so many rip-offs. My advice is to look for reviewed, vetted contests. WOW is the greatest site for writers I’ve found, with valuable classes and services, and they do a contest that works to promote the writers. I did win a prize for the second Dutch refugee/alien book, but nothing was as exciting as winning a spot in the WOW contest for Three Fingers. I wish WOW! did book contests, too!

WOW: Thank you for such kind words - and you never know what the future may bring! Thank you for the suggestion!

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?

Mary Ellen: I have a science fiction series about a no-holds barred Dutch refugee girl who smuggles giant aliens to a faraway colony planet I’m part-way into publishing, a task I’m woefully behind on. Next, I have several stories in a sci-fi series featuring a New Mennonite hero and the savvy heathen woman he teams up and am waiting for the chance to write enough to fill a book. I also have written three rather wordy shorts about an angel who loves to come to Earth and listen to music, but naturally always finds a dire situation he must attend to without revealing his identity. Another shorts book? Meanwhile, I’ve written about twenty short and flash stories including Three Fingers. I recently asked Chelsey Clammer to review a few stories and she gave me excellent feedback as well as places where I might get them published. I have a feeling that’s going in front of the priority list!

WOW: This interview has been absolutely lovely and I have a feeling we will be working together again in the future! Thank you for your insight and inspiration and congratulations again as one of the runners up for the WOW! Women on Writing Fall Fiction Contest! 

Check out the latest Contests:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Wendy Brown-Baez Launches Her Book Blog Tour of Catch a Dream

and giveaway!

About the Book

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

Print Length: 208 pages
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: BookBaby (April 9, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1543925561
ISBN-13: 978-1543925562
ISBN: 9781543925579

Catch a Dream is available in print and as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on May 27th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author

Wendy has facilitated writing workshops since 1994 including at Cornerstone's support groups, the Women & Spirituality conference at MSU Mankato, Celebrate Yourself women's retreats, All About the Journey healing center, The Aliveness Project, Unity Minneapolis, El Colegio High School and Jacob's Well women's retreat. Wendy received 2008 and 2009 McKnight grants through COMPAS Community Art Program to teach writing workshops for youth in crisis. The project at SafeZone and Face to Face Academy developed into an art installation
showcasing their recorded writings. When it was noted that students' reading scores improved, she was hired as Face to Face's writing instructor.

In 2012 she was awarded a MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant to teach writing workshops in twelve nonprofit arts and human service organizations. She continues to teach at Pathways: a healing center, in MN prisons, and in community spaces such as public libraries, yoga studios, churches, and cafes.Wendy has taught memoir at MCTC continuing ed and through Minneapolis community ed.

In addition, Wendy has managed shelters for the homeless and visited incarcerated teens. She is trained as a hospice volunteer and as a facilitator of Monologue Life Stories. Wendy studied alternative healing, ceremony, and spiritual traditions with Earthwalks for Health and lived in Mexico and Israel. She has collected wisdom teachings from these diverse cultures, as well as written memoirs of her adventures.

You can find Wendy Brown-Baez at:







---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book! Tell me about what inspired you to write your book Catch a Dream

WendyI lived and traveled with a group for ten years and during that time I didn’t write at all. I was too busy—we took in the homeless and fed people in the parks, and we were held up to a standard of perfection I wasn’t confident I could meet. Our final destination ended up being Israel. We broke up when we got there. But immediately I bought a blank book because the Holy Land was so incredible. First of all, every step you take you are walking through layers of history, contemporary history on top of ancient history. The Israeli people were dynamic, kind, curious, gossipy, bold, and gorgeous. When I came back to the states, I took a writing class through continuing ed and the story just poured out of me. The endless conflict, wars and the intifada and stories people told me that they once felt safe with their neighbors and no longer do—I had to write it all down to try to understand. Everyone wanted peace but it seemed elusive and impossible.

WOW: That sounds like an incredibly inspiring journey you took. I recently read your blog post about your visit to Jerusalem and am so moved by the experiences you wrote about. How much of what you experienced first hand is in this book?

