Why I'm Sticking with Short Stories in 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019
Photo via Pixabay
One of the most interesting lessons I've learned is that writing a short story is nothing like writing a novel. I mean, sure, you are all probably rolling your eyes and shouting out "duh" at the computer screen. The reason I point this out is that I've had my hand in writing novels (horrible novels, mind you, but I did try) and the past two years I've devoted myself to the short story.

I came across an article by The Write Practice blog called "5 Reasons Why You Should Write Short Stories" and a couple of the reasons stuck with me  - it keeps you in a regular writing habit. This is true, my writing habit is far more disciplined when I'm writing short stories.

Another point that jumped out at me is that short stories help you practice writing. Writing short stories allow me to find areas of my writing that need work. Whether it's my telling and not showing, my shallow character name choices, my lack of inciting incidents, or my weak beginnings, short stories reveal the spots that need work.

In addition, writing short stories allow me to comfortably experiment with new genres of writing. It also allows me to put aside stories and start fresh with others without an enormous sense of guilt. Like a buffet, I'm allowed to pick and choose what I want of an enormous display of gourmet food rather than ordering one expensive plate.

I'm fully aware though that one day I'll want to start a novel (in fact, I would be lying if I didn't admit there may be a novel idea waiting to be called forward). I'm not sure exactly when I'll be ready for that novel and maybe the right idea hasn't hit me yet but for 2019, I'm sticking with the short.

Have you dabbled in short stories? What did you learn?

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Did You Read the Success Stories?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
One of my duties at WOW! is to collect success stories, mostly from Facebook and Instagram. Every so often, we put out a call to our social media community asking for anything they feel is a success in their writing career, and the answers we get range from a writer finally writing again after a long hiatus to an author receiving a huge publishing contract or signing with a lit agent. For some reason, the success stories we published in the newsletter last Thursday, February 21, 2019, really touched my heart.

Maybe it's just me, and the place I am in this year--trying to grow my editing business, my writing time and my dedication to the craft and to my dreams. Maybe it's the cold winter days causing me to wish for warmth on the outside and the inside. But whatever it was, I just really enjoyed this section and felt inspired to get busy and get moving on my goals.

For example, look at three of these success stories:

Lynn Assimacopoulos says, “I am a retired Registered Nurse who spent more than thirty-five years working in various areas of nursing. In 2005, at the age of sixty-six, my seventy-one-year-old husband’s health was deteriorating, and I had to retire to care for him, twenty-four hours a day. During that time, I questioned as to what I could still do, as I also was getting older and at home all the time. The answer came to me rather quickly: It was writing. Eventually in 2000, when I was in my sixties, I had actually written a devotional book called, I Thought There Was a Road There…. Several years later, my husband passed away, and I also began to have some health problems. I now could not do many physical activities at that point; however, I could still write, and since then, I have written and published another nonfiction book called, Separated Lives. I would urge interested senior citizens to explore this opportunity.”

How can you not be encouraged by her inspirational words and her tenacity to write, even during difficult times?

Or I love this one:

Kimberly Butnick says, “I write a blog and think it might be something that could be something: Living On the Edge of The Desk. I teach in a small high school in Wisconsin, and I love to share the funny stories that happen throughout my day. I started to post on Facebook the weekly funnies. I was getting some great feedback from people and was encouraged to write a book about my adventures. I was having a hard time putting this format into a book and decided to start a blog. I started October 5th; and by November 5th, I had over 1,000 hits and 100 followers.”
She followed through on a suggestion after sharing stories on Facebook--and even though the first thing she tried--a book--didn't seem to work out, she started a blog, and it is working out. More tenacity here!

Or this story of NEVER GIVING UP!
Wilma Hollander says, “Never give up! For twenty years I had a dream: I wanted to write romance novels for Harlequin, even though I'm Dutch, and English is not my native language. I came far in various contests, but not far enough. So, I took a side road. I became a Dutch published romance writer, but…in 2018, I accomplished my dream, writing and publishing the first Dutch(!) trilogy for Harlequin/HarperCollins Holland. Yep, I'm officially a Harlequin writer now!”
And the thing is, Muffin readers, these are REAL people who we can interact with every day on social media, who are sharing their success so that you too can live your dreams and one day, share your success.

I know sometimes your email inbox gets full, and you put off reading a longer email until you have time. But I encourage you that if you haven't read the Issue 90 email that made it to your inbox last week, make time to do it. And don't skim over the success stories. If you thought these three were great, then there are a ton more where these came from.

And as always, you can send your own success story (we like them to be 100 words or less) to me at Margo@wow-womenonwriting.com or respond to one of our social media posts when we put them up.

Stay warm, get inspired, and keep writing!

Sign up for Margo's Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach, which starts on Friday, March 1, and you will soon have your own success story to shout about!

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Back-up Plans and Granola Bars

Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Homemade Granola Bars
There's a little saying at our house about back-up plans and granola bars. It came about without thought - we are busy and since my husband spends most of his day and night in the barn or tending to the cows, it's just me and my children plus one most days. We have come to the conclusion there really is no "normal" at this stage of the game. We have a baby in diapers, a potty training toddler, children who are new to school, emotional middle schoolers, and a mama bear who gives it her all but fails more than once (and usually several times before seven in the morning). There's lots of moving parts to our days, so we always have a few back-up plans and a container of granola bars for those moments when our original plans fell through.

At least one day each week, someone misses the bus for one reason or another and we find ourselves chomping on granola bars as we wait in the drop-off lane. As much as the older children may groan as I roll down my window and holler "I love you; have a great day!" I like to tell myself they appreciate the chocolate peanut butter granola bars I lovingly baked  for them. Similarly, there are days we think we will go grocery shopping after school but someone calls in sick on the farm and we find ourselves in the barn trying to do homework and eat dinner while milking cows and feeding calves. I hope someday our lifestyle of having a back-up plan and a granola bar helps the children be flexible fast thinkers.

Now you know the back story. As I was thinking about what to write about this week, the philosophy of a back-up plan and a granola bar popped in my head. A decade ago I started writing what I hoped would be the next great novel. My goal was to finish it within a year, send out a few queries, get traditionally published, and spend the rest of my life enjoying the fruits of my labor. That didn't exactly work out how I planned - we moved onto the back-up plan and with proverbial granola bar in hand I find myself writing, but not exactly the next The Great Gatsby or Jane Eyre...

This begs the question:

Is this a back-up plan or 
am I making excuses for falling short of my goals?

Pretty deep thought right there, isn't it? I ask myself this exact thing every day. I love what I do. Reading books brings me joy. Working with successful authors makes me feel like I'm right where I'm supposed to be. And yet...I still have novels saved in my computer. They are at various stages, yet there they are - selfishly kept from the public. Am I afraid of rejection? Maybe I'm not tough enough to deal with a negative review.

Where are you with your writing? 
What helps you move forward? 
Has your back-up plan become a crutch? 
What advice do you have for others who may be struggling with the direction of their craft?

Thank you for your thoughts, comments, and support - this is such a great community of talented authors and writers!


Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother and auntie, 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 and their five youngest children (Carmen 11, Andre 10, Breccan 5, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora who somehow turned 1 already), 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 making it extraordinary, blogging, reading, reviewing, and baking here and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Michael R. French's "The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election" - book tour, author interview, and giveaway

Monday, February 25, 2019
The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election

The year is 2025. The United States is afflicted with global cyber attacks, economic crashes, foreign wars, and lots of anxiety. State budgets for public schools are hit hard. In a student body president race in a small city Indiana high school, popular, charismatic Matthew has his own consultants, bloggers, oppo researchers, and funds from an unidentified source that have helped him win every election since ninth grade.

Over-achieving, introverted Britain is a novice to elections, but as a history wonk, politics fascinate her. She also has a crush on Matthew. After she joins his SBP team, someone hacks Matthew’s website, leaking stories that the candidate is far from the Eagle Scout he pretends to be. Matthew and his team of 15 call the stories “spineless lies.”

Britain is stunned when she’s scapegoated by Matthew as the mystery hacker. Kids dump on her for betraying the school leader. Her reputation in shreds, she decides to enter the presidential race to clear her name. No one gives the novice a chance, but that only makes Britain more determined to find a way to win.

With the help of her three good friends, “No more secrets” becomes Team Britain’s slogan. For a while she stumbles in her campaign, until the anonymous hacker begins leaving notes in Britain’s locker, telling her which rocks to look under if she wants to beat odds-on favorite Matthew. She puzzles over who exactly is helping her—her favorite history teacher, an apostate on Team Matthew, or one of the many “undecideds” that impact any election?

Every mystery solved leads Brit to face a more complicated challenge, some threatening her existence…

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Moot Point Productions (November 25, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1732511705
ISBN-13: 978-1732511705
Genre: Young Adult

The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election is available on Amazon

“Michael French has penned a fascinating, fast-paced, futuristic story about a determined high school senior named Brit who runs an against-all-odds campaign for student body president. There are scenarios that bedevil the imagination: dirty tricks, cyber and other tech attacks, love intrigues, and a picture of how the personal growth of one individual can shape a collective future. As a politician with several elections under my belt, I couldn’t put the novel down.”
-- Governor Bill Richardson, former member of Congress, US Ambassador to the United Nations, US Secretary of Energy, and Governor of NM

“If you like cheering for an underdog and savor a complex, exciting story that seems to spring from today’s events, you’ll love The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election. We could use more real heroes like Brit, the leading character in Michael R. French’s newest novel. She’s a young woman with tremendous tenacity and a strong moral compass who rises above her innate shyness to make a difference in her world.”
—Anne Hillerman, author of the New York Times best-selling Leaphorn/Chee/Manuelito mystery series

Book Giveaway and Contest!
To win a copy of the book The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on March 4th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:
Michael R. French graduated from Stanford University where he was an English major, focusing on creative writing, and studied under Wallace Stegner. He received a Master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He later served in the United States Army before marrying Patricia Goodkind, an educator and entrepreneur, and starting a family.

In addition to publishing over twenty titles, including award-winning young adult fiction, adult fiction, biographies ad self-help books, he has written or co-written a half-dozen screenplays, including Intersection, which has won awards in over twenty film festivals. He has also had a long business career in real estate, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His passions include travel, collecting rare books, and hanging with friends and family. He describes his worst traits as impatience and saying "no" too quickly; his best are curiosity, taking risks, and learning from failure.

French’s work, which includes several best-sellers, has been warmly reviewed in the New York Times and been honored with a number of literary prizes.

Find Michael Online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRFrenchAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mfrenchauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mfrenchrt66/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrfrenchbooks/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/287338.Michael_French

Website: http://www.michaelrfrench.com/

Blog: http://www.michaelrfrench.com/blog

Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you so much for returning to WOW with your most recent book. Our readers and bloggers thoroughly enjoyed Once Upon a Lie and I know I, for one, am excited to see what readers think about this latest novel. So tell us, where did you come up with the idea for The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election ?

Michael: Excessive focus on what Betsy De Vos is doing by pushing charter (for profit) public schools; interest in how Washington DC politics (polarization, dirty tricks, big budgets, paid teams, mystery money) could filter down to colleges and even high school; to interest young adults about the importance of history as it relates to the future—and the importance of having and using your political voice. We’re in a “democracy” where only 55% of the electorate votes!

WOW: I totally understand tossing around ideas based on what's going on around us, but here's a question I think many writers struggle with. At what point did you know this was going to be your next published work?

Michael: It seemed urgent to me to explore these themes in a way that’s easy for a thirteen year old (and up, including adults) to comprehend—urgent because many of our public schools are in a death spiral.

I just want both teens and adults to talk about it. I interrupted another (adult) novel for a year to write Beginner’s Guide, and glad that I did.

WOW: Many of us who have read The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election are also quite glad you did as well - thank you! Your drive is inspirational to others I'm certain. Now, that begs the question - who has been most influential in your writing and how so?

Michael: Taking creative classes at Stanford was the start of my romance with literature. I love readers and authors who don’t just follow typical genres and trends. If you go to McDonalds and always order a double cheese burger, you’re probably not my type of reader—unless you sample the salads and fish sandwich too.

WOW: That's a great analogy and even those of us who are creatures of habit may dabble and try new things now and again (even at McDonalds). However, I'm hoping you don't head to the McD drive through for a salad to celebrate after one of your books is published - let's share with readers how you celebrate successes in writing? What advice do you have for others?

Michael: Success for me is doing the hard work of completing a book once you start it; to write as many drafts as you have to until you’re intellectually and emotionally satisfied; and to have the finished product read critically by people whose acumen you respect. Of course, it’s always nice to hear from reviewers you don’t know who want to recommend your book to others. :)

WOW: So no balloons, cakes, or celebrations? Maybe something to consider when you release the next book. Now you mentioned reviewers, but it's bound to happen - how do you deal with rejection or a negative review? What have you learned along the way? What advice do you give to others who may struggle with the negative aspects of publishing?

Michael: It’s easy to advise someone “to get used to it,” but rejection used to be very hard for me. Over the years, I’ve managed to turn things around by thinking, “Oh, you don’t like what I did, well let me show you what else I can do.” And you keep going. It’s also good to be honest with yourself (with the help of fellow writers) and accept that your work may really NOT be up to your capability. Focus on the weaknesses and strive to improve. In the end, your book is as strong as its weakest link. There is no such thing as the perfect novel, so don’t obsess about that.

WOW: That's sound advice, though sometimes easier said than done.

Who is your favorite character in this book and why?

Michael: The heroine, Brit Kitridge, because she has a lot of relatable qualities—some good, some not so good—but she tries to learn from every experience. In the end, she discovers things about herself that might otherwise have remained fallow if not for the help of her history teacher, Mr. Wilson. The importance of great teachers can’t be overestimated. Great teachers make great students. By the way, most deserve twice the salaries they make.

WOW: I must say Brit is an admirable character (to say the least). Both my daughter and I have had the pleasure of reading The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election and we both felt drawn to Brit from the very beginning.

If The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election was made into a movie, what would be the theme song and why?

Michael: Such a good question. If it falls in the 21st Century, I’m out of it musically. There is so much talent out there…and there are a gamut of moods stirred by the book’s characters.

WOW: Let's switch gears and talk about your favorite author and how THEY have influenced you and YOUR career.

Michael: There are so many to admire and for different reasons. I find that for many writers, those whom you were exposed to in high school and college influence your life the most—those are the books and authors I remember.

