Barbara Altamirano, Runner-Up Quarter 2 Creative Nonfiction Essay Winner Interview

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Welcome to Barbara Altamirano, who placed as a runner-up in our Quarter 2 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest. We are excited to pick her brain today! If you haven't had a chance to check out her essay, "Salon-aphobia", yet, then you can read that here.

Here's a little more about Barbara: sometime after leaving the corporate world to be a stay-at-home mom, Barbara discovered her love of learning to create art with the written word. She was a runner up in WOW’s 2018 3rd Quarter Essay Contest, and her work has also been published in bioStories, Guideposts, Indiana Voice Journal, and Pittsburgh Parent, among others. She was a finalist in 2015 for Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition. She is hoping to publish her first novel, The Mommy Clique, a work of women’s fiction, and she is also working on several young adult novels. When not busy writing, or avoiding salons (READ HER ESSAY!), she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her husband and three children.

WOW: Congratulations, Barbara, on your essay contest win. We are excited to talk to you today about your humorous essay, "Salon-aphobia." So what made you want to write an essay about this experience that was clearly dissatisfying for you?

Barbara: Thank you. I think it’s because writing about experiences that are dissatisfying can be a good way to work through the annoyance or frustration, and often when you write about unhappy experiences, you can see something good that came out of it, or find the humor in the situation. This was one of those rare times when the essay almost seemed to write itself.

WOW: And you made it so funny! I could relate to exactly how you were feeling while I was chuckling away. So I have to ask: Why did you choose to take a humorous look at this subject? And do you like to write funny stuff?

Barbara: It might have been because when I saw myself in the mirror, I thought that I really did look like I could have been an extra in Hairspray and that struck me as funny. Disturbing, but also kind of funny. And although I didn’t like the haircut, I knew it wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, since my hair would grow eventually and I could try to style it differently until then. And too, I think finding the humor in the situation helped me to be less upset. I do like writing funny stuff. I think its fun to write humor and it can be quite cathartic.

WOW: That's so true. It's almost like the saying: "Looking on the bright side." So what's your biggest tip for someone who wants to write humor because we all know and hear all the time--it's not easy?

Barbara: I’ve heard this advice somewhere: that when writing humor you should write about something that you think is funny even if you’re not sure others will think so. Humor is subjective, so not everyone may get your humor; but if you’re having fun writing something and you think it’s funny, then probably others will, too. And the fun you had writing the piece will hopefully be kind of contagious to your readers.

WOW: That makes perfect sense! Your bio mentions that you have a novel titled, The Mommy Clique, a work of women’s fiction. Can you tell us a little about your novel and what your plans are for it?

Barbara: The Mommy Clique is a humorous story about a group of thirty-something mothers behaving like members of a teenage clique. It’s kind of a blend of Big Little Lies and Mean Girls. I’m looking into options now for publishing it. I’ve sent queries to some agents and publishers, and entered a couple novel contests, so waiting to see what happens and keeping my fingers crossed.

WOW: Best of luck. It sounds like something I would like to read! So as a writer, where do you hang out online to discuss writing, build an audience, or network? We would love to connect with you on there and hear any tips you have for handling the social media/email suck while also producing writing and sending it out!

Barbara: Honestly, this is an area I need to improve on. I am on Facebook; but up until now, I haven't used it much for writing. I just recently signed up for Twitter, so you can find me at @barbaltamirano. I know I should also start a blog and/or a website, so I plan on doing more research on that.

WOW: Thanks for sharing what you do, Barbara. And you know you are doing what needs to be done first, which is building your portfolilo and writing! Anything else you would like to add?

Barbara: I’m honored to have been chosen in the top ten. And thanks so much for the opportunity to do this interview!

WOW: You are so welcome! We are delighted that you entered another one of our contests. Best of luck to you!

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Every Picture Tells a Story

Saturday, June 29, 2019
So, if you're my age, you read that post title and Rod Stewart's voice immediately belted out. Right away, in your head you see all that blonde hair flowing through the air. You're laughing as he shakes his rear end. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, I'm not going to give you a link. You're just going to have to hunt for it, you young whippersnapper.

No, this isn't a post for the Rod Stewart fan club. Almost five decades ago I was the co-president of a two-member Partridge Family David Cassidy fan club... but that's another story for another time.

No, this is a post about the power of pictures. Photographs and paintings can take us places. They can send us off into unexpected directions. Images have a way of accessing our creativity in amazing ways.

I was reminded of this last week. A colleague shared a link full of famous photos from 2018 as a writing prompt. We were told to choose one and write a story... a poem... an essay. The instant I saw this photo, the ink was flowing across the page.

Without even pondering it, I had the story this picture told. (You might have to make the photo bigger to see the burned-down house in the background and the abandoned walker in the foreground.)

This is my story: a woman had been faking the need for a walker for the past two years. But for the past 57 years she had been putting up with her husband... and it was so bad, she set fire to the house while he slept (like a log) and after watching their house burn to the ground (he didn't make it out alive--he snored right through the blaze), she left her walker behind and strode away.

Did I wake up that morning with murder on my mind? Uh, no. It was the photo's fault. The picture made me do it.

Here's the link to Time's 100 Top Photos of 2018. There is a warning on the site: some of them are graphic and some might offend you.

So here's the mission, if you choose to accept it: pick one of the pics and write. You choose the direction. You choose the form. Just write.

After all, the group Bread sang "If a picture paints a thousand words..." back in 1971 in the song "If." Perhaps you could jot down a few hundred or a thousand words, inspired by the picture you choose...

(And do me a favor. Let me know which photo you found most inspirational. I'd love to hear which one spoke to you.)

Sioux Roslawski is thinking of using some of these photos to write a few flash fiction pieces (not her thing) or a couple of essays (definitely not her thing). When she's not busy setting up her new classroom (she got a new job in a different school and she's teaching a different subject), she's reading, along with submitting her manuscript to every publisher and agent who has a pulse. You can read more of her stuff at Sioux's Page.
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Friday Speak Out!: How To Keep Stress From Killing You (And Write)

Friday, June 28, 2019
by Iona Caldwell

If there is one thing I’ve learned from writing my first novel while balancing a full-time job as a stay at home mom, a wife, a gardener, a druid, etc, it’s how to keep stress from killing you.

I kid you not. There were times I thought I wanted to give it up until the kids were out of the house and life slowed down.

I know I’m not the only who suffers this. So, to help all of you parents trying to balance life and pursuing your dreams, let me share a few tips.

1. The TV (and game systems) Are Our Friends

Yes, you read that right. There is nothing wrong with letting the munchkins enjoy cartoons while you write For those of you hissing at me right now and who happen to have young kids, try it out. It really works. They’re happy, you can write, everyone wins.

2. Have A She-Shed or Man-Cave Where You Can Write in Peace

For me, my she-shed happens to be my sofa with a cup of coffee once the kids have gone to bed. Having a space you can take a few minutes to sit in the dark and unwind can mean the difference between writing stressfully and enjoying it. Give yourself ten minutes to let the day fall off of you.

