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Thursday, May 30, 2019

 

Everybody Needs a Hand Up

These days, writing is harder than it used to be. The industry's flooded with books. The publishers are pickier. So are the agents. Everybody (including me) thinks they are a writer. It's like we're grains of sand on the beach... and we want to stand out like a black shark's tooth among that tannish-gray sea of sand.

These days, we need a hand from our fellow writers. I have gotten invaluable assistance from colleagues... and I continue to depend on the kindness of strangers, along with the support and guidance of blogosphere acquaintances and writing colleagues.


photo by Sioux--part of a sculpture in Chesterfield, Missouri... The rest of the
piece includes part of a leg, a foot, an arm and a face


What kind of help do I benefit from? Here's some of it:

Writing Accountability Groups: Several years ago, a writer (J. Glenn) recommended starting a writing accountability group. immediately, I knew that having a group to hound me when I got lax would be beneficial.

This is the second year I've been part of an accountability group (the Butt-Kickers). Currently, I've been MIA for a couple of weeks. Am I writing more--this minute--to make up for my procrastination? Well, no. (But I do feel guilty.)


Beta Readers: In the last year I've been lucky enough to have two beta readers wade through my manuscript. (Linda O'Connell was one of my beta readers.) When they were through, I got the manuscript copies back with thoughtful (and thought-provoking) notes scrawled in the margins. Those are true friends--friends who commit to reading a not-perfect draft and are willing to be honest. Their encouragement and belief in my manuscript buoyed my spirits.

Editors: Last year I mustered enough courage to decide on hiring an editor to assess my manuscript. I was fortunate enough to choose Margo Dill. Not only did I pay for her expert services once, I did it twice. (My manuscript needed major revisions. In all honesty, it needed to be completely rewritten so after I used the wrecking ball on it and got the crane out and rebuilt it, I hired her to take a second look at it.) What I got from Margo was so much more than I expected. Because of her numerous suggestions, it's now a manuscript I'm proud of.

Writing Groups: I belong to two different writing groups. We bring copies of the piece we want critiqued, get feedback on our story/essay and get to offer suggestions on the pieces the other writers bring. Don't get me wrong--my stories are vastly improved after a critique session, but I think the biggest benefit is that it gets me writing on a regular basis. We meet every couple of weeks, which means I have to have something to share every couple of weeks.

Right now, when it comes to submitting, my spirits are lower than I'd like. What keeps even a trickle of activity going is the help I get... from my writing accountability group... from my writing friends--both local and afar, known and not-really-known.

How have you helped a fellow writer lately?


                                      There's not many songs that begin with Ringo singing all by himself...




Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher by day and a procrastinating freelance writer by night. When she's not avoiding writing or drooling on the couch (asleep), she rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue. Sioux's currently begging and pleading with agents to give her manuscript a once-over. If you're curious, check out her blog.







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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

 

5 Things to Help You Be a Happy Writer


Last week I was trundling along on the treadmill looking at blog posts when I came across a link to a Writer’s Digest post, “It’s Great to Suck at Writing” by Karen Rinaldi. Rinaldi discusses the idea that to succeed as a writer you first have to be okay with sucking and then working really, really hard to improve. Those who expect to be great at it from the outset and aren’t willing to adjust their attitude are doomed to failure.

Wait a minute. Why am I talking about failure? Didn’t I promise you 5 things to help you be a happy writer? I did. And here comes #1.

Adopt a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset don’t focus on grades. They focus on the challenge of learning. In much the same way, writers with a growth mindset look at their lack of skill in a given area as a chance to learn and improve. A rejection is a chance to try again and do better.

Try new things. Related to having a growth mindset is a willingness to try new things. In writing, this might mean learning to use Scrivener. It might also mean learning to write in a new genre such as graphic novels or learning about magazine writing if you are novelist. Writers who are willing to try new things challenge themselves. Studies show that when we are challenged we are happier.

Find a way to use your character strengths. As part of a class I am taking, we took a survey to determine our character strengths. Not surprisingly, my five greatest strengths are creativity (artistic and finding new ways to do things), love of learning, judgement (an ability to look at all sides of an issue), gratitude, and bravery (a willingness act or speak up about something even if your perspective is unpopular). As a nonfiction writer who writes about race and social justice, I get to use all of these traits on a regular basis. Take the quiz which you can find here and look for a way to use your strengths in your writing. 

Get out among people. People, even introverts, are social animals. We are happiest when we spend at least some time with others. Yes, even introverts. Studies show that even eating chocolate is more enjoyable in the company of another person even if you don’t interact. It is easy to do much of what we need to do online, but every now and then it pays to get out in the brick-and-mortar world. Go to the library. Pick up your office supplies instead of having them delivered. Meet the clerk’s eye and thank them for their help.

Find a writing community. People in general are good but writers need fellow writers. Unfortunately, you may not be able to find other writers where you live. That’s where WOW! can come in handy. Communities like this are a great way to connect with people who are as interested in writing as you are. Having people who know what you are going through will help to bolster your spirits all along your writing journey.

It may be great to suck at writing, but it is even better if you can manage to be happy while you learn and grow.

--SueBE

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 22nd, 2019.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

 

The Evolution of a Writer



I was reading an article in a trade magazine about “writing things that we regret,” and the author offered advice as to how to purge these writings from your online portfolio. I sat back and thought about my own history as a writing. Were there things I’ve written in the past that I was embarrassed about?

My evolution as a writer has gone through many incarnations. When I first started trying to write on a freelance basis, there weren’t a lot of places that paid well to write online. There were a few different sites now known as “content mills” that I submitted articles to. I got a thrill seeing my name online, wrote things like 500-600 word count articles on travel destinations and book reviews and got paid a whopping . . . less than $20 per piece. I was also still getting the hang of how to write open-ended articles like those, so they probably weren’t the most quality writing. While I doubt they are still floating around out there for anyone to see (believe me, I’ve googled them), I have to say I’m a bit relieved.

Around this same time period, I started pitching articles to a parenting website and got a few assignments. They paid more than the content mill sites, and the editor began offering me regular articles. This helped to beef up my online portfolio and gave me clips to share when I started pitching print magazines with story ideas. Writing these were fun at first, and timely as I had young children at home back then. Eventually the Walt Disney Internet Company bought out the website and my pay rate increased. Over time, however, it became harder and harder to find experts to quote in the articles because I was writing about vague topics like “when a baby’s eye color changes” or “games to play with baby.” These were assigned to me and not topics I pitched, so I didn’t have as much research to work with. Some of the sources I interviewed (i.e. doctors, developmental experts) thought my topics were hooey and weren’t afraid to say so. I see now that the assignments were probably based on SEO terms/phrases that the company was using to attract parents to the site. This site was later sold to another entity and I quit writing for them. I’m sure those articles contain a few examples of writing I’d rather not share with everyone. But again, they don't show up when I search articles under my name.