WendyAbout 50% of the book is true and 50% is made up. The settings and descriptions are all true—the cottage in Ein Hod, the Jerusalem hostel, the couple I worked for as a nanny, the attack on the street, the time we were on the beach and the bomb squad came, camping in the desert, sitting guard duty at my son’s school, the young Israelis I hung out with, and the two men I got involved with. I exaggerated the personalities of the main characters and created most of the conversations but parts are true. Eliane is a composite and the visits with her are invented. We did use show money to get on the boat…my visa did expire and my parents did visit and I did celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. I didn’t write about the time I bought re-ignitable candles for my son’s birthday cake and the cake caught on fire or the time I forgot my change (about $10) and the vendor at the shuk returned it to me. So many many stories!

WOW: Wow, I feel like you could create so many stories based on these experiences! The cake catching on fire sure has my attention (I could see that happening to me!). I was amazed to read you first wrote Catch a Dream as a memoir. What was your process to transform this novel into fiction? Why did you decide to make that change?

Wendy: That was really a surprise and serendipity. I belong to Unity Minneapolis spiritual center and they decided to plan a trip to the Holy Land. This was a reminder to re-visit my story. (I am not going on the trip though….I don’t want to go back as a tourist.) I wrote this story as soon as I got back to the US, and it was hard to grapple with the pacing, because there was so much backstory and I wanted it to be much more simple and straight-forward. I wanted to tell a love story…love that didn’t work out but was the beginning of healing. One day I thought to myself, “What if I changed the story to fiction and changed the names of the main characters?” The names just popped into my head: Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove…and suddenly I could SEE them, they were completely vivid and real to me, not just my memories but these two women setting out on this extraordinary pilgrimage. I could take out all the backstory and everything that wasn’t working and let the focus be Lily’s journey to find herself and I could just make things up, which felt so freeing. It fell into place, but it still required many revisions and feedback and then more revisions. I also noticed that when I asked for beta readers for my memoir, I was having a hard time getting people to follow through but when I said “novel”, people jumped at the chance to read it. That confirmed I was going in the right direction.

WOW: I love when you suddenly see your characters! It transforms the whole story writing experience! So, I was reading in your blog that the revision process was emotional for you. What emotions came about while revising? Do you have any tips for authors as they go through their own emotions while revising?

WendyAll the emotions I felt at the time were just as fresh as the day I left Israel. My heart-break over this amazing impossible country—the constant conflict and the injustices and political mess juxtaposed with the kind, generous people I met. My love for this particular man and why he let me go-- whether or not this was the best thing…it still hurt! The passion felt unresolved, there was no closure. During this time, I started to experiment with being feminine, wearing skirts and sexy underwear…I shaved my legs for the first time in 10 years, due to the young Israeli women hounding me about it because you are always in skirts…and the beauty of the sea and the taste of fruits fresh picked that morning... it was a very sensual experience. And the feeling you are touched by something celestial and holy. I missed all these things. I longed for them.

As Lily says to Levi, “I feel like I am awakening.” That awakening was a blessing and yet painful because disappointment was part of it.

My tips are to make sure you take care of yourself. Do things to uplift your spirit…take a walk, go out to a meal with friends, have a massage, do yoga, hang out at the museum, listen to music, interact with other writers, attend readings or go to a play…do things to ground yourself and get out of your head or out of your own story. I love hanging out with my grandson who likes board games and swimming and going out for hamburgers. Take breaks and write poetry instead. Let yourself weep and journal about everything you are going through. Write letters to people you will never see again to put on your altar or burn. Read your horoscope or watch inspirational webinars. Brag about how excited and terrified you are. Give your work to beta-readers you really trust, who will be truthful and meticulous but kind.

WOW: Your advice is spot on and something I needed to hear myself for sure! Who do you hope reads Catch a Dream and what do you want them to take away from the book?

Wendy: I wanted to raise the question whether it is possible to have peace without forgiveness, whether peace is possible when both sides stick to their version and can’t communicate. I also think that as a pacifist, I was naïve and it was good to witness the reality. People go to Israel on a pilgrimage or vacation and never think about the cost it takes to maintain a Jewish nation, both giving up their children to be soldiers and giving up their sense of mercy to keep the Palestinian people subdued. My intention was to raise questions rather than supply answers.