WOW: Readers won't soon forget the name Michael R. French either - you're always busy.

What's next for you?

Michael: An adult novel set in contemporary L.A about hipsters and celebrities.

WOW: That sure sounds like fun and we can't wait to hear more! Now before we go, I'd like to ask: What would your current self say to your younger self? What wise pearls of wisdom have you gained over the years?

Michael: Don’t ever give up. Pat attention to every second of every day because you never know what you’re going to learn that will change your life. And don’t drink more than two beers with your friends because you’ll ending up telling them too much about what you’re working on.

WOW: Great advice and thank you again for choosing WOW to help promote The Beginner's Guide to Winning an Election!

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

Launch Day – February 25th @ The Muffin
Michael R. French returns to WOW! Women on Writing for his tour of The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election with an interview and giveaway at the Muffin!

Tuesday, February 26th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Linda Appleman Shapiro reads and reviews the latest bestseller by Michael R. French. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election!

Wednesday, February 27th @ Bring on Lemons with Carmen Otto
Middle Schooler Carmen Otto offers her thoughts after reading The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French. Readers won’t want to miss this chance to hear from Carmen and learn more about this excellent YA novel!

Thursday, February 28th @ Bella Donna’s Books with Dawn Thomas
Dawn Thomas reviews The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election for readers of Bella Donna’s Books. You’ll delight to learn more about Michael R. French and his exciting new work!

Friday, March 1st @ Fiona Ingram
Fellow author Fiona Ingram spotlights the latest novel by Michael R. French. Readers will delight to learn more about The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election!

Saturday, March 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina has fellow author Michael R. French in today’s spotlight with a guest post by French and more information about the bestseller The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election.

Tuesday, March 5th @ Breakeven Books
Today’s Author Spotlight at Breakeven Books is a bestseller by Michael R. French. Readers will delight as they learn more about The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election!

Wednesday, March 6th @ Coffee with Lacey
Lacey reviews The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French. Grab a cup of coffee and join Lacey for an enjoyable review of this delightful novel!

Thursday, March 7th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith
Sreevarsha reviews Michael R. French’s latest novel – a YA work titled The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election. Don’t miss Sreevarsha’s insight and thoughts!

Friday, March 8th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Madeline Sharples reviews the enjoyable YA novel The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French. Readers and Choices won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear what Madeline thinks about this book.

Tuesday, March 12th @ Book Santa Fe with Crystal Otto
Crystal reviews The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French. Readers at Book Santa Fe love Michael R. French and are sure to love his latest YA novel!

Wednesday, March 13th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy interviews Michael R. French about his latest novel The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election.

Tuesday, March 19th @ Bring on Lemons with the Hansen Girls
Cathy Hansen along with her two teen daughters offer their thoughts about The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French.

Thursday, March 21st @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles loves YANovels and is excited to share her review of The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French.

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of the book The Beginner’s Guide to Winning an Election by Michael R. French, please enter via Rafflecopter for below. Giveaway ends on March 4th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Double Creative Nonfiction Creative Essay Winner in the Q1 Writing Contest: Ilene Haddad

Sunday, February 24, 2019
I had the opportunity to interview Ilene Haddad, who won second place and was also named as a runner-up (top ten) in the Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. Both essays are humorous looks at her relationship with her husband, and so you won't want to miss these! Her second place essay is titled "For Every Season There is a Casserole," and the runner-up essay is titled "Marriage and Other Risks of a One-Night Stand."

Here is a bit more about Ilene: she is a graphic designer and cartoonist who recently added writer to her titles. Ilene studied graphic design at the University of Texas at Austin and has run her own design studio for the past twenty years. She was a recipient of the Women in Communications’ Anne Durrum Robinson Creative Initiative Award for founding BlogathonATX (a central Texas blogging conference) and was an Austin American-Statesman Social Media Award finalist. Most recently, she was a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas’ annual manuscript contest for her current project--a humorous, illustrated memoir about her mixed/mixed up marriage. Ilene lives in Austin with her eccentric husband and two useless lapdogs, all of whom feature prominently in her cartoons and book. Ilene spends way too much time on social media. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It is virtually impossible not to find her.

WOW: Hi Ilene! Congratulations on winning two spots in our top ten Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest! Let's start with your reaction when you got the news. What did that feel like?

Ilene: It was so exciting to see my name and essays on WOW's website. I can neither confirm nor deny that I jumped up and down.

WOW: Well, we won't push the issue then. (smiles) So, your essay, "For Every Season, There is a Casserole" is a hysterical look at your marriage through the holidays. What gave you the idea to organize your thoughts about your marriage this way?

Ilene: That came pretty organically. I started out wanting to write about the differences between my husband and me, and the theme that kept coming up was the way we celebrate the holidays. I probably should have realized the number of family obligations we had would double before accepting his proposal.

WOW: And with those double obligations, so comes double the casseroles. Does your husband read your writing? If so, does he think you are as funny as we do? (smiles again)

Ilene: No way—I'm not even certain he knows I write. He's actually the funny one in our family. I draw a comic strip he stars in called Casa Weenie (casaweenie.com).

WOW: I've checked several of your cartoons, and they are so funny! In your second essay, "Marriage and Other Risks of a One-Night Stand", you write about when you first met him and how you were worried you would either date him (instead of sleep with him on the first night) or he might kill you, which is so funny! But even funnier is how you go on to talk about the business you started together. Are you still running that business? And if so, do you have a better office now, sans washer and dryer?

Ilene: Yes, we are still running our business twenty years later, and NO, I do not have a better office now. A fresh coat of paint every decade only takes it so far.

WOW: What makes parts of your essays so funny are the comparisons you use, such as "but to call a Seder a meal is like calling Jell-O dessert" or "Yom Kippur (a fasting day of atonement), which last longer than most Netflix binges." Do those just come to you? or Do you have to work to find the humor?

Ilene: They usually just come to me. Mostly because they're true.

WOW: Lucky you! Speaking of that, how difficult is it for you to write humor? Everyone talks about how hard it is. You seem to do it so easily!

Ilene: I write the way I speak, so sometimes it's easy to translate that into prose—sometimes not so much. It's really just luck, I suppose. How's that for a non-answer?

WOW: For someone reading this interview, what's a tip you can give them for writing humor well?

Ilene: Pay attention to the people around you and how you interact with them. There is humor all over our daily lives. For example, if you're a parent, which I'm not, you are witness to funny stuff every day. All you have to do is look for it. Parents have way more material to work with than I do.

WOW: That is definitely true. Your bio says you recently were a finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas’ annual manuscript contest for a humorous, illustrated memoir about your mixed/mixed up marriage. When can we look forward to reading this?

Ilene: Good question! I'm still working on it, so I'm afraid it'll be a while.

WOW: Anything else you'd like to add about writing or contests?

Ilene: The best thing I ever did for my writing practice was to find a small writing group. We are four women who write together, critique each other's work, and support each other. I would've given up a long time ago had I not found my writing group.

WOW: I agree with you. I too cherish my writing group! Thank you for your time. Best of luck in your future writing projects.
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Four Things I've Learned...

Saturday, February 23, 2019
 At the overly ripe age that I am, I've learned some things. I've resigned myself when it comes to some things. Some things that used to drive me crazy don't anymore.