Over the years I’ve written bad poetry (none published, thank goodness!), entered unpolished essays and short stories into contests, and pitched novels that still needed work to agents. With each word written, with each revision, I’ve improved my craft. Yes, there have been misses, but there have also been wins. Major wins, like award-winning short stories, articles that turned into magazine cover stories, and story assignments that led to job offers. A writer has to start somewhere, and I’m living proof. Don’t be afraid to evolve as a writer. We all have to start somewhere.

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Monday, May 27, 2019

 

Is It Time For a Makeover?

There are times, Dear Writer, that we need more than just a toss of dead links on a website; we need a major makeover. Because there are times when subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle) things change in our writing life.

And when I say we, I of course mean me. I needed a makeover in the worst way and in one of those moments of clarity (that for reasons unknown always seem to occur in the shower), I knew I had to tackle that makeover before June arrived. So how did I know? I came up with these signs that smacked me upside the head while rinsing my hair:

Twitter, the Before
Invalid Important Information

So you have a link to an article that’s no longer available. That’s not a big deal; we all have a few links that go nowhere. But if you have a book and the link for purchasers to buy your book is not working, then that’s a big deal. And maybe something like that is an easy fix and won’t require an all-out makeover. But it does require fixing in the most thorough way possible.

I can’t tell you what’s important as far as your specific writing career goes, but I can tell you that generally, anything finance-related is going to be a necessary fix. Agent information is pretty important and contact information is, too. And if you’ve changed your entire writing career from say, romance author to nonfiction children’s writer, and haven’t quite got round to updating your website, then stop reading right now and start that makeover.


Obviously Outdated


Twitter, After...Yeah, these would be the subtle changes.


Is your website tagline something everyone said in 1989? Do you have a color scheme that screams avocado appliances? Do you think your photos are cool vintage (when they’re really just black and white)?

We don’t stay the same year after year, and yet, we’re perfectly okay with a website that we created a decade ago. And if you’re a celebrity writer, you can probably get away with that. But if you’re not a celebrity, then you might want to take a long, hard look at your online presence and get with the 2019 program.

Make sure that your photo looks like you. I know you spent a lot of money on those professional head shots, but if you are making appearances and you show up to an event and the organizer doesn’t recognize you? Get new photos.

Scrutinize the message your online presence is sending and make sure that’s the message you still want to send. Maybe when you first started out, you highlighted your humorous side and so naturally, there are quips and funny pics on your website. But maybe now, you’re an inspirational writer who focuses on loss and grief and do you really want a clown dancing next to a funereal floral arrangement? The point is, your website needs to reflect who you are now.


So take a look at yourself, Writer. Maybe you need to make some subtle (or not so subtle changes) at your online home. And now that my hair is dry, I really should get to work on my makeover!


~Cathy C. Hall (who's still working on the not-so-subtle website changes)

Before I go, a not-so-subtle message to all the veterans, those who've gone long before and those who've come after: Thank you for serving! I am so grateful to live with the freedoms I have but on this Memorial Day, I remember that those freedoms came with a price. May you always know how much your sacrifice is and was appreciated!

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

 

Jackie Pick Wins Again: 2nd Place in Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Jackie Pick is becoming a household name if you follow this blog and WOW!'s flash ficiton and nonfiction essay contests. She is delightful, and we love to pick her brain each time she wins. If you haven't met Jackie or read her writing yet, you are in for a treat. You have to check out her 2nd place essay, in the 2019 Second Quarter Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest, titled "The Moon, The Womb, and Dim Sum."

Bio: Jackie is a former teacher and current writer living in the Chicago area. She is a contributing author to several anthologies, including Multiples Illuminated, Nevertheless We Persisted, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood, Here in the Middle, as well as the literary magazines The Sun and Selfish. In 2018, her work won commendation from the Mark Twain House and Museum Royal Nonesuch Humor Writing Competition. Jackie is a contributor at Humor Outcasts, and her work has been featured on various online sites including Mamalode, The HerStories Project, and Scary Mommy. A graduate of the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, Jackie co-created and co-wrote the award-winning short film Fixed Up, and was a member of the 2017 Chicago cast of Listen To Your Mother. She can be found lurking on Twitter or on her website.

WOW: Jackie, congratulations on your creative nonfiction essay contest win--again! You are becoming a household name amongst the WOW! family for your humorous essays about your family and your relationships with them. This essay: "The Moon, The Womb, and Dim Sum" is a little different and explores many themes: astrology/horoscopes, belief in mystical/spiritual elements, romantic relationships, sisters, and mothers-daughters to name a few. But let's start with how it pays such a tribute to your grandma. What made you write an essay about her and her astrology book?

Jackie: Thank you for your kind words. For the first 18 years of my life, I knew my grandmother more through stories than through interaction. She lived 1000 miles away, so we didn’t see her very often. Combining that with the fact that she was a devout Catholic, while my parents were Jewish and raised their children Jewish, Grandma Alice seemed to inhabit a different world entirely. The loving stories I heard about her made our occasional visits feel like something out of a storybook, where I was trying to discover and understand her, as well as my own history. Of course, children are fascinated and sometimes confused by contradictions while teenagers can often exploit them. As my own children started to ask questions about my childhood, I realized my own understanding of my grandmother and my childhood was filtered through some unusual lenses, and those contradictions were simultaneously sharpened and softened, as I began to work through this story.

WOW: The format of the essay is so interesting. We just published an e-zine issue that has a lot of information about lyric essays, and I would argue (and hopefully you agree) that your essay could definitely fit under this definition. Why did you choose to write it with the "Fact" label and weave together--your grandma's astrology book; your grandma's personality--your mom's and your sister's, too; dating the Pisces, and then eventually winding up with your husband and kids and the social media exchange with the ex?

Jackie: Oh, I love that you also consider this a lyric essay. I think when dealing with faith, religion, and relationships – especially familial relationships – facts get soft and wily. I think the lyric essay form let all that complexity and meaning and subtext ebb and flow best. That was sort of the crux of this whole piece (and I went through dozens of iterations of this over about two years). What’s real? What’s true? Are those the same thing? Does it matter? Facts and truth play hide-and-seek when it comes to matters of the heart. I had to wait to be a good enough writer to even attempt this style. I’ve always liked playing with chronology and form, and I have a long way to go; but I’m happy to be at a place where I’m trying things and often they resonate!

WOW: Thank you for letting us know how long you worked on this. I think knowing that is helpful to many of us.  Of course, your essay also describes some Chinese food and mentions it a few times, which makes me want to order Chinese for dinner--if only my 8-year-old daughter would share the love. And that seems to be the last key point and theme in your essay we haven't touched on very much yet. Food and sitting around the table are often themes in personal essays--why do you think that is? Why did you work that into your message here?