I also wanted to show how Lily finally stood up for herself when she was attacked. The trauma that happened to her made her afraid of intimacy, she didn’t even know she could get help, but in this defining moment, she saved herself. When we are able to share our stories without shame and to know it is not our fault, this is a big step towards not only individual healing but awareness that we live in cultures where women are bullied and mistreated and beaten and killed. So, there is political bullying and domestic bullying and we can say “That is enough. It has to stop.”

WOW: Your book sounds like an important read and I love hearing about your character saves herself. I can't wait for people to read it! So, did you have to do any additional research for this book? What was your process?

Wendy: I predicted in the book that things will get worse, the Israelis will become hardened. The fence that is really a wall was not part of the daily discussion when I was there. I had to do some research to finish with the reality that the conflict goes on and the hours spent at checkpoints, the access to Palestinian owned orchards and farmland and water have been cut. I have an Israeli friend who says when she goes back, everyone acts as though these things aren’t happening. I attended a very powerful play by a woman who brought the ashes of her father to Israel and she wept on stage over her experience. I googled the wall in Israel and read news articles. But most everything I wrote came from my own personal experience and that is why I can’t speak with any sense of expertise on the conflict.

WOW: That you experienced so much first hand I know will lend to a powerful reading experience. What is next for you? Are you working on anything at the moment? 

Wendy: I have a novel about an elderly woman estranged from her family who invites a young woman to move in with her, the beginning of a multi-generational household. Hannah Lowenstein is Jewish, so still writing on that theme, and she is eventually reconciled with her family. But I also surprised myself with a character out of the blue who meets her true love in Ireland and their child is born with Spina Bifada. I’ve never been to Ireland, I know nothing about Spina Bifada, but read it is prevalent there, so it’s a new adventure and I think I may have to go there!

WOW: I think you should visit there too! I can't wait to read this next book. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today and I am really looking forward to reading the reviews throughout the tour.

--- Blog Tour Dates

Today @ The Muffin
Join us today over at the Muffin when we celebrate the launch of Wendy Baez's book Catch a Dream. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

May 22nd @ Memoir Revolution
Jerry Waxler relates to the main character in To Catch a Dream as if she was a real person. His post reflects on lessons learned in this fertile ground between “memoir” and “fiction-based-on-fact.

May 23rd @ The World Of My Imagination
Come by Nicole's blog The World of My Imagination to check out her thoughts on Wendy Baez' book Catch a Dream.

May 24th @ Jill Sheet’s Blog
Make sure to stop by Jill Sheet’s blog to read Wendy Brown-Baez fascinating guest post on conflict and peace. The author answers the question – is peace possible without forgiveness?

May 24th @ Rebecca Whitman's Blog
Come by Rebecca Whitman's Blog to check out Wendy Baez's guest post free spirits and belonging. What if home is not where we come from but where we feel we belong? What are we willing to give up to stay?

May 25th @ Margo Dill's Blog
Visit Margo Dill's blog to check out Wendy Baez's thoughts on motherhood and how we can be a good parent and yet be fulfilled as a woman.

May 26th @ Mommy Daze: Say What??
Come by Ashley's blog to catch Wendy Baez's thoughts on trauma and healing.

May 27th @ Beverley Baird's Blog
Stop by Beverley Baird's blog to find out her thoughts on Wendy Baez' book "Catch a Dream."

May 27th @ Memoir Revolution
In a second post, Jerry Waxler will share Wendy Baez’s own words about the choices she made to publish her true life story as a fictional novel.

May 29th @ Mari’s #JustJournal! Blog
Come by Mari's #WriteOn! Journaling Blog to find out what Wendy Baezy had to say about journaling and self-reflective writing.

May 30th @ Story Teller Alley
Come by the Story Teller Alley blog to read about how Wendy Baez book "Catch a Dream" came to be in the blog's regular feature on how stories grow.