3. Start a Pre-Writing Ritual

It may sound silly to some but since I’ve implemented this one thing, it’s meant all the difference between procrastinating and getting a good hour of writing in. I take 20-minutes to meditate before writing anything, including an infuser filled with sandalwood and some inspirational music. This happens every time I plan a writing session. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes. If you don’t meditate, take a hot bath, workout on your Peloton. Whatever works for you to mentally prepare to write, do it. It matters, believe me.

4. Tell Yourself It’s Okay NOT to Write Every Day

I hear those hisses again through the screen. It’s true though. I don’t write every day and I’ve it actually helps my creative well from running dry. For me, my stories flowed better, I suffered less eye strain and less stress to ride the “struggle bus.”

5. Tell Yourself You Matter

I don’t really have much else to say on this one other than taking days for self-care have made managing stress so much easier. I told myself it’s okay on the weekends to ignore deadlines and run around Borderlands 2 and shoot bandits with my husband. On Fridays, I enjoy family night with my kids. Whatever hobby you have, it’s okay to take care of yourself.

* * *
My name is Iona Caldwell. I'm the author of the British Occult Fiction, Beneath London's Fog set to be published by FyreSyde Publishing October 2019. When I'm not busy weaving worlds of the arcane and dark, I'm spending time out in nature. I love books. My biggest inspirations are H.P Lovecraft, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allen Poe. I blog about many things but mostly everything bookish. All of my novels are stand-alone novellas, each with a cast of people I hope my readers will come to love as much as I have.

Review Blog:
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Where To Do Author Visits for Children's and YA Writers

Thursday, June 27, 2019
Me at the Bella Arts Festival
If you're a children's or young adult writer, you probably (and should!) have school visits as part of your marketing plan. And yes, you should expect to get paid for these visits and sell books at them. There are so many factors to consider with each of these elements: a) doing school visits b) getting paid c) selling books that I could write an entire book on the topic (which I have thought about doing!); but let's tackle a small portion of this today: where to do an author visit. 

Personally, I have done an author visit with children or teens, as my main audience (as opposed to teachers, parents, other writers), in these places:
  • Elementary schools
  • Junior high schools
  • Gifted classrooms
  • Summer camps
  • After-school programs
  • Boys and Girls Club programs
  • Reading nights
  • Libraries
Many people think of an author visit only as the author going to a school, speaking in front of an auditorium full of kids, and then selling books afterwards. But there are many more opportunities to get yourself in front of your target audience than school assemblies, as you can see from my list above. 

Let's take a closer look at a couple of those. One time a small library in Rolla, MO, with a smaller budget booked me for a Skype author talk for teens about writing. They had a few interested teens who had some questions about being an author and the writing process, and I had a young adult book I was marketing. So, we did a Skype visit since they didn't have a budget to pay mileage, etc. The teens sat in a room together at the library, and I appeared on the screen (hopefully my head wasn't too big on the TV!) and we had a discussion. I was nervous! I wasn't sure how it would go, but it worked out fine. So libraries are a place for collaboration; and sometimes, these places have budgets for author presentations--even the virtual kind. 

The Boys and Girls Club program was an unsual speaking event, but so much fun; and it happened because I had a friend who worked there. After school, the Club had a program for kids to attend; and that day, I was their entertainment. I talked to the kids about my middle-grade historical fiction book and did my usual presentation. In this case, I received a small stipend to speak; but better yet, the club bought several books for their library and for kids to check out from them.

Think outside the box. Sometimes, it's hard to get into the schools for an assembly, and sometimes budgets and time are limited. But most schools have reading nights, summer school, and after-school programs that may need a speaker; and they can work out some kind of payment for you by buying  your books. Besides schools, you will find audiences of kids at Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, summer camps, libraries, homeschool networks, and churches. These places are often looking for programs! You can be the answer to their problems.

This post may make you have a million more questions--I'm sorry! Some that may pop up are: how do I contact these places? How do I know what program to do? What is a fair agreement? How do I sell my books to kids when they are at school without any money? We'll be tacking these quesitons and more in the new class I'm teaching for WOW!--School Visits and Author Talks for Children's and YA Writers and Illustrators, which starts on August 6. You can find out more and register here. 

Margo L. Dill has given hundreds of presentations in front of audiences full of children, teens, and adults. She is skilled at changing up her presentations to fit whichever audience she is in front of whether it is a gym full of 500 kids, a classroom full of 20 eighth graders, or a room full of busy teachers during a half-professional development day. A former elementary school and preschool teacher for sixteen years, Margo believes that every school visit and author talk is a chance to help teachers instruct children and teens and create a positive experience for everyone involved. She is the author of Caught Between Two Curses, a YA light paranormal romance novel involving the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs; Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies (picture book); and Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, a historical fiction, middle-grade novel. You can find out more about her on or When she is not writing or editing, Margo loves to spend time with her daughter. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri; and if she could eat out every day, she would!

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Monster Rewrite: Conquest on a Deadline

Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Just over two weeks ago, I got a message from one of my editors. “We need a rewrite. One section didn’t work so add information to chapter 5 or create a new chapter. Whichever works. In addition, there are a handful of other things that need to be done. See the notes throughout the manuscript.”

I downloaded the manuscript and discovered 150 notes on 70 pages. Good grief. How many of these notes involved the possible new chapter? There must be a lot since there were only a handful of additional fixes.

I went through the notes and discovered 20 were compliments or observations with no work involved. Another 20 involved the new content. That meant that 100+ comments involved the "handful" of other things.

How did I get this done in just over a week? First, I list out the various comments by chapter. I’m dyslexic and all of those comments as well as “track changes” make the manuscript almost unreadable. So I list which comments need to be dealt with in each chapter. Chatty comments and repeats don't make it to the list.

In terms of the actual writing, I start with the easy fixes. These are the ones asking for clarification or if I really meant X instead of Y.  As I take care of a comment, I cross it off the list. Next I tackle the ones that require me to go back to a source. I expand on points and give additional examples.

Big problems that might require a new chapter? Those I tackle last. I tried to fix this one with a bit more information in Chapter 5 but that didn’t work. So I pulled a bit out of this chapter, a bit out of that chapter and did the research to write a bit more.

With a new chapter composed of text that had to be moved from one point to another in the manuscript, I then read through all 70 pages. I needed to make sure that I struck the information now in the new chapter from where it has first been located in the manuscript. I had to make sure that transitions still made sense and references to earlier information were still referring to earlier information.

Last but not least, I read through all of the comments one more time. With 150 it is easy to miss something. This is also when I respond to comments that deal with things I didn’t change. Often these are cases where someone’s motivations cannot be determined and I won’t speculate or I made a fix different from what was requested.

Some people may think that they key to working through 150 comments is to tie yourself to the desk. That doesn’t work for me. I need to get up and move. Sometimes I go to yoga. Other times I game with my family. Still other times I take the pruners and cut out honeysuckle. Yes, I do yard work, but all of the invasive honeysuckle (think kudzu with flowers) has been annihilated.

And I also managed to meet my deadline.


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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Interview with Charity Tahmaseb, 2nd Place Winner in the Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Charity Tahmaseb has slung corn on the cob for Green Giant and jumped out of airplanes (but not at the same time). She’s worn both Girl Scout and Army green.