Jackie: Food, family, big life moments – at least two of the three almost always go together. All of those are nourishment. Conflict (and great stories!) comes when we try to substitute one nourishment for another, or one type competes rather than complements, or when “nourishment” becomes something more or less than what it needs to be, becomes analgesic or even provocative. As I edited this piece, there was a whole section on what Chinese food meant to my family and what types of foods were important to my grandmother (who we tended to visit on big eating occasions like Thanksgiving), and how when I “grew up” and expanded my palette, it became a ridiculous point of establishing my independence. I was nourishing my separation and identity through food. Maybe that will become another piece in the future.

WOW: Love all the symbolism, and all the nourishment you just gave to our brains with that answer. (smiles) Let's switch gears just a little here. We know you write a lot of essays--but do you write anything else? Why or why not? Are you busy building a brand--a body or work that is all in the same genre or appeals to the same type of reader? Or are you writing what inspires you--no matter how it comes out?

Jackie: I write what inspires me, or at least what nags at me, and try to find the best way to express it. Film, novel, essay, fiction, non-fiction, humor, serious. I write scripts for short films and plays, and I am currently working on two (!) books with notes etched out for a third. Which either makes me sound very busy or makes me sound unfocused. Probably both, but I don’t care. It works for me. I am nourished when my writing diet is varied.

I don’t really work on building a brand, per se, but I hope to reach people who might enjoy my weirdness no matter how it’s expressed. That’s going to be a little trickier if I dabble across genres, but it’s honest. I used to worry a lot about platform building, but I realized I was spending a lot of time on the business of writing and not a lot of time actually writing. I know that I cannot rely on the work to speak solely for itself, but it should have a much larger voice than my stomping around social media.

WOW: We also notice you on Instagram quite a bit! And your bio mentions Twitter. How are you using social media as a writer to either build an audience or network with industry professionals or both?

Jackie: I enjoy social media. It’s a strange, hilarious, sometimes awful place. I’m using it both as a megaphone (probably pointed into the wind), but also a place to learn about writers and interact with fascinating people whom I would not otherwise get to chat with. Instagram is where I plop my random musings and/or photos of stuff I’ve cooked that doesn’t look like it should be used in a ritual purging. And my kids, when they give me permission. It’s also where I recommend books I’m enjoying. Be warned, I occasionally post photo evidence of my bad hair days.

Twitter is where I get political and try out some dumb jokes, and promote any essays that I have been published. My public Facebook page is largely where I direct people to my blog. My blog deals right now largely with the process of writing my book, but it’s also a place for me to experiment with different writing pieces that don’t really fit anywhere else.

WOW: I think a lot of people don't think about using different social media platforms for different things, but that's a great idea. Anything else you would like to add?

Jackie: Thank you so much for this – it’s been fun!

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

 

What an Election in India Taught Me About Never Giving Up



Somewhere in India - Pune, India, to be exact - a man is contesting a parliamentary seat. The most interesting thing about him? Well, he has lost 24 different elections. Yet hope is still alive because Vijayprakash Kondekar wants to become prime minister. How is that for an example about not giving up?

As a writer, when I saw this, I wondered about my stories waiting in the wings for acceptance. The ones I'm no longer as sure about anymore. If my story had been rejected 24 times would I give up? Or keep persisting? You see, in writing, it's not uncommon to face a lot of rejections. In fact, one article I read recently recommended aiming for 100 rejections a year (fun fact: I'm not even close to submitting that much).

Despite the rejections I have received (and those not yet to come) I know one thing - I'm better than I was and one day I will be better than I am today.

So after 24 rejections - or hundreds - what can you tell yourself? How do you lick those wounds? And aside from the fact that writing itself can be a form of masochism, how do we explain the need to continue on and keep trying?

Well, when I was a kid, I always said that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. Somewhere along the way, I promised myself that I wouldn't give up on that dream (or goal, as a mature write may call it). And with each rejection, each passing day where writing fails me, I tell myself that it's all about that promise to myself of not giving up.

What this man in India who has lost 24 times has taught me this - don't give up. If you believe in your cause (as this man believes in his cause), then you must continue. You see, each writer has a cause and that is to share their story with the world. And much like democracy, it isn't that simple nor is that easy to win (and we don't always "get" the ones that do). It's like our readers are a bit like voters. We don't always understand them and they don't always understand us. However, we must persist in trying to reach them.

So, as you sit down to write, and maybe even read another rejection letter, think of the Mr. Kondekar who walks around Pune, India with a signboard trying to convince people to vote for him. Sure, there are those who laugh but there are those - like me - who see the bigger picture. If you believe in yourself, you cannot give up.

Now go on, write. Revise. Get critiqued. Submit. Rinse and repeat. Write in spite of every rejection you've received. Prove the rejectors wrong. In fact, be deliriously determined. Aim to get the world record for rejection letters. Because you may surprise yourself. You may hear the "yes" you've been waiting on.



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Friday, May 24, 2019

 

Friday Speak Out!: Why Memoir?

by Deborah Tobola

There’s nothing like falling into a well-written memoir. How thrilling to travel to Kate Simon’s vibrant post-World War I immigrant neighborhood in Bronx Primitive, to Dominika Derry’s enchanted childhood in a Communist-occupied Czech village in The Twelve Little Cakes, to Patricia Lockwood’s hilariously unconventional household in Preistdaddy. Because of the skills of the writers, each of these books transports the reader to a specific time and place, rendering the book’s world completely.

Memoirs like The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are among the titles that have legitimized the genre and created an appetite for more memoirs.

Why are readers drawn to memoirs? We are searching for authenticity. In a world heavy with spin, there’s a hunger for the real. We want the truth of the writer’s life, even if it’s hard to bear sometimes.

Memoirs are intimate in the way other writing is not. There’s a deep dialogue between writer and reader. Reading a well-written memoir is like having coffee with a best friend, rather than a new acquaintance. We get to ride shotgun with the writer in her search meaning in her life.

Finally, memoirs help us put our own experience in context. I have a chapter titled “911” in my memoir, Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men’s Prison. My experience of that day is particular—spending the day in prison after hearing on the radio that morning what sounded like the end of the world. Most readers will remember precisely their experience of that day. In that way, some moments in memoirs serve as touchstones, reminding us that although we are individuals with unique experiences, we are also connected by the joys and sorrows of our shared human experience.

This is the kind of connection that we long for in literature. There are elements of memoir in writers of other genres, such as Lucia Berlin’s gritty and incandescent stories in A Manual for Cleaning Women and Norm Eisen’s The Last Palace, a breathtaking panoramic chronicle of the history of Eastern Europe, with his mother’s escape from the Nazis during World War II woven in to the history of the building.

