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Sunday, June 16, 2019


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

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 and love! 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!

Check out the latest Contests:

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Saturday, June 15, 2019


The Father I Might Kill

Okay, be patient. I'll get to the post title in just a moment. I promise.

Tomorrow is Father's Day. I lost my father many years ago, but my heart is full of memories. He was a wonderful dad. He sang songs like Marezy Doats ("Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid'll eat ivy too--wouldn't you?") the Marines' Hymn, and Handel's Messiah. He was an engineer, and pored over assembly instruction for hours--I'm not exaggerating. At the dinner table, he took forever buttering a roll or biscuit--every single square centimeter of the cut surface had to be slowly smeared with margarine. (Meanwhile, our rolls were getting cold.)

Most importantly, he and my mom chose me. Biologically, they couldn't have kids, so they took a risk and adopted me... and I'm forever grateful.

My dad makes me think of memorable fathers in literature. Fathers like Harper Lee's Atticus Finch.

How about Jack Torrance--the father in Stephen King's The Shining? I'd love Atticus as my father but Jack? No thanks.

And my third most memorable father: Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo's The Godfather. I definitely wouldn't want him as my dad, but even more, I wouldn't want him as my enemy.

And thinking of Father's Day makes me think of the father in my WIP--James Henry Simmons.

James Simmons lived almost 100 years ago. He was created of ink and imagination three years ago. A mechanic. A strong man. A man who knew when to keep his fist clenched at his side instead of using it to punch someone.

When I first began writing this manuscript, I was sailing along. My family of five--two parents and three children--appeared in the early chapters. By the final chapter they'd be there too, right?

Or would they? Would any or all of them survive the tragedy that hit their community? Would they emerge permanently scarred--either physically or emotionally? These are decisions I have to make.

Well, to be completely honest, I made those decisions a long time ago but am I going to tell you if I killed off the father? The mother? The whole family? Um... no. You'll have to buy the book (when I'm lucky enough to snag a publisher).

If you're fortunate enough to still have your father or grandfather with you--and the two of you have a warm relationship--celebrate. If your father is gone and you have fond memories--take a moment tomorrow to page through a scrap book, look at some framed photographs... and remember.

Happy Father's Day!

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a freelance writer and a dog rescuer... along with being a wife, mother and grandmother. Currently, she's working on earning the title of "Queen of Rejection Letters" as she sends off her manuscript at a feverish pace. If you'd like to read more of her stuff, check out Sioux's Page.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Info Dumping a Problem In Your Fiction? Consider a Doubting Thomas

I didn't have a good photo for this article,
and I'm from St. Louis, so...
I recently had a conversation with a novel writer about how to get needed backstory across to her readers without it being an info dump. My suggestion was to make one of her characters a "Doubting Thomas." Now those two sentences are full of jargon that you may not know, so let me define these terms first, and then explain what happened:

Backstory: The information that happened before the story started AND that the reader needs to know in order to understand the story.

Info dump: A section of a novel where the author puts all the backstory in one place, and it is not naturally worked into the story. It can be in narrative, but it is often worked in through a character telling another the needed backstory through dialogue.

Doubting Thomas character: A character who doesn't believe some facts that everyone else believes or knows to be true. This character can often be argumentative or questioning or even naive--someone whom other characters have to naturally explain things to so that the prose doesn't sound "fake" or "info dumpy" when information is revealed.

In my student's novel, a family is going through a huge crisis, and the grandmother is explaining why one of the characters is so sick. Through her explanation, she reveals her entire philsophy of life and her belief system, which is important to the plot and characterization. Readers need to know what she believes and how she has lived her entire life with these beliefs. But, in the novel, the grandmother starts explaining these fundamental beliefs to her other family members, whom she lives with. Not only do they live with her, but they are a very closeknit family. It wasn't believeable that Grandmother would need to explain this to everyone, and the dialogue came out stilted.

All the author needed to fix this was to make the grandson a Doubting Thomas. If the grandson said something like: "Grandma, come on. This can't be true." Then readers could easily believe that Grandma would explain things to her grandson and maybe even sternly. Grandma may even explain the background to her grandson of why she believes what she does and how it is been true in her life. In other words, a Doubting Thomas grandson would make Grandma stating her beliefs natural and understandable--and better fiction.

Of course, this is not the only way to work in backstory or needed information in fiction works. But if you have readers who have given you feeback or critique that there is an info dump or parts of your novel feel too much like an encyclopedia or stitled, consider making one of the characters a Doubting Thomas and easily fix this issue.

Have you ever tried this method in your writing?

By the way: I'm writing this as the Blues just won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever! Let's Go Blues! Play Gloria! See photo above...

If you want to take the WOW! Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach class this summer that Margo teaches, go here to sign up (Classes start either July 5 or August 2). She is offering Muffin readers a special deal with the class--for the price of $130, you can choose to a) do the traditional class of 4 sections of 4500 words or less of a novel or book-length work in one month b) deal #1 which is turning in a section every two weeks--for writers who can't make the weekly deadline c) deal #2--five sections in one month for the price of four--for writers who have a chunk of a novel already done and need some help and feedback. Sign up, and Margo will email with you to decide what works best for you! To find out more about Margo, go to her Editor 911 site here

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Revision: A Whole 'Nother Story

Once upon a time, I had a tagline on my website that read, “Cathy C. Hall…Writing and Re-Writing. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.” I changed it up when I used the fishing template but I didn’t change what I do. I still write and re-write, and depending on what I’m writing, I can still end up with a whole ‘nother story from where I started. Such is the drill when it comes to revision.