What did you learn, Sioux? I'm glad you asked...

These are not my tired eyes, but they could be. My eyes might even look worse.

1. For example, tonight I am preparing to head to a writing retreat after work tomorrow. I planned on bringing my 15 yardsticks (covered with strips of cork), my colorful index cards (they're now labeled and laminated--wheee!), my colorful thumbtacks and my hot mess of a manuscript from 2017 to organize.

The problem? I haven't hot-glued the cork onto the yardsticks yet. I could have stayed up all night earlier in the week, but I'm going to leave the stuff at home. It'll wait. I have other things to bring to work on, things that are ready to pack. That's something I've learned: don't kill yourself over things that don't truly matter.

2.  You never know how others are pulling for you until a chance encounter happens. Tonight I was at a local restaurant for a school fundraiser. It involved sitting at a booth and talking to parents and colleagues for 3 hours straight.

When I mentioned I was going on writing retreat, one parent said, "So, are you going to work on your book while you're there?" I didn't even know she knew about my book. Apparently her daughter (one of my students) told her. We laughed together when she said, "When you become rich and famous, you'll remember me, right?"

That's something I learned: there are people eager to nudge you along. You just have to be open to it.

3.  I got my first rejection letter for my manuscript today. To be completely honest, I'd have preferred it be a publication contract, but I immediately printed up the email and plan on collecting them until I eventually get a "yes."

That's another thing I've learned: You may not always succeed. Be proud of the risk you take.

4.  Doing it differently will yield different results. I've pantsed my way through many short, creative nonfiction pieces. I tried to do the same thing with that project from 2017 (a novel wannabe) but it's a meandering mess. Because I believe in it, even though I know it needs to be slashed and burned, I'm going to be using an outline (shudder) to revamp it.

That's one of the hardest lessons I've learned as a writer: Sometimes you have to dump thousands and thousands of words to get your project onto a new path.

How about you? What are four things you've learned as a writer?

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Friday Speak Out!: Balancing Family Life with Writing

Friday, February 22, 2019

by Angela Muba

Are you a single writer planning to start your own family? Are you married and planning to build your career as a writer? Congratulations for the choice you are about to make but I can sense you have this fear of how to meet the demands of your family and that of your editors. On the one hand, you don’t want to forgo your career and on the other hand, you don’t want to be a bad example to your family. So many questions are running in your mind; how do I find time to write, do research, and take care of my family and so on. Don’t worry anymore for here are some tips that will enable you balance your writing career with family.

1) SET GOALS. Now that your desire is to satisfy your family and editor simultaneously, you need to set both family and writing goals. These goals will not only guide you as to when to write; it will also guide you as when to spent time with your family. Lets do it practical

Suggested Family Goals:

-Take family on vacation every Sunday
-Meet financial needs
-Give your children best education

Suggested Writing Goals:

- Post an article every week
- Read one book every week
-Take lessons on writing once every month

The above is just an example and yours might vary. So take a pen and write down your goals side by side and if one side out weight the other, you will then know where to draw the line for all to be satisfied.

2) COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR FAMILY: With your goals clearly spelled out, you need to communicate with your family. Let them know your leisure and writing time. Let communication not only be verbal but financially as well; let them see the impact of your income from writing in the family. You can even create fun telling your children that if they disturb during your writing time, you will not take them out on their next outing.

3) BE DETERMINED: When you are able to do something over and over even though you find difficulties doing it, you are said to be determined. Balancing your family with writing it’s not a day’s job for you need to work hard. You have set your goals on paper; you have communicated it to your family, now go do it for that is the only way you can succeed. If one of your goals is to write during the early hours of the morning, set alarm and get up when it rings. Make sure the kids go to bed early for you to have some rest as well.

4) BE A GOOD THINKER: should you think about what you are to write only during the time you set for writing? NO. When doing your laundry or cooking or even resting, you can put your brain to work. Let your mind be open to gather ideas from things happening around you. Your kids can give you reasons to write or your colleagues’ and friends as you interact with them.

5) BE REALISTIC IN YOUR WRITING: I know you are wondering how being realistic in your writing got to do with reconciling writing with family. What I mean is to write about things happening around you. Create topics that will enable you do research around or why not together with your family. There are so many interesting topics you can get while spending time with your family. For example you can pick a topic like “how to be a good mother or father to your children”. Only this topic will give you the chance to work together with your children.

Reconciling writing and family has never been easy but the outcome is always amazing if you succeed. For you will serve as a model for many.

* * *
Angela Muba is a writer and an author of the book titled "Can I Keep This Relationship" published in 2016. She is a holder of Bachelor of Technology in Banking and Finance graduated with first class honours. Presently, Angela Muba is working as Accountant with Vatican Company Ltd in Douala Cameroon. She is interested in marital relationship and women empowerment. Angela Muba is building her skills in writing and in the process of creating a Google website.
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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Murder 101

Thursday, February 21, 2019
When my critique group read the only murder scene I've ever written, they were surprised by the creepiness. You see, I've never been one to watch violent movies or read violent books, much less murder a character. Many years ago, I had to watch "A Clockwork Orange" for a college literature class, and found it incredibly disturbing. That movie turned me off violence as entertainment for a long time. Until now, that is. I have a confession. I have recently begun watching a variety of true crime stories on the Justice Network.

During my recent crime-watching spree, I've picked up a few techniques and themes for killing/solving a murder. I'm not quite sure how I'll incorporate this into my writing, but I may be able to develop some plot twists that will keep the reader wondering "whodunnit."

Here's what I've learned so far:

If the female victim is married, the husband probably did it.

If the male victim is married, the wife probably did it.

Don’t pay a hit man in full until after the act is completed. One husband (see, I told you it was always the husband) paid a hit man $30,000 up front to kill his wife. He drove her to a predetermined spot on a deserted highway, and the gunman was supposed to pull alongside the car and shoot the woman to make it look like a random drive-by.

Due to the fact that the husband was an accomplice/witness, the hit man also needed to eliminate the husband, and because he already had his money, that "random drive-by" was now a double murder.

If you are going to murder someone, remove every hair from your body, and don’t eat or drink anything from a dish, glass, or silverware that can be collected and tested for DNA. One suspect used only one set of silverware that he carried with him at all times. He slipped up by smoking a cigarette and tossing it into a trash can, which was immediately picked up by law enforcement and taken to a lab for a DNA sample. That's how he was caught.

Hefty is in the crime-solving business. It’s true. If you kill someone (in your book, of course) don't go to the kitchen and pull a garbage bag off the roll in order to wrap the body, and then put the rest of the bags back in the cabinet. Get rid of all the bags. Forensic experts can match the plastic in the bag to the roll in your kitchen. Who knew?

If you take video of yourself to prove your whereabouts during a crime, don't doctor the date/time stamp, and don't edit pieces of the video together to make it look like one cohesive scene. If you video yourself before and after the crime, the sun will have travelled across the sky so that the light and shadows change. This will be obvious to anyone who is looking to see if the video has been doctored.

Finally, don't take out a life-insurance policy within a few months of murdering someone. It won't prove that you did it, but it begins to point a finger in that direction.