For the writer, memoir presents challenges that fiction does not. We use the same tools as novelists, short story writers and poets in telling our stories—a compelling plot, complex characters, vivid language and a coherent theme. But we must also give up artistic license in service of the truth. A memoirist’s experiences are filtered through memory, and people remember the same events differently. The best memoirs, I think, resonate with the ring of truth.

* * *
DEBORAH TOBOLA is a poet, playwright and co-author of a children’s book. Her work has earned four Pushcart Prize nominations, three Academy of American Poets awards and a Children’s Choice Book Award. Tobola retired from the Department of Corrections at the end of 2008 to begin Poetic Justice Project, the country’s first theatre company created for formerly incarcerated actors, where she serves as artistic director. Tobola returned to prison work three years ago and currently teaches creative writing and theatre at the California Men’s Colony. She lives in Santa Maria, California. www.deborahtobola.com
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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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Thursday, May 23, 2019

 

For reading out loud

Besides being a teacher, I have worked in public relations for several years, promoting other peoples' products, services, and ideas. So, it just makes sense that I can promote my own work just as effectively, right? Well, that's where you would be wrong.

I am not comfortable tooting my own horn, and would rather clean the bathroom than get up and talk about myself. This also goes for reading my work, which sometimes turns me into a trembling mess, not unlike the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz as he walks down the long hall to ask the Mighty Oz for "Courage." Jumping out a window seemed like a perfectly normal response to me.

As a speech teacher, I am comfortable talking about ideas other than my own, or at least presenting my own ideas as a way to help other people, which is what I try to do to take the focus off me. There are still times when I feel a sudden self-awareness when everyone is looking at me, and I have no idea what to say next.

During moments when I can't gather my thoughts, I may take off my glasses and rub my eye like there is something in it, or cough and take a drink of the tea I always carry with me, or ask if there are any questions. By the time I get back to the topic, I can usually remember what I was going to say, or just ask "What I was talking about?" and at least one person remembers. And if not, I just go to my next topic.

David Sedaris, the humorist and author of many funny books including "Me Talk Pretty One Day," once said he has the easiest job in the world because all he has to do is stand up and read. Reading out loud does sound easy because I've been doing it since I was in the first grade.

However, a couple of months ago I forced myself to read one of my short stories at an open mic night. I had practiced, and wasn't terrified before I began, although the nerves did announce their presence as soon as I stated the title. As I began to read, I felt like I couldn't catch my breath by the end of every sentence. In addition, my mouth turned into the Mojave Desert, complete with sand and cacti. I believe I saw a vulture or two circle overhead, and my tongue shriveled like a snakeskin that had been shed a few days earlier. I was so uncomfortable that I never looked at the audience. Although I was not happy with my performance, I got through it.

So, what did I do? Just the opposite of what you might think. I took the next opportunity that came along to read again. Was I nervous? Yes. But this time, I planned ahead. I brought some water to the podium, and took a drink right before I began. I also talked to some of my friends and family beforehand, which helped me relax. Some performers practice breathing or vocal exercises, but I just breathed deeply for a few minutes. I also started by reading a couple of very short poems, then moved on to something a little longer. I knew once I got through the short ones, the longer one would be easier.

I also made a point to look at the audience and smile before I began, and between each poem or short story. As scary as that may sound, it actually helps. Remember, they want you to succeed just as much as you do. And some of them may smile, and some may nod their heads, and some may do nothing at all. But taking a moment to acknowledge them with a smile can turn that scary unknown audience into a friendly group of supporters.

So, the next time you need to promote your work through a public reading, practice, breathe deeply, and take a moment to acknowledge your audience with a smile. Who knows, they may end up being your biggest fans!


Mary Horner teaches public speaking, but still gets nervous reading her own work in front of an audience.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

 

A 5 Star Review of Michelle Dim-St. Pierre's "Bloody Coffee"

Bloody Coffee is a complex, suspenseful, and engrossing tale of doubts, trust, budding romance, and two bullets.

Eighteen-year-old Leigh arrives at a Tel Aviv hospital, seeking information about her probable father, Dr. Sloan, who had a cardiac arrest right after they met for the first time. As she stands next to her father's bed and watches him, her past, present and future collide. Despite the advice of those around her, Leigh decides to face the challenges of the legal system in Israel. She obtains a court order for a paternity test and confronts Sloan. During her quest to find the truth about her biological father, Leigh is exposed to violent religious intolerance, faces life in a country where church and state are not separate, and meets the man who may be her first true love. Will she change her view of the world she thought she knew? Will she forgive her mother? Will a gunshot change her attitude towards her probable father? And, what will she say to Steve, the only father she ever really had?

Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: Mountain Abor Press; 1st edition (April 22, 2019)
ISBN-10: 163183522X
ISBN-13: 978-1631835223

Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and the publisher's website.

*****The 5 Star Review by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto !*****


Bloody Coffee is a fast-paced, character-driven novel, set in war torn Tel Aviv with a storyline and characters you can’t help but love! Leigh is a character I related to from the very first chapter of Bloody Coffee. I admire anyone who seeks answers and is brave enough to leave their comfort zone to find those answers. Leigh is just 18 and yet she set out alone to an unfamiliar country. She focused on her goal and didn’t let fear stand in her way. Michelle Dim-St. Pierre has written her main character with such depth that readers will be sure to fall in love with her. She’s strong yet unsure of herself - confused and searching. She’s perfectly imperfect and very approachable. I was cheering for her through each twist and turn in this suspenseful story of trust, doubt, and romance. Even protests, rockets, and death wouldn’t be enough to deter Leigh from finding her biological father.

Leigh’s character may have initially drawn me into the story, but the storyline of Bloody Coffee is interesting and unexpected. Just when I thought I had it figured out, another plot twist came into play and had me questioning how things were going to end. A combination of my love and admiration for the characters in the book as well as my inquisitive nature kept me glued to my seat wanting more. This was a fast read because I didn’t want to put the book down until I had all the answers I was searching for. Michelle Dim-St. ‘s use of sensual details and dramatic scenes drew me in as a reader and made me feel as if I were involved in Leigh’s journey. I felt what she felt, and had the same desire for answers and closure. The suspense kept me engaged throughout the book. When friendships fell apart and people started dying I thought for sure Leigh was going to give up and she forged forward even more intent on answers.

A favorite scene for me was at a low point for Leigh – she was questioning if she had made the right decision. Her maturity and ultimately her tenacity and decision to push forward is admirable.
(pg 168)
My mind was busy churning over her past and my present.