Recently, I completed the final—well, final for now—revision on my latest middle grade novel. And for me, the final revision is my chart; it helps me to check continuity but it also allows me to see instantly what elements need a quick fix. Invariably, I will think I am done before this final revision, that I’ll just do a run-through in a jiffy, but I am always surprised to find glaring omissions or holes or even name changes, for crying out loud. That’s the beauty of the grid with its sparse details. There is nowhere for the errors to hide!

So here are the elements to give you some idea of what’s important in writing (or re-writing, as it were) a MG novel for me. Maybe you’ll find something to help you in your next novel revision:

CHAPTER: I always give my chapters a title and this is where I double-check to make sure the title fits and also gives a little tease as to what’s coming. Because I write humorous MG, my chapter titles often have a funny twist. But it’s not until after I read the chapter and fill out the rest of the grid for that chapter that I will go back and make changes here. I also will note whether there’s action or talking; I’m looking for balance here and though I hate to take out my funny dialogue, I do get a little carried away at times and have to cut. Ugh.

SETTING: I include the setting to make sure that I haven’t made sudden switches in locale, or mixed up settings. Yep, that happens, but the grid allows me to see this instantly and make the fix. It also shows me the flow of the story and so helps with the continuity.

CHARACTERS: This is also a way for me to double check continuity, make sure there’s balance for everyone involved in the story. Also, it’s very helpful to see when a minor character’s name has changed (several times). Ugh again.

PLOT: In this particular novel, there are three storylines. By giving each plot a color, I can see if I’ve weaved the three together. It’s only in the first few chapters that the main mystery develops and soon enough, the second emotional story comes in, and almost as quickly, the last bit of mystery and romance (which is actually the main plot of the next book) is introduced. If I’ve done my job right, I don’t have a lot of revision here but the color coding helps me to see at a glance where the manuscript needs work. I don’t have to have all three plots in each chapter, but again, I’m striving for balance and pacing.

CHAPTER HOOK: This is an element that’s important for me, and I think, for MG readers. I want to make sure that the last paragraph and/or sentence of the chapter is compelling enough that the reader doesn’t want to close the book till the very end. I also want to ensure that the transition from chapter to chapter works so here is where I do a lot of revision. Almost every chapter ending has been tweaked, and often the beginning of the next chapter will have to be tweaked as well.

I know some writers who will use Excel sheets for this sort of grid, and they’ll have more elements (or fewer). It’s whatever works best for you and what you want from your revision. For me, filling in the grid by hand works better, lets me thoughtfully see the whole picture. When all is done, I don’t have a whole ‘nother story, but I do have a better story. And here’s hoping that an editor feels the same way!

(P.S. Have any revision tips? Questions? Want to argue for what you think is more important? I’m all ears. Or eyes. Or whatever. UGH.)

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Dear Writer: How to Stay in Touch with Your Character

A while ago, Renee Roberson asked me how I keep track of the many projects I have going. What system do I use? In all truth, I just make a leap of faith and go for it, believing that each story will still be there when I come back to it.

That said, it isn’t always an easy thing to do when I haven’t visited a particular story for a week or more. With a longer absence, I sometimes have problems re-entering my character’s point of view and the larger story. When this happens, I invite my character to write me a letter.

If you know me, you may be wondering who is writing this blog post. Sounds a bit corny for me, doesn’t it? And yet this technique almost always works. Through it, I have discovered:

What my character really wants. We all know that we need to reveal our character’s motivations and deepest desires. What is it your character wants? Yet, in a story that just isn’t quite working, these wants and desires are often cookie cutter and superficial. “My character likes long walks on the beach and dreams of world peace.” But when I give my character a chance to speak to me through a personal letter, I discover that she’s worried about being a failure and letting her best friend down. Wait a minute – I didn’t even know her friend had a vested interest in the project. But that’s because I hadn’t dug deeply enough into . . .

What’s going on behind the scenes. I’m a linear thinker. A leads to B which leads to C and so on. Yes, I know that X, Y and Z are in there somewhere. But my linear mind sometimes shrugs off these extras even when it is exactly these layers of detail that make a story, especially something novel length, feel three dimensional and real. My poor linear brain needs the occasional reminder that these details matter.

My character’s own unique voice. It is much easier to discover and reenter my character’s voice when I invite her to write me a letter. These are, after all, her words and ideas. She is presenting what is important to her. The things that matter to me are much less important, but as my character speaks, pet phrases, her own personal word choice and syntax emerge.

If you are having problems re-entering your story after a lengthy absence, you’ve written yourself into a corner or your character feels flat and one-dimensional, invite her to share her thoughts about the story with you. Granted, she may have some harsh words if you’ve left her in a tough spot for a long period of time. But what she has to say will give you new insights and ideas for carrying your story forward.


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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Sunday, June 09, 2019


Meet Angela Dawson, Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Runner-Up

Angela Dawson lives in Bristol with her husband and their three unschooled children. A teen. A tween. And a six-year-old with an extra chromosome. She’s a self-taught writer with a gentle, honest, sensitive voice. She writes true things about small moments that move, awaken or inspire. Her personal essays have appeared in Mamalode, Mothers Always Write, The Green Parent, Breastfeeding Today and The Manifest-Station. She has a short piece in the forthcoming Sensorially Challenged Volume 2.

Readers can find her online at Angela’s Flashes or on Instagram @angelasflashes.

