Follow-Up Interview with Claire St Kilda - Quarter 2 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest Runner Up!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Please check out our first interview on the Muffin to learn more about Claire St Kilda and why just one opportunity to interview her just wasn't enough!

Claire St Kilda was a runner up in our 2019 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Claire's Bio:

Claire St Kilda grew up the daughter of ex-patriots in Africa. After a life of moving from one city to another, Claire has spent the majority of her adulthood in Australia working in advertising as a copywriter and the performance industry as an audio engineer, writer and director. It was only recently that Claire began writing for publication. Her essay, “This Week I Discovered My Daughter...” is Claire’s second creative non-fiction essay submitted to WOW. While she’s very proud to have been selected in the top 10 of this quarter’s competition, she has learnt a very valuable lesson about non-fiction writing—its purpose is far greater than just therapy during your own struggles. Stories like this open discussion on really tough subjects and help readers who might be experiencing similar situations, feel connected and not alone.

Claire is currently working on her debut novel, a teen ‘dramady’ about drug use in a private college in Australia.

If you haven't done so already, check out Claire's emotional story This Week I Discovered My Daughter.... and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Thank you Claire for being here with us a second time!  How is everyone doing now? It's been some time since you wrote your essay - do you feel comfortable bringing us up to speed? Hopefully you have good news?

Claire: Now I can confidently say that my daughter, and life in general, has 180’d. This Saturday just gone, Australia voted to retain its current Government (Liberal/National) and Prime Minister (Scott Morrison), or to elect the opposition (the Labour Party and Bill Shorten). Despite voting being compulsory in Australia, we were impressed that my daughter voted and asked me to accompany her to the polling booth! We’ve had lots of lovely days together since March – shopping, coffee-ing and gardening together.

Working hard in her waitressing job, she never misses a shift and continues to build on her relationships with us all. We’re certainly risking shock and horror if it all changes tomorrow, and some experts have even advised us to prepare for the worst. They’ve said the smell of meth/crack stays in their nose and the memory of feeling wrapped in a cocoon never leaves the addict.

But who wants to live like that? Actually, right there are two definitions. You could say we’re taking things for granted, or that we are living positively in the moment. Either way, our daughter is here with us and functioning as a wonderful member of our family and her community. If it all turns sour and she goes back on the drug, we are experienced enough to work out our way of dealing with it then. In the meantime we shall enjoy life as it is.

WOW: Thank you again for stopping back and bringing us up to speed. Your story, your resilience, your bravery, and your optimism are inspiring! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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Meet Densie Webb, Runner Up in the WOW! 2019 Winter Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor, specializing in health and nutrition, and has published several books on the topic. She grew up in Louisiana, spent 13 years in New York City, and settled in Austin, TX, where it’s summer nine months out of the year. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety, though she adores zombies, vampires and apocalyptic stories), drinks too much coffee, and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes. She has arrested development in musical tastes and her two grown children provide her with musical recommendations on a regular basis.

The fiction bug bit her several years ago and she now has two novels, You’ll Be Thinking of Me, published by Soul Mate Publishing, and Le Reméde, published by Wild Rose Press. She is currently in the final revision stages of a work of women’s fiction, tentatively titled, The Opposite of Amnesia. She also recently had her essay: “Boob Job Regrets: In Appreciation of Your Previously Small Chest,” included in an anthology compiled by Randy Susan Meyers, titled Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories & Art. All proceeds from the anthology go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women.

Facebook: Densie L. Webb
Twitter: @dlwebb
Email: densiewebb[at]gmail[dot]com

Read Densie's story, sure to leave you on the edge of your seat, here, and then return for a fun interview with the author!

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

WOW: Congratulations, Densie, and welcome! Let's get down to business. Your bio is a great example of what one should strive for. What tips would you give a writer struggling to write a bio for their blog, website, fiction competition, agent query, etc.?

Densie: I appreciate the positive feedback! I’m not sure I have any tips or steps. I just tried to put professional as well as personal information in there. I think being conversational and throwing in a bit of yourself helps it stand out. One example, my name is Densie, not Denise, so I like point that out. On my website, it says “Yes, you read that right; my name is Densie, not Denise, though, after years of practice, I answer to Denise just the same. And no, it’s not a nickname. Close friends call me Dense, but I won’t delve into the significance of that.

WOW: One of the guest blog posts you’ve written for another blog is called “Romance Writer, You’ve Got to Own It!” Could you explain how (and why) you got the idea to write that post?