I traveled back to the pages of my mother’s journal, thinking how her affair with Sloan actually tore us apart. I believe that sharing her secrets created nothing but distance between us. My relationship with her seemed insignificant in comparison with the one she had with Sloan. I felt as if I’d entered a competition that I could never win. I sensed that he didn’t have enough love for the both of us, that I would always be on the outside looking in. I didn’t want to get hurt any more than what I already had, so I took the easy road, rejecting him. I didn’t need him anyway. Suddenly, the realization hit me – it had been a mistake to come looking for him.

Will I ever be able to put this dismantled gigantic puzzle together or will I live the truth of having no place among them, forever an outsider?

There wasn’t any point in Bloody Coffee where I felt the pace slowed. The author used just the right amount of detail to keep things interesting without being either boring or tedious. Dim-St. Pierre brought to life the sights and sounds of Tel Aviv during a tumultuous time. This is a fast-paced story and even the secondary characters are relatable and intriguing. The relationships and alliances were lifelike and fluid throughout. Leigh’s introspective scenes felt very real; her authenticity was a breath of fresh air. When I was wondering how much more she could bear, Leigh was asking herself “is this confrontation necessary right now?” and it was easy to experience the frustrations in her quest for truth. As Leigh navigated the relationships in her life (old and new), she was cautious while still being open to the endless possibilities – she’s an incredibly believable main character. This is a beautiful story with a flawed and very human main character I couldn’t help but love.





Praise:

“Michelle Dim-St.-Pierre is proving to be a major talent in epic romantic drama!”
~Grady Harp, Amazon Top 50 Hall of Fame Reviewer

“A thrilling and emotional psychological mystery-thriller.”
~Detroit Free Press

“This book grabbed me at page one and wouldn’t let me go!”
~Pamela Gossiaux, award-winning author and journalist.

About the Author:

Michelle Dim-St. Pierre was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, where she spent more than half of her life before relocating to the United States.

She lived through four wars and served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. Unlike her first year of service in an armored division in the Golan Heights, she served her second year serving in the medical corps where she interacted directly with the injured soldiers of the Peace of Galilee war and their families. This interaction, along with the exposure to the hospital atmosphere, fascinated Michelle and further touched her heart. She went on to get a BS degree in Nursing in Tel-Aviv, and practiced internationally for 32 years in various positions in the surgical field and quickly advanced into health care administration. During her career she worked in the Operating Room, Recovery Room, and CCU—along with many other duties.

Writing was Michelle’s outlet at first, but it soon became her passion. Now, she is a full-time writer. Her international background, along with her military and nursing experience is always at the tip of her pen. Her first novel, Pinnacle Lust, started the Pinnacle trilogy and won the Beach Book Festival in the Romance category, as well as received several honorable mentions in other book contests. It was published to rave reviews.

Michelle is a world traveler who enjoys cooking epicurean food and creating original recipes. She currently splits her time between Florida and Georgia, where she is at work on her next two books.

Find Michelle Online:

Website: www.MichelleDimStPierre.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pinnaclelust


Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/Michelle_DimStPierre

LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelle-dim-st-pierre-1b9691106





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


May 24th @ Author Anthony Avina
Fellow author Anthony Avina gives a raving review after reading Michelle Dim-St. Pierre’s thrilling mystery Bloody Coffee – readers won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear Anthony’s insight into this must read novel!
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 27th @ Beverley A. Baird
Michelle Dim-St. Pierre has done it again with another best seller – this time it’s a mystery/thriller called Bloody Coffee and Beverley A. Baird can’t wait to tell readers all about it in her review! This is a complex and suspenseful mystery readers will be excited to get their hands on!
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

May 28th @ Deal Sharing Aunt
Vicki, the Deal Sharing Aunt, shares her thoughts after reading the latest novel by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre. Readers won’t want to miss the opportunity to learn more about Bloody Coffee!
http://dealsharingaunt.blogspot.com/

May 29th @ Margo Dill
Editor and Author Margo Dill couldn’t wait to read Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre. Stop by her blog today and read her review about this thrilling new release!
https://margoldill.com/

May 30th @ Sreevarsha Sreejith
Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre travels all the way to France today as Sreevarsha Sreejith reviews this mystery and shares her thoughts with readers at her book blog!
https://sreejithsreevarsha.wordpress.com/

June 3rd @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles couldn’t put down this 5 star read – let’s hear her review of Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre. Readers will delight as they put this mystery/thriller on their TBRPile!
https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

June 5th @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Wisconsin business woman and mother, Tara Forst is a friend of WOW! and is excited to talk about her thoughts after reading Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre. Don’t miss this review and giveaway!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

June 6th @ Cassandra’s Writing World
Stop by Cassandra’s Writing World to hear more about Michelle Dim-St. Pierre and her latest best seller Bloody Coffee as Cassandra shares her review with readers!
http://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

June 7th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
The author spotlight at Choices today is Michelle Dim-St. Pierre with her latest bestselling thriller Bloody Coffee – readers won’t want to miss an opportunity to learn more about this fabulous novel!
http://madelinesharples.com/


***** Thank You for Stopping - We Love Comments! *****


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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

 

The Number One Thing You Need in Your Author Talk

School is almost out for summer! If you live in the United States, you probably have anywhere from one week to one month left of the school year. (If you live other places, I’m not sure how much school time you have left. Let us know in the comments.) But, I digress. I’m writing about school getting out because this post is about writers who are also teachers or writers who are also parents with kids coming home for the summer or anyone who loves the long hours of daylight in the summer and gets a lot of writing done! (Plus, I just attended my stepson’s graduation from high school on Friday, and I wanted a chance to share this photo with you of him and my cute daughter, his sister. I’m super proud of them both.)

 Some of you who are teachers and writers under the same hat use summer to catch up on your writing that might have taken a backseat during the school year. I know when I was teaching in an elementary school, I also used the summer to attend workshops and go to writing conferences. For those of you who are children’s writers or young adult authors, you may also be taking time to create new school visit workshops. Part of being a children’s or young adult writer  is finding opportunities to get in front of those audiences, and this is often done at schools. (By the way, you could also do it at Bible schools and summer camps, depending on where you live and what your book is about. I have done all of these places.)

 I know it’s not always the easiest speaking event—a gym full of zK to 2nd grade students, for example. So I will tell you what I believe to be the number one element you need to have in your workshop. Really, this could be for any writer who has to give any workshop or presentation. But I think it is especially true if your audience is 18 or under.

That number one element is… Connection. That’s right, connection. Connection is what every presentation that you give to kids needs to have. The problem is that it’s not easy to connect with kids who are not the same age as you, who may not have the same interests as you, who may be attending your workshop because they are being forced to by their teacher, or who may have never heard of you or your books when you step in to their school. But it will be completely worth it if you figure out some way to connect with your audience and to make yourself relatable to them before you share your message—whether it’s about your books, your writing career, or your illustrations.