Check out Angela's introspective piece here and then return for an interview with the writer.

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

WOW: Congratulations, Angela, and welcome! I enjoyed reading your essay "A Recipe for Change" and it gave me a lot to think about. Your specialty seems to be in writing creative nonfiction. What is it about this form of writing that appeals to you?

Angela: I discovered I was writing creative nonfiction after the fact. I'd started a blog when my youngest was two months and a day old. My intent was to be open, honest, clear and hopeful in my posts, as if I'd bumped into a friend in the park and we were catching up. What I liked, from the outset, was painting a picture with words. Bringing small moments to life in a vivid and visceral way. I liked the challenge of shaping a story. Of choosing the elements which best expressed the essence or feeling I was trying to convey. I'm an untrained writer, so it was only after reading Lee Gutkind's book You Can't Make This Stuff Up. I realised there was a name for what I was doing. Creative nonfiction allows you to elevate the ordinary. There's immense freedom and flexibility in how you structure and voice the story. But it matters that you tell a true thing.

WOW: That is the most succinct description of creative nonfiction I've ever heard! I may have to check out that book--thank you for sharing that resource with us. “A Recipe for Change” is a beautifully-woven piece about the changes women’s bodies go through as they age. How did you get the idea to intersperse the recipe for bone broth within the narrative?

Angela: I really don't know what inspired me to marry stock making with menopausal symptoms. I was panic writing essays for a mentor I had at the time. Way behind on my words, I free wrote about what I'd noticed in my body in recent years. When the words stopped flowing, I went to the kitchen to make stock. Alchemy came to mind and got me thinking about the process of change. Once the food scraps and water were in the pan, I wrote down everything I'd just done and somehow it melded together.

WOW: Can you tell us about the upcoming piece that will be published in Sensorially Challenged Vol. 2?

Angela: It's 175 words of sensory dense writing. During a difficult family time last summer I spent a day in the scorching sun, weeding an overgrown patch at the back of the garden. The tall nettles and creeping bindweed seemed to represent my tangled mind. The mindless task of bending, snipping and pulling gave me something physical to do with my excess mental energy. Clearing the space. Uprooting what was no longer wanted. Tending, as a metaphor for my inner state.

WOW: You’ve been published in numerous literary journals and e-zines. What advice would you give writers hoping to submit essays in similar places?

Angela: It goes without saying that your essay should be the best it can be before you begin to find a home for it. How does it sound to you? Are there words you stumble over when you read it aloud? Or parts that feel flat? Fix them. Familiarise yourself with the flavour of each site you wish to submit to. Dig in. Read a bunch of pieces that catch your eye. Is your essay a good fit in terms of style, tone and subject matter? Read the submissions guidelines. Follow them! Format your essay in their preferred way. Add a brief cover note—speak from the heart and leave it at that. Double check everything and you're good to go.

WOW: Great advice, Angela. As a busy mom to three, how do you set time aside for writing?

Angela: I'm a feast and famine kind of writer who always has a pen and a Leuchtturm1917 notebook to hand. I don't have set times carved out, but when something needs expression or exploration I write whenever and wherever I can. I've written at 1.30am with my wide-awake youngest rolling ping pong balls across the floor. I've written at 6am whilst everybody but the birds slept. I've written whilst the kettle boiled. Stopped in the street to note an idea down. Written on buses and trains. Writing may happen in the margins of my life, but it still happens. I've booked a one to one with Mari L. McCarthy as part of my Runner Up prize (thank you WOW!) and later this year I'm going on a Monday to Saturday Arvon life writing retreat. I can't wait!

WOW: Mari is amazing--you will learn a lot from her. And we hope you had a blast on your writing retreat! Keep up the great work.

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Saturday, June 08, 2019


The Soundtrack of My Writing Life

My daughter turns 16 next week. I can’t believe I have a child old enough to drive. As I was helping to put together a music playlist for her dance party that will take place tonight, I started thinking about what kind of a soundtrack I could create for my writing life. After all, I did make the move to freelance writing after she was born and I didn’t want to go back to a full-time job right away.

After two nights of listening to music and pondering, here’s what I could come up with.

The Teen Angst Years-From Debbie Gibson to Depeche Mode
Those were some confusing times. I idolized pop singer Debbie Gibson and was tickled that she and I shared the same birthday. After moving from Texas to North Carolina the summer before seventh grade, I didn’t know a soul. I spent that summer belting out every song on Gibson’s “Out of the Blue” album and studying her song lyrics in the liner notes of my cassette tapes (Remember those?) Then I filled notebooks full of peach and purple-colored paper with song lyrics about my oh-so-complicated love life (read, non-existent love life) at the age of 12. Later on in high school, I advanced a little bit and wrote dark and depressing poems that wound up in our school’s literary journal, and artists like Depeche Mode (“Enjoy the Silence,” anyone?) began weaving their way into my cassette player as I pondered the world around me.

The College Years-Tori Amos
Life got a bit more confusing in college. I didn’t do a great job of balancing my studies while working two jobs, fell in love with all the wrong people, and didn’t really know what self care was. The majority of my writing during this time period was limited to research papers and a book of poetry I wrote for the final project in my humanities class my junior year. This included a poem about Sylvia Plath and her untimely death, if that gives you any idea of where my head was at the time. Indie princess Tori Amos became my idol, as I marveled at how easily she poured her emotions into her lyrics and music, even when it made everyone around her uncomfortable.

