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Thursday, July 18, 2019


How Can I Help?

Let's sit down and chat. I already have a cup of deliciously strong coffee, and I'll get comfortable while you run and grab your favorite beverage from the kitchen. Would you like sweet tea? Lemonade? Coffee?

Let's sit in the comfy chairs with the thick cushions - no rush - I'm glad you're here.

Have you ever thought about our friendship? More than how we met. I mean, what makes us friends? Recently my husband pointed out how people are always dropping in to chat. I teased and said they just like my coffee and cookies. Though my cookies ARE delicious... I've come to the conclusion there's one thing I say that helps draw people in. Here's a typical scenario and you can see for yourself:

Ring Ring

Crystal: "Hello, this is Crystal."
Amber: "Hey - are you home?"
Crystal: "Sure am - you stopping over?"
Amber: " If you don't mind. I'll be right over."

If there's no coffee left in the pot, I'll start a new pot and put out some snacks or pastries. We have a policy here at our house where you just walk right in.

Amber: "That coffee smells great - I'm exhausted."
Crystal: "Here's a hug and a cookie too - now, how can I help?"

The key to being a good friend is not found in the cookie, coffee or the open door policy - it's right there in those magical words:


This simple phrase open the door to a deeper and more meaningful friendship. Very seldom does a friend respond asking for advice or money. Do you know what people want? They want someone to listen. By the time they're done explaining the situation, they've usually come up with a plan on their own. At the very least, they feel better because they've gotten the words out of their head and I can share the burden with them.

I don't know anything about domestic violence, childhood cancer, changing the oil, and the list goes on. I don't have thousands of dollars sitting on the counter waiting to be shared. There's so much I don't know and don't have, but I DO know a little something about listening and somehow listening and helping are closely intertwined.

The next time someone comes to you feeling stressed, tired, or overwhelmed, give it a try. Instead of agreeing with them as so many times we do, try and ask them "How can I help?" The conversation will go much differently. If a friend complains about a busy spouse and you join in the conversation by talking about how your spouse does the same this or that as well, you'll both leave the conversation just as frustrated (possibly even more frustrated) than you were when you began. If you ask how you can help, the tone of the conversation heads toward chatter about a solution instead of additional banter about the problem. When we share our burdens with a friend, we feel lighter. When a friend walks in with a frown and out with a smile, I feel I've done my job as a friend.

What do you say to help a friend in need? What has someone said to you that helped you through a tough situation or period in your life?

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, Auntie, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children (Carmen 13, Andre 11, Breccan 5, Delphine 4, and baby Eudora who will be 2 in a few months), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns and horses, taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff here, and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019


A Movie to Move the Reader

Movies. They can chronicle the journey a writer embarks on when writing a manuscript. They can tease the public into buying your book. Photos and music have a way of engaging an audience in a way mere text does not.

I recently made a movie to explain what I'm going through as I work on submitting my manuscript. Soon, I will be launching a website (I know--about time!) and will include this video, along with any other videos I make in the future.

What are some considerations when making a movie? And what is--in my opinion--the easiest movie-making program?

Read further, then watch my movie and tell me what you think.

Movie-Making Tips

  • Choose photos that will show part of your message. You know the writer's mantra Show, don't tell. That applies to movies as well as stories and novels. 
          For example, if you have a photo of a character you want to incorporate into your movie and  
          you want to create a somber mood, make sure the character's not smiling. Edit the photos using 
          a sepia filter if your story takes place 100 years ago. If it's a light, humorous tale, use brightly-
          colored images.
  • Music can also convey a message in a subtle way. Sometimes an instrumental piece is the best choice. If your movie has some high and low emotional points, you want to choose a dynamic song. 
  • If you have a gem of a line you want to really highlight in your movie, consider putting it all by itself.  Don't surround it with a bunch of other text--it'll get lost.
  • Use transitions (how one image morphs into the next), but don't go crazy with them. Less is more. Be intentional with them (and don't use a different one each time, because they're so fun to do). For example, if you have two or three slides that contrast with the next ("My first draft was sucky... My second draft was semi-decent... My third draft was the bomb!") a transition that looks like a page turning would be effective. 
  • Don't put too much text on one slide/image. A couple of (short) sentences or one longish one. Each image ain't a novel.
  • If you're using text instead of a voice-over, make sure you time the images so the audience has enough time to easily read whatever's on the screen. Practice reading it aloud, and slowly, to make sure your viewers have enough time to read it. After all, you already know what the text is. You've written and revised it and watched the movie a bunch of times as you edit it. For your audience, it will be fresh and new. Allow the viewer more time than you need to read it...
  • ... but don't linger on a slide/image too long. No one wants to look at a three-word sentence for 7 seconds. The viewer gets antsy. They start cleaning the toe jam from between their toes. They slather the facial version of Nair onto their mustache area while they wait. Three seconds might be enough. If it's an image (and no text) that's full of details, you might want the full 5 seconds. Fiddle with it.
My favorite movie-making program is Photo Story 3. It's a Microsoft (free) download, so I think it won't work for you Apple folks. (I know it says "for Windows XP" but disregard that. I don't have no fancy-dancy "Windows XP" and it works fine on my laptop.)

I love Photo Story 3 because it's so user-friendly. (It's so easy to use, even my not-too-bright-but-oh-so-cute dog Radar could use it.) To rearrange the images into a different order, all you have to do is slide them into a different spot in the line of slides/images.

Have you already made a movie to promote yourself or a book? If so, what tips could you add to this list?

Does my movie intrigue you? If so, please send $19.99 to my home address. When I find a publisher and it gets published, I'll send you a copy. I'll even sign it.

What can you say to nudge me into creating a website sooner (rather than later)? Procrastinating minds want to know...

Radar agrees with Sioux (his mom). He's made movies about the joys of digging and having fun with hoses and sprinklers. Photo Story 3 is so simple to use, even his hairy paws and small brain can handle it.

He doesn't have any blogs, but if you'd like to check out his mom's, head to Sioux's Page.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Interview with Heather Baver, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Heather Baver is a writer of short fiction and poetry. In 2016 she began working as a freelance writer for a local lifestyle magazine, adding nonfiction to her repertoire.

Currently she is finishing some long standing writing projects, as well as creating new fiction. She enjoys the camaraderie and encouragement of participating in a writer’s group.

Always fascinated by history, Heather loves reenacting old-time radio with SOAP, the Spirit of the Airwaves Players.

Heather lives in Pottstown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. Now that her children are getting older, it’s time to dust off that long-shelved novel.

Before you read her interview, make sure you first read Heather's story They Aren't Listening Anymore, then come on back!

------ Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your win! What was the inspiration behind your story They Aren't Listening Anymore?
Heather: I wanted to explore the gap between who people are versus physical appearance. Radio actors created with their voice--it didn't matter what they looked like. By using their voices as a tool, they became somebody else. It's very freeing--just like writing, you can become so many characters. Kids who attended live broadcasts were often surprised to find out radio actors looked nothing like the pictures the kids created in their minds while listening at home. For my story I wanted to create a person who thrived in the world of old-time radio, but who was unfortunately limited by emerging TV technology. I am fascinated by these transition moments in history.

WOW: What a transforming time it was, too! I read that you love the camaraderie of a writing group! What advice do you have for writers who are looking for a writing group but haven't found one yet?

Heather: Over the years, I have been lucky to be in writing groups of various sizes. For writers looking to join one, try checking your local bookstores. I happened upon a notice on the bulletin board at a bookstore, and that's how I joined my first group. You could also try forming your own group, either by working with a local bookstore, or by reaching out to friends who are writers. A writing group can be an in-person meet-up to read works and offer critique, or it can be done online with friends sharing comments via email. Another time, a writer friend and I shared pieces by writing letters to each other (as in actual on paper letters)!  

Writing groups are a wonderful way to keep writing and to encourage others to create. It is so enriching to see other styles and points of view.

WOW: What great advice! Writing groups are definitely a way to stay inspired and accountable. How did writing nonfiction help you with your fiction?
Heather: My nonfiction writing assignments are all word count specific, so they can fit into the magazine's layout. These word limits have challenged me to be concise and provide detail. You don't want to waste words. Cutting words provides clarity. I try not to look at anything as too precious. Write it down, get it out, then look back and see it is serves the purpose of the piece. If it is filler, lose it to make room for detail. When you've trying to make something fit, you either find a shorter way to say it, or you cut it. Writing nonfiction also got me to look at the types of adjectives I use within a piece of writing. When revising, I make every effort to use different adjectives and find synonyms to keep it interesting.

WOW: That's an excellent way of transforming your writing! You really captured the nostalgia of what your character was experiencing and how hard it was to say goodbye. How did you get into the mind frame to write this?

Heather: Thank you! I find the past fascinating. Pieces of it surround us in old photos, books, and other objects. It's so close but we can't get back there. If time travel were possible, I would be ready to sign up. Writing enables me to test out what it might feel like to actually live there. Also, I have spent the last 15 years as an old-time radio reenactor with SOAP, the Spirit of the Airwaves Players. When SOAP performs, we try to take people back in time. We dress up in 1940s clothing and hats, and we have sound effects table with a miniature door, coconut shells (for galloping horses), etc. I drew on those experiences for this story.

WOW: Oh I love that! That sounds so fun! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

I am working on a nonfiction piece about genealogy and my love of sleuthing for clues about the lives and personalities of ancestors. In addition, I am finishing up a fantasy short story about a woman who time travels to visit herself as a child. In this world you can only visit your own past. You aren't supposed to make contact with yourself, but what if it already happened and you remember from your own childhood? 

I also have a longer work in progress about two older women, one of whom is a ghost hunter and buys an old farmhouse. Themes of nostalgia and time travel make frequent appearances in my writing.

WOW: I love your ideas! Congratulations again and best of luck with your writing! 

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Monday, July 15, 2019


Five Posts About How to Be a Better Writer

If you write or read blogs regularly, you’ll know that round-up posts are often popular with readers. Heck, I’m more likely to read something if I know I can get entertaining or educational information in short, digestible chunks. I may or may not have been known to click on posts with titles like “5 Meal Delivery Services You Should Check Out” or “The Best Five Summer Reads of this Year.” When putting together today’s post, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at some of the posts I’ve written over the years (I started writing for WOW! in 2012 if you can believe it.) Here are a few I’ve come up with. Enjoy!

My DIY Writing Retreat
I’m all about writing retreats, but sometimes, they are located in places I’m unable to travel to or the price of it simply does not fit in my budget. These days I’m considering checking into a hotel or a cabin for a few days to spend focused time on a project, but back in 2012 I created my own DIY retreat when my family went out of town on a camping trip. Learn how I did it here.

Build a Better Bio
For writers and editors, bios are an important part of your toolkit. But one bio cannot usually fulfill all your writing-related needs. Read this post to discover what you should put in your bio and see some real-life examples.

ADWD: Attention Writers Deficit Disorder
I’ll admit it. I have a hard time concentrating, especially when I work from home. Sure, sitting around in yoga pants and wearing a groove in the floor between my home office and the coffeepot sounds ideal, but this post shares a little bit of the insanity that comes between.

How to Fit Writing into a Busy Lifestyle
Writing is hard, no matter what we have going on in our lives, and we all have something! In this post I shared a few of the tips that help me be more productive in between writing projects and deadlines.

Four Ways Writers Can Use Instagram
Instagram is a visual medium, but there are ways to play around with and promote your work. I give a few examples straight from my Instagram feed here.

So now I would like to know . . . which of these posts was your favorite?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also enjoys writing young adult fiction and short stories. You can check out her contemporary young adult novel, Between, on Wattpad.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019


Interview with Jacquelyn Speir, Q2 2019 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up

Jacquelyn Speir launched her writing career while working as a technical illustrator in aerospace publications at Kennedy Space Center. She illustrates many of her stories and articles for children, some of which have won awards. Her article about aerospace blimps—‘eyes in the sky’—was published in Essential News for Kids. She also co-wrote and illustrated a booklet about the writing process for Brevard County, Florida fifth graders. While her three sons orbited around the house, her career progressed into architectural design and freelance copy writing. Some years later, she and her husband—a quality assurance engineer and sports photographer—moved to Hawaii. Throughout their 23 years there, her numerous articles on Hawaiian culture, surfing, and wildlife appeared in an online newspaper and on various websites. Her short story “Roots of Change,” about a conflicted taro grower, was published in the 2007 Writer’s Digest winners’ anthology, and her essay “Word Search,” about a stroke victim and caregiver struggling to connect to each other, was published on the AARP Hawaii website.

Jacquelyn and her husband have returned to the Space Coast, where she is seeking an agent/publisher for her first middle-grade novel, Girl vs. Goat. She is currently working on her YA novel, Swimming with Gators, a story about kids growing up as first generation “space brats” while America was trying to put a man on the moon.

Read Jacquelyn's piece here and return to learn more about her writing process and where she gets her ideas.

WOW: Welcome, Jacquelyn, and congratulations again! Writing creative nonfiction can be such an abstract process. How did you first get the idea for your winning entry, “Scars—The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?”