June 1st @ Words from the Heart
Come by Rev. Linda Naes' blog Words from the Heart to find out what Wendy Baez had to say about loving someone who is not good for us. She answers questions such as "How do we live within contradictions? How do we let go of the hold of a bad relationship?"

June 2nd @ McNellis Writes
Come by Margaret’s blog when she shares Wendy Brown-Baez guest post on the subject of travelling in countries during times of unrest.

June 3rd @ Margo Dill's Blog
Check out Margo Dill's blog to find out what she had to say about Wendy Baez's book "Catch a Dream."

June 4th Mommy Daze: Say What??
Come by Ashley's blog to find out she has to say about Wendy Baez' book Catch a Dream.

June 5th @ Madeline Sharples Blog
Come by Madeline Sharples' blog to read Wendy Baez' blog post on writing to heal.

June 7th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Stop by Kathleen Pooler's blog Memoir Writer's Journey to check out Wendy Baez' guest post about writing authentically about difficult and painful topics.

June 8th @ Words from the Heart
Come by Rev. Linda Naes' blog to Words from the Heart to hear her thoughts on Wendy Baez' book "Catch a Dream."

June 14th @ Become Zen Again
Come by Shell’s blog Become Zen Again where she shares her opinions on Wendy Brown-Baez moving book Catch a Dream.

June 18th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Come by Wendi Huskin's blog Strength 4 Spouses to read Wendy Baez' guest post on Writing to Heal.

June 19th @ Bring on Lemons
Come by Crystal's blog Bring on Lemons where she shares her thoughts on Wendy Brown-Baez' book Catch a Dream.

June 22nd @ Strength 4 Spouses
Stop by Wendi Huskin’s blog where she shares her thoughts on the book Catch a Dream. A must read for your upcoming summer vacation!

Keep up with more stops on this tour on Twitter @WOWBlogTour


Enter to win a copy of Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below by 12am Sunday, May 27th. We will choose a winner the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Congratulations to Second Place Creative Nonfiction Winner, Aimee Carlson

We welcome Aimee Carlson to The Muffin today because she won 2nd place in the Quarter 2 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with her essay titled, "Inconceivable," which is about infertility. If you haven't read her essay yet, please see this page.

Aimee was born and raised in South Florida, but she moved to Indiana thirteen years ago where she currently lives with her husband and three dogs. She loves life and strives to live every day to the fullest. Her favorite type of writing involves taking a difficult situation and helping others to find the humor in it. Forever the adventurist, her hobbies vary widely, including everything from writing to ghost hunting. She’s always willing to try something new and never says no to a good time. This leads to many embarrassing stories, which you can read more about on her blog, "The Rant Farm". She has been a featured writer in The Mamalogues and has been a contributing writer on various websites. She is currently working on a new humor piece and is in the process of writing her first novel. Visit her blog at

WOW: Congratulations on winning 2nd place in the WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. Your essay, "Inconceivable", is about laughing at some of the absurdity that comes with infertility. What made you want to write this essay?

Aimee: Thank you! I wrote the essay to reach out to other women on the same journey who were feeling hopeless and defeated. I wanted them to know that they weren't alone.

WOW: Yes, because infertility is often such a heartbreaking and of course personal journey for each woman. How were you trying to reach out to other women through your essay? What is your universal message or theme?

Aimee: I want this to be a subject that is okay to talk about and to be open with. Infertility is a lonely and disheartening battle. Let's talk about it. Let's laugh about it. Let's support each other through it. A woman's greatest superpower is empathy and great things happen when we relate to each other and remember that we are not alone.

WOW: This is very true about so many subjects--including the recent #metoo movement. How did it feel when you found out you won 2nd place in this contest? What does that do for your belief in your writing?

Aimee: It felt amazing. The hardest thing for me to do has been to put myself out there and be vulnerable enough to let others read my writing. Knowing that others were able to relate to my story and connect is the most rewarding feeling that I could ask for. It gave me the confidence to keep writing.

WOW: We are so glad to hear that! You also have a blog, which we tell our readers about in your bio, but tell us a little more about it and what we can find on it.