Life in the Suburbs-Ben Folds
Like I mentioned above, it wasn’t until I was firmly entrenched in suburbia with two small children that I began writing again in earnest. In between writing parenting articles and restaurant reviews for local publications, I penned short stories about frustrated moms who weren’t sure how they would ever find time for themselves again. I began listening to music by people like Ben Folds (“Rockin’ the Suburbs” is still my favorite and my teens now request that one in the car, curse words and all) and started realizing what those singers were talking about in songs like “1985” by Bowling for Soup and “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne.

Mother of Teenagers-Nostalgia Sets In
Now I’m in my 40s, writing books and stories for teenagers because I still want to read them myself and thinking about how different my own teen years were as I watch them and their friends. I watch in horror as every movie I loved in high school is remade with newer and hipper actors and music. It makes me want to sit on my couch with a glass of wine and watch the original version of “Footloose” and listen to music by Rick Springfield, Bonnie Tyler, The Cure, and The Pixies.

I don’t know what I would have done without music to get me through my life and accompany me in my writing career. What music do you have a fondness before as you look back in your past?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a marketing director for a nonprofit theatre company. Visit her website at

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Thursday, June 06, 2019


Erica Dawson and the Power of Turning Fear Into Poetry

2019 has been a banner year for the fierce and expressive poet Erica Dawson. She’s taking the poetry world by storm with her three award-winning and passionate books of poetry: When Rap Spoke Straight to God (Tin House, 2018), winner of the 2018 Florida Book Awards Gold Medal for Poetry; The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Poets’ Prize; and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser Press, 2007), winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Prize. Erica spent a spell discussing her writing rituals and how opening herself up as a writer helped raise her work to new heights.


WOW: Erica, I know your schedule’s packed, and I appreciate you taking the time to speak with our readers. Your poetry is so powerful and evocative. What was the inspiration for your latest book When Rap Spoke Straight to God? Was there one moment or a series of events that converged to start you down the path of writing this powerful long-form poem?

Erica: So much of the inspiration came from my frustration with what was happening around me during the months leading up to Trump’s election. Tampa appears to be a very liberal city, in terms of the political landscape of FL; but, there were Trump bumper stickers everywhere, red hats everywhere. Things started to feel a little more tense. I was called racial slurs more than ever. Before we even knew Trump would seek office, I began to feel uncomfortable as a black woman in the South. I felt uncomfortable. That fear came out in the small, individual poems I’d been writing and publishing.

Then, I read some of those poems at the Disquiet International Literary Program in 2015. After the reading, during the Q&A, the author Eileen Myles said my poems felt unfinished, that she could tell I had more to say. And Eileen was right. So, I set out to write a long, book-length piece, to give myself room to say when I needed to say.

WOW: It’s incredible when someone else can see something in your writing and offer a positive nudge. When did you realize words have value, influence, and strength? Why did you choose poetry over prose? Who’s the poet that grabbed and shook you into true love?

Erica: I was always obsessed with language. I loved thinking about the way words come together—their rhymes, the cadence. And I was always interested in poetry, as a reader or listener. My mom always played music; and, she read us a lot of poetry. I loved the rhythm. But, as a writer, I dreamed of writing a novel. I wanted to tell stories. I studied fiction in college until a professor suggested I may be better at poetry than I was at prose. (It stung at first, but again, like Eileen, totally right.)
It was Shakespeare and Anne Sexton who hooked me in. That was it. Game over.

WOW: Ah Anne Sexton, she can sink a hook into a reader’s heart for sure. Do you have a writing process, routine, or ritual? So many writers work full-time jobs as well as writing. Between running the Tampa, FL low-res MFA program, traveling to literary conferences, reading events, and speaking engagements (to name a few), how do you create space and time to write?

Erica: Silence. And mostly at night. I’ll take breaks for a one-song one-woman low-volume dance party. Then resume silence.

It’s super hard to create the space and time. But, writing usually finds its way to me. I’ll have a sleepless night and, boom, there’s an idea. Or sometimes I’m on a plane and hoping to drift off and, boom there’s another idea. I’m pretty sleepless in general, really, so that’s when I find the space. But I don’t force myself into it. That’s never really worked for me.

WOW: The curse of the writer are sleepless nights. I must try the dance party, but I’ll have a louder volume. Both you and WRSSTG have received so much praise, and deservedly so, could you talk about the road you took to get here? With making the brave, bold choice to be political, vulnerable, and controversial in your writing, do you ever worry how your mom or the sketchy dude on the corner might react? How do you handle negative thoughts that creep in?

Erica: This past nine months or so have been a dream. I can’t put it into words. I’ve gone to so many new places, met so many gifted artists of all kinds, made new friends, been featured in the New York Times Magazine and Oprah’s O Magazine. I’ve been on national TV! Last Tuesday night, I was a literary host at PEN America’s annual gala, alongside amazing writers like Zadie Smith, Franny Choi, Gregory Pardlo, Salman Rushdie. It’s absolutely insane.

I definitely had to push my self hard while writing the book. I had to make myself say anything. Say everything. I had to be honest. I had to be imaginative. But I had more fun writing this book than the previous two. After I got out of my way and found the courage I needed, I felt free in so many ways. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

My mom is ridiculously supportive of everything I do. The sketchy dude in the corner happens. The mansplaining guy who has a comment instead of a question happens. The woman who doesn’t appreciate the swearing and leaves during the middle of the reading happens. In a lot of ways, I love it (when I feel safe) when people don’t like what I’m reading. I like to think I’ve gotten under their skin, that I’ve made them uncomfortable, I’ve made them reconsider their own views. That’s pretty cool.