Jacquelyn: One day I was watching the TV show, "Dancing with the Stars," and thought: What if I changed “stars” to “scars”? That would make a great title or ending to an essay or story. So, as the idea developed, I started thinking about what the scariest, saddest, and worst days of my life had been. The process took me through some tough memories. But I’ve learned over the years that we can let adversity get us down or we can use it as rocket fuel for our writing. And that’s how “learning to dance with the scars” became the last line of the essay. My “dancing” has improved a lot with practice.

WOW: Great metaphor! You have an impressive resume full of writing credits and awards. What was the first award you ever won for your writing?

Jacquelyn: In the late eighties, when I first began taking my writing seriously, I entered a contest The Space Coast Writers Guild sponsored in conjunction with their annual convention. To my surprise, I placed first in the Children’s Writing category for my picture book Life is a Lot Like Picking Berries, a metaphor for life lessons. The next year I placed first in the same category for Turtle Egg Moon, a picture book about the life journey of a sea turtle. Though I’ve won several other contests with these manuscripts, I haven’t marketed them for a while, since I’ve been busy with other projects.

WOW: What a great list of projects already in the mix. Can you tell us a little about the middle-grade novel you are seeking representation for?

Jacquelyn: Girl vs. Goat is a contemporary novel about how Rebel-Ann, an ornery milk goat, teaches self-centered, irresponsible Casey Solomon that the choices and sacrifices we make can deepen our love for those who love us. The story takes place on a mini-ranch on the east coast of Florida, where missile launches and summer thunderstorms are the backdrop to the rocky road of a 12-year-old coming of age.

According to her parents, if Casey can’t handle her annoying little brother—whose food allergies prompted the acquisition of a milk goat—and manage her chores, then her dream of visiting her best friend in Key West, will never become a reality. At every turn, headstrong Rebel-Ann foils Casey’s attempts to succeed.

Having raised three boys, seven goats, two rabbits, two ponies, 150 chickens, and several ducks, cats, and dogs, I can relate to Casey’s dilemma. And, Rebel-Ann, the actual goat from which the story evolved, was more of a handful than all the other animals and kids combined.

WOW: What do you like most about writing for children/teens?

Jacquelyn: I enjoy reliving the feelings and adventures of those days and being able to give kids a few clues on how to navigate this difficult, yet amazing time of life. So, through my characters, I get to feel young again.

WOW: What was your revision process like for the essay (Scars)?

Jacquelyn: It’s my usual process: I write several drafts, then leave it alone for a week or so. Afterwards, I take a fresh look, edit for overall content, check sentence length and structure, obsess over finding the best descriptive words possible, and make sure the verbs do the heavy lifting. Then I give it to my sister to review. She points out my mistakes, and, as an engineer, is good at catching inconsistencies. I incorporate her suggestions and give it another long look. If it still affects me, I know it’s the story I wanted to tell—and I “go for launch.”

WOW: Hmm, not a bad idea to have an engineer as a proofreader! I love these practical pieces of advice on your revision process. I know we'll hear more from you in the future.

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Saturday, July 13, 2019


What Is Your Yes List? A Weekend Writing Prompt

I just finished reading Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan, which I discovered thanks to the fact that I joined an online book club run by Jen Hatmaker. First, if you write memoir, essays, or creative nonfiction, get yourself to a bookstore or library and find this book. It's a master class in writing creative nonfiction about yourself and your family, and it's full of humor, gut-wrenching grief, universal truths, and four-letter words. Kelly is a master at telling a story and making it mean something to you, even though you don't know any of the people in the story.

But that's not why I chose to write about this book today. One of the twelve things that is hard to say, according to Kelly, is YES. In the book, she includes one chapter which is simply a list of all the things that she would always say yes to. In the online book club, many participants were creating their own yes lists, and I thought this was a great exercise.

I'm not copying Kelly's list here for an example because I want you to go out and find her book and support this great writer, but think big and small--things like your kids or grandkids, your pets, your writing time, your hobbies, your best friend, your partner, your favorite foods. What are the things in your life that you will always say yes to? Or that you SHOULD be saying yes to because we all know life will pass us by whether we're enjoying it or not.

Here are some things I will always say yes to:

  • A hug from my daughter
  • A snuggle from my puppy
  • Uninterrupted writing time
  • A glass of red wine with friends
  • Potato skins
  • Chips and Salsa
  • Uninterrupted reading time
  • A late walk on a summer night
  • A weekend fall trip
  • Someone wanting me to sign one of my books!
  • Cleaning help
  • Vegetables cooked in a yummy way at a restaurant
  • Rich n Charlie's Special Salad
  • My critique group
  • My daughter asking me a question--meaning I'll listen to her and want to discuss, but I might not be able to answer yes. 
So now you get the picture--what are some things you would always say yes to? We'd love to hear about your list, so include it in the comments below--it can be long or short--spur of the moment or well thought out. And if you've read Kelly's book or any of her books, let us know that, too. What did you think? 

What a great way to spend a Saturday: write a fun list and discuss positive stuff with other writers! 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher living in St. Louis, MO, with her 8-year-old daughter and 5.5-month-old lab mix puppy. She loves reading and writing and teaching WOW! classes. The next two are the NEW school visits class and writing a novel with a writing coach--both start at the beginning of August. You can check out all details on the class page. 

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Thursday, July 11, 2019


Publishing Paths

Just last week, I had a fellow author tell me that members of her local writing guild didn’t know the difference between small and vanity publishing. That surprised me, but then I realized that the world of publishing has changed a lot since I started writing. 

New types of publishing have come into being and new writers are writing.  What better reason to do a rundown of various types of publishers for our readers.

Social Media Publishing. No, this isn't a term I mentioned above but anytime you write and share your work through social media, you are taking part in social media publishing.  That's what we do on the Muffin blog.  That's also what our own Renee Roberson did when she shared her novel, Between, on Wattpad.  A popular social media presence, including success on Wattpad, can lead to a contract with an agent or a book deal with a traditional publisher.

Traditional Publishing. If you go the traditional route, you submit your work to a publisher who can accept or reject it. You do not pay to have your work produced. You get paid. Books and other media are produced by a team – you (writer and/or illustrator), editor, asst. editors, publisher, designer, copy editor, etc. Because of this, you don’t always make much money on your work but you are part of a talented team.  My books are traditionally published.

Large Publishers. Large publishers or the Big Five – Penguin Random House, MacMillan, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins. Although these publishers pay a substantial advance, they expect you to earn it back and then some. They are in it for the money which isn’t always a bad thing. After all, if they make money on your book you make money. But authors at large publishers seldom have  a say in cover design or marketing choices. It can be very difficult to get your work in front of one of these editors if you don't have an agent.