Aimee: My blog is primarily humor-based. I write about everyday life and the ridiculous predicaments I tend to find myself in. You will find some serious essays on there as well about grief and healing.

WOW: It sounds like the perfect combination for many of our WOW! readers. So what project is next for you?

Aimee: I am currently working on my first novel. It is fantasy-based and stems from my love of Greek mythology. I'm excited about it and am enjoying the challenge that comes with writing something a bit different and longer than I'm used to. However, while I'm working on this project, I will continue to share my silly stories about navigating this crazy thing called life while having some fun and laughs along the way.

WOW: That sounds great, Aimee. Good luck with all your future projects! It sounds like you have the perfect attitude to get through this thing we call the writing life, too! 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Three Simple Steps for a Great Interview

Before you say "I don't interview people" and click onto the next article, I need to tell you this post isn't just for the person asking the questions. If you're a writer, it's safe to say you'll do an interview or two in your career. This post is just as important for the person answering the questions as it is for the one asking them.

Quick back story. I have the privilege of interviewing authors here at WOW! Some are authors who have asked me to help organize a book blog tour, others have won a flash fiction contest or essay contest, and others are assignments from my lovely boss and friend Angela. The first time I was asked to do an interview I froze. I sat at my keyboard not quite sure how I was going to pull it off. I agreed and still wasn't sure what to do. I decided the best way to tackle an interview was to treat it like a school assignment (homework first as my mama would say)! I thought about my favorite television interviews and watched a few of them with a notebook and pen in my lap. I read some interviews with my favorite authors and took notes about those as well. Based on that research, here's a helpful process regardless of which side of the interview you are on:

1) Do your homework. If you are being interviewed, find out a bit about the person, publication, or program. If you are interviewing someone, find out as much about them as possible. Style is important. IE: I have a 'coffee chat with Crystal' type of interview style and would be disappointed in an interviewee who gave me short answers with very little depth.

2) Get comfortable. When I am writing questions, I have the authors head shot, bio, and my notes in front of me at me desk, but in my mind, we are sitting in my kitchen sipping tea/coffee/lemonade with some soft music playing and the smell of cinnamon rolls wafting from the oven. I like to think those I interview also set the mood before writing their answers. This is clearly important for television interviews, but also for radio. Some authors have pulled off some great radio interviews while driving down the freeway or tending to children, but for the most part, finding a comfortable space with few distractions is important.

3) Show up. This is a no brainer for a live interview (television or radio), but when an interview is recorded and aired at a later date, or it's a print interview, showing up is optional, but it shouldn't be. Show up and comment on the interview, share it with your friends and family as well as your social media channels. If someone comments with a question, answer it. Engage the audience (whether you are asking the questions or answering them). If you don't show up, it leaves a not so sweet taste in the mouths of those reading, listening to, or watching the interview.

That's it! Three simple steps for a great interview!

Now it's your turn to answer some questions:

Who is your favorite interviewer? (television, radio, print, etc...) Why do you like this person more than others? What sets them apart?

Do you have a favorite author interview? What makes this interview a favorite?

What have you found helpful when interviewing or being interviewed? How do you prepare? What tips do you have?

Thanks as always for your time and your comments!


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, five young children (Carmen 11, Andre 9, Breccan 4, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora), 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!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday Speak Out!: Nine out of Ten

by Ashley E. Sweeney

I won’t ever climb Mt. Everest.

After reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” the account of the ill-fated 1996 Everest expedition that left more than a dozen experienced climbers for dead on the world’s largest mountain, I knew for certain that I’d never climb that monolith in this lifetime.

Not that I’ve been planning an imminent trip to Nepal. But like countless others before me, Everest looms as the ultimate goal that few have attained. Goal setting is a universal pursuit; we all make resolutions and promises to ourselves and to others, some of which are fulfilled and many of which are broken.

As a young person, I made a list of 10 lifetime goals, nine of which I’ve attained to some recognizable degree: graduate college, be a VISTA volunteer, have a family, own a home, get a Masters degree, travel the world, serve as a board member, learn to quilt, publish an award-winning novel (my debut novel, Eliza Waite, is the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award winner and finalist in four other literary contests).