WOW: What’s next?

Erica: We’ll see what happens.

WOW: I, for one, can’t wait! It’s always heartening to hear about the generosity and encouragement writers have for one another. Especially when it’s taken and used to create bodies of work filled with such depth. Thank you, Erica, for sharing with us and congratulations on your fantastic year!


Christy O’Callaghan lives in Upstate New York. She works with incarcerated adults seeking employment. Her favorite pastimes include hiking, gardening, swimming, and collecting sea glass—anything outside in the fresh air. Her work’s appeared in various publications including the anthology Before They Were Our Mothers: Before Rosie Started Riveting, and The Sonder Review, among others. You can find her on Instagram @christyflutterby or by emailing her at chrityflutterby[at]yahoo[dot]com.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019


Preparing for Seasons of Writing Drought

Right now, I'm in a season of creative drought. I blame it on the sunshine (summer is really uninspiring)  And I realized the other day that one of the short stories I'm working on (that is close to being submittable) was one that I wrote several years ago. My first draft was handwritten and left in a forgotten notebook. Then a couple of years ago I found it again and typed the second draft into an email. Then a couple of months ago, I found the email that contained the typed up story, and I transferred the story from email to Google Docs and started revising.

You see, a few years ago, I had the opposite problem that I do now. Back then, I was doing nothing but first drafts (worrying about my lack of revising, honestly). Now, I've hit a creative drought and I'm not creating too many new stories. However, my effort from my creative past has begun to pay off.

A financial advisor would tell you to have a savings account in case of a rainy day. I'm here to tell you that in case your writing season turns to drought, get a creative savings account going.

Here's how:

1) Write the first drafts down.

This goes without saying of course! But if you are in a season of creative inspiration, this is the time to write the drafts down. If an idea dries up and doesn't go anywhere, start the next one.  Use this time to get the drafts on paper, even if they are terrible. I'm so glad I've kept all these unrevised, partially finished stories because these old drafts ones have turned into gems that have allowed me to keep up with my writing this year.

2) Get organized. Centralize your digital notebooks.

This is advice I wish I could say I follow all the time. Yet, it's good advice. Get yourself organized. Find a cloud drive that you love the most (for me, I like Google Drive) and stick with an app to write down your ideas (for example, I love Google Keep for that). Being organized and sticking with one place to be your central digital notebook will help you later. I often read over old story scenes and knowing I have a primary spot for my stories, helps me in seasons of drought.

3) Keep a physical notebook with you. Write words, thoughts, ideas.

I usually keep a smaller notebook with me and lately, I've been looking over it and sparks of inspiration will come about because of idea scraps I wrote down in the past. I find little notebooks the best for taking with me on the go. As you go about your day, listen to conversations, look out for oddities in humanity, write down weird headlines. These weirdnesses can benefit you later on.

4) Collect songs that provoke thought/character scenes.

Some songs without fail provoke a story scene in my head. It may not go anywhere at the moment, but writing out what I see when I listen to the song does wonders for me. Make sure you save songs that spark this kind of inspiration and save them to a playlist that you can go back to when you hit your creative droughts. You'll be amazed how inspired you feel!

5) Save good prompts, even if you don't respond to them. 

One of my favorite books on writing is "The Pocket Muse" by Monica Wood. I have two different versions and honestly, if I could, I'd have ten different versions. The reason for this is that in between tidbits of writing advice, she provokes thought with a new way to write stories and includes unusual photographs throughout the book. I've read through this again lately and it's a fantastic way for me to take a new look at what I'm writing. In addition to that, if you catch a writing prompt that you like, save it. Even if you don't respond to it now, your creative drought will thank you.

I think every now and then we all hit seasons of drought with our creativity. Yet, maybe the next time you are hit with a drought, you will have a creative savings account that you can refer to so it won't be such a dry season.

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Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Be more than an author!

I like all kinds of music, and sometimes use music as inspiration to write. A few weeks ago, I happened to change the channel on television and began watching a symphony orchestra perform. I didn't know the group or the names of the songs they played, but the music was beautiful, and I continued to watch for a while.

Although I loved the music, it was the conductor who caught my attention. He directed the group with the focus of a choreographer who correctly exhibits the exact placement of a dancer's hand, or curve of an arm, while also controlling the sound, speed, and volume of the melody from his rostrum. He wasn't the invisible muse or inspiration from memories or perception of the past. He was there in the moment where we could see him.

This man did not become the music, but directed and reflected the emotion. The musicians allowed themselves to be coached and willingly led to the place they wanted to go. When he waved the baton quickly, the tempo increased. When he lowered his arms and moved them slowly, the musicians responded in kind. The music changed as he changed, and just like life, the music was loud then soft, fast then slow. The conductor was the author of his book, and he successfully led them through the composition.

How do you conduct your characters to work together, perfecting their movements throughout the journey? Do you direct them carefully to work with others, honoring them each with a piece of the story only they can tell, allowing them to feel or react to emotions in a way that is natural and beautiful? If you haven't tried this before, listen to some classical music, watch the conductor, and try it for yourself.

By thinking of yourself as the choreographer, focus on the beauty of the dance and the melody. Tell your story through the lens of a conductor, and see how it deepens your emotional response.

Mary Horner has been working on this technique for a while, and doesn't believe she will ever master it completely, but keeps trying!

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Monday, June 03, 2019


Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - blog tour launch and book giveaway!