Small Presses. Small presses don’t pay advances or pay only small advances. They have smaller print runs. These two factors means less financial investment for the publisher. For the author this may mean a slightly higher royalty than with a large publisher. May be specialty publishers focusing on health issues, art or another narrow area. I have a friend who publishes with Magination. Her books remain in print year after year and continue to earn her money. Publishers of this type are very different from . . .

Vanity or Hybrid Publishers. These publishers may agree to publish an author’s book but expect payment up front to defer the cost of printing the book or developing the app. Not only does the author not get an advance, they have to pay money to see their work developed. The pluses? They will design the book, possibly help with the marketing and distribute. The risks? Being charged too much or not getting promised services. Do your research before signing with a hybrid publisher. I had a hybrid publisher accept a book to develop as an app. They folded and I still feel like I may have dodged a problem.

Indie or Self-Publishing. You the author are responsible for and control everything. You write, find and pay for an editor, designer, and illustrator. You keep all of the profits but you also shoulder the financial burdens. You are also responsible for marketing your work and getting it in front of potential buyers. One of my friends does this by speaking and doing workshops at churches and booking a booth at the Working Women’s Survival Show. She makes a tidy sum when she gets a gig.

You don't have to chose one and only one type of publisher. I publish through traditional publishers and through social media. I have friends with small press books who have also self-published. 

The key is in finding what it right for you and for this particular manuscript. To find out more about these and other publishing options, check out Jane Friedman’s chart on this topic. Interestingly enough, I found it while I was preparing this post.


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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Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Editing for active voice

Passive: Including "to be" verbs is a way to make a sentence passive.
Active: A passive sentence includes "to be" verbs.

Passive: Sentences will be stronger if writers delete "to be" verbs.
Active: Authors who delete "to be" verbs write stronger sentences.

Passive: Forms of "to be" are: are, am, was, is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.
Active: Forms of "to be" include: are, am, was is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.

Passive: The girl was yelled at by her brother.
Active: The boy yelled at his sister.

Passive: The red tablecloth makes the celery stalks that are green look pretty.
Active: The green celery looks pretty on the red tablecloth.

Passive: The vest was worn without a shirt underneath.
Active: He wore a vest without a shirt underneath.

Passive: The funnel cake was eaten by a kid.
Active: The kid ate a funnel cake.

Passive: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing sentences that are unclear and repetitive.
Active: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing unclear and repetitive sentences.

Passive: Using active voice is a way to help clarify your written message.
Active: Active voice clarifies a written message.

Passive: Passive voice may be required in some scientific, medical, and technical writing.
Active: Scientific, medical, and technical writing may require passive voice.

Syntax and sentence order

Passive: To determine word order, the rules of syntax are necessary.
Active: Syntax determines word order.

Passive: English sentences are constructed using S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.
Active: English sentences follow S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.

Passive: O-V-S construction is passive.
Active: Passive construction uses O-V-S order.

Passive: The boat was driven by me. "The boat" = object, "was" = passive verb, "me" = subject.
Active: I drove the boat. "I" = subject, "drove" = verb, "boat" = object.

Passive: Maria was hated by Suzanne for many reasons.
Active: Suzanne hated Maria for many reasons.

Passive: Reducing the use of passive voice is one way to engage readers.
Active: Engage your reader by reducing passive voice.

Mary Horner struggles with active voice.
Active voice is a struggle for Mary Horner.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019


Interview with Rachel Slack, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Rachel’s Bio:

Since having her work published as a young adult, Rachel Slack has focused on honing her affinity for storytelling, alongside furthering her education and building her career. An avid adventurer, she draws inspiration from the rich and varied cultures experienced whilst on her travels. Her current work includes a collection of short stories which paint a snapshot of women’s realities from different walks of life.

Rachel lives with her husband in London, England, and writes (what she hopes is) compelling and creative copy for a leading entertainment company. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her crafting, cooking, in the company of cats, or planning her next holiday.

If you haven’t read “The Long Road,” click over and enjoy this flash story. Then come back here to learn how Rachel works.

WOW: What inspired you to write “The Long Road”?

Rachel: Women have come so far, yet still have more to overcome. Some of the statistics I found when researching women's progression from 1950 to present day shocked me, but at the same time I was motivated by those who have helped changed the world, no matter how small their role. This led me to create something that celebrated women's successes and highlighted current challenges.

I've always admired my Nanna, who served in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service during the Second World War, so I wanted to create a tribute to her. Wrens, as they became known, ran the domestic side of naval bases, which was where she would meet my Grandad, a British submariner, and marry him after only a few weeks. This was the start of an adventure which would lead her far away from her hometown and family. She's always been a role model for me, as has my Mum, as they both took charge of their own lives, no matter what was thrown at them, and even if it didn't feel like they were in control at the time.

WOW: In “The Long Road,” you tell three separate stories that share common threads. Can you explain to our readers how you worked in the elements that weave these stories together?

Rachel: The shared experience for each of the characters is pushing the boundaries and wanting more from what would be considered the gender norm. The women that helped pave the way to where we are today met many a stumbling block on their journey. Due to this and the other themes and metaphors used, it made sense that literal shoes would carry the story.

Also, without being too materialistic, what we wear in different situations often reveals a lot about the occasion. We sometimes attach memories or emotions to particular items of clothing, so I felt it would be quite believable for a very well made pair of shoes to be passed down as they were considered lucky, even if the character of Jo was sceptical.

WOW: How did “The Long Road” change during the rewrite process?

Rachel: The middle section, where we meet Jo, changed the most. She is the furthest from my personality and the strongest voice, mainly because of her frustration. Getting the balance right was tricky as I wanted her to be strong yet still vulnerable due to her situation. There was also no personal experience or relationship that I could draw on for her, so making sure her character was realistic and properly developed took a fair few drafts.

WOW: It was well worth the work because you definitely pulled it off. What advice do you have for writers who are new to flash fiction?

Rachel: Start with an experience or feeling you're familiar with then let your imagination run wild. Use it as a springboard and launch yourself into a completely different story.

Don't try to add too much resolution either. I never said whether Beatrix lived happily ever after, Jo got her mortgage or Andrea was any good at her new job. It's more about leaving the story at a natural break and letting the reader fill in some of the blanks.

The first draft doesn't need to be anywhere close to perfect either – just start writing. I often remove and reinvent entire scenes if they're not moving the story along effectively or adding much value.

WOW: What project are you working on right now? How does it fit into your long-term writing goals?

Rachel: I'm writing a collection of short stories featuring women from all walks of life, both past and present.

Flash fiction competitions are really good at inspiring me to write regularly and I like to add criticism to my entry so I have a reliable source of feedback. Not placing in the top ten would never make me abandon a story or feel that it had been a waste of time. I'd just know that it could probably do with more time, attention and development. I also feel more relaxed about picking topics outside my comfort zone due to the limited word count, which is helping me grow as a writer.