Here are three ways that children’s or young adult authors can look for ways to connect with their under 18 audiences:

1. Start your presentation with a personal story from your life when you were a kid. Make yourself vulnerable. You can use humor. You can be serious. But find a universal story about your childhood or your teenage years that will let your audience know that you can understand some of the issues they may be facing as a young person.

2.  Get to know your audience before you start selling to them. Even though you will not be hard selling at a school visit, you are realistically still trying to get these kids to like and read your books. Before you do this, have an activity where you are asking questions to find out about your audience. For example, you can ask kids to stand up if they like a certain baseball team. You can ask kids to raise their hand if their birthday is in the summer. You can ask kids to raise their hand and tell you there favorite foods. You will have to revise this activity, depending on if you are talking to a classroom of kids or a gym full of kids. But you will know plenty in advance before you get to the school. And if you are a teacher, then you will know what kinds of activities relate to many of these kids already because you are around kids every single day.

3. Just be real! It’s not as easy as it sounds. But kids can spot someone who is not sincere and genuine 100 miles away. So don’t try to be funny if you are not actually funny. Don’t try to be hip. Just be yourself—whatever that is. You have a message to bring to these kids. You wrote a book for them. Now you are there; and in order to connect with them, just be yourself.

If you are a children’s or young adult writer, and you have a tip for school visits, let us know in the comments below. If you give a lot of author talks to all ages of audiences and you have some tips, let us know below. Or if you are a teacher looking forward to getting out this summer to do some extra writing, let us know that, too.

Margo L. Dill is teaching a new class for WOW! titled School Visits and Author Talks for Children’s and YA Authors:  http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/classroom/MargoDill_AuthorTalks.php , and it starts on August 6! Check it out at the link!

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Monday, May 20, 2019

 

Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman - Blog Tour and Giveaway

Born Under Fire is a historical novel that tells the story of a girl coming of age and her drive to excel despite the devastating effects of long-term war. Born in Jerusalem under British rule in 1928, Shula grows up in a world in turmoil as Hitler rises to power and nations enter into war. Amid a landscape of ancient stone ruins next to modern Bauhaus architecture, and desert scrub ending at newly verdant farmlands, Shula grows into her independence as the State of Israel is born. Based on historical documents and events, Born Under Fire is also about the context surrounding the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the horrors and dangers of growing up in a conflict zone. Shula battles grief and depression due to the shattering events affecting her, her family, and the entire world. Despite this struggle, her resilient spirit enables her to reach great heights as a concert pianist.

Print Length: 258 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13: 978-1986349147
ISBN-10: 1986349144

Born Under Fire is available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleThrift Books, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on May 27th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Rina Z. Neiman

Rina Z. Neiman is a writer, event producer and public relations professional. Born Under Fire is based on the true story of her mother, Shulamit Dubno Neiman, a Sabra, a musician and one of the first generation of modern-day Israelis. Rina lives in Marin County, California with her husband and son. This is her first novel.

You may find out more about the author and her book by visiting the website https://www.bornunderfire.com/.

Also, you may find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book Born Under Fire! What inspired you to write this book?

Rina: Born Under Fire was inspired by my mother’s story. She was born in Tel Aviv in 1928 and came of age as the State of Israel was established. She died when I was eleven, and I was not old enough to ask her questions, nor at that age, did I even know which questions to ask.

Several years ago, I uncovered her belongings including a large collection of embroidered dresses and personal letters, photos and papers. We knew she had an older brother, Avraham, that she was very close to who died before we were born, but never knew much about him. Within this box of papers, I discovered a sketchbook that he wrote and illustrated describing a trip that my mother and he took to the Galilee in 1947. It was a gift to get this illustrated manuscript that beautifully and eloquently describes the time, place and their relationship. That’s when I knew I had to write this book.

WOWThat sounds absolutely incredible and what a gift that you found that. What type of research did you do for this novel?

Rina: I read a lot of academic books including ones that focused on fashion, the Sabra generation and the British Mandate of Palestine. I also found a wonderful firsthand account written by one of the first female foreign correspondent in England. (Reporting from Palestine by Barbara Board).

In-person interviews were important to verify certain facts in my mother’s story, but also to get a feeling for how things felt at the time. I have letters to and from my mother, and was able to read some of them. Walking the streets where certain action took place was great when I could do it.

Whenever possible, I searched for film clips from that time period. The director, Steven Spielberg’s The Spielberg Collection, is an invaluable source for Jewish themed films and newsreels. Newsreels can include narration which gives a sense of the public perception of a particular event.

Other web resources included first person accounts, product sites, online libraries, documentaries, and newspaper archives. You can find my exhaustive list here: https://www.bornunderfire.com/links

WOW: I'm impressed with the extensive research you did! So, why did you decide to write a historical fiction rather than a biographical account?

Rina: When I began to research my mother’s story, I realized that it would be hard to impossible to verify many of the facts of her life. Not only did she die when I was 11 years old, but her entire immediate family was gone by the time my sisters and I were born.

I tried to keep the story based on the facts, but with so many holes, the narrative wasn’t holding together.

I wanted to create scenes and characters based on the historical situation at that time. At this point it was clear that the book was about not just about my mother, but the birth of the State of Israel and the first Sabra generation.

WOW: And you really have done an excellent job in recreating this time period! How did the clothes your mother wore play a part in the story you told and what you found out about her in your research?

Rina: When I was growing up my mother sang and played the guitar, representing Israel at events around the world. When she performed she usually wore something from her extensive collection of Bedouin, Yemenite and Arab outfits. After she died when I was 11, the dresses were all packed away and stored in the attic. When my father passed away years later, my sisters and I rediscovered the dress collection.

As a collection, the dresses reflected my mother’s sense of style and her connection to the cultures of her homeland. In the 1970s, she pushed the style by ordering a minidress with Yemenite embroidery and a midi-length dress with Arab designs. In the book, Shula’s sense of style develops alongside her identity.

WOW: Your mother sounds like an amazing lady and I love how she shaped your character. You have an extensive career in writing in a professional capacity. How did that background help you write this novel?

Rina: I spent many years in public relations, which requires a lot of writing, and in many cases a lot of description. I once had to write 1-2 sentence descriptions for 500 bands. “A mix of…” and “Their own special blend…” were, unfortunately, overused.

When I worked for a large retailer, I became adept at describing furniture, food and fashion. And a snappy headline helps. The years spent writing descriptions gives me a strong skill set when it comes to the descriptive passages in my writing.

WOW: It's so interesting how one writing can influence another form! So, Do you have any advice for writers seeking to transform their family's history into fiction? 

Rina: Start with the facts as you know them, then let go and serve the greater story and character arcs. Is this a family immigrant story? Where did they come from and how did this group acclimate to life in a new place.

Change the names! This helps to divorce yourself from your family’s narrative and lets you enter into the mindset of the times. The decisions made by your fictional characters should not be swayed by your family’s hindsight.