So, there you have it, everything I've learned about murder in the last couple of months. This information is to be used only in the realm of make-believe, and not in the real world. If you actually murder someone, I'm not going to bail you out.

Mary Horner teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges, and has never committed a murder outside the pages of a book.
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How Important Is It?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Not my office. No actual person is that neat, y'all.
I have something to tell you but first I need to ask you not to throw paper clips or pens or a tape dispenser at me. I just feel like you’re going to want to throw something office-related at me and even though that stuff can’t come through the wide, wide web, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel the vibes. So take a few calming breaths…ready?

I have two offices.

I know.


If it makes you feel any better, I used to share an office with Mister Man and that was awful. We practically had to work in shifts, just to keep the peace. And then one of the Junior Halls finally moved out and I confiscated the desk and three bookcases in that room and used that space as an office. And then Mister Man up and died and so his office was empty. I didn’t like hanging out in there at first, but you know, it’s a really nice office and way bigger than the upstairs office. So yeah, I got over the heebie jeebies and I sorta moved his stuff out and now, I’m happily ensconced in the spacious office with the big desk.

But I didn’t move all my writing stuff down to my nice, big office. Basically, I brought my laptop. And as I’m ‘fessing up here, you might as well know that it wasn’t long before I sorta abandoned Precious the Laptop to the upstairs office and started using Mister Man’s sparkly new laptop.

I know.

I KNOW. It really is an embarrassment of riches (and after Precious has been so good to me!). But the point is, recently I decided to clean out the upstairs office and make that a bedroom again (because remember the whole bed thing?). So, I thought, I’ll just move anything important down to the big office. And here is where that title question comes in because every time I opened a drawer or tackled a book shelf or pulled out a binder, I asked myself, “How important is this?”

Honestly, that question floats around in my brain when it comes to just about anything in my life these days, but I suppose that literally, I said things like, “Why in the world did I make hard copies of every single thing I ever wrote?” (P.S. That’s where the binders came in. And P.P.S. There is A LOT of bad writing in those binders. Now all that bad writing has been transferred to an itty bitty flash drive.) Or “Look at all these boxes of different business cards! Did I ever actually give out my business card? (Well, yes, but more often, I forgot my cards. Or I changed up info so often that cards were outdated.)

That’s just the tip of the office iceberg; I’m still cleaning up and tossing out. And as I go, I’m constantly berating myself. Why did I waste so much time on stuff that wasn’t important? Because after every hour of clean-up, there’s very little that ends up in the nice, big office.

And you know what else? I don’t always work in the nice, big office. Turns out, when it comes to the important things in a writing career, all you really need is a bit of time, a good idea, and the discipline to write. (And a reliable laptop and wi-fi. We’re not barbarians, people.)

~Cathy C. Hall

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Interview with Kerri Ward, Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Today we are chatting with Kerri Ward, one of the runner's up in the Summer 2018 Flash Fiction contest. Make sure you read her touching story "Sick Leave" and then come by and read our interview.

Kerri Ward is an Irish writer and editor. She graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast with an MA in Creative Writing in 2013. Since then, she has been featured in a number of online and print literary journals, including The Cabinet of Heed and Blackbird, an anthology produced by the Seamus Heaney Centre. In 2017, her radio drama Human History was produced by Collapsing Horse Theatre and she placed 5th overall in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. In 2018 she won the July Dublin Story Slam and placed 2nd in the Save As Writers Gothic Dreams Short Story Competition, commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Kerri’s work explores themes of personal identity, love, and loss, but she also dabbles in gory feminist horror and subversive children’s stories. She lives in Dublin with her fiancé where, if she’s not writing, she’s probably baking. She tweets from @kerriward_.

Interview by Nicole Pyles

First and foremost, I was so touched by your story "Sick Leave." In all honesty, it brought tears to my eyes. What was the inspiration behind your story?

I'm so touched that the story moved you. I actually based it on the experience of a close friend, who had a first-trimester miscarriage. Because it happened before her first scan she never knew exactly how many weeks the baby had been, and because she had two small children at home at the time she had to carry on with life as normal the next day. She told me about it 15 years after it happened, having told almost nobody until then, and the loneliness of that just broke my heart. How many women have lost a child and then gone to work, dropped their children to school, made dinner, gone through the motions of their lives like nothing has happened because nobody knew and because society doesn't acknowledge their grief? I wrote 'Sick Leave' for her, and for all of those women. If someone out there reads my story who has been through that, I hope that they feel seen and acknowledged.

I think it's so touching you wrote that for her and all women who experience that type of loss. So, you mentioned in your bio that your writing explores themes of "personal identity, love and loss." What leads you to write these types of stories?

What I am most drawn to as a writer is the moments when we are forced to look at ourselves and say 'Is this really who I am? Is this really what I want?' I think when you love someone you are changed forever, and when you lose someone you are changed forever, and I want to follow characters as they go through that experience and come out the other side. As well, on a personal level, I'm very emotionally engaged (my fiancé would say 'neurotic') and I have a lot of love to give (he would say 'needy') so I like to write characters who are just a bit like me!

I think that's awesome you write characters that are bit like you! I think a lot of us writers enjoy doing that. I know I do! Well, I also am curious - you mentioned you also write gory feminist horror. I love it! The types of writing you do seem so different. How do you alternate between telling different types of stories?

Writing gory feminist horror is the best fun! But really, though the tone/setting/length/atmosphere of my stories can differ wildly, my themes tend to stay the same. I recently placed in a gothic fiction competition with a gruesome story about a female werewolf who slaughters her would-be rapists, but at the heart of it, that was a story about a girl grieving the death of her mother who finds the inner strength to love herself for what she is (honestly!). Working in publishing has made me pretty adept at writing to a brief, too, so I find it easy to flip from demographic to demographic or genre to genre without losing my voice.

That sounds amazing and I love the heartbreak you are writing about at the heart of these stories! So, what is next for you? What are you working on now?

Too many different things! I'm that person who can't just commit to a single project. At the moment though I'm working on a radio play based on the myth of Persephone, and a kids' book about a bad-ass little ballerina who discovers a love of karate. Stay tuned...

That combination of a ballerina who loves karate sounds awesome! Lastly, since you bake, I can't help but ask, what do you plan on baking for the holiday season?

This is my favourite question! Christmas in my house is a baking frenzy. This year I'll be making vegan brownies for my sisters, a big boozey trifle for my folks, spiced cookies for coworkers and a couple of my signature mulled port cakes for visitors. Let me know if you want any recipes!

Oh that sounds so yummy! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today and best of luck with your writing!

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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Identifying Your Audience

Monday, February 18, 2019
As I finalize a series proposal that I’m working on, I’ve had to face up to the fact that I’ve put off my least favorite section. Who is my audience? Maybe it’s because I’m a nonfiction author who loves her concrete facts. But trying to define a faceless group of people drives me a little batty.

Then I read a Writer’s Digest guest post by Dina Sitar. She recommends that when we write this section for a query or proposal we picture someone specific.

How would that work for me? I’m working on a proposal about urban wildlife. Who are my young readers?

To answer this, I climbed into the Jeep. Twenty minutes from my suburban home, I climbed out at the Riverlands. Families come to this conservation area all winter long. They can walk riverside trails but on twenty-two degree days like the day I visited they gather in the visitor’s center. Conservation biologists and docents have set up spotting scopes. Young nature lovers and their parents get to see cardinals, pelicans and, best of all, bald eagles.