WOW: Thank you for your encouraging words for your fellow writers and also for sharing your process with us. Hopefully some of our readers will have the courage to try to fill your shoes!

Interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards

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Monday, July 08, 2019


Shirley Melis Launches her Audio Book Blog Tour for Memoir Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss

...and giveaway!

We are quite excited to have back with us - Shirley Melis and her memoir Banged-Up Heart. Readers and listeners of this book have had so many wonderful things to say about this inspiring story. We are delighted to offer a giveaway of the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart - keep reading to find out more about this author, her story, the giveaway, and the book blog tour!

Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is an intimate and clear-eyed account of finding love late and losing it early—and of the strength it takes to fall deeply in love a second time, be forced to relinquish that love too soon, and yet choose to love again.

When her husband of thirty years dies suddenly, Shirley Melis is convinced she will never find another man like Joe. Then she meets John, a younger man who tells her during their first conversation that he has lived for many years with a rare but manageable cancer. She is swept off her feet in a whirlwind courtship, and within months, made brave by the early death of a friend’s husband, she asks him to marry her! What follows is a year-long odyssey of travel and a growing erotic and creative partnership— until a mysterious bump on John’s forehead proves to be one of several tumors in his brain and spine.

The nine months that follow are filled with a life-threatening infection, three brain surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. Two years and one week after their wedding, John dies at the age of fifty-nine. More than just a love story or a memoir of mourning, Banged-Up Heart comes down solidly on the side of life. It takes you deep inside an ordinary woman, her deeply felt grief butting up against her desire for more than companionship: passion, sexual fulfillment, and self-realization. It bears eloquent witness to the wild trust it takes to fall madly in love and risk profound loss—a second time. Ultimately, it shows that it is possible to dance with a banged-up heart.

Audiobook details:
Genre: Memoir/Non Fiction
Audiobook release date: February 21, 2019
Listening Length: 11 hours and 55 minutes
Narrated by: Laurie Bower

Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is available in print on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound. The audio version is available on Audible

Book Giveaway Contest:
To win an Audible copy of Banged-Up Heart, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes Sunday, July 14th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Shirley Melis is a longtime business writer, travel writer, and newspaper columnist who traveled the world interviewing everyone from busboys to heads of international organizations before launching a career in public relations in Washington, D.C. With Banged-Up Heart, she now takes her writing in a new direction, delving deeply into her own personal story of finding love late, losing it early, and discovering the strength to choose to love again. It is a fascinating odyssey, a journey both creative and erotic as Shirley and John work lovingly together to blend their dreams—until a mysterious bump on his forehead starts them on a tragic struggle against the dark hand of fate.

A graduate of Vassar, Shirley Melis has created an intimate memoir bearing eloquent witness to the kind of wild trust that can grow in the heart of an ordinary woman thrust into circumstances that few others must face. Now retired, she lives in Galisteo, New Mexico.

Shirley can also be found online at:




-----Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you so much for choosing WOW! for your book blog tour. Thank you also for your time in this interview. After reading your bio and book summary, I’m sure readers are excited to learn more about you. We are all glad you are here Shirley!

You had a plan to write a book about women thriving into old age – that plan changed course, but what spurred your initial plan?

Shirley: Knowing I’d be in my sixties when I retired and wanting to write, I thought there’d be a market for a book like this. People today, especially women, can expect to live longer and healthier lives than their parents. Some may need role models. I like reading about women who are thriving mentally, emotionally, and physically despite growing older. Of course, it would be important to find women whose backgrounds and passions differed from one another. And I would have to hone my interviewing skills and figure out what questions to ask. As I told Pierrette Kemoul, a literary journal editor and writer in Brittany, when John and I were guests of hers and her husband Gwenael, I like the idea of doing something that is not only challenging and interesting but also worthwhile. Now that I’ve written a memoir and have another percolating, I don’t know when or whether I’ll ever get back to my initial plan.

WOW: Another percolating? How exciting is that! (But I’m getting ahead of myself.) Who was most influential in your decision to write and publish Banged-Up Heart? How so?

Shirley: Like spontaneous combustion, my decision erupted not long after John’s death. I felt blindsided and had to figure out what had happened to me. Throughout my life, writing has helped me think and see more clearly. You could say it was John, rather, John’s death that triggered my decision to write. At first I was writing for myself but when a close friend said, “Shirley, other people will be interested in reading this,” I thought, Really? Then I’d better go the distance and make it worthwhile.

WOW: Spontaneous combustion – I love that you use that term to describe your decision! You’re such a spitfire as my mom would say!

Was there anything you wrote about that you felt a little timid including in your memoir? Were you worried about the perception of others? What helped you get past those hurdles of worrying what others might think?

Shirley: Any qualms I had, and I had a few, were dashed when I started working with editor Morgan Farley, who asked questions I had to answer. The more I talked with Morgan, who is a demon for truth, and the more I wrote, the fewer qualms I had. I think age helped me get past worrying about others’ perceptions of me. I have a close friend who was appalled by my writing a memoir. “It’s too personal,” she said after reading a few pages. Another said, “Shirley, I’m so proud of you for telling the truth. I’ve spent my whole life trying to hide some of my behavior but you just come out with it.” I figure that as long as I’m not hurting someone else, I have no good reason to hold back. That said, I did change the names of two characters in my book because I didn’t want to embarrass them outright.

WOW: Demon for truth huh? I seriously need to spend more time with you! You’re an awesome wordsmith.

Walk us through the name of your book and the cover artwork – how did you choose them and why?

Shirley: I hadn’t completed my book when I registered to attend a college reunion that would feature creative work by classmates. Realizing this could a great opportunity to promote my book, I asked a creative advertising ace to create a poster for me to display. Within days, she had everything she needed from me with one exception: a title for the book. I’d sent her a photo to use as a cover mock-up – a burned out forest with nascent green grass denoting regrowth in the foreground. But I was still clueless about a title.

Hoping for an epiphany, I hunkered down with the last several chapters. I would be discussing one, possibly more, of these with my editor in a few days. In one chapter my attention riveted on a selection by writer Anne Lamott that the Rev. Kim Beach read at John’s memorial service. That’s it! I thought.

Eager to share my find with editor Morgan Farley, I could hardly contain myself as I sat down at the table for our editing session. “I have a title!” I blurted. “So do I,” she said. “Banged-Up Heart,” I said. “That’s what I came up with, too.” Morgan beamed with delight. And that’s the story of how I found a title for my memoir – in time to promote it at my college Reunion. Since then, the cover has changed by the title remains.