Densie: There are some amazing romance writers out there, but the good, the bad, and the ugly are all lumped together as if it’s a homogenous group and they are often viewed as equally unworthy of being read. There’s romantic suspense, paranormal romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, and stories where a romantic relationship happens, but it’s only one element of the story. As I said in the post, the romance genre doesn’t get any respect and actually gets quite a bit of disdain. My novels don’t fit the fairly narrow definition of “romance,” but romance is definitely a major factor in the stories—much more so in my second novel. My first novel, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me” is romantic suspense. The relationship is at the core, but there’s a lot else that’s going on with a stalker. While some people turn up their nose at the very mention of romance, there are many literary writers (even some male writers), who write stories where a romantic relationship is at the core, but because the characters suffer for love and don’t live happily ever after, they’re not considered “romance.” Even though those stories wouldn’t exist without the romantic relationship, they get far more literary props. Two that pop into my head are “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides and “Post Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver (that’s a woman)—two books that I love, by the way. Both are about love and relationships, but neither is considered a “romance” novel.

WOW: That's so true and an interesting thing to point out. I remember reading once that Nicholas Sparks doesn't like to have his novels categorized as "romance," but there's no denying that's what they are! You’ve written professionally all of your life as a nonfiction writer, but mention you were “bitten by the fiction bug” a few years ago when you wrote and published two novels. What do you think inspired that “bite?”

Densie: It was about 6 or 7 years ago that I started thinking about it. A dear friend of mine convinced me to go for it and I remember saying to her, “I don’t have a clue how to write dialogue.” Now, it seems I get the most positive feedback regarding my dialogue. Go figure. I think I’m getting better with each book, each essay, each flash fiction piece that I write. To write fiction you have to have a bottomless well of patience, be willing to discern good advice from bad, and be willing to accept rejection repeatedly. I’ve said before that to be a writer, you need the skin of an armadillo and the ability to curl up in a ball when it gets to be too much. Even nonfiction writing involves rejection, so that was something I was prepared for.

WOW: Skin like an armadillo--I love it! (My extended family lives in Texas so I know those creatures well). “The Prank” had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Did you know when you first starting writing the story where it would take you (and the reader)?

Densie: That’s awesome to hear! Actually, that story idea came from my son. He’s grown now and occasionally regales me with all the irresponsible and crazy stuff he did as a teenager, unbeknownst to me. So, this is based on something he and a group of friends actually did. Yes, the police and an ambulance were involved. Thank goodness, no one was hurt. They didn’t get caught, but as he was telling me this, my writer mind when to “what if.” I knew I wanted the accident to happen, but the specifics came to me as I wrote and rewrote. I live in Austin and there are tons of tattoo parlors, so that sort of entered the story simply by virtue of everyday exposure. And I actually went to college with a boy named Steve Collier, who had a crush on me. For some reason, the name popped into my head and the tattoo twist came later.

WOW: Describe a perfect day of writing for you.

Densie: I’m a really sloooow writer. I tend to edit heavily as I go. I can’t “vomit it out” as I’ve been counseled so many times. I hear from other writers who can whip out 2,000 words or far more at a sitting. A good day for me is to get 500 “keeper” words on the page. If a book is about 85,000 words, well, you do the math. I work at home, but I find it hard to write fiction at home, so I typically go to a coffee shop and listen to music. There’s something about getting outside of my usual environment that frees me up to write.

WOW: Densie, this has been such a treat! We look forward to checking out more of your work.

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Do You Suffer from Imposter Syndrome?

Monday, July 29, 2019

My name is Renee, and I have a bad case of Imposter Syndrome. It applies to a lot of areas in my life, but stands out the most when I discuss my writing.

On a vacation recently, I was telling a friend that I had applied to be a judge for a book publishing competition. The conversation went something like this.

“I don’t know if I’m all that qualified,” I told her. “I mean, I have some experience in the publishing field, but I’m not an author.” She stared at me blankly.

“What do you mean by that? Have you not had things written and published?”

“Yes,” I said slowly. “I guess I mean that I’m not a published author, you know, a novelist.”

“That doesn’t matter, Renee," she said. "You written for a lot of publications. You’ve won awards. You’ve written more than one book. You ARE an author.”

After that conversation, I started to thinking about the term “Imposter Syndrome” I hear a lot from entrepreneurs. I came across this article in Fast Company, which breaks Imposter Syndrome down into five different types. I won’t rehash the entire article here, but I encourage you to check it out, as it was pretty eye-opening and I have the feeling I’m not alone in feeling like an imposter. A psychologist divided the syndrome into five different types: The Perfectionist, The Superwoman/Man, The Natural Genius, The Soloist and The Expert. When scanning the characteristics, I could see myself spread out across the board.