These days, she writes fiction and works as a technical writer for a software company in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Her short fiction credits include stories in Deep Magic, Escape Pod, Cicada, and Pulp Literature. She’s been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize Award, and her first novel, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, was a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback pick in the Get Your Geek On category. She has a fondness for coffee, ghosts, and things fantastical.

She blogs (at least) once a week at

----------Interview by Renee Roberson

Read Charity's touching love story, Steadfast, here and then return for an interview with the author!

WOW: “Steadfast” is a beautiful journey between two well-developed characters. How did you know when it was ready for submission?

Charity: I knew the story was done. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was ready for submission.

In 2013, I did a year of “write 1/submit 1” where I wrote a story each week and also sent one out, although not necessarily the same story. In fact, never the same story. My stories need to sit for a while before they go anywhere.

It was a fabulous exercise in both writing (and getting better at it) and submitting (and getting better at that). Researching markets and submitting stories is a skill that any writer can learn. It gets easier with time and practice.

As for "Steadfast," the initial inspiration came from a call for submissions for retellings of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. I started writing, then realized halfway through that it wasn’t a fantasy retelling and didn’t fit the submission guidelines.

So there it sat, half-finished for about six months. Then one day, I had the urge to revisit it. I let it be the contemporary retelling of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" that it wanted to be, and everything fell into place.

WOW: That's a great story! I love the idea of writing and writing and submitting a story each week. You are correct in that researching and finding appropriate places to submit a story are valuable skills every writer should learn. Along those same lines, you’ve had several stories published in magazines and literary journals. Is there a common theme you keep coming back to in your stories—or do you find yourself writing about a variety of topics?

Charity: My subject matter varies, sometimes a lot, but I think a common theme does run through my fiction. I like stories about connection. I was going to say connection between people, but some of my characters aren’t human.

I have stories about a girl and her clock, a girl and her wolf, a girl and her alien--the list goes on. The more unlikely the pairing, the more fun it is to write.

WOW: Working as a technical writer for a software company is vastly different than writing fiction! How do you split your time between the two?

Charity: I work full-time as a technical writer. I reserve my lunch hour for writing, and I can get a surprising amount accomplished in that time.

My other “trick” is not sleeping in on the weekends. I get up as if I’m heading to work, but instead, I spend those early morning hours working on my fiction. It helps that the rest of my family loves to sleep in. Most weekend mornings, it’s just the cat and me.

WOW: I'm impressed by your discipline! You know how to blow the "I don't have time to write excuses out of the water!" You’ve published a YA novel, The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading, which won an award in 2012. Where did you get the inspiration for that story?

Charity: It was one of those “inspired by real life” stories. No kidding! In high school, I spent a single season as a varsity cheerleader. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that great at it, although I still managed to letter (how is a mystery, but I did).

It all started one cold day in November during French class when my friend Amy turned to me and asked, “Have you ever tried out for cheerleading?”

Fast forward a few decades (!) later. I mentioned to my friend Darcy how I thought the premise of a relatively geeky girl making the cheerleading squad could be a really fun YA novel.

She replied with: “If you don’t write it, I will.”

In the end, we wound up writing it together.

WOW: I love that. My own teenage daughter is a STEM girl and runner but does not consider herself coordinated enough for cheer. I'll have to pass your book along to her! Your project “Coffee and Ghosts” sounds fascinating! Could you tell us a little more about it, and where readers can learn more?

Charity: "Coffee and Ghosts" is the project of my heart. It’s a quirky, niche sort of project that can exist because of indie publishing.

It all started as the short story "Ghost in the Coffee Machine" (first published in Coffee: 14 Caffeinated Tales of the Fantastic). I’d previously done a great deal of research into ghosts for a novel that never went anywhere. I remembered a tidbit about catching ghosts in mason jars, and another aside about ghosts liking coffee (I don’t know if they do, but it sounded reasonable).

From there, my ghost catcher Katy, her grandmother, and rival Malcolm were born.

A few years later, I had the inspiration to write more stories in the "Coffee and Ghosts" world. Initially, I was going to write stand-alone stories, but a larger arc soon appeared, and I had three “seasons” on my hands. I like to think of "Ghost in the Coffee Machine" as the pilot episode for the series.

While I’ve written an entire series about ghosts, I don’t read horror. It scares me. Or rather, it scares me too much. So the stories in the Coffee and Ghosts world are just a little bit scary, a little bit romantic, and hopefully a lot of fun.

This summer, the entire series is being produced in audio with award-winning narrator Amy McFadden.

You can read more about the project (and try the first season for free) here:

WOW: Coffee AND ghosts? You are a writer after my own heart! I look forward to checking out the first season if this fun project. Thank you so much for being here today and giving us such valuable insight on your work and writing process!

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Get Savvy and Make Money While You Sleep

Monday, June 24, 2019


I haven’t been the smartest writer I could be. But the way I see it, it’s never too late to learn a few tricks! These days, it’s not enough just to be a writer. You could get stuck in an endless rut of writing and revising and searching for an agent or places to submit your work and not see one cent in return.

I didn’t really have any clarity on this topic until I spent some time listening to some motivational podcasts that all focus on chasing your dreams . . . practically. Little by little, I learned that there are things I should be doing with my writing that could earn me passive income with my business, and I smacked myself in the forehead when I realized I haven’t been taking advantage of it. Yes, I’m a writer, but I also need to make money where I can.

For example, I have a website. But up until recently, I didn’t even have a “subscribe” button activated on it—I was mostly using it to house my blog and a portfolio of my work. But when I started brainstorming my own podcast idea, I realized I would have to use my website to promote the podcast, but how could I do that without a subscribe button?

I’ve also developed a reputation for writing about true crime—why not use my expertise to share products, books, TV shows, films etc. in this area and use affiliate links to earn passive income? For example, one author I follow sends out a weekly e-mail. One week she’ll share something like a simple list of her top five business books she recommends. If any of her subscribers click on those links and purchase, she earns a small commission. This is passive income for her, but with a following of more than a million people, it adds up. Even if an author had a few hundred followers that could be worthwhile. Another influencer/educator has created her own line of courses on different topics for business owners, as well as templates people can purchase through a Shopify store. She does the work up front to create the modules for the educational programs and templates/checklists and literally earns money in her sleep.

I’m determined to work smarter, not harder in the next year by slowly adding in my own passive-income opportunities. The trick is to alternate offering free education and information to your followers and then offer them an opportunity to purchase something. I’m excited to get started.

Have you created your own passive income tied into your writing business? If you haven’t, I’d love to hear your ideas about how you could implement this yourself.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who is also working on developing her own true crime podcast. Visit her website at

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Interview with Kristi Scorcio, Runner Up in Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, June 23, 2019
Kristi Scorcio’s essays have been published in Minnesota Monthly, Homeschooling Today and online at the MothersAlwaysWrite Blog. She has supported local writers through a writing group that she started over ten years ago.

Kristi and her husband live in Eastern Wisconsin. She homeschooled their children until they entered college. At one point, three of their children were teenage boys and the youngest was a pre-teen girl. Along with a slight twitch, this gave her plenty of stories! She will probably not live long enough to write them all. Kristi works part time at the local public library. This does nothing to help her rein in her reading addiction.

She can be reached at kristiscorcio[at]gmail[dot]com

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q2 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Kristi: If I don't set tangible goals, I rarely get things accomplished. I actually made entering a WOW Writing competition one of my goals for 2019.