Many of these kids know their wildlife, calling out the names of the birds they see and even asking about those they don't see. “Where are the trumpeter swans? Have you seen one?” But there are also new enthusiasts who are trying to learn the difference between a mature eagle and an immature eagle. And what do bald eagles eat anyway?

These kids and their parents came from all demographic groups including economic levels. There were boys and girls from preschoolers to middle school. These are the readers who form the audience for my series. And now that I can see them in my mind, I can write about them.

So who is your audience?

If you are writing a how-to or an inspirational piece for the Muffin’s “Friday Speak Out!,” they are your fellow women writers. They are people who, like you, are working to perfect the nuts-and-bolts of writing and marketing their work while juggling family, day jobs and life in general.

If you are writing a romance, maybe your audience is your best friend. This can mean something very different if you are a 30 something professional who likes steamy reads vs a Boomer who wants the roses and wine but not the how-to. Picturing your friend who would actually read your book can help you describe this person to an editor or agent.

Remember, you are describing this reader for someone who doesn’t know them. So get specific. How would your would-be publisher find this person among a group of varied readers? What distinguishes them from someone else who is female, forty years-old, and educated?

When you picture your readers, get specific. See their faces. Know their reactions. If necessary, go out and find them. Then get busy with that description. There are, after all, specific readers who need what you are writing.


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 March 18th, 2019.
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Interview with Lisa Lucca, Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction First Place Winner

Sunday, February 17, 2019
Lisa Lucca has been writing most of her life about love, family and living true to who you are. As an essayist, she was chosen as a contributor to the anthology Water Cooler Diaries, and was a #BlogHer17 Voice of the Year Honoree for her piece Two Roofs, One Home. Lisa is a blogger for the Gay Dad Project, and her work has been published on a variety of online sites including Good Men Project and Midlife Boulevard.

Lisa co-authored You Are Loved...an email memoir, an epistolary story of her lifelong connection to her partner, Mark. She is currently at work on her own memoir, Black Sheep, which centers on the complicated journey to family acceptance.

A former music production roadie, Lisa has made her living for the past 15 years as a life coach. Recently, she and Mark moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to southern New Mexico to be writers in the desert. To follow her on social media, visit lisalucca.com.

You can read Lisa's winning essay, "The Ashes of Purple Heart" here.

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q1 2018 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Lisa: Thank you. It truly is an honor to have my essay selected. As with any of the places I have submitted my work for consideration, this contest provided an opportunity to share my stories with readers. It's also exciting to have your work acknowledged in this way after so much effort. As a fan of WOW, I enjoy reading the writing of others, and I wanted to see my own work on your site.

Entering a contest like this also helps me hone my craft. I originally submitted this piece to the Q4 contest and just missed being a finalist. I took to heart the critique I received (which I highly recommend!) and with a few revisions I resubmitted and won first place.

It feels very important to me that our stories reach others as a vehicle for connection and understanding. WOW does a beautiful job facilitating that exchange with their ongoing contests and publication of contestants' work.

WOW: You’re also working on a memoir. What has that process been like for you?

Lisa: This essay is particularly poignant for me as it relates to my father's death, and my memories of our tumultuous relationship once he came out in my adolescence. Most of this piece also serves as the prologue to my memoir, Black Sheep, which I have been writing for several years. I have known at some level for decades that I would write about my dad and I, and how we navigated a relationship rife with misunderstanding but also deep love. At the heart of my book is how hard it is sometimes to see our parents as people separate from their relationship to us.

As I get further into this next draft, the ways in which we all need to find acceptance within, or about, our families has begun to reveal itself. As I write, each person in my story becomes more multifaceted, even to me, creating a better understanding of who they truly are, and not just the roles they play in my life. Perspective can be a compassionate teacher. My hope is to shed light on the need for all of us to really see one another without judgment, especially within our families, and to be brave enough to show our true colors.

WOW: Is there a particular memoir you think everyone needs to read?

Lisa: It would be too hard to pick one. Two of my favorites are quite popular - Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert - both of which are beautifully written and insightful stories. But there are two other memoirs I loved as much - Perfection by Julie Metz and Uncovered by Leah Lax.

All four of these stories center on a woman's search for her own identity after harrowing or emotionally devastating circumstances, something I can relate to with my own story. Yet, in each case the author's journey is so unique. Where Cheryl and Liz take us on exotic adventures to find themselves, Julie brings us along on an internal trek that navigates the foundation of truth itself. Leah shows us a world so foreign and riddled with rules, right in our own backyard, that we gasp at her courage to question her entire life, and the action she takes to change it. To me, memoir is such a powerful genre because these stories are not just exquisite, but also true.

WOW: You mentioned relocating to New Mexico from the San Francisco Bay Area. How has that adjustment been for you?

Lisa: Fantastic! Having relocated to San Francisco from the Midwest as a young woman in the early 80's, and then back to the Bay Area from Chicago again at 50, I thought I was destined to live by the sea for the rest of my life. It felt like home to me. But it is also extremely expensive.

My partner, Mark, and I began talking about moving to the Southwest when my apartment building was sold and the rent was skyrocketing. This meant sharing a home after 8 years of being together and living separately. We wanted plenty of space to live and write (and not kill each other!) near spectacular nature. As we were looking at Sedona and Santa Fe as options, a friend suggested Las Cruces, NM. We found a beautiful home to rent on Zillow, and moved in a month later pretty much sight unseen. Taking that chance has been extraordinary. We have a sunset view and the Organ Mountains a few miles away; trading the water for the incredible sky. I've never written more than since making this move!

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

Lisa: Thank you. My best advice is to just write. Sitting in the chair is the first step. You can edit bad words, but you have to get them on the page first. I also suggest not tweaking too much as you go. I am a big fan of "puking it out" then going back later to clean it up. Getting some distance from a piece of writing can really help see a new perspective. When I wrote the essay Two Roofs, One Home it was to submit to the Modern Love column of the NY Times. They rejected it. After a few months I took it out and revised it to submit to a BlogHer contest. It was chosen as a Voice of the Year winner. Sometimes all you need is more editing, and the courage to put it back out there.

Also, I can procrastinate with the best of them, so having writing buddies and/or a coach helps push me. I've got both, which helps with my final tip: get critique. The investment in having my work reviewed with feedback is what led me to win this contest.


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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4 Ways to Waste Time (and How They Can Help Your Writing!)

Saturday, February 16, 2019
Me, wasting some time in Target.
As I sat here trying to come up with a clever topic for today’s blog post, my mind drifted to a conversation I was having with a co-worker in the office today. We chatted about how we had gotten sucked into the documentary on “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” now playing on Netflix, and then she asked me if I had watched another one on the streaming service that is trending.

“No, but I’ve been wanting to watch that one!” I said. After finding out it was only about 90 minutes long as opposed to the four-hour Ted Bundy show, I then said, “I’ll watch it this weekend and we’ll talk about it next week!”

Yes, my name is Renee and Netflix takes up way too much of my personal time when I should be writing. But in my defense, that Ted Bundy documentary is going to help my writing because part of it wove itself right into the narrative of a young adult novel I’m revising about a stalker. That, my friends, is what we writers like to call double dipping.