There are days I feel like an imposter simply in my daily life, and not only as a writer. I grew up poor, with a chaotic home life, and I didn’t have many cultural or worldly opportunities to travel. When I hear people around me discuss their most recent trip to Paris, I cringe inside because I can’t add to the discussion, having only traveled in the United States and Mexico. (I live in a college town where it's not uncommon for people to travel to Europe multiple times in one year.) I don’t have a graduate degree—I had to scrape and work my behind off all through my four years of undergraduate school and graduated with a pile of credit card debt.

I think having a background such as mine has affected my self-confidence and leads me to feel like an imposter when it comes to my writing achievements, even if I've earned every single one. I don’t like to ask for help, though. I don’t like to admit when I don’t know how to do something. I take on to many things to make myself look like more of an achiever than I really am. These are all characteristics of “Imposter Syndrome.”

All I can do is resolve to reframe my way of thinking. I will make mistakes. I won’t always know all the answers. I will not overwhelm my calendar in order to look like “a more professional writer.” I’ve put in many years of writing, editing and revising. I’ve built relationships with clients on trust and a solid work ethic.

I will no longer listen to that voice inside my head that tells me I’m an imposter.

Now let’s hear from you! Do you ever suffer from “Imposter Syndrome” in your daily and work life? How do you get past it?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also works as a magazine editor for a monthly lifestyle publication. Her contemporary young adult novel, “Between,” can be found on

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Why I LoveLoveLove Songland

Sunday, July 28, 2019
It's not a TV show that I watch every week. I don't always remember what night and what time it's on. I didn't know what channel it's on until I worked on getting a link to an episode. What I do know is why I love the show Songland.

I love it because it's writers collaborating with other writers. They're revising and editing, deconstructing and constructing. All in 43 minutes. (Okay, the viewers only see 43 of the minutes the writers work together. Lots more happens in the music sessions--but for time's sake, they're condensed.)

The episode I watched most recently was a repeat, I guess. It featured the Jonas Brothers as the starring singers.

You've never seen it? Here's the lowdown: Four songwriters present their song to a panel of three music producers and the featured singing star(s). The group chooses three songs to work on (each producer works with one writer). Each song is revised and presented a second time, and the singer(s) choose the one song they're going to record. On a record. For real.

I adore the show because it's a great example, week after week, of true collaboration.
  • When the songwriter initially performs their song, the producers and the highlighted singer are listening, but their mind is already focused on how they can improve the musical piece. One might pick up a guitar and add something. Another one might shift around so they can tap something out on a keyboard. The others are taking notes, or singing harmony... and this happens while they're hearing the song for the first time. (They do have a hard copy of the song to refer to.)
If you belong to a writing critique group, aren't there times when someone jumps right in with a comment or a suggestion... while you're still reading it aloud? As the piece unfolds more, there will be other praise, critique and advice. But when you're collaborating, sometimes you have to share your idea right away, or it'll get forgotten.
  • After the song is first performed, right way the producers and the featured singer discuss what works for them and what doesn't. Each professional singer is different (John Legend is different from the Jonas Brothers), so their needs are different, too.
As a writer, you have to keep your audience in mind.  For example, a story for Chicken Soup will be quite different than a story for Highlights magazine. 
  • As each songwriter-producer team is working on their song, lyrics are added and deleted, the melody might change, and the style. What started as a pop number might morph into a ballad. I've seen these songs take a complete left turn as they head off into a different direction, and the songwriters embrace the changes. 
As a writer, you have to embrace critique. Suggestions and ideas that result in the story/essay becoming a stronger, richer piece--that help needs to be accepted with an open mind and an open heart. The aspiring songwriters on Songland don't say, "That's not how I envisioned this song." They are thrilled with the revision process, and are passionate about their craft.

Here is a link  to all the episodes if you'd like to check out Songland. And now, I'm heading off to rewatch the Jonas Brothers' episode. (I fell asleep, drooling on the couch, before it got to the end. I didn't get to see which songwriter is going to get their 15 minutes of fame... along with a jump start to their career.)

Sioux is a middle school history teacher,  a teacher-consultant for the Gateway Writing Project, a dog rescuer, a freelance writer, a novelist-wannabe and a traveler. (She just got back from Iceland. Ice, ice baby!) Sioux has just launched a website so check it out (and be gentle in your thoughts... she's still working on it).
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Literary Agents: Coordinating Your Hunt

Saturday, July 27, 2019
It’s a good thing that I like to do research because I’ve been looking for an agent.  For each agent, I read up on favorite books, books they’ve acquired, what they are looking for now and more. 