How do the outside political and social forces affect your characters? Put them in a situation and see how they react. You may be surprised!

WOW: Excellent advice! What do you hope readers take away after reading your book?

Rina: I hope readers finish my book with a better understanding of what led to the establishment of the State of Israel and what this first generation of modern day Israelis were like. I also hope that readers get a sense of what it is like to grow up in a conflict zone, and the heavy price that war extracts from society.

WOW: I think that's such an important message! What are you working on next? Can we expect a sequel? 

Rina: I am currently working on a sequel to Born Under Fire. It will follow my mother’s journey to NYC from Israel and her studies at the Manhattan School of Music. My mother also worked at the first Israel Consulate in Manhattan and was trained as a diplomat.

The larger issues I hope to explore in this book will be the relationship between American Jews and Israelis, race relations in NYC in the 1950s and the influence of music on the protagonist’s life. And, since this is my mother’s story, there is more tragedy and loss that disrupts her from her chosen path. 

WOW: I can't wait to read the next book. Thank you so much for chatting with us today and best of luck on the tour! 

--- Blog Tour Dates

May 20th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin! So, grab your coffee and join us today as we celebrate the launch of Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

May 21st @ Karen Brown Tyson Blog
Make sure you stop by Karen's blog today where you can read Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about how to manage time and distractions during the book writing process. If you are writing a book - or thinking about writing one - this one is a post you don't want to miss!
https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

May 22nd @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab some coffee and visit Lacey's blog today where you can read her review about Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire.
https://coffeewithlacey.com/

May 23rd @ Coffee with Lacey
Stop by Lacey's blog again where you can read the author Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about why researching primary sources is so effective.
https://coffeewithlacey.com/

May 23rd @ Bri's Book Nook
Looking for a new book? Make sure to stop by Bri's Book Nook and find out why you need to add Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire to your reading list.
https://brisbooknook.com/

May 24th @ One Sister's Journey
Today is a can't miss review by Lisa over at One Sister's Journey blog. She's sharing her thoughts about Rina Z. Neiman's historical fiction book Born Under Fire.
https://www.lisambuske.com/

May 26th @ Reading Whale
You won't want to miss today's stop at the blog Reading Whale where you can read this Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about when you can finally start writing your book after all that research.
https://readingwhale.com/

May 27th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Fill your bookshelf with good books! Stop by Veronica's blog and read author Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about writing biographical fiction and when to dramatize real events.
https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogspot.com/

May 28th @ Helen Hollick's World of Books
Join Helen Hollick's Tuesday Talk over at her blog and read Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about how videos can reinforce your historical novel.
https://www.helenhollick.net/

May 28th @ Book Collab Blog
Make sure you stop by Morgan's blog Book Collab where you can find out what she has to say about Rina Z. Neiman's historical fiction book Born Under Fire.
https://morganbray15.wixsite.com/mysite

May 29th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
If you love historical fiction, make sure you visit Anthony Avina's blog today where he features author Rina Z. Neiman's blog post about how she researched her historical fiction novel Born Under Fire. You won't want to miss this!
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 31st @ Jess Reading Blog
Are you interested in writing history for young adults? If you are, you will absolutely want to visit Jess' blog today where author Rina Z. Neiman talks about writing history for young adults and what grabs them and what loses them.
https://jessbookishlife.wordpress.com/

June 1st @ The World of My Imagination
Come by Nicole's blog today where you can read her review of Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire and enter to win a copy of the book.
http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com

June 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Can't resist a good book? Visit author Anthony Avina's blog today when he reviews Rina Z. Neiman's incredible historical fiction book Born Under Fire.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

June 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Looking for your next great read? Make sure you stop by Bev's blog today and catch her opinion on this fascinating historical fiction novel Born Under Fire.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

June 4th @ Amanda Diaries
Today's stop is at Amanda's blog where you can read what she thinks about Rina Z. Neiman's historical fiction book Born Under Fire. 
https://amandalsanders1989.wordpress.com/

June 5th @ The Frugalista Mom
Visit Rozelyn's blog today where you can not only read her review of Born Under Fire but also enter to win a copy of the book!
https://thefrugalistamom.com/

June 7th @ Bookworm Blog
Feeling bookish today? Make sure you stop by Anjanette's Bookworm blog where you can read her thoughts about Rina Z. Neiman's powerful historical fiction book Born Under Fire plus read an interview with the author.
https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

June 8th @ Jessica's Reading Room
Today's tour stop is a fantastic guest post written by author Rina Z. Neiman about how to make stories interactive. A must-read for all the writers out there!
http://jessicasreadingroom.com/

June 9th @ Jess Bookish Life
Need a new book in your life? Stop by Jess' blog today where she shares her opinion about the historical fiction book Born Under Fire.
https://jessbookishlife.wordpress.com/

June 10th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Are you doing research for your novel? Make sure you visit Bev's blog today where author Rina Z. Neiman is talking about top 5 ways to research secondary sources.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

June 12th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Get to know author Rina Z. Neiman at today's stop over at author Anthony Avina's blog where he interviews the author.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

June 14th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today and read a guest post by the author who talks about making your story interactive and why adding music is so effective.
https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

June 15th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog at Strength 4 Spouses where you can read Rina Z. Neiman's guest post about the importance of writing during deployment.
https://strength4spouses.blog/

June 17th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog over at 12 Books and find out her thoughts about Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire.
http://www.12books.co.uk/

June 19th @ Inquiry and Beyond
Join Kathy on Instagram and on her blog PYP in Paradise as she reviews and features Rina Z. Neiman's book Born Under Fire.
https://www.instagram.com/InquiryandBeyond/
http://pypinparadise.blogspot.com/

June 21st @ Choices Blog
Interviewing someone for your book? Make sure you visit Madeline Sharples' blog today where Rina Z. Neiman talks about how to conduct interviews with people who are (and who are not) willing to talk with you.
http://madelinesharples.com/

June 23rd @ Strength 4 Spouses Blog
Need a new book? Make sure you stop by Wendi's blog where she reviews Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman.
https://strength4spouses.blog/


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

To win a copy of Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on May 27th 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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Sunday, May 19, 2019

 

Interview with Ashley Memory: First Place Winner of the Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Ashley Memory finds inspiration in the ancient Uwharrie mountains surrounding her home in rural Randolph, County, N.C. She enjoys preserving what she grows in the garden she tends with her husband Johnpaul. She’s learned the hard way about wearing gloves when making jalapeno pickles!