WOW: From the title of your essay, “He’ll Kill Us When He Wakes Up,” I wasn’t expecting to laugh. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Kristi: I hope that my stories encourage others to look at their lives in new ways and to realize that we all have unique stories to share. My brother Randy died of cancer four years after this accident happened. I hope that this story somehow honors our friendship.

WOW:  You mentioned that you work part time at the local public library, and that it does nothing to help rein in your reading addiction (love that). What have you read lately that you can recommend?

Kristi: I just purchased Austin Kleon's new book "Keep Going." I already owned "Steal Like an Artist" and "Show Your Work." These books never fail to encourage and challenge me. I highly recommend them all.

WOW:  I didn't know he had a new book out. I may have to add it to my collection. 
Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Kristi: I am working on a collection of essays. It took me ten years to write the story of my dad's accident, so I may need to pick up my pace a bit to get them all done. I guess I'll have to set some more tangible goals!

WOW:  Yes, keep at it! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Kristi. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Kristi: Several years ago, I was in a writing class in a neighboring town. A woman read an essay about her family that was more like a historical document (lots of names, dates and geographic information) than a story. When she got done reading, she paused and began to tell us this very funny incident that had happened to one of her family members. We all laughed and shouted "THAT'S the story you should tell."

I am always trying to get to THAT story!


For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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Waiting: One of the Hardest Parts of the Writing Process

Saturday, June 22, 2019
Is she waiting for a bus? Or a rejection letter?

Just as the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' song says, "The waiting is the hardest part..." waiting is one of the hardest parts of the writing process.

As I write this, I'm anticipating two different responses to the short stories I've submitted. One I expect to receive at the end of June and one I will hear about in mid-July. I never realized how incredibly difficult waiting could be and how it could impact other parts of the writing process.

Have you thought of that before? Your ability to wait as a writer can influence other aspects of your writing. It occurred to me the other day when I was thinking about a short story I've sent out. I realized that I was beginning to accept the rejection before I even received it. I was tempted to submit it elsewhere, figuring likely my short story won't place or be published. Sure, many writers simultaneously submit, which is fine, but to submit because I assume I will be rejected isn't quite the same thing.

Waiting assuming rejection can allow my inner critic to discourage me from writing at all. Here's how it can go:

Me to myself: Eh, I've likely not won that short story contest. Think about how many people probably submitted to it. I should just move on and-

Inner critic [interrupting me]: I mean, yeah, why bother even writing at all? Look at how much competition there is out there. You're not cut out for this.

Me to my inner critic: Well that's not really what I mean -

Inner critic [interrupting me]: But really that's the point you're admitting to yourself isn't it? You're not THAT good of a writer to be published so why bother?

Anyone else battling that type of discussion with their inner critic?

So, I've decided to wait with a new approach. I will not assume rejection before I've received it. Sure, rejection is part of the writing process but so is acceptance too. So today if you are waiting to hear if you've placed in a writing competition or waiting to hear from an agent or waiting to hear results of any kind, wait as positively as you can. Of course, false hope is bad, but don't wait assuming you will hear no. Wait hopefully. Wait realistically. Try not to wait negatively.

Why? Your outlook while you wait can turn into your outlook while you write. Your inner critic can turn around and use your negative waiting to influence your writing process in general. Then suddenly you aren't writing at all.

So today, I wait. I wait as emails trickle in that have nothing to do with those writing competitions. I wait as I nervously check Submittable thinking I missed something. I wait as I write the next short story. Yet, today I'm waiting knowing that I am as likely to be published as the next writer. And you are too.
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Build relationships (along with a portfolio)

Thursday, June 20, 2019
I mentioned earlier this year that although I have directed successful public relations campaigns for others, I have a difficult time promoting my own work. Because you can't solve a problem until you identify it, and to be honest, I've identified it, named it, and lived with it for a long time, I now feel ready to move on to the next step.

I have begun, in earnest, to promote my own work. And, I'm building momentum. For example, I've read my work in front of others, as well as submitted stories, poems, pitches, and books. A couple of weeks ago I noticed a real-world problem, pitched the idea to an editor who liked it and will pay me to write about it. Cool. Dream job, right? To be honest, yes and no.

The reality of working as a writer on her own is that once you write and sell an idea or story, then you may need to start over. The satisfaction of submitting that story is short-lived. After I sell that article, I need to start from scratch, and that's when contemplating the safety of a 9-5 job sounds pretty good. Well, maybe for a few minutes, because there are many ways to connect your writing to those who need it.

The key is to think in terms of building relationships, and building a network of connections that overlap. If I connect with Company or Editor A, then I should take a look at their connections (as much as I can) to see where I may be able to write and sell something similar to Company or Editor B.

If my relationship with my editor or contact is friendly and casual, I can ask for other names of people who might be interested in my work. If not, I may go online to find their business contacts, and ask Editor A if I can use him or her as a reference when contacting someone else in their network. Be careful that Company or Editor A is not archrivals with Company or Editor B. You may never hear from either one again. I speak from experience. But sometimes they hate each other so much that they like stealing each other's writers. That's also happened to me.

When I sold my last article to the editor I am working with, he told me their budget for summer projects is pretty low, so not to expect much in the next two months. That's bad news for me, but I know he's been in his job for a long time, and one of the people he had me interview for an article has a media production company. Guess who I'm going to call next week?

During these conversations, I'm going to ask both of them for names of other people they do business with to see if any of them need a writer. I'm also going to look at those industries because I have pertinent writing examples.

I've reached out to others in the publishing industry as well. I am now a first reader of stories for a literary journal. There is no deadline for these, and sometimes they remind me how many I have left to read as a gentle push to finish one batch so they can send the next. It's a great way to see the type of writing others are submitting. Although I can't submit to this journal now, as a reader, my work may get a second look at a different journal when they find out about the work I do (because I will tell them!).

As a teacher, I've been asked a few times to review textbooks, which I find enjoyable. When I did this a few months ago, the editorial assistant who was responsible for submitting my W9 form couldn't read the one I sent through the website. We emailed back and forth a few times, and after she received a good copy, I asked if I could send a humorous short story. She said it wasn't her area of interest, but she would pass it on to other editorial assistants in her very large corporate publishing company. I haven't heard back, but I have her email and will use it later if I think of something educational she may want to read, because that is her area of interest.

As a writer, don't just focus on submitting work. Build relationships, because all business involves people, and publishing is a business.

Mary Horner teaches communications and has been spending more time contacting potential clients to increase her writing revenue.
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5 Star Review of "Papa's Shoes" by Madeline Sharples - Review by Crystal Otto

Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Papa’s Shoes: A Polish shoemaker and his family settle in small-town America is a work of fiction about immigration with a feminist and historical bent. At 99,968 words, Papa’s Shoes is a stand-alone novel with series potential.

Ira Schuman is determined to move his family out of their Polish shtetl to the hope and opportunities he’s heard about in America. But along the way he faces the death of three of his four sons, a wife who does not have the same aspirations as his, and the birth of a daughter, Ava, conceived to make up for the loss of his boys. Ava grows up to be smart, beautiful, and very independent.