As I identify agents to send my work, I often have to backtrack. What did she want first? What is it he wants in a cover letter? As much as I love research, I don’t love redoing research. Because of this, I'm keeping a database.

I should point out, my agent may be more complicated than what many of you have to do. I write primarily but not exclusively for children. It would be nice to have someone who could market my mystery and my memoir in addition to my children’s books. But the breadth of my work for children is problem enough.

Agents who represent middle grade novels and young adult novels don’t always represent picture books. Agents who handle picture books sometimes only want to work with author/illustrators vs authors who cannot illustrate. I also need to find an agent who represents both nonfiction and fiction.

So what do I track in my database?

Personal info. This includes the agent's name and agency and, if I can find it, how long they have been agenting. I’m not opposed to a new, inexperienced agent if they are at an agency working with someone more experienced.

Book types. At first, I checked off the types of books the agent wants -- picture books, middle grade, young adult and nonfiction. I saved information about preferences in a “notes” section. Later, I realized it was better to include many of these notes under the type of book. Humorous picture books. Young adult fantasy. Middle grade nonfiction of all types. 

What to Submit. Some agents loathe query letters. Others require you to submit through a form. Still others want marketing information. It helps to have this information handy when prepping your package.

Notes. Sometimes an agent will say something about things they love (movies, dogs, tacos) and things they hate (spiders, birds, science fiction). I also note degrees that we have in common as well as hobbies.

Links. I keep track of the links I used to do my research.

Once I’ve gathered my information, I can rank the potential agents. If I don’t highlight their name, they aren’t a good prospect. I keep them on the list so that I don’t research them again. 

A name highlighted in RED means that this person looks good but they aren’t accepting submissions. If they give a date when they will re-open, I add this before their name. YELLOW means this person looks pretty good but I need to read some of their books or do a bit more research. GREEN are the agents I’ve submitted to or am prepping my packet.

Yes, it is a bit type-A but when you are keeping track of the information on any of a dozen agents at once, type-A means not having to spend a morning re-researching a block of agents to find out who it was who wanted graphic novels for younger readers.


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 September 23rd, 2019.
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Friday Speak Out!: Carole’s Five Tips for Facing Computer Problems

Friday, July 26, 2019
by Carole Mertz

As a writer, you should always remind yourself you’re unique. However, when it comes to learning how to face and fix computer problems, for example, you are not unique. Others have likely faced the same problems and found solutions.

You, the writer, have your own particular set of values, skills, accomplishments, and fears. Here are five tips to help you when facing frustrating challenges. (You may need these, because facing a computer glitch may seem to rob you of your personal values, skills, and sense of accomplishment, while causing your fears to loom large.)

1. When a seemingly insurmountable obstacle stops you short, remind yourself all solutions take time. Approaching the problem in a relaxed state will yield results sooner than from a state of high anxiety.
2. Even the most often published writers face technical difficulties at almost any level of the professional writing process. You are not alone. Tackle what you can, to the best of your ability.
3. If you are unable to solve the problem yourself, reach out for help. Realize if friends or family can’t help, you may have to pay for solutions with hard cash. Try to slow yourself down. Most problems don’t need smack dab immediate solutions.
4. Inability to do something does not indicate failure, it simply indicates inability to do something.
5. When technological problems are overcome, don’t forget to thank those who helped you. If you solved the problem, thank yourself with an ice cream cone or other reward of choice.
One of the best dreams I ever had was one in which, facing an obstacle I couldn’t overcome, I simply went around it. (I try to recall this dream in applicable moments. In certain situations, going around may be the only solution. (Having solved my most recent technological challenge was so rewarding I didn’t even need the ice cream.)

* * *
Carole Mertz began writing 10 years ago and has followed WOW! Women on Writing ever since. She has poems, essays, and reviews in various literary journals including Ascent Aspirations, Conium Review, Dreamers Creative Writing, The Ekphrastic Review, MER, Working Writer, and others. She is book review editor at Dreamers Creative Writing, reads in prose and poetry for Mom Egg Review, and reviews regularly at Eclectica. Carole’s first poetry collection, Toward a Peeping Sunrise, is forthcoming from Prolific Press, 2019.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Novel Themes Are Not Just For English Class

Thursday, July 25, 2019
Maybe it's because I'm in a book club or because I'm a writing teacher and a novelist, but lately, I've been thinking a lot about novel themes--maybe more than I did as an English major in college when I had a term paper due. If you're writing a novel, for any age audience, your story should be full of themes--universal themes--that readers can relate to. Besides reading fiction to escape real life, many readers also want to relate to and connect to the characters in a book, and this usually happens through the themes present in their "storybook" lives.