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.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples, please enter the Rafflecopter for at the bottom of this post. The giveaway ends Monday, June 10th at 12 am PST. We will pick a winner randomly and email the winner on the same day. Good luck!


"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

-- Author Interview with Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you for choosing WOW to help promote your latest work. Our readers loved your memoir and won't be disappointed with Papa's Shoes! Now, do tell, where did you get the idea for Papa's Shoes?

Madeline: While my husband was writing our family histories some twenty-five years ago, he interviewed some of the elders in our family and collected writing from others. I became very intrigued with what my aunt – my father’s sister – wrote when she was well into her eighties. That she wrote a whole page describing her friendship – as she called it – with a young gentile teacher while she was a senior in high school. He would pick her up at her family home and take her to school plays and concerts and then out for a bite afterward. She also wrote that her brother (my father) objected so strongly that he got the family to move to Chicago to get her away from this man and so she would find a “nice Jewish man” to marry. That she still even remembered his name and could describe his looks and the way he dressed after 64 years made me think she must have still carried a torch for him all those years. While in real life she met and married a Mr. Milk Toast, had two children, and lived the rest of her life in Chicago, I decided to let her have her true love – this teacher – in my story.

I rounded out that idea by basing my story on the lives of my grandparents, father, and aunt. It is indeed true that three of my father’s brothers died as infants. It is also true that my grandfather was a shoemaker, who emigrated from a tiny shtetl (village) in Poland to a small town in middle America in the early 1900s. However, my idea took the story in Papa’s Shoes far afield from how they actually lived their lives.

WOW: Inspiration comes from so many places - I won't spoil it for our readers, but this certainly is a fulfilling tale and an intriguing read. I'm glad you chose to tell this story - it's truly touching. Let's talk about the publishing process: what was easiest? most difficult? Your cover is lovely - tell us about that process and how it came to be?

Madeline: Publishing. Finding a publisher for Papa’s Shoes was relatively easy. I contacted one agent, whom I had met at my local writer’s society meeting, and he rejected it in less than a day. With that I decided to query small traditional presses as I did with my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. After seven queries I got a hit, and after some back and forth, I signed a contract. Aberdeen Bay initially asked for the first three chapters, a synopsis, and my biography. They next asked for the entire manuscript and a couple of weeks later asked me to fill out a questionnaire about my book marketing and PR experience. I guess I must have passed on all counts because next we talked on the phone and they finished the conversation by telling me they would send me a contract. They also felt my book was ready to go – they didn’t ask for any revisions. However, I did have a chance at the end to review and edit it again – and that was very much needed. My husband volunteered to be my fresh pair of eyes, and he found many things that needed fixing.

Cover. Throughout my writing process I had a picture of a pair of 1920’s style wedding shoes on the title page of my Word document. When Aberdeen Bay asked me to provide a cover art design, I didn’t deviate from that concept and found a wonderful photo on Pinterest; however, I couldn’t use it because I couldn’t find its source. With that I went shopping at second hand stores with my son and daughter-in-law hoping to find some vintage shoes to photograph. We struck out. My next thought was to ask an artist friend of mine, Jen Jenkins Dohner, if she would be willing to get involved. And thankfully she agreed. She took the photo I liked and put her spin on it, and we were both thrilled by how it turned out. After she completed her design, Aberdeen Bay’s designer laid in the cover text.

WOW: I just knew there had to be a great story about the cover and the process - thank you for sharing the details with us!

What role does journaling or writers groups play in your writing life?

Madeline: After a few sporadic attempts in journaling, I started to journal regularly and for keeps when our older son Paul was diagnosed as bipolar in 1993 and after his suicide in September 1999. Journaling became an obsession and a balm. It became my daily therapy. Writing through my grief totally turned my life around. It helped me heal because it allowed me to put my pain on the page.

The page was always ready without judgment about anything I had to say. The page never told me what to do, how to handle my grief, or how long to grieve. The page was there for my tears, my rants, my sorrow, my complaints, my thoughts and ideas. And it still is. I still journal every day.

I also belong to two writers groups. One is a satellite group from a larger local organization, Independent Writers of Southern California. We meet monthly to hear writing advice and discuss people’s concerns about their own writing work. We also welcome author presentations.

The other writing group is made up of friends and writing colleagues. First, we meditate, then write for about forty-five minutes to a prompt. When our writing time is up, we share our writing with the group and hear very gentle comments. Writing in real time is always a challenge, but we go easy on each other.

WOW: I love how you reference gentle comments - sounds much more appealing than having one's work critiqued. What have you learned about marketing a book? What tidbits do you want to share or do you wish you'd known sooner?

Madeline: When I signed my first contract for my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, my publisher gave me some great marketing advice six months before my memoir was to be published.

First, create a blog. I felt great about that since I had started a blog four years earlier. However, I needed to change my blog’s focus to the subject matter of my book and all aspects of my writing life.

Next: create Facebook personal and fan/author pages. And she suggested I find a new Facebook group to join every week. I’m currently a member of many writing groups and groups about suicide, mental illness, and bipolar disorder (the subject matter of my memoir), and historical fiction groups (the subject matter of my novel). I also joined Twitter, which has taken me years to get experienced in, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest. Fortunately, when I publish a blog post at least once a week, it links to my Facebook author page, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and to my Amazon page. Another thing I’ve done, for which I thank, WOW! I host other authors while they are on their book tours. That way I get to give my blog a variation in subjects, kinds of books, and writing voices.