Fretting over artwork for the cover – decided the photo was too grim (two college classmates had said as much) –  heeded the advice of my artist friend Lewis Hawkins who advised, “Get a pencil and paper and start doodling. You’ll come up with something.” At breakfast one morning, I shared my doodling – lightly banged-up looking letters for the title separated from the subtitle by a rose – with my husband Frank. “Here, he said, pencil in hand. “Break the stem of the rose.” I shared our doodle with friends at dinner who applauded. Why the rose? I can’t tell you. It must have been subconscious. In fact, roses frequently appear in my memoir. It was graphic artist Scott Gerber, publisher of Terra Nova Books, who turned my doodle into the beautiful cover you see today.

WOW: I love the cover even more now that I know the back story – thank you!

Will you be doing any public speaking in the future? Is there a plan to use your experience to help others who are grieving?

Shirley: I’ll be reading and speaking for my book launch at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on February 4th. Later in the month, I’ll participate in a reading/signing event at Goodworks, an independent bookstore in Albuquerque. Friends have offered to host a private reading in early March. And Independent bookstore, op cit books Santa Fe, has offered me and another Terra Nova Books author a joint reading/signing. In a couple of weeks I'm being interviewed on KOB 4, an NBC affiliate in Albuquerque, for “Good Day, New Mexico.”

Once my book is out on February 14th (anyone can pre-order now) and people have a chance to read it and react, I’ll have a better take on whether I might be able to use my experience to help others. If I can, I would like to, and I’m open to suggestions.

WOW: Earlier you eluded to another memoir brewing, so do tell: What is next for you?

Shirley: I have another memoir in the works and more traveling to do with my husband Frank.

WOW: Another memoir - that's very exciting! What made you decide to turn Banged-Up Heart into an audio book as well as print? What have you learned in this process?

Shirley: Inspired by a close friend whose vision is failing -- she shared with me her regret that although she owned my book, her poor vision did not allow her to read it – and a total stranger who, after telling me she was blind, asked at a book reading, When can I hear your book? I started pondering the possibility of offering Banged-Up Heart as an audiobook.

Some months later, at a monthly meeting of the New Mexico Book Association, the program speaker, Laurie Bower, riveted my attention. Laurie, an audiobook narrator, talked about the process of producing an audiobook. I asked her for her business card and a couple of weeks later, called her. Before meeting Laurie, I’d thought I would read my own book. But I hadn’t realized how much there is to it. Reading excerpts at book signings/readings is a lot different from reading an entire book and I would have to be coached. Meanwhile, I had started writing a second memoir and wondered how I would make time to produce an audiobook.

In response to Laurie’s suggestion that she do a 15-minute sample reading for my reaction, I sent her several pages of text that included six characters. When she gave me the word, I plugged my ear buds into my laptop and listened to Laurie read. And then I asked my husband Frank to listen. “Marvelous,” he said. I agreed. The depth of her voice and her ability to articulate clearly impressed both of us. Within days, I signed a contract with Laurie. “I’ll read a few chapters at a time and download them through ACX (an Audible affiliate) for you to listen to and edit,” she said. “I should have this completed so we can meet your goal of having it out by Valentine’s Day.” I liked the idea of having the audiobook out by February 14th, the date my paperback had been published two years earlier. What I did not foresee was that I would be consumed with moving from our house in the village of Galisteo, New Mexico, into a new house closer to Santa Fe the month of January. By the time I completed my proof-listening, I was behind the eightball. I knew from Laurie that ACX would require time to put the audiobook through a process called “Quality assurance.” In fact, it didn’t take long, but I missed my February 14th target by one week. On February 21st, ACX sent me a congratulatory email: “Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss is now on sale at Audible, and it will be available on iTunes and Amazon with the next few days.”

I learned that hiring a good narrator does not mean the author is off the hook. Nor should she be. The best of narrators cannot be expected to know how to pronounce all of the placenames in your book. In my memoir, I did not use a lot of “he/she said.” Because of this, Laurie occasionally read dialogue in my voice when it was someone else who was speaking. Catching these falls on the shoulders of the author. Proof-listening by the author is an all-important component of producing a good audiobook.

WOW: I'm so glad I asked - that's such a great story of how this audible version came to fruition as well as great advice for others! How did you feel hearing Banged-Up Heart for the first time on Audible?

Shirley: Enthralled. Laurie’s voice was my voice, and all of the other voices in my book. As I listened, I relived my story with the many feelings I had experienced. The quality of Laurie’s voice caused me to laugh, smile and at times, to cry.

WOW:  I've listened to the audio version myself - and I agree with you - Laurie's narration adds an extra special boost of emotion to an already inspirational story!

What advice would you give other authors about publishing their work as an audiobook?

Shirley: Although I am addicted to reading a book by holding it in my hand, there are many times when an audiobook is the perfect medium. On the treadmill, for example, or while driving long distances. And for people whose vision is impaired and for those who simply prefer to listen than to read, an audiobook can be a godsend. There is a growing market, I’m told, for audiobooks and for that reason alone, you should consider an audiobook. Of course, if your book contains a boatload of statistics, it might not be an apt candidate.

WOW: I certainly agree about holding a book in my hand - but after listening to your book, I am becoming more impressed with audio options! I guess we will have to stay connected via social media so we don’t miss more of your exciting adventures. I personally can’t wait to read more of your work and I hope you’ll be back touring with WOW! for your future memoir. It has been such a pleasure!

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

July 8 (today) @ The Muffin
Interview and giveaway.

July 9 @ Book Santa Fe Crystal Otto
Crystal J. Casavant-Otto shares her review after listening to the touching and inspiring memoir Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis.

July 10 @ Lisa Buske
Lisa Buske reviews the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss by Shirley Melis.

July 11 @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Wisconsin mother and business woman Tara Forst shares her thoughts after listening to the inspirational audible version of Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis.

July 12th @ BreakEven Books
Today's Author Spotlight at BreakEven Books is on Shirley Melis and her memoir Banged-Up Heart - now available on Audible!

July 13 @ Bring on Lemons with Angela Williams
Angela Williams reviews Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart.

July 14 @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Educator and Entrepreneur Cathy Hansen reads and reviews Banged Up Heart by Shirley Melis. You'll want to stop by Bring On Lemons today for your chance to learn more about this touching and encouraging memoir (now available on Audible).

July 15 @ Lisa Haselton
Shirley Melis is being interviewed today by Lisa Haselton. Stop at Lisa's blog to learn more about Banged Up Heart, a non-fiction, memoir (now available on Audible), about finding the courage and strength to love again.

July 16 @ Bring on Lemons with Madeline Sharples
Fellow memoir writer Madeline Sharples interviews Shirley Melis about her book Banged Up Heart. (now available on Audible) Don't miss this heart felt interview about courage and love.

July 17 @ Jerry Waxler
Coach and Author Jerry Waxler shares his thoughts after reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.