So here's a little exercise for you: grab a pen and a piece of paper and jot down what the themes are in your work-in-progress or in a book you have published. Here are some themes to get you started. Hold on to this list for a minute while I go on...

I'm currently reading Women In Sunlight by Frances Mayes, which has received mixed reviews. (Full disclosure: It did take about 50-60 pages to really get into it.) But I absolutely love it now. The reason why I love it is the themes that Frances explores in the novel. Yes, the characters are lively and the setting is remarkable (Italy!), but the themes of reinvention, renewing passion, friendship, motherhood, love, and community speak to me right now more than I ever thought they would. I find myself thinking about lines from the book constantly and even circling some--which is something I hardly ever do anymore while reading ficiton. I love this book because I love the themes, and I can't wait to discuss them in my online book club.

This morning, in a group chat, one of my friends shared a book she is reading, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. After my friend told us what it's about (a black married man is accused and found guilty of rape, when he was innocent), she said that Tayari does a great job of conveying deep emotion and of covering the topic of racism. So in this short discussion in a group chat--the theme of the book came out as an important point about the book. Maybe you can't relate to your husband being accused of rape and spending years in prison when he shouldn't have, but can you relate to racism? Can you relate to misogyny? Can you relate to the unfairness of being judged because of your religion or sexual orientation?

Themes bring us together as readers and writers. They help us think about issues in the world and give us a new perspective. They also help us feel like someone understands us enough to write about a theme that is also present in our lives.

You want this for your book. You want readers to feel like this about your story. So look at the list you just made--and by the way, themes don't have to always be so serious--fun can be a theme. (You can write a funny novel and have themes.) On your list, circle the ones that you think most people can relate to--universal themes. Now when you're ready to send this manuscript to an agent or publish it yourself, and then market it, those universal themes are needed because they are how you should talk about your book. To get your readers interested in a fiction story, in using your book for a book club, in securing 100 purchased copies for a summer school program, focus on your themes and how they will enrich readers' lives.

Don't worry--your writing has themes--even if you've never thought about them before. Characters' lives have themes--this is what fiction is all about (even memoirs have themes!). Just take some time to brainstorm your manuscript's themes, if they aren't coming to you immediately. We'd love to read what you've discovered about your work-in-progress in the comments below.

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher living in St. Louis, MO with her daughter and six-month-old lab mix puppy. Take her next class on novel writing by going here and signing up before August 2! Find out more about Margo at
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The Busy Trap

Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Do you know the Busiest Person Ever? Take a look in your circles and I’ll bet you can name the BPE, the friend who lists on social media all the things that he or she has to do (or worse, has already done)…the mom whose kids are involved in a gazillion different activities and she’s so busy, carting them hither and yon…or the co-worker who complains constantly about everything that has to be done but insists on doing it all, without any help.

Yep, the Busiest Person Ever is everywhere—even in writers’ circles. And though we may find the BPE annoying, there’s a secret (or not so secret) part of us that wishes we could accomplish as much as that busy writer. I mean, the busiest writer ever is so productive, right?

Um…maybe not so right. Because productive implies that what’s accomplished has a positive impact, that the work is producing great results. But sometimes, being super busy isn’t producing anything of much importance. In fact, sometimes, and ironically, busy work can grind a writing career to a halt.

Take, for example, the busy social butterfly. This is the writer who spends hours on social media, promoting a book or engaging in witty writer banter, maybe sharing cute pics with clever hashtags. And that’s not a bad thing, promotion. Unless a writer is so busy promoting that he or she doesn’t…well, write more than a tweet.

And speaking of writing few words, I might as well admit that I’m guilty of hopping on the busy train, telling myself that this development project or that organizational chart is important and I’m ever so busy, working on all this fun and/or exciting stuff! But you can probably guess the truth: I’m just busy not writing.

Ugh. It’s so easy to get stuck in the busy trap. We’re working hard, after all, on all kinds of writing-related stuff. We’re accomplishing a lot, but often, we’re just treading water rather than moving forward in our writing goals.