Besides having a feisty relationship with her overly-protective mother, Ava falls for the college man who directs her high school senior class play. With the news that she wants to marry a non-Jewish man, Ira realizes that his plan to assimilate in the new world has backfired. Should the young couple marry, he must decide whether to banish his daughter from his family or welcome them with open arms. Even though he won’t attend their wedding, he makes her a pair a wedding shoes. In his mind, the shoes are simply a gift, not a peace offering.

Print Length: 286 pages
Publisher: Aberdeen Bay (April 27, 2019)
Publication Date: April 27, 2019
ISBN-10: 1608300986
ISBN-13: 978-1608300983

Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples is available in print and as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.

5 Star Review by Crystal J. Casavant Otto

Papa’s Shoes by Madeline Sharples is absolutely beautiful and definitely a 5 Star Book. There are so many things Sharples did right with this book, but a few are so outstanding I’d like to point them out in detail:

The historical accuracy in these pages is so well written you often forget it is a work of fiction. Sharples writes with such attention to detail you might think she experienced each scene herself. The sights and sounds of the Shtetl drew me in from the beginning and I continued to enjoy the attention to detail and historical accuracy throughout the story.

The flow of the story is consistent and once the reader is drawn in, their attention is kept from cover to cover. Papa’s Shoes is a story of courage and love (which is never without loss) and is a heartwarming read that kept me absolutely engaged cover to cover.

The cover of Papa’s Shoes is lovely, but it’s only after a reader finishes the book they can fully appreciate the true beauty and relevance of the Shoes. It’s apparent much thought and detail went into getting the cover and all pages of this novel absolutely perfect!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to others. It is my hope that Madeline Sharples writes a sequel to Papa’s Shoes so we readers may enjoy more of the lovely characters she’s created in this beautiful book.


"From an insightful storyteller, Papa's Shoes, is a heartwarming story of courage and love. Author Madeline Sharples has created an epic journey with intriguing twists and surprises along the way. From days of old in Poland to cultural and economic realities in America, this is an awe-inspiring novel about families, generational history, and the incredible power of change. You truly won't want to put it down!"
—D.A. Hickman, author of Ancients of the Earth: Poems of Time

"Author Madeline Sharples tells the intimate story of an American family, of immigration, tragedy, renewal, and love with grace and the delicate touch of a poet. There’s a raw kind of sweetness in this rich and epic saga."
—David W. Berner, author of The Consequence of Stars and A Well-Respected Man

“An immigrant family’s braided history – its conflicts, losses, and secrets – come to life in Papa’s Shoes. With loving attention to detail, Madeline Sharples transports readers from a Polish shtetl to the Illinois town where Ira and Ruth settle, and shows us the intimate workings of their
marriage. This family’s triumphant journey to the American Midwest will inspire you long after
you’ve closed these pages.”
—Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story

About the Author:

Madeline has worked most of her professional life as a technical writer, grant writer, and proposal process manager. She began writing poetry, essays, and creative non-fiction when her oldest son, Paul, was diagnosed as manic depressive. She continued writing as a way to heal since his death by suicide in 1999. Madeline’s memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, first released on Mother’s Day 2011 in hard cover, is about living with her son’s bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide. Her publisher, Dream of Things, launched a paperback edition in July 2012 and an eBook in August 2012.

Madeline also co-edited Volumes 1 and 2 of The Great American Poetry Show, a poetry anthology, and wrote the poems for two books of photography, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Besides having many poems published in print and online magazines, writes regularly for Naturally Savvy, and occasionally for PsychAlive, Open to Hope, and Journeys Through Grief and The Huffington Post.

Find Madeline Online:
Facebook page
Twitter page

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

June 20th @ Women's Writing Circle
Madeline Sharples pens today's guest post at Women's Writing Circle with Susan Weidener - don't miss the post titled: "Fact vs. Fiction" and learn more about Madeline's latest best selling novel Papa's Shoes.

June 26th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Fellow author and memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her review of Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples. Don't miss Linda's insight into this touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they move to America!

June 27th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews the latest best selling novel Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - readers will delight to hear what Nicole thinks of this crowd pleasing story of one Polish shoemaker and his family!

June 28th @ Deal Sharing Aunt / Vicki Brinius
Vicky Brinius reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples. Find out how she feels after reading this touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America.

July 2nd @Author Anthony Avina
Fellow author Anthony Avina reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - this is a touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settled in America.

July 2nd @ Amanda Sanders
Amanda of Amanda Diaries reviews Madeline Sharples latest novel Papa's Shoes - read Amanda's review and add this lovely story to your TBR pile today!

July 4th @ Author Anthony Avina
Readers at Anthony Avina's blog will delight with today's guest post and author interview with Madeline Sharples - learn more about her and her latest work!

July 5th @ Lisa Buske
Lisa Buske shares her review of Papa's Shoes - the latest novel by Madeline Sharples and a touching story of one Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America.

August 12th @ Kathleen Pooler’s Memoir Writer’s Journey
Readers and writers alike will want to stop by Memoir Writer’s Journey to hear from Kathleen Pooler and friend / fellow author Madeline Sharples as they discuss Madeline’s latest book Papa’s Shoes.

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Interview with Laura Ruth Loomis, First Place Winner of Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Laura’s chapbook of linked short stories, Lost in Translation, was published in 2016 by Wordrunner Press, and she is currently working on expanding it into a novel. Her most recent short story, “In the Flesh,” appears in the current issue of On the Premises. She has had nonfiction published in Prime Number, poetry in Nasty Women Poets, and fiction in Writer Advice, and Many Mountains Moving.

Her short story, “Notes to Self: One Week Out,” was a runner-up in the Winter 2016 issue of Women on Writing. Coincidentally, it deals with themes similar to those in Repetition Compulsion.

When social work and the real world become overwhelming, Laura writes humor, including a piece in Writer’s Digest, and her continuing quest to someday win the Bulwer-Lytton “It was a dark and stormy night” Award.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2019 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Laura: Thank you! I've enjoyed your contests before, and this story seemed timely and relevant for contest aimed at women.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Repetition Compulsion?” I hadn’t heard of this term before.

Laura: I ran across the term in John Krakauer's book "Missoula." He described a trial where the jury had trouble believing that a woman who'd been date raped would continue to have contact with her assailant. I hadn't known the term, but I recognized the phenomenon from doing social work. Sometimes a person responds to trauma by going back to the situation in an attempt to "fix" it, make it come out differently, so they can feel safe and in control.

It's easy to assume that we'd never do this, but people aren't always going to be rational after a major truama. That's why I wrote the story in second person, because it really could be you or me.

WOW: Yes, the second person point of view is well used here. Great job! What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Laura: I like flash fiction because I have to imply more in the story than what's on the page. I've written longer stories, and I'm attempting a novel. Flash fiction teaches me to make every word matter, which is a lesson that helps with other kinds of writing. I've even tried my hand at tweet-length stories, with hashtag games like #vss365 on Twitter.

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

Laura: I always have a journal with me, and I write bits and pieces while I'm on public transportation, or waiting anywhere. When the story starts to come together in my head, I'll sit down at the computer.