The last goal on that long-ago list—to climb Mt. Rainier in Washington State—is now outside the realm of possibility. Time, physical limitations, and other constraints have precluded reaching this aim.

What to do with this?

I can live with gazing upon Mt. Rainier—and that one unmet goal—from afar.

On a philosophical level, perhaps we can accept that we have not attained every goal on our youthful lists. In the end, it’s not how many goals we’ve attained, but how many we’ve attained well.

Which means I’m at nine out of 10. Back in my teaching days, that ratio equaled an A-. Not a bad report card of a life, considering. But who says life is over once you’ve conquered the list you created in your 20s? Why not start from scratch and create a new list?

In his retirement, my father, the novelist Gerald F. Sweeney, wrote a seven-book series titled The Columbiad, a loosely disguised autobiography that follows a bright young man through the 20th century. With one novel published, a second out on review, a third underway, and a fourth in the hopper, I’m on my dad’s tail to publish a slew of novels over the next 30 years.

Other new goals? Be the best grandmother in history. Live in the sun. Learn to do mosaic art. Make a difference every single day.

Give your dreams all you’ve got, and don’t give up easily. But this comes with a caveat: if the climb is too steep, or too treacherous, or costs you everything—perhaps even your life—it may be time to consider laying down your ice axe, your crampons, and your headlamp and realize that much of what you value is right where you are.

* * *
Ashley E Sweeney is the award-winning author of the novel, Eliza Waite. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. and splits her time between the Pacific Northwest and Desert Southwest. She has finished a second novel and is at work on a third. Learn more at
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Writer Who Went Too Far

I like to think that most of us understand the importance of etiquette in the writing business world. Still, there are times, in our zeal to get published, that we push the boundaries of propriety. We use a different color for emphasis in our query (black is always the standard), or maybe we use a cleverly unique font that we think better illustrates our story (Times New Roman is always a good choice). We might even decide to write a query from the point of view of one of the characters which, though it sounds terribly creative, most often turns out terribly confusing.

I get how a writer just wants to have his or her manuscript noticed and read; in these days of super Internet, an agent or editor may receive hundreds of queries in a week. How in the world can one’s story stand out? It’s frustrating, but one must hang in there and keep one’s hold, however tenuous, on propriety or one might end up as an Object Lesson for the rest of us. Case in point: The Writer Who Went Too Far.

It was just a typical day for my agent friend. She was at home, and after a long afternoon working and running errands, she’d put on her jammies. So around five in the evening when someone knocked, thinking it was her neighbor, she threw on a sweater and opened the door. It was not her neighbor; it was a complete stranger holding an armload of books.

She immediately ascertained that this was a writer. He also stated, very helpfully, that he’d sent her a text 23 hours prior, and since he had not heard from her and was going to be in her “neighborhood” anyway, he decided to come by and drop off his self-published books to get her input.

All things considered, my agent friend took the situation pretty well. She did not call the police, or even rant and rave at him. In fact, she was more surprised than angry at the writer for his intrusive behavior, though she let him know in no uncertain terms that he should never seek out representation by going to an agent’s home. He should, instead, always read an agent’s website and follow the rules for submitting.

And she posted about the incident on social media because she wanted writers to know that sometimes you can go too far. Way too far. Interestingly, there were a few of her writer friends who felt like this overly ambitious author was just making a bold move, doing what he needed to do. There is never a bold move, said my agent friend, which includes invading someone’s privacy.

Ultimately, the Writer Who Went Too Far learned a lesson or two: if you want to be taken seriously and professionally in the writing world, respect the rules we all must follow. And don’t forget common sense; this writer was clearly in a residential, not business area, and yet never took a moment to ask if showing up on this agent’s porch was the right thing to do. Propriety, y’all, that’s all I’m saying.

Well, not all. Because when all was said and written about this episode, we learned a lesson as well, and I hope you will, too. That is, we live in a world where all kinds of personal information is easily available, so protect your privacy. The next boundary pusher may show up at your door!

Cathy C. Hall writes for children and adults. If you want to find out more, check out her website where she's mostly proper, most of the time.