The major advice I’d give to new authors is to interact regularly with all these social media networks – once or twice a day at least and write a blog post weekly.

Yes, I know all this takes a lot of time. And really, it’s not the end of it. I went on a WOW! Women on Writing blog tour right after my memoir was released, and here I am on another WOW! tour for my novel. I also created another blog tour on my own, I went on several radio and online interviews, and one of my favorite things to do is give readings and talks about my books. Marketing and PR work is never ending, but very well worth it.

WOW: Such great advice - thank you! I hope more authors follow your great suggestions.

What would the current you say to your younger – high school age self?

Madeline: I fell in love with writing when I was in middle school and high school. In my junior year I took a journalism class, and then my classmates and I went on to edit and write for our high school newspaper during our senior year. Many of those people – including our teacher/newspaper sponsor – are still in my life today.

In those days I wanted to be a journalist – a pretty far-fetched idea for a young woman during the early 1960s. That being a dead end, I fulfilled my writing ambitions by working as a technical writer and editor in the aerospace industry for most of my career. I took up creative writing after I retired.

So I would say to my younger self – don’t sweat it. There’s always time to fulfill your writing dream. I never thought I’d fulfill it writing books and poems, but I have, and I’m still in love with writing to this day. The road to success takes many turns.

WOW: Oh so many turns - sing it sister!

Are any of the characters in Papa's Shoes based on you? In what ways are you similar and in what ways are you different?

Madeline: The Ava character has a lot of me in her. Her independence, her feistiness, and her push-me pull-you relationship with her mother. However, we grew up in very different times even though in my day it was not considered appropriate to challenge my parents as much as I did.

Ava, however, wouldn’t disrespect her parents. She did what they told her to do. As for me, not so much. Also, I didn’t have the same kind of relationship with my mother. Mine wasn’t as suffocating and controlling. Plus, she had another daughter nine years after me, so she was busy raising her and didn’t have much time to care for me anymore.

Also, Ava as described in the book is very beautiful. I went through a very chubby period from age four to twelve. I got a lot of criticism for that from my family. That was very hard for me to contend with. Ava doesn’t have that problem.

WOW: Thank you again Madeline - I just know readers will find joy with every page turn! Papa's Shoes is an absolutely 5 star read!

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

Launch Day – June 3rd
Madeline Sharples launches her tour of Papa’s Shoes with an insightful interview and giveaway at the Muffin!

June 4th @ Coffee with Lacey
The lovely Lacey reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples and shares her review with readers at Coffee with Lacey. This is a blog stop and review readers won't want to miss!

June 5th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews well known author and memoirist Madeline Sharples about her latest novel Papa's Shoes - the story of a Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America. This insightful interview is one you won't want to miss!

June 6th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird shares her thoughts after reading the touching story of a Polish shoemaker and his family as they settle in America - Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples is a book that is sure to please readers!

June 7th @ Linda Neas
Today's guest author at Words from the Heart with Linda Neas is none other than well-known author and memoirist Madeline Sharples. Today, her guest post is titled "How I reinvented myself from a technical writer and editor to a creative writer – and at my age." Heart from Madeline and learn more about her latest novel Papa's Shoes!

June 12th @ Linda Neas
Last week, readers at Words from the Heart with Linda Neas read a guest post penned by Author Madeline Sharples and today, Linda will share her review of Madeline's latest novel Papa's Shoes. This is a blog stop you won't want to bypass!

June 18th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interviews Madeline Sharples at Selling Books. Readers will flock to learn more about Sharples and her latest novel Papa's Shoes.

June 19th @ The Muffin with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto reviews Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples - don't miss this well deserved 5 star review!

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.

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

To win a copy of Papa's Shoes by Madeline Sharples, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on June 10th at 12 AM EST. We will pick a winner randomly via Rafflecopter and email the winner on the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, June 02, 2019


Interview with Kristina Neihouse: Third Place Winner of the Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Kristina’s Bio:

Kristina Neihouse moved to Key West in 1995. An off and on again creative writer since college, she got back to it after completing her Master’s degree in 2007. She won The Studios of Key West 2014 Writes of Spring competition and placed 2nd in the 2018 Tennessee Williams Short Story Contest. In 2017 she was awarded an Anne McKee Artist Fund Grant to publish her first novel Knowing When to Leave. In 2019 this debut novel won a silver medal in the Florida Book Awards Young Adult category.

Kristina is a full-time librarian who spends her time reading, writing and talking about writing. She serves as Secretary of the Key West Writers Guild, and spends Saturday nights in the Monroe County Detention Center talking with female inmates about writing and other life choices. Read their work at Write On Published.

Check out Kristina’s occasional blog at KAN writes.

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Kristina: In one sense I started this piece within days of my friend’s death; the timing of the last text, the timing of the abscessed tooth. An essay needed to be written. Through working on this piece, I discovered writing in the 2nd person, directing the writing to “you.” Looking back, I realized, I inadvertently slipped from “he” to “you” in a lot of my writing about him. It’s been an interesting process, writing this way. I’m slowly working on a collection of these essays about/to him.

WOW: It’s interesting to hear how your writing naturally slipped into that “you” perspective. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Kristina: I now enjoy writing personal essays. It helps to step back from a situation and think of it as a story. It’s also helped me process my friend’s death. Writing these pieces brings him back to me, mainly his laughter; I can hear it when I write something I know he’d like.