I'm a terrible procrastinator, though. Writing is a lot like exercising: once I get started, I can get into a rhythm and keep going, but sometimes I have the worst time with getting started. And with writing, as with exercise, good music helps. I have "soundtracks" for my longer stories.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Laura! Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Laura: That's a hard question! Trying to get published means getting past a lot of rejections, no matter what. The most helpful thing for me has been my critique group. They keep me accountable, because I have to have something to bring to group, and they help me sharpen the writing until the story on the page is as close as I can get to the one in my head.


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

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Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy - Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, June 17, 2019

Mari L. McCarthy’s international bestselling book, Journaling Power, started a movement. Now, Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is igniting a revolution!

You’ll discover the life-changing magic of journaling through moving personal stories told by just some of the thousands of people who have tapped into the proven therapeutic power of expressive writing.

These are people just like you, and their challenges are the same ones you have.

Heal Your Self with Journaling Power reveals the inner strength and grace that comes with living your life in the present from the inside out. It will help you transform your life and…

● Manifest everything your desire

● Fill you with uplifting positive energy

● Put you on a path to better health and wellness

● Give you the inspiration and motivation to live your best life

● Show you how to use journaling to solve your most pressing problems

The only right way to journal is YOUR way. Just grab a pen and paper and do it!

Print Length: 143 Pages
Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help
Publisher: Mari L. McCarthy
ISBN-13: 9780463807361

Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is now available to purchase on,, Barnes and Noble and also on Mari's website (where you can get a signed copy).

Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on June 24th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

Praise for Heal Your Self with Journaling Power

Hear from Alison Laverty, chapter 7 contributor of Heal Your Self with Journaling Power (and make sure you follow Mari's Create Write Now YouTube page):

Mari McCarthy's latest, Heal Your Self with Journaling Power, represents the voice of a warm friend who not only talks the talk but also has lived first-hand the transforming power of writing. Packed with focused, fun prompts to jump-start the journaling process, this book is a motivation and an uplift! I especially enjoy the stress-bucket exercise. Not to be missed.
—Melanie Faith, educator and author of In a Flash and Poetry Power,

In a world of ever-present scary news, stress, and technology that distracts us from genuine human encounters, Mari McCarthy invites us to do something both simple and radical: pause daily to encounter our own souls. And she not only tells us to just do it, she shows us how with her own life story, the stories of others, and her many ideas about how to maximize the transformative power of journaling time.
—Kevin Anderson, Ph.D., Author of Now is Where God Lives: A Year of Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul and The Inconceivable Surprise of Living: Sustaining Wisdom for Spiritual Beings Trying to Be Human.

The most important lesson illustrated in Heal Your Self with Journaling Power is that anyone can enhance their health and wellbeing through the therapeutic power of expressive writing. This is the definitive book that shows you how. So just grab a pen and a pad of paper and do it!
—Mike Bundrant, Co-Founder,

About the Author, Mari L. McCarthy

Mari L. McCarthy is the Self-Transformation Guide and Founder/Chief Inspiration Officer of She is also author of the international-bestselling, award-winning book Journaling Power: How to Create the Happy, Healthy Life You Want to Live.

Mari began journaling to relieve the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis (MS) over 20 years ago. Through journaling, Mari was able to ditch her prescription drugs and mitigate most of her MS symptoms. Now she teaches people throughout the world how to heal, grow, and transform their lives through the holistic power of therapeutic journaling.

She lives in a gorgeous beachfront home in Boston, where she has the freedom, flexibility, and physical ability to indulge in all her passions, which include singing and recording her own albums.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, let me just say congratulations on your book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power! What inspired you to write this book?

Mari: Thank you. I’m very proud of it and excited to get other journalers stories out into the world. As for inspiration, well, it was all part of my plan to have a Journaling Power trilogy. My first book was Journaling Power: How to Create The Happy, Healthy Life You Want To Live, a self-help memoir (a new book genre), which introduces journaling power to the world. This second book shares journaling journeys of just 10 of the thousands of people who use journaling daily to solve their emotional, physical, mental and spiritual problems. My third book will be more spiritual and closer to the format of Journaling Power and focus on transforming self-sabotage into everlasting self-love.

WOW: I love that this will become a trilogy! For those who were a fan of your first book, Journaling Power, what can they expect from your latest book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power?  

Mari: It’s about the Journaling Journeys of ten journalers (and an update about my Journaling Journey now in its 21st year) with chapters on Nurturing Your Inner Wisdom, Managing Your Mind and Expressing Your Emotions and much, much more. They’re talented, creative people who use journaling to meet and master life’s challenges and readers will learn that journaling is the all-purpose self-healing tool. And…four of the stories are from guys. Yay!

WOW: The power of journaling is so profound! I was amazed to read your own story about how journaling put you back on the path to better health. I don't think people realize how journaling can transform you physically as well as emotionally and mentally. What would you say to them if they are in doubt about the impact of journaling? 

Mari: Read my book! :) Journaling helps us reclaim our power that we’ve given away to the medical establishment. We are our own primary healthcare providers and we need to find health care resources that will partner with us to improve our health. I would encourage them to grab a pen and notebook, put a question like “How do I get off of all these drugs?” or “How do I get rid of these extra pounds I’ve been carrying around?” or “Why don’t my doctors listen to me?” or… and then write, write, write. They’ll be blown away to discover how disconnected they are from their body because they’ve been living in their head since forever. Journaling reconnects all the parts of us and makes us whole again.

WOW: Those are such powerful questions to start with - I love that! You teach and inspire people everywhere to transform their lives! What is it like to see people's lives changed because of the impact of journaling? 

Mari: It’s the best part of my life to be celebrating people’s AHAs with them and to read and/or hear them realize they do have the power to discover, uncover and recover their authentic self and that they already have all the talents they need to pursue their passions and change the world.

WOW: How inspiring that is! What do you hope readers take away after reading your book? 

Mari: That they accept that they are a universe of infinite possibilities and by using the ultimate self-empowerment tool, Journaling, they can heal the issues in their tissues that they’ve been carrying around since childhood, learn to live in the present from the inside out, and create the happy, healthy life they want to live.

WOW: I love that - "heal the issues in their tissues." What is next for you? What are you working on now? 

Mari: I’ve just come out with a new self-healing journaling power workbook (I think that makes it our 22nd or so workbook). It’s called Empower Your Self which is our June featured workbook of the month.

I’m also planning out the third book in the Journaling Power trilogy, Create Unconditional Self-Love: A Journaling Power Book, which I’ll release March 15, 2022. I have a draft of the front cover and I’m currently working on the back cover. My book writing process is to create the front and back cover design and content, and then plan out the structure/flow, and then all that’s left to do is write, write, write.

WOW: I love your approach with writing and I can't wait to see what you publish next! Congratulations again on your book and good luck on the tour!
--- Blog Tour Dates

June 17th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Stop by Women on Writing's blog The Muffin and read an interview with author Mari McCarthy and win a copy of her book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 18th @ Karen Brown Tyson's Blog
Visit author Karen Brown Tyson's blog today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why you might still be experiencing writer's block.

June 19th @ Conversations Live with Cyrus Webb (Originally Aired June 12th @ 10:30 AM EST)
Cyrus Webb interviews Mari McCarthy of Create Write Now about her latest bestseller Heal Your Self With Journaling Power. 