July 18 @ Deb Blanchard
Teacher Deb Blanchard gives insight into "Banged Up Heart" the touching memoir by Shirley Melis (now available on Audible).

July 19 @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Don't miss today's interview between memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro and Shirley Melis. Find out more about Melis and her memoir Banged Up Heart (now available on Audible).

July 20 @ Bring on Lemons with Penny Harrison
Wisconsin business owner and avid reader Penny Harrison shares her thoughts and feelings about Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart (now available on Audible).

July 22 @ Memoir Writers Journey with Kathleen Pooler
Kathleen Pooler shares her thoughts with readers of Memoir Writer's Journey - find out what Pooler has to say about reading Shirley Melis's memoir Banged Up Heart.

July 23 @ Bring on Lemons with Pang Papathopolus
Wisconsin professional caregiver and health care worker Pang gives her review of the Audible version of Banged-Up Heart by Shirley Melis.

July 24 @ The Constant Story with David W. Berner
Author and radio personality David W Berner reviews Shirley Melis's book Banged Up Heart and shares his thoughts with readers at The Constant Story.

July 25@ World of My Imagination 
Nicole Pyles shares her review of Banged-Up Heart on Audible - hear what she has to say about this memoir in it's audio form!

July 26 @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte shares her review of the Audible version of Shirley Melis's Banged Up Heart today at Bring on Lemons. Don't miss this exciting blog stop and book giveaway.


Enter to win an Audible copy of Banged-Up Heart: Dancing with Love and Loss by Shirley Melis! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget next Monday, July 15th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, July 07, 2019


Interview with Heidi Rogers: 2019 Q2 Creative Nonfiction Runner Up

Heidi's Bio

Heidi was born in the Land of the Long White Cloud, to a family of storytellers. She remembers snuggling up with her parents and grandparents, watching worlds dance off their lips and into her imagination. Naturally, the love of stories was gifted to Heidi. She loved to entertain her “imaginary audience” (who often gathered in parks and gullies, and along river banks), as well as any friends who would listen, especially her brothers. Heidi has continued to explore herself and the world through playing with words. She has been awarded the request, by many young listeners. Now, after wandering through the realms of Infant Development, Psychology and Education, Heidi is studying for a master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Waikato, Aotearoa. You can find her on Facebook: @herlifestories

If you haven't done so already, check out Heidi's award-winning story "Sacred Geometry" 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?

Heidi: I think I started writing in my head when my doctor and I shared that bout of laughter, after my hiding cervix went peekaboo! Part of me loves awkward and bizarre interactions. They are so potent! Then, I was moved by my experience of having the ultrasound and I needed a way to express that. I decided to write it up for WOW, and I had a few days before the deadline. There was no time to overthink, so I just let the thing move where it wanted to go. This piece was very organic. Once I started writing, all the associations appeared.

WOW: What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Heidi: I learnt that people want to see my real voice. I forget this and quite often silence my truest truths or hide them deep in my writing. Making it to the top ten has inspired me to continue to explore my boundaries.

WOW: Thank you for sharing your voice with us: we value it and hope you continue to explore it and share it! In addition to creative writing, in what ways have you explored yourself and the world by playing with words? How has that affected your craft?

Heidi: I love this question! In the years before I figured out the whole reading thing (around age nine, I think) one way I played with words was to make up stories to picture books. My brother, Tim, was my most willing audience (other than the invisible crowd—they were keen 24/7). I remember one time I improvised to a picture of a shark that had a big, cheesy grin. Whatever dialogue I gave that shark made Tim laugh so much, I still remember the high of that moment. It was glorious!

The world is full of stories. I think that the way I played with words as a child taught me to notice my own feelings, ideas and experiences within the images and cues around me. This was a very interactive process. I had to be open to allowing the stories to move through me. It was like I was reading the world through my body. I think this taught me how to engage the listener both through my words, and through my voice. Now, people tell me that they can hear my voice when they read my writing. My University mates also say they love the way I sound reading aloud!

WOW: I love that phrase “allowing the stories to move through me.” What a nice visual to an important concept. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Heidi: The first writers who come to mind are Janet Frame, Patricia Grace, Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Brené Brown.

Through their stories, they explore being human with remarkable authenticity, creativity, empathy, intelligence and humour. They have inspired me to write in a way that honours both the incredible vulnerability and the incredible strength it takes to be a human amongst humans.

Their unique voices reach me like a soothing balm, inspiring deep healing. They challenge and inspire me to grow. I like this.

WOW: Thank you for sharing some of your sources of inspiration. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Heidi: You don’t have to sound exactly like anyone else. People want to hear your voice. Don’t let your messy hand-writing, slow reading style, and unique approach to spelling (haha!) stop you from sharing your stories. None of these things will matter that much, turns out, because: the internet!!!

WOW: Worthy advice! Anything else you’d like to add?

Heidi: Thank you so much for this opportunity to share myself with the WOW community. I like the vibe here a lot! Sometimes, I feel a LONG way away from ‘the rest of the world’, but with platforms such as this, the distance closes. To be able to connect through words is a precious thing.

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, July 06, 2019


Interview with Delana Close: Published at 95 Years Old

At the age of 95 years old, Delana Close self-published her book The Rock House, which is the 2019 Independent Book Awards Winner for Historical Fiction. She started this book in 1955, 63 years ago. One year later, Delana is still writing and working on her next book, proving to all of us it’s never too late to pursue a dream.

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with WOW! Women on Writing today. First of all, let me just say you look absolutely stunning! None of us here at WOW believe you are 96, if you don’t mind me saying! I first found your story on my Facebook page and it caught my eye immediately. It said in the article on that you first started your book “The Rock House” in 1955 and finishing it took nearly 63 years. What kept you going back to this story all these years?

Delana: Well, I always thought of it as my baby and I treated it like a baby. The book was always in my head and there was often something I would think of that I would write down because I knew I wouldn’t remember it and I had a lot of writing on the backs of envelopes- anything that was there to pick up and write it down. I did give up writing once for 20 years but went right back to it. I was always thinking about getting it written, as I said it was my baby. It had to come out.

WOW: I think every writer can understand that need for your book baby to come out! Tell me about that moment you first held your book in your hands. What was that like for you?

Delana: When I received my author’s copy I put it in a little basket, covered it with a baby blanket and carried it around with me. I was so happy.

WOW: That’s an adorable idea! You certainly did a lot of living while writing this book, such as working on 155 mm Howitzers and also opening up your businesses while also raising a family. How did you balance writing with everything going on in your life?