In addition to watching Netflix and Amazon Prime, here are three other time wasters, and how I try to use them to improve my writing.

Listening to Podcasts. I consume these like a madwoman, and I’m completely addicted to the true crime ones (shocker). But I mostly listen to downloaded podcasts while I’m out exercising, doing mindless chores around the house, or driving. I tend to gravitate towards podcasts that have a specific formula, such as interviewing a guest on each episode or introducing products in different segments (like the Hungry Girl podcast “Chew the Right Thing"). There’s one I listen to called “Unsolved Murders” where actors act out the featured case, which requires a script to be written ahead of time. I mine these podcasts for topics I can use in short stories or novels, and try to absorb what kind of writing style appeals to the masses the most.

Reading Gossip Magazines. These are also a vice of mine. It didn’t help that my mother-in-law got me a subscription to People for Christmas (thanks, Linda!) People is not a bad magazine to read though, because I get a good mix of celebrity gossip and style, human interest stories, recipes, and there is often an investigative piece thrown in there. But my other loves, like Us Weekly and Life and Style, are not as substantive. The benefits of reading any of these magazines is that I can get a refresher on journalistic writing, how to put together a catchy headline, what types of photos catch the eye, and I often get a sneak peek of upcoming novels I may want to check out.

Target. I don’t think I’m alone in this time waster. I do the majority of the meal planning and cooking in my family, and each weekend I must make a SuperTarget run because it is the most affordable store for me to get all my groceries in one place. But as most of us know, you don’t just zip in and out of Target. If I need a caffeine fix, I’ll pop into the Starbucks and grab a coffee first. Then I have to check off the grocery items on my AnyList app, and scan each item with my Cartwheel app. Then I’ll meander over to the throw pillows, see if there are any new vases I need for my mantle, try on a few pair of shoes that I can’t resist, and the next thing you know, I’ve been away from my precious weekend writing time for three hours! But even though I waste a lot of time in this store, the groceries I buy there end up saving me during the week when I can quickly throw a simple dinner in the Instant Pot or prepare salads ahead of time for lunch. And occasionally I can stock up on some fun office supplies and pick up printer cartridges in the stationery section!

So these are four of my biggest time wasters and the pros I can find within each. I’d love to hear about yours and how they help you with your writing!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. She is seeking representation for a contemporary young adult novel, Between. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.

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Friday Speak Out!: Escape Artist

Friday, February 15, 2019
by Pamela Kenney

My first mistake was waking up.
My second was turning on the television.
I should know better by now.
No good can come from that.

But if you're anything like me, you hurry through breakfast and rush to your desk where you can find solace with your writing. We writers are lucky. We can escape any bad news of the day by retreating to the wonderful worlds we create, using only our imaginations.

You want to tell someone off? Put it in a story. You want your husband to say just the right thing at just the right moment? Put it in that romance novel you've always wanted to write. In-laws driving you crazy? Start that murder mystery now. And while you're at it, add in that guy who wrote you out a parking ticket He should get what's coming to him. Figuratively speaking, of course.

We writers are the ultimate escape artists. We can work through our own problems and solve ones for other people, who in real life just won't listen to us at all. Those silly people. Don't they know that writers have all the answers?

So hurry up, finish that last bit of cereal. You've got some escaping ... I mean writing to do!

* * *
Pamela Kenney likes to escape to her Buttercup books, set in a fictional small town, where adventure, humor and romance abounds (and the bad guys always get what's coming to them). Information about Pamela Kenney's books can be found on her website at: http://pamelakenney.com/ and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/@PKenneyWriter/
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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3 Tips For Women Writers on Valentine's Day

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day is a difficult day for so many people. I debated what to write about today--it seems as if our scheduled WOW blogging day is a holiday, we must have something profound to say! It is a lot of pressure. I thought about posting about my favorite Valentine's picture books or romance novels, but then I decided that although The Muffin is mostly about writing and books, it's also about being a woman writer. And with being a woman writer comes worrying about love and celebrating Valentine's Day.
A lot of lovely friends to be thankful for! 

I've had my share of lonely Valentine's Days and February fourteenths where I wasn't alone, but felt that way anyway. One could argue that writers often have trouble because we dramatize real life, with feeling things very deeply and being sensitive. But I also think writers, especially fiction writers, are very good with their imagination and with creative thinking. So the Valentine's Day "alone" problem can be solved somewhat with creativity and imagination. If you're finding yourself feeling sad, lonely, uncreative, or unmotivated on Valentine's Day, let's look at some things you can do--that I've done myself--that could make a difference today and many more days to come.

1. Look for the love that is in your life: Valentine's Day is about love--but not necessarily romantic love. You can celebrate the love between friends and family members or the love for your children. You can even focus on the love for a pet. Even better, how about the love you have for your writing time? If writing is your love and passion, then make sure to give yourself time to work on your writing today.

2. A Heart of Gratitude: More and more, I am learning that gratitude can change attitudes and make life bearable when it seems chaotic. Every night, thanks to some good advice I decided to follow, my daughter and I list three blessings for our day. Some days, my blessings include my house and electricity; and some days, I can be more specific about good things that happened to me, including writing and editing opportunities that I am grateful for. Often, my blessings are that I am spending time with my daughter and my dog.

Sometimes, I'm thankful for cupcakes! 

I want to introduce you to a terrific blog and resource about mindfulness and gratitude called We Bold Souls. I was lucky enough to hear Angela, who runs the company, give a presentation at my MOPS group, and then I signed up for her newsletter. At the presentation, she talked about the research that has been done on the positive effects of having a grateful attitude, and the evidence is overwhelming that gratefulness can change your life. If you aren't so weighed down with whatever troubles that are weighing you down, do you think your writing could improve? Or the energy for your writing? In my opinion, it's worth a shot. If nothing else, you can be grateful to live in a world where there are so many opportunities for women to share their opinions and allow their voices to be heard through publication.

3. Journaling: I believe in the power of journaling on a regular basis, even though my own journaling is often done as a sporadic practice. But anytime I've allowed myself to take one of Mari McCarthy's self-paced journaling courses or read a book with questions at the end of chapters, where I wrote the answers in a notebook, I have grown as a person. Just reading or thinking or talking is not as powerful for me or doesn't stick with me as long as actually writing down my feelings--I'm sure it's because I'm a writer. But if you're feeling sad and lonely on Valentine's Day, try journaling about it. No one has to read it. You can even tear it up when you are done. You never know where those written down thoughts might take you.

We at WOW! are a community of supportive women writers, but we also support each other as women. We try to timely respond to all comments and responses on our social media pages; so please, if you're feeling down, try one of these methods above or reach out to us on social media. And if you're celebrating love in your life today, then we hope it brings you great joy!

Me and a special guy! 
Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, writing coach and instructor, living in St. Louis with her daughter and her boxer dog. Find out more about her on her website, Look to the Western Sky, or in the WOW! classroom.  
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What Makes a Great Writing Retreat?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In less than ten days, I will be heading to a writing retreat. Not only will I be participating in it, I will be leading it.

Leading is a misleading term, in this case. It will be a completely loose weekend. There won't be any let's-all-gather-together-and-write-to-the-same-prompt times. There won't be any guest speakers. We'll eat. We'll write. We'll eat. We'll meet with our response group partners a couple of times over the two-day span. We'll write some more until, reluctantly, we have to go home.