June 20th @ Look to the Western Sky
Visit Margo's blog today where you can catch her review of Mari McCarthy's incredible new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 22nd @ Lapidus 
Visit Lapidus, words for well-being association, where you can read Francesca's review of Mari McCarthy's eye-opening book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 23rd @ Life Like a Galaxy Girl
Stop by Alanna's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 24th @ Thoughts in Progress
Do you love the energy in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? Well, if you do, you will not want to miss today's post at the blog Thoughts in Progress where Mari McCarthy shares her tips on how to recreate the magic of NaNoWriMo in any month.

June 25th @ Bev Baird's Blog
Make sure you stop by Bev's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 26th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today where she highlights Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 27th @ The Frugalista Mom
Make sure to Rozelyn's blog and read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power. Plus enter to win a copy for yourself!

June 29th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab your coffee and visit Lacey's blog today and read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's powerful new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

June 30th @ Wild Woman Writer
Visit Anne Easton's blog today where you can catch her review of Mari McCarthy's inspiring new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 1st @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog today and read Mari McCarthy's poignant guest post about our conversations with our inner critic and how to silence them.

July 1st @ Writing Through Life
Be sure to stop by Amber's blog and read her interview with author Mari McCarthy and also enter to win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 2nd @ Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde
If you are in need of a new book in your life, make sure to stop by Lindsey's blog today where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 2nd @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog again today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why we procrastinate and how to avoid it.

July 3rd @ The World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog today and catch her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 5th @ Bring on Lemons
Make lemons into lemonade today when you visit Crystal's blog today and read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 5th @ Just Spilling It
Join Mari over at the podcast "Just Spilling It" where she discusses therapeutic journaling and talks about her new book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 7th @ One Sister's Journey Keeping it Real
Visit Lisa's blog today where you can read Mari's blog post about disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with yourself.

July 8th @ A Day in the Life of Mom
Want to inspire your kids to journal? Visit Ashley's blog today and read Mari McCarthy's guest post featuring imaginative journaling activities to do with kids.

July 9th @ Bev Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog again where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about mindful journaling for mindful eating. Don't miss!

July 9th @ Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde
Visit Lindsey's blog again where you can find out more about Mari McCarthy and her book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 10th @ Lapidus
Join Francesca at Lapidus again where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post about why journaling is part of self-care.

July 10th @ Look to the Western Sky
Make sure you visit Margo's blog again and read Mari McCarthy's guest post featuring more imaginative journaling activities you can do with your kids.

July 12th @ FUMS Podcast
Join Mari at the FUMS podcast where she talks about overcoming MS, therapeutic journaling and more!

July 12th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Stop by author Anthony Avina's blog today where you can read his review about Mari McCarthy's inspirational book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power

July 12th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today where you can read her interview with author Mari McCarthy and also be sure to check out Mari McCarthy's guest post about journaling power for emotional health.

July 13th @ A Day in the Life of Mom< Make sure your day today includes visiting Ashley's blog where you can read her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's life-changing book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 14th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Do you procrastinate too much? Well, visit Anthony Avina's blog again today where you can read Mari McCarthy's guest post on how to use your favorite types of procrastination to your advantage.

July 15th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Do you like to journal? Stop by Wendi's blog today where author Mari McCarthy talks about journaling power for mental health. Don't miss it!

July 16th @ Reading Whale
Visit Caitlin's blog today and read her interview with Mari McCarthy as they talk about Mari's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 17th @ Michelle Cornish Blog
Stop by Michelle's blog where she reviews Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power. You can also check out her interview with Mari and find out more about the author!

July 18th @ Margay Leah Justice Blog
Visit Margay's blog today and read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 19th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Do you love journaling? Well if so, you will want to visit Wendi's blog where she shares her thoughts about Mari McCarthy's powerful book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.

July 19th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog again where you can read her review of Mari McCarthy's book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power.
July 21st @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today where you can read Mari McCarthy's blog post about overcoming writer's block. Don't miss this if you are struggling with staying inspired!

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

To win a copy of the book Heal Your Self with Journaling Power by Mari McCarthy, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on June 24th at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email the winner the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Meet Mark Fiore- Quarter 2 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest Runner Up!

Sunday, June 16, 2019
Congratulations to Mark Fiore and Legacy. and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Mark's Bio:

Former California native Mark Fiore now lives on the slopes of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, in southern New Mexico, where life is saner, the people are nicer, and the writing juju is excellent. So much so that after forty-plus years of near-daily journal writing, he finally got up the nerve to proclaim himself a writer and DO something with all those journals.

Mark has worked with mythologist Michael Meade and the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation in support of their work to develop mentoring relationships and forms of community healing through innovative workshops and retreats that inspire personal growth and leadership development. The non-fiction epistolary account of his efforts to live an authentic life can be found in You Are Loved, an Email Memoir, which he co-authored with writer Lisa Lucca. Before adopting his pen name, Mark was a contributing writer for The Good Men Project. Two of his essays about growing up male can be found here and here. Additional examples of Mark’s writings can be found at

He is currently writing the follow-up story to You Are Loved, sifting through forty-three journals in search of insights and observations about life, love, and God that might be of help to anyone who’s felt as confused and ungrounded in their lives as he once was. He wants everyone to know that he’s not kidding about the desert writing juju thing.

If you haven't done so already, check out Mark's beautiful essay Legacy and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Mark! I thoroughly enjoyed your story; thank you for submitting to our Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest and congratulations on being a Runner Up! 

Thank you for writing this essay - I love the message! Were there any fears you had to overcome in order to submit this essay? How did you overcome those fears and/or obstacles?

Mark: My only real concern was the degree to which my story would connect with WOW’s readership. One of the guidelines for this contest was to “gear your writing toward women readers,” so a father’s story of the journal he wrote to his daughter during the first sixteen years of her life would have to first make an impression on the contest judges before fans of the website would ever see it.

I submitted the essay to the contest in the previous quarter and requested an editor’s critique. Chelsey Clammer was the editor who came back with not only crazy-smart feedback on how to make the piece better, but also some very complimentary impressions of my writing style and writer’s voice. The infusion of inspiration and encouragement I received from Chelsey bolstered my confidence tremendously, and after tweaking the essay based on her feedback I re-submitted the piece in the following quarter.

Placing in the top ten of WOW’s non-fiction essay contest mirrors back to me that, at some level, women have indeed found something in this story they can connect with. At the very least I would expect memories and/or emotions regarding their own father/daughter relationship to come up, especially for those women who had or wish they had a father who fought to preserve a loving relationship with them in spite of any obstacles, which is the core theme of my essay.

WOW: We sure have some amazing judges and I'm glad Chelsey's feedback was inspiring! What have you found to be most helpful in your writing path?

Mark: I have a very long history of journal writing, which means eighty-something percent of what I’ve written over the years has been read only by me. This is not a great trajectory to maintain for anyone looking to be a published writer. Though I much prefer the organic and more intimate experience of pen-to-paper writing, I discovered it had become something of a liability: when it came to writing with a keyboard and typing into a doc, my writing voice was stiffer, more formal, and at times so calculated that I would get disgusted with myself and abandon whatever I’d been working on. Then I’d reach for a current journal and effortlessly write pages about my stupid writing aspirations and what a hack writer I really was.