Delana: That’s what I had to do. Especially since the war was over, my husband was always into a new business. We had restaurants, at one time we had four restaurants and an art gallery. The businesses were very successful and I had no time to write. But the book was always in my head, mostly at night and I would write then and sometimes when I was alone driving in my car the ideas would be so strong I would have to pull over and write them down. So that’s how I got time for my writing. It wasn’t until I retired that I was able to put my full attention on writing the book.

WOW: I love how you would pull over to write down your ideas! What did your family think about you writing a book?

Delana: My husband read portions of the book through the years and was my biggest fan. We both grew up in small towns and had an appreciation for small town life. My children always knew I was writing a book but never read it until the manuscript was complete. At that point my daughters were proofreading it.

WOW: I love how your family was involved and supported you! So, in The Rock House, you tell a poignant story about how Abigail is forced to give her son to a different family and is considered a “fallen” woman by her community. Would you mind sharing what led you to writing about this type of experience?

Delana: The story was based on what happened in my hometown, which was a small town. A young school teacher lived with a family and became pregnant by one of their sons who was one of her students. Of course this was scandalous during that time which was the 1930s. When she went into labor the doctor who was to deliver the baby refused to help her unless she gave up the name of the father. She finally did, and the young man was brought to the hospital and they were married right there after she gave birth. In my novel, the heroine does not give into the pressure and the father of the baby is not revealed to anyone for years.

WOW: That is incredible you based this on a real moment that happened in your hometown. The Dispatch article talked about how you getting a computer in the 90s changed your writing. Can you tell us a bit about how this new technology changed you and your writing?

Delana: I got my first computer when I was 73 years old. I knew how to type but that’s all I knew about computers. I didn’t know to save what I’d written so I lost a lot of the book. I finally learned how to use Word and that made a big difference.

WOW: Oh that must have been heartbreaking to lose your work like that. The editing process included line-by-line changes and you approved of each one. What was that process like for you and how did your novel change during that time?

Delana: The line by line editing mostly pointed out typos or grammatical errors and didn’t really change the novel. The editor must have been quite young as he had never heard some of the terms used in the book such as “drummer,” the name for a traveling salesman, which was quite common in the early 1900s.

WOW: That must have been a learning experience for your editor! When it came time for the publication process, what led you to the route of independent publishing rather than a traditional publisher?

Delana: I did submit the manuscript to a couple of publishers and was rejected. At my age, I didn’t want wait for some publisher to give me the ok. I wanted to get it published before I got too old. Self-publishing was available and was the right answer for me.

WOW: That is the amazing thing about self-publishing! I can see by the photos that not only are you beautiful, you are also youthful in spirit. You are such an inspiration to all of us. How do you stay so energized and what secrets can you share with the rest of us?

Delana: I stayed energized by reading poetry and dancing. I love to dance and dance whenever I get the chance. I was a ballroom dancer for years. All the kids where I grew up started dancing when we were just children and there weren’t any babysitters. All the kids were at the dances. It’s been a part of me since childhood.

WOW: You are such an inspiration. I read how you remain an avid reader. What authors/books have been inspiring or most helpful to you in your writing?

Delana: My favorite authors are Ayn Rand and Margaret Mitchell.

WOW: Those are inspiring authors! Can you tell us a bit about the novels you are working on right now?

Delana: I have three that I’m working on right now; one is about three female medical students during the depression in the 1930s; one is about the 1918 Influenza epidemic and one is a 1960s murder mystery.

WOW: How interesting and impressive you are working on three! What are you hoping writers – and readers of your work – learn from your story, both the one you’ve written and the one you have lived?

Delana: Perseverance and overcoming obstacles is my story as well as Abby’s story. Don’t give up, if you have a story to tell find a way to tell it.

WOW: What final words of advice can you pass along to our readers who may be worried that it’s too late for them to finish their book?

Delana: It’s never too late. I’m 96 now and The Rock House was published last year. I’m working on three other novels and at my age, I’m never giving up because I love to write.


About the Book The Rock House

Milliner and business owner Abigail Langley defies everyone's expectations. When the odious Brother Griggsby labels her latest hat "sinful," Abby boldly wears it to church. A painful trauma early in her life has taught her the importance of following her own path.

Abby had conceived a child out of wedlock. It was the early 1900s, and in the attitude of the times, she was considered "fallen" and her baby taken away from her.

Abby never forgot the pain of having her child torn from her arms, and she is defiantly determined to make her way through a man's world with her head held high. She opens a fashionable hat shop in her small hometown of Rockville and catches the eye of the town's new preacher, Noah Edwards. It isn't the first time they've met, and Noah well remembers their fateful first encounter.

Now, Abby must contend with Noah's affections as well as the shocking reappearance of her child's father. Dr. Adam Townsend has never forgotten Abby, and when they meet once more, electricity sparks between them.

Will this time be different? Or is Abby's heart destined to once again be broken by a man she loves?

About the Author, Delana Close

Delana “Jackie” Jensen Close was born and raised in the tiny town of Emery, Utah. She graduated from Snow College and did her part for the war effort in the 1940s as a regular “Rosie the Riveter,” spending years working on 155 mm Howitzers.

Later moving to Columbus, Ohio, Close pursued her entrepreneurial dreams and opened several restaurants and art galleries. She also met her husband in Columbus, where she settled down and started a family of her own.

Close now lives in Dublin, Ohio, where she continues to happily dream up historical romances and other dramatic tales.

The Rock House by Delana Close is available on Amazon.

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Friday, July 05, 2019


"Papa's Shoes" by Madeline Sharples - My Five Star Review

The one thing I enjoy about reviewing books is that I get the chance to read something outside of my comfort zone. Lately, I have been exposed to some fantastic historical fiction books, one of those being Madeline Sharples' book Papa's Shoes.

You first meet Ira Schuman who wants to move his family to America. Yet tragedy has struck his family and he has lost three of his four sons and this tragedy has impacted his wife so much, she doesn't want to leave her home anymore. Ava is soon born and Ira still has his sights set on America.

The story transforms into becoming more Ava's story, as the title probably suggests. Ava grows up in America and soon she falls in love with a "goy," the son of Christian parents. This goes against everything her father wants, who, ironically desired so much to assimilate to American culture. The question becomes - what will Ava decide? Will she go against her father's wishes or marry the man she loves?

There is so much that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the culture of this family that I was exposed to. It brought me close to a world that I haven't seen firsthand before. The author adds in language specific to this culture as well.

What this book truly excelled at was bringing to light the complications, the struggles, the transitioning that must happen for all immigrant families. Madeline Sharples truly highlights how difficult it is to adjust to a new world while still holding onto who you are as a family and where you came from.

This book is a must-read to anyone who loves historical fiction and who wants a close reading experience with a family adjusting to a new world alongside a complicated love story that puts Ava's relationship with her family at risk. 

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

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 hardcover, 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:

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