So how to get out of the busy trap? For me, it starts with realizing that I am, in fact, avoiding writing by filling my hours with busyness. And honestly, it’s not that easy figuring all that out because busy can look so darn productive and make one feel so giddily accomplished! But if you find that the busy days are piling up and the writing is not, then you, like me, may be stuck in the busy trap.

Now it’s time to do something by possibly doing nothing. Give yourself a mini-retreat, maybe a long walk or an afternoon relaxing with a cool drink and a book. Turn off the noise and listen for the answers you’ve been too busy to hear.

What’s keeping you from writing? Business burnout? Writer’s block? Creative juices gone dry?

Maybe a mini-retreat isn’t long enough to renew and refresh; maybe you need a major break, a couple weeks away from the hustle and bustle of your writing busyness. Take the time you need to find the why and the way back will follow. And then you can become the Busiest Writer Ever—and I mean that in the best way possible!

~ Cathy C. Hall
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Interview with Julie Watson, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Julie Watson lives St. Louis, MO with her family. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Saturday Evening Post, The Summerset Review, the Citron Review, and has earned recognition in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story and Erma Bombeck Writing competitions.

Julie can be found online at and tweets at @julieinthelou.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Julie: The WOW competition is one of my favorites. I’ve entered twice and plan to again whenever I complete a piece of flash I’m excited about.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Wherever You Go?" There’s some sneaky humor in this poignant tale, which I enjoyed.

Julie: Like Lucy and Marjorie, I like to go for walks. In fact, that’s where I get most of my writing ideas. For me it’s generally a solitary activity, but I see so many women walking together regularly, every morning or night. I started to imagine what it would be like to experience this as a routine, shared activity and applied my own history and experience with the loss of my mother. I remembered the way certain everyday activities felt different without her, and how surprised I was by the ways my grief over her passing unfolded.

In terms of humor, I often approach difficult subjects with as much lightness as I can. Laughter helps us all cope, I think.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Julie: I’m fairly new to flash. I started writing it very intentionally, to help me learn how to tighten up my long-form writing and practice effective storytelling. It’s been a tremendous help. With such a tight word limit, I have no choice but to say things with economy and get to the point.

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

Julie: I feel best when I write something daily, but I’ve learned to forgive myself when the words aren’t flowing. At home I’ve carved out my own little writing space with my favorite things, scented candles my family members find stinky, and plenty of light. The two craft books I keep on my desk are Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer and Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I picked up both within the last year on the recommendation of other writer friends, and they’ve been as life-changing as they are entertaining.

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

Julie: Don’t hesitate! I already feel like I’ve won when I hit send and know that, at least in that single moment, I’ve beaten back fear and self-doubt. Just as important, contests like WOW’s come with built-in tribes, and I often wish I would have learned much sooner how important it is to have a connection with and support from other writers.


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

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Why Your Writing Needs Distance

Monday, July 22, 2019

As the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Or sometimes, more critical (especially with writing). Recently I read over two short stories that I had not read in at least three or four months. One had been rejected by a literary magazine and one was sitting in my drafts folder. Let me tell you what happened when I read over both:

Exhibit A: The Short Story Rejected by the Literary Magazine

Months ago when I read this story over one final time before submitting, I thought for sure that I would be nicely surprised with a lovely "we are publishing you" email. Well, I didn't get that.

In fact, when I read it over, I this needs more work. Now, I've tightened up the language, fixed some sentence structure, and added descriptive language. Is it ready to send back out into the world? Maybe. I've realized that "brew time" with writing is as necessary as any other writing process. Chalk this under the "waiting" category. Yeah, I don't like it much either.

Exhibit B: The Short Story Rejected by Me

A few months ago, early spring, when the season isn't so blisteringly hot and sunny, I wrote a short story. When I finished, I had that satisfying sense of completion. Ah, done. Yet, at the same time, I wanted nothing more to do with it. I thought revising would be far too much work.

Then over the weekend, thanks to a fit of "I don't know what to write or revise," I skimmed this story. It wasn't nearly as bad or tossable as I first thought. No, it isn't totally perfect and it needs work, but it definitely doesn't belong in the trash.

What I Learned: Distance is a Necessary Part of the Writing Process.

In both situations, distance gave me the perspective I needed on my writing. In the first instance, I realized my story needed work (checking my ego at the door, of course). In the second instance, I realized that the story I rejected before anyone else read it had tremendous possibility.

No matter how you feel, whether you hate it or love it, give your writing some distance. Want to submit? Wait. Want to throw it away or hit the delete button? Wait. As hard as it is, distance is important. I am certain that even after the nicest compliment or the nastiest critique your writing needs distance. Don't delete. Don't submit.  Wait. 