I decided the best way for me to break out of this rut, this habit, was to go much more public with my writing, which is why I started submitting 800-word essays to a local bookstore’s monthly “Story Slam” event. Those events had a contest/competition element to them: the event coordinators would toss out a one-word prompt (“Hustle”, “Snake”, “Legacy”, “Superstition”, “Covfefe”), anyone could enter, and the submissions would be blind-judged by the bookstore staff. From the dozens of submissions, only six or eight authors would be selected to read their strictly-timed five-minute piece in front of a live audience.

Those monthly story slam events impacted my writing for the better in two ways: First, it forced me to make friends with my laptop and begin seeing it as helpful tool for composing stories, not just an annoying slab of soulless, plastic push-buttons. I bookmarked and opened tabs for a thesaurus, a dictionary, and punctuation rules; I incorporated my musician sensibilities into these writing sessions, using my computer as an instrument that supported me in finding the right mood or the proper tone for my compositions, taking more care with my word choice, working and re-working a sentence or a paragraph until I nailed exactly what I wanted to say.

Second, writing for those story slams jump-started the much more enjoyable habit of reading my work out loud. This not only helped to confirm whether or not I’d found the right words, but, like walking through a mine field, I’d occasionally stumble upon an honest emotion I hadn’t detected on the page -- just below the surface of a sentence, in the middle of some paragraph -- and blow myself up with tears. It bewildered me. It also made me a regular at the story slam events: over the next twelve months I was chosen to read eleven of my stories, several of which I could not read aloud without (BOOM!) having to pause and collect myself.

WOW: That last paragraph - absolutely beautiful! Your talent shows through - even in this interview! Your writing is very moving.

Where do you write? What does your space look like?

WOW: At the far end of a tiled hallway I turned a guest bedroom – a ten-by-twenty rectangle - into an earthy, cozy den: my writing room. Most of the hardwood floor is covered with a thick area rug in rusty browns and olive greens; similar colors apply to an overstuffed chair and matching ottoman placed diagonally in one corner of the room, next to a small antique table topped with a banker’s lamp -- my reading spot. To one side of this vignette is a 12-string guitar on a stand; to the other side is a 6-string. Both guitars are kept tuned and ready to play, which I tend to do in those moments when I’m stuck or frustrated with my writing but want to keep the creativity in the room.

Backed against one long wall is a comfortable Mission style futon couch which can double as a queen size bed. To either side of the couch is an antique lamp. Displayed on the wall above the couch are four framed dream collages from recent years, all of which have a section devoted to writing goals.

Directly across from the couch and facing the opposite wall is a spacious Mission style desk where I do my writing. Above the desk, also framed and at eye level, is the current year’s dream collage, where I can look up from a given writing project and read a reminder to myself that “the world does not need another mediocre book”.

My laptop is tethered to a large desktop monitor tucked into the upper left corner of the desk, as well as an excellent five-speaker system. No, not for gaming videos: when I’m writing on my laptop the monitor is off, but the speakers are playing the sound of a light, drippy rain. When I’m putting pen to paper for journal writing I’ll switch on the monitor and have it display an eight-hour HD video of a remote, lush forest stream with waterfalls. Also on the desk are: a dimmable, height-adjustable lamp, a stack of five journals titled according to subject matter (music, God, relationships, etc.), a couple of yellow legal pads, and a square, wooden pencil holder, stuffed with a six-month supply of 1.4B Paper Mate Profile pens. When writing at my desk I get plenty of natural light and high-desert air from the large windows to my immediate left.

Pre-dawn is my favorite writing time, which means it’s dark outside, which is why the four lamps in the room are fitted with amber-tinted Edison bulbs. In the two or three hours before sunrise, with its solid oak Mission furniture and earth-tone fabrics, my writing den positively glows with warmth and comfort when bathed in this light. And if it should be raining or snowing while I’m writing in those early morning hours, wild horses couldn’t drag me out of that room.

WOW: I'd ask you for a photograph of your space to add to this article, but you describe it so well I'm sure readers have the perfect picture in their minds! (another testament to your writing skills)

You already mentioned how journaling is part of your life, but tell us more: what role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your writing life?

Mark: I’ve been journaling almost daily for more than half my life, though I have no idea where that compulsion came from. My first journal – six-by-eight inches, thick leather, unlined pages, cover embossed with the image of an oak tree -- was a Christmas gift from a girlfriend. Six days later I wrote in it for the first time: a twenty-nine word sentence reporting that the girlfriend wanted me to move out. The next entry comes three days after that – January 3rd -- describing how happy the two of us are to snow ski and party with friends in a mountain condo. The last entry is dated October 1st of that same year, by which time the girlfriend is gone, my father has passed away, and I’ve taken his final piece of advice to quit the restaurant business and be a drummer, not a chef.

Journals, from that point on, became the most effective therapist imaginable: a safe, reliable, non-judgmental container where I can speak my entire mind and download my each and every thought, belief, or emotion, without being interrupted. As when in the presence of a good listener, this allows me to unravel the messy knot of feelings I’m sitting on at any given time and find my own words that, on a good day, bring clarity, comprehension, and understanding.

All of this to say that journaling has been my practice of getting to know myself and my way through a fatherless life by instinctively and organically writing about it. It’s fair to say, then, that the writer I’m currently showing up as has come from that. The “Legacy” essay certainly did.

As for writer’s groups, I’ve participated in a few and have enjoyed some more than others. I’ve noticed, though, that beginner-level writers seem more interested in validation that critique, as do good writers who lack confidence in their work. There’s no mistaking the difference between a beginner writer with healthy self-confidence, and a more experienced writer trying to hide their insecurities behind a projection of false or forced self-confidence: you can see it in their eyes, their faces, and their body language when it comes time for that twenty minutes of group attention to be focused on them and whatever piece or project they’re wanting feedback on. Trying desperately not to hurt another writer’s feelings by parsing words of criticism makes perfect sense, however, if your impulse is to blurt out what a piece of shit you think their writing is, and I for one have been fortunate enough to have never belonged to a writer’s group willing to be THAT honest.

But these days I prefer to write and submit when I want honest, real-world feedback as to how my own writing is coming along.

WOW: Thank you for such a great insight!

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2019 and beyond?

Mark: In 2012 I co-wrote an epistolary memoir with Lisa Lucca – WOW’s 1st Place winner of their 2018-Q1 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest – which, through a nine-year email exchange, tells the true story of how, with Lisa’s support, I got through a dysfunctional marriage and found my way back to a much more authentic life. You Are Loved . . . an email memoir (available on Amazon) is full of the kind of writing I did in my journals: off-the-cuff, first-draft, honest communication about love, parenting, and life purpose, which I sent to the one person I trusted most, have known for more than half my life, and now live with in southern New Mexico.

There’s quite a love story embedded in that narrative, and my writing goals for 2019 include my intention to finish writing it. It’s under way, and all that remains is to keep coming back to my cozy den in the pre-dawn hours, flip on the rain sounds, and write my ass off. Lucky for me that I have forty-something journals to sift through should there be a need to recall the details of how I came to live the excellent, deeply rewarding life I’m currently living.

WOW: Thank you so much Mark - I've really enjoyed our time together and look forward to hearing more from you in the future! Congratulations again!

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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