I've taken part in many writing retreats, and I always try to distill the experience down to its very essence as I analyze what worked and what didn't. Thinking about it, what I need in a retreat is hopefully the same as what others need...

In my opinion, this is what makes a great writing retreat:

Things to nibble on--I know that doesn't sound crucial, but for me, the chance to get up occasionally to get a handful of pistachio nuts ensures I occasionally get off my rear end. When I roam over to the snack table, I get some think-time. (The pistachios are still in their shell, which adds to the think-time. I drink lots of water for the same reason. When I have to get up and go frequently, that helps move along my writing process.) Taking the focus off my writing for a moment means I can focus onto it in a different way.

Something to stare at--This place (we've had our retreats there for several years) has lots of glass. When I need to, I can gaze out at the landscape outside. There's stained glass surrounding us, which can also give me a momentary break as I stare. However, it's also easy to ignore as I'm hunched over my laptop when the words are flowing like floodwater.

Time--Of course, this is the best thing about the writing retreats I love. Having large expanses of time to write and read over my writing is a luxury I don't get to enjoy very often. When I have all morning to write, or all afternoon or all evening, that means that when I get into a groove, I can keep the momentum going. There's nothing tmy progress to a screeching halt.

The icing on the top: I'll probably take a nap that will most certainly involve drooling and snoring. Thankfully, I have a room to myself, so no other humans will be harmed by my napping.

How about you? What would be the components in your dream writing retreat?

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher by day and (judging by this week) a drooler on the couch by night. She rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue and is working on her manuscript not-consistently-enough. If you're intrigued (and not horrified, by this point), check out her blog.
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Interview with Ruby Norman Curran: Summer 2018 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Ruby’s Bio:
Ruby is an award-winning copywriter and storyteller from Oxford, England. In 2015 she won The Moth StorySLAM in London, and this year her copy has been recognized by the Lovie Awards and The Drum Awards for advertising. This is her first foray into flash fiction.

She studied English at Exeter University, and credits Kerry Ryan’s outstanding ‘Write like a grrrl’ course in London for giving her confidence in her own voice (and the advice, “Ladies, next time someone asks you what you do, tell them you’re a writer. You know every man who’s ever even thought about doing a podcast calls himself a writer. Why can’t you?”)

Her greatest ambition is to find, and forcibly befriend Stevie Nicks.

It’s important to have goals.

If you’ve haven’t read it already, follow the link to Ruby’s award-winning story “Half Sure.” Then return here for a chat so that you can learn about Ruby’s writing process.

WOW: In Half Sure you’ve created a character and a situation that feel immediate and real. What was the inspiration behind this story? What made it the one you had to work on next?

Ruby: It all started with the café. Cafes in books and films tend to be romantic places, and I wanted to show one that reflected the kind of cafes I’ve always known – the slightly rubbish, hippy ones that someone probably started up from their living room way before it was cool to be vegan. I was in the process of moving jobs when I wrote “Half Sure,” a lot of clandestine café meetings were involved, so I was being consistently reminded of the almost ritualistic importance of food and drink as a catalyst for social interaction, and from that starting place the themes of food, and control, sort of spilled out organically.

In my first draft the characters had no redeeming features. My boyfriend read it and said “Babe, maybe give people something to root for…?” which I’m not sure I took very graciously at the time, but he was right. I completely rewrote the story after that. I explored their motivations more.

The weird thing about writing is how your characters start becoming their own people. They start saying things you wouldn’t expect or acting in a way you yourself never would. They surprise you. They’re alive, and once characters are alive you tend to think of them differently – you yourself also want to know what they’ll do. That’s when you know it’s the piece that you’re going to finish next. You want to get to the end as much as everyone else.

WOW: That’s so true about getting to know your living characters. Let’s focus now on flash fiction. So much of writing flash fiction is choosing what to include and what to omit. What informed these decisions for you?

Ruby: I had a whole other part of the story that I cut in the end. I realized that if I was canny, I could tell both stories, through the actions of the characters. The words told one story the actions another. A theme I’ve noticed in my own life.

When I was younger I had a boyfriend who said the right things, but started sleeping with his back to me. It felt wrong. But I couldn’t say “Your sleeping position is making me feel weird” without sounding quite mad, so I ignored the instinct. When I found out he’d been seeing other people behind my back the action came back to me. Another language. I was reading it, but passing it up for what was being overtly said. What he said and what he did - the stories didn’t match. It gave him away.

And that has always fascinated me; the way people deceive, self-deceive, and reveal. I guess elements of that ended up in the story.

I also ended up writing my ending about half way through – if a line didn’t take me towards that conclusion in some way it was cut.

WOW: Now you’ve got my wondering about my own work-in-progress. How long will it be if I cut using that rule? You are also a copywriter. How do your skills in writing copy come into play when you right fiction?

Ruby: I spend a significant amount of my day editing my own writing. In copywriting it’s usually about cutting something down to its purest form, making it snappy and an instant get – like, how can I get an idea across in a three-word slogan? It’s very disciplined, which probably isn’t who I am naturally. Doing it every day keeps me sharp, and helps when it comes to editing my own fiction.

It also teaches you how to deal with rejection. I write pieces that get rejected every day in work. It’s just part of the job. When you write fiction it’s like giving a slice of your real self away. It’s very uncomfortable. But working in an industry that consumes creativity allows you to see it as a piece of work, not a bit of you.

WOW: Good point. In your bio, you talk about finding your voice. What advice do you have for readers who are still trying to find their voice?

Ruby: The first hurdle is starting. Just start.

If you end up sounding like someone else, try and listen to how the people around you speak. Then try and learn to write in other people’s voices, it’ll make you very suddenly aware of your own.

I also think learning to edit your own work is important. Write something you quite like. Edit. Edit again. Let people read it. Try not to throw up as they give you feedback. Edit again. Accept it will never be perfect. Send it anyway. Get rejected. Fuck them they wouldn’t know good writing if it hit them in the – drink a gin and tonic. Do some research and send it to people who are more likely to publish your stuff. Send it again. Don’t stop.

So much of art is personal taste. If your piece isn’t accepted straight away, it doesn’t mean it was bad. It just means it wasn’t to one person’s taste.

Which brings me on to advice - listen to all of it, but don’t take all of it. It’s easy to assume that someone else who is more experienced is inherently ‘right’ about your work. But it’s your work. Take heed or totally ignore as you see fit. And you happen to be a London based lady who wants to write check out Kerry
Ryan’s unparalleled ‘Write like a grrl’ (not a typo. Like Riot Grrl). It taught me good habits and is hands down the best course out there.

WOW: What are your long term writing goals? Where can Muffin readers look for your work in the future?

Ruby: I have a website where some of my writing can be seen, it’s inventively called rubynormancurran.com and contains a few of my creative endeavours.

At the beginning of the year (so close to the beginning I was still drunk from NYE) I made a rash promise on Viktor Wynd’s Instagram to write a novel in 2019. I’m not sure it’s a promise I can keep, but hey. Everyone starts somewhere.

WOW: Thank you, Ruby! Your advice is going to help move so many of us forward as well as encouraging us to try new things.

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