How long to wait? Well, it depends. I say give yourself at least a week. Give yourself a longer time to wait if you've been in the revising weeds a long time. In writing, it's often very difficult to give yourself a unique perspective of your own writing. We often are our best cheerleaders or worst critics. The distance you give your writing will allow you to have fresh eyes and that means everything in the revising process.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some waiting to do.

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Meet Claire St Kilda - Quarter 2 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest Runner Up!

Sunday, July 21, 2019
Congratulations to Claire St Kilda and This Week I Discovered My Daughter... and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Claire's Bio:

Claire St Kilda grew up the daughter of ex-patriots in Africa. After a life of moving from one city to another, Claire has spent the majority of her adulthood in Australia working in advertising as a copywriter and the performance industry as an audio engineer, writer and director. It was only recently that Claire began writing for publication. Her essay, “This Week I Discovered My Daughter...” is Claire’s second creative non-fiction essay submitted to WOW. While she’s very proud to have been selected in the top 10 of this quarter’s competition, she has learnt a very valuable lesson about non-fiction writing—its purpose is far greater than just therapy during your own struggles. Stories like this open discussion on really tough subjects and help readers who might be experiencing similar situations, feel connected and not alone.

Claire is currently working on her debut novel, a teen ‘dramady’ about drug use in a private college in Australia.

If you haven't done so already, check out Claire's emotional story This Week I Discovered My Daughter.... and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Claire! Your story is so moving and though it's beautiful, the pain is woven throughout. How did you overcome your own pain and fear to submit this essay for the better good of complete strangers? You are so brave and I'm sure many of us can't imagine - so help us understand what brought you here?

Claire: On a practical level, I overcame my fear of disclosure by using a pen name. Not for fear of my own exposure, but should my daughter identify herself in what I’ve written when she gets healthy, her shame would be all-consuming. It must be her choice to share her story later on, just as it’s my choice to share mine.

In the beginning, Mum asked me to consider that no matter how open minded friends are, humankind’s way of coping with difficulties is to categorize and assign labels. It makes people feel safe to be inside a box that is different to yours. She said that those boxes in their minds don’t change easily. She suggested I only discuss our situation with people who love our daughter unconditionally, or those who know nothing about us (family group therapy, writing etc). That way, their perception of her in the future wouldn’t be based on only this period in her life.

I wanted to share with strangers too, because I was one of those strangers at first. I had no idea how to cope and when I learnt, I wanted others to know tips much earlier than I did.

Emotionally, it was as though my husband and I were fighting a war. Building an arsenal, gathering information, asking advice and targeting an enemy we couldn’t pin down (the enemy being the drug not our daughter). Doing nothing was a crippling state to be in, so we strategized and acted, in shock. It was a very strange state to be in.

Sharing my journal with everyone was another contribution I could make to the fight. I’ve learnt more than I ever wanted to know about illicit drugs, addicts and how families can cope. I knew there must be others in early stages of this process - which is exactly what it is…a process. When we started out I expected services and professionals would know how to fix things. I imagined they would lift us all out of the quagmire, tell us exactly what to do, and we’d do it ‘until’.

That wasn’t the case at all. Counselors asked me, “What do you think would help?” Doctors said, “…it’s entirely up to the addict when they want to stop.” The wonderful drug advice line staff listened and gave us honest information about effects, risks and outcomes. But nobody could do anything to change our situation, or our daughter’s addiction. It was well and truly up to her.

WOW: Thank you for your transparency - it's very clear that support is important. Who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive? How can those of us on the outside help those going through a similar experience?

Claire: I found the most supportive people were my husband and I for each other. You know how one day you can hold it together, then the next day he’s holding it together as you crumble? We recognised that and used it to our advantage. We promised not to blame each other for anything, not to argue about what to do, or how to do it – we’d do it my way first, then his way when that failed - there seemed room and time to try everything.

Our other teenage/adult children were struggling too and needed huge amounts of support from us. They felt betrayed and angry and told us they didn’t want to know all the details. I think they were preparing for another sibling’s funeral actually.

We reached out to our parents and our own brothers and sisters, but nobody believed how dire the problem really was. Short of screaming at them, we let them think what they wanted to think, and kept our stories of woe to a bare minimum. I know they wanted to help, but their eyes shone with judgement of our overreactions. After all, how could their kind, loving, warm, happy grandchild/niece really be the monster we were describing?