WOW: I’d love to hear more about your work at the Monroe County Detention Center. In what ways has your involvement with the women inmates affected you or inspired your own craft?

Kristina: I get a kick out of saying I spend Saturday nights in jail! I’ve been going in for over ten years. The group is called Write On! We bring composition notebooks and golf pencils, writing prompts and inspiration. We are a true non-profit; it’s just a couple of us volunteering to spend our time and money. Luckily, in its most basic form, writing is an inexpensive art form.

Writing is a great life skill to practice while incarcerated. Examples we’ve seen: Write about anger instead of getting in a fight and thrown in lock. Or write the letter you may never send to an estranged family member. Then keep writing it, over and over, until maybe you can send it.

I don’t know how it inspires or affects my writing. I just enjoy it, spending time with a group of women, talking about writing, and other life choices. Theirs are not my stories to tell. I want them to tell their stories, even if it’s only to themselves by writing in their notebook.

Most Saturdays by the end of the day I’m tired, but when we leave the jail I feel energized, sometimes saddened by the stories we hear, sometimes hopeful by the stories we hear. But I feel better for having spent time with them.

WOW: What an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it with us. It gives a new perspective on the importance and power of creative thought and writing. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Kristina: As far as personal essays, and about my friend’s death in particular, I found Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Sarah Manguso’s The Guardians incredibly inspiring in terms of form and voice, and experimenting with both.

As far as writing in general, I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind repeatedly, especially as they are a staple of my volunteer work in jail. “Keep the pen (or pencil) moving” is fabulous advice!
I also go back to Anne Dillard’s The Writing Life every few years. And, I recently discovered Writing by Marguerite Duras. After only a few pages I’m pretty confident it will also be a favorite.

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

Kristina: Read as much as possible. Keep writing. Write for yourself. Write what you want to read, just keep writing. Keep submitting your writing. Keep applying for contests, workshops, etc. Rejection is relative. Read read read. Write write write. Submit submit submit. Apply apply apply. Did I mention rejection is relative? Keep writing. (But still go to grad school and become a librarian!)

WOW: Ha! Thanks for the advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Kristina: Thank you to the Nonfiction Fringe workshop at the 2019 Key West Literary Seminar lead by Emily Raboteau, that wonderful experience inspired me to submit this essay to the contest. Thank you to WOW and Chelsey Clammer for the amazing workshops, and all-around awesomeness. And, thank you to me, for still writing (and submitting, and applying.) Write On!

WOW: Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. And thank you for sharing your writing with us!

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

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Saturday, June 01, 2019


Talk to Your Younger Writer Self and Change the Dialogue In Your Head

by dee & tula monstah on
The other day, I heard a very interesting interview with a mental health professional, Dr. Celeste Holbrook, who said that she often talks out loud to her younger selves when she is feeling scared, stressed out, nervous, or any range of emotions that hinder her from doing her best, enjoying her life, or taking chances. She says something like: “Younger self, I want you to know that I acknowledge these feelings you are having right now and that you are trying to protect me. But I got this. I can do this. Let’s do it together. Let’s overcome this fear of public speaking and give this speech. These people want to hear what we have to say.”

Then I read  an article about the Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington, who played Jon Snow, and how he had to check into a mental health retreat center to learn how to be more mindful and change the dialogue that was in his head. He was mentally exhausted, and he had work to do on himself.

And both of these stories got me thinking that as writers we need to be mindful and talk to our younger selves all the time! Because if anyone suffers from self-doubt or fear of rejection or a lack of creativity due to criticism or any of the thousands of other things that can cause writer’s block, it’s us!

So join with me and help our younger selves (whether it’s something that happened to you last year or when you were five years old) get in check and stop making us feel like we can’t write, we will never get published, or no one likes our published stuff. For some of you out there marketing your work, you may need to change the dialogue in your head when you're on a podcast or giving a keynote speech or going on a blog tour.

Here’s an example from my own life: “Margo, young newbie writer,  I hear you and I acknowledge that the books you already put out into the world did not sell millions of copies like Harry Potter. But the people who did read them and left reviews seem to have really enjoyed them. Some people have even asked for you to write more. I know it’s hard to put the time and energy into writing more books for kids when you are constantly competing with Scholastic book fair. But this does not mean that you don’t have something worthy to say. So maybe we can join together and stop finding everything else to do in the house, such as cleaning out closets and re-organizing KT's room, and finish that picture book sequel and the other picture book that you could self-publish with the illustrations you have. You can do it. We can do it. Let’s get started.”

Just by typing this and reading it out loud--I already feel calmer. I'm ready to get to work!

Now at first, you might feel silly talking to yourself like this. But I recommend really talking to yourself aloud. And if you're worried what your family members or neighbors might think, don’t worry--you're probably already thought of as that really cool, "different" writer gal that lives next door. And besides, there's a younger version of yourself that you can tell to stop worrying about what other people think because your self-worth is based on you, not someone else's opinion!

Happy writing!

If you want to take the WOW! Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach class this summer that Margo teaches, go here to sign up (Classes start either June 7, July 5, or August 2). She is offering Muffin readers a special deal with the class--for the price of $130, you can choose to a) do the traditional class of 4 sections of 4500 words or less of a novel or book-length work in one month b) deal #1 which is turning in a section every two weeks--for writers who can't make the weekly deadline c) deal #2--five sections in one month for the price of four--for writers who have a chunk of a novel already done and need some help and feedback. Sign up, and Margo will email with you to decide what works best for you! To find out more about Margo, go to her Editor 911 site here

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