Ashley’s poetry and prose have recently appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Gyroscope Review, The Ginger Collect’s 2018 Halloween Mini-Magazine and numerous other literary journals and anthologies. New work is forthcoming in Okay Donkey and Coffin Bell. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a two-time recipient of the Doris Betts Fiction Prize sponsored by the N.C. Writers’ Network. A previous story, “Eula Dare Hampton Agrees to Edit the Quaker Ladies’ Cookbook,” earned honorable mention in the WOW! Winter 2018 Flash Fiction Contest.

Ashley loves sharing what she’s learned as a part-time instructor for Central Carolina Community College’s Creative Writing Program in Pittsboro, N.C. Follow Ashley on Twitter @memoryashley or visit her fruit-inspired blog at ashley-memory.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What inspired you to write your essay, “How to Chop an Onion Without Crying?

Ashley: A weepy December night chopping onions after an emotional telephone conversation with my son was the catalyst. But no matter what I do, or what’s going on in my life, I always cry when chopping onions. Once my son and I mended fences, I decided to channel my angst into some research on the history of the onion, as it’s always fascinated me. And because I like to cook and bake, this essay has opened the door to many other possibilities for creative nonfiction, from ruminations on my lemon juicer to Grandma Wilma’s bread pans. Curiously, I recently read a memoir by Kathleen Flinn about her days at a French cooking school and she explained that if you use an extra-sharp knife and resist pushing down on the onion, you won’t release the chemicals that make you cry. This may be true but I’m not sure I could handle a real sharp knife very well if I’m wobbly with emotions! Don’t try this at home…..

WOW: You’ve also won one of our flash fiction contests, and write long fiction and poetry. Do you find one form of writing more challenging than the others? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?

Ashley: Wonderful question! The more I write, the more I see connections between ALL of them. More than one of my ideas for nonfiction have actually morphed into fictional short stories. And a good short story sometimes turns into a poem (and vice versa). It’s all about the language. Coincidentally, just this week I learned that my poetry collection, "Waiting for the Wood Thrush," was accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press in Kentucky. Several of the poems for this collection, which includes about 30 poems on love and longing, actually got their start as flash fictions. Needless to say, WOW's May/June 2019 ezine, Loving the Lyric, particularly the article on promoting your poetry collection by Marybeth Niederkorn, is just what I needed. Talk about timing. Thank you WOW!

WOW::  How cool that some of your poems started out as flash fiction! What is your writing process like? Please describe a typical day.

Ashley: While I’ve always admired those who can crank something out in the midnight hour, I do my best work in the morning, the earlier the better. So while still in this semi-lucid, semi-dream state, I crawl out of bed and write, roughly from 6:30 – 9:00 a.m. The rest of the day, trusty notebook in hand, is given to my work for the day, which these days means gardening, cooking cleaning, or chasing after my dogs. I can edit and revise at any time of day, which is what I may do in the afternoon or evening. But only that precious morning time yields those ephemeral moments, the best metaphors, insights, and the truly magical.

WOW: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Ashley: Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, a memoir of her time as a New York Times food critic because I’m clearly in a foodie writer phase right now! On the fictional side, I’m reading Going to Graceland, a terrific new collection of linked short stories published by St. Andrews Press by my longtime friend and mentor, Ruth Moose, because I love everything she’s ever written. Her sense of humor and surprise are unmatched.

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

Ashley: Everybody says this but it is so true, and I didn’t start doing it religiously until recently. Carry a notebook wherever you go, whether the dentist, hardware store, even the flea market (especially the flea market!), and use it to jot down descriptions, observations, overheard conversations, etc, that you can mine for details in your writing later on. It is so important to record these moments as soon as they happen because those delicious little tidbits of life can so easily get swallowed up by the business of life. And for me, it’s almost impossible to conjure them up again unless I stop what I’m doing and make a note at the moment. The other day, I saw a woman at a gas station in a Subaru with one of those car wraps advertising a zombie hunting business! That’s going to end up somewhere one day, I promise you. And yesterday our cat Little Puss crawled up in the wheelbarrow and took a nap. I’m pretty sure that “Cat in a Wheelbarrow” is going to end up as a poem AND a short story one day Probably an essay too. See the picture I attached—she just woke up!

****

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

 

Six Reasons to Love LiveBinder

      Two years ago, I surrendered. In the past, I'd resisted. I'd seen no real reason to delve into Live Binders, even though a couple of my friends swore by it. Technology is never my friend.

     This time, it is.

     Imagine a user-friendly site, where you can digitally organize your notes. Photographs. Websites. Documents. Resources. In fact, it's so user-friendly, even I can easily use it.

1. At the time of this writing, 190,473 trees have been saved. Not only is it green, it's easy. Think of the stacks of paper you would not have cluttering up your desk... if you had all the articles digitally saved.





2. It's free. With the free version, you're limited to 5 binders. However, you can jam a lot into those binders. A binder for every manuscript? A tab for each character, for each major event in your story? With Livebinders, you can do it so simply. 

3. You can keep things straight with a single keystroke. I'm currently working on a historical middle-grades novel. I've waded through so many articles and videos, it could have gotten overwhelming. However, with this handy-dandy organizing tool, you can organize videos, articles, websites and documents with ease. 

4. In the binder I'm keeping for my WIP, I have a tab for videos about the historical event. I have a tab of obituaries. There's a tab of articles. There's a tab of editors and publishers. (As I find one that I think might be appropriate to query, into the livebinder it goes. Keep everything in one pot.)

5. Maybe you're going to meet some writer friends at a coffeehouse. You want to share some research materials you've used. Do you need to lug bulging-at-the-seams 9 x 12 envelopes or piles of magazines or huge 3-ring binders? Nope. All you need is your laptop or tablet or whatever device is your favorite. It's so portable. 

6. You can make use of other people's Livebinders. Admittedly, most of the writing binders have been created by teachers. However, there are history ones (Are you writing a story that takes place in the Middle Ages? I searched on the Livebinder site. There are 60 binders devoted to that era.) and poetry ones and art ones... along with all sorts of other binders. Most people keep their binders public, which means you can put other people's binders on your shelf for quick referencing.

I've tried Scriveners. Okay, I admit it. It flummoxed me so quickly, I probably didn't give it a decent try. But I didn't find it user-friendly. (It has to be so easy, my golden retriever could use it. Otherwise, it's too complicated for me.)

Here are a few videos you can watch, if you're curious: 

A Quick Video Rationale

How to set up a Livebinder

How to add content to your Livebinder

As a writer, can you envision the possibilities? A binder for submissions. A binder for resources. A binder for publishing possibilities. There's no limit to its uses.

How do you organize your writing "stuff"? Do you use Livebinder? If not, what do you use? (And don't expect me to try it unless it's extremely user-friendly and user-easy.)


Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher and a freelance writer.  She's currently trying to snag a publisher or agent for her middle-grades historical novel. In her occasional moments of free time, she rescues dogs for Love a Golden Rescue. If you'd like to check more of her writing out, head to her blog. 






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