In the end I did feel I’d told my mother too much – she is now recovering really well from a stroke she suffered in February as a result of the stress.

My girlfriends were amazing. We’d have coffees and walks on the beach. They asked questions. They offered suggestions. They wanted to understand and get into my head. Some people might not like that, but I felt relieved they weren’t tip toeing around me. During lunch one day a girlfriend said “It is what it is and that’s that. Let’s love your girl, not judge her and cuddle her when she comes out the other end.” For me, her pragmatism and loyalty was like fairy dust.

My advice to help others is to try not to tip-toe around the situation. Ask straight up questions. Make them see you’re not casting aspersions about their parenting or their child’s ‘goodness’ (or otherwise). You’ll soon know if the person doesn’t appreciate your approach. If it fails and they ask you to stay out of their business, don’t take it personally – bake or buy them a meal or some muffins!

WOW: I'm so glad you could find support in your girlfriends and thanks for the wonderful advice about not tiptoeing around the situation. What other advice would you give when it comes to self care during difficult times in life?

Claire: I’m pleased to say that there’s a definitive answer to this question that I learnt from a grief counselor. It’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever received because self-care is a ridiculous concept when you are so desperate you’ll chase drug dealers around suburban streets at 3 am on a Tuesday morning to check your daughter is safe.

This grief counselor told me that when it comes to your children and the grief of losing them (or imagining you will lose them), stick to the two week rule. That is…

*If you can’t stop eating for 13 days, don’t worry.

*If you’re curled up in a ball on the floor crying 
for 13 days, don’t worry.

*If you’re not eating for 13 days, don’t worry.

*If you don’t utter a word for 13 days, don’t worry.

*If you can’t get out of bed for 13 days, don’t worry.

*If you’re not sleeping for 13 days, don’t worry.

You will not die. 
But if you get to 14 days 
and one or more of these symptoms 
are continuing, 
see your doctor immediately! 

The caveat to this rule is for drugs and alcohol. At every turn I’ve been advised to stay right away from alcohol and drugs. They cloud your mind and make it impossible to find your way through the emotion.

WOW: Thank you for sharing - this will be a help for friends and family who may be worrying a bit too prematurely on day 6 or 7. You reference the "rules" - which is most difficult to follow and why? What have you done to help you follow those rules?

Claire: The easiest rule to follow is to call the drug and alcohol phone line whenever you need to. Find that number in whichever city you’re in and use it all the time.

Loving and reaching out to her through whichever means was easy most of the time. During blow-ups, abusive texts and broken plates it was hard not to take it personally.

Not giving cash was hard. Imagine your skeletal, ferocious baby on the verge of homelessness, begging you for money to eat – it was tough. I had to keep the words of the D&A Counselor in my head… “She’s lying and doesn’t actually care about food. Any money will be spent on a hit of crack. Feed her if she wants food.”

Believing it will take time was hard. Why doesn’t our society have the infrastructure to convince someone so possessed by an insidious drug, to get well again? Sure there is detox and rehab, but the waiting time is months, and the addict has to make that decision for themselves. Effectively ‘they’ believe that the person whose veins run thick with mind altering poisons is in the best position to know what is right for them? Worse still, we were also told not to investigate some rehab facilities because there are staff there who are dealers!

“Look after yourselves” is such a silly thing to tell parents of a drug addict. How can you not wake at 2am in fright, imagining them dead in a gutter? We ate too much and slept too little. Our business suffered in a big way. We were close to discussing the situation with the bank because the mortgage was becoming harder to pay. We fought with each other more than we should have. Some professionals (and law enforcement) convinced us that following our daughter through the nights was very dangerous, so we stopped doing that. I tried exercise class, yoga and meditation. But I now see that those things only make you feel good when you already feel good. As I write I’ve just realized what our self-care was – no guilt and no expectations of ourselves or each other. If I didn’t feel like doing the laundry, I’d wear a dirty top three days in a row. Here’s a secret…I even washed my knickers in the shower and left them to dry on the towel rail - just like I was camping!

WOW: I'm so impressed with your resilience and ability to make readers laugh about camping knickers in the midst of such emotional turmoil. You are quite the writer Claire! Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Claire: What a great question! I work in my daughter’s old bedroom. She hasn’t lived at home for almost three years now. It’s still her room but with my desk at the window. The view is into our back garden where I can see our German Shepherd dog chasing birds. We live in a small home and since I’ve worked in this room rather than our work office, my writing has been prolific. It’s a beautiful bedroom. I so wish my girl was back here in it, holding all the innocence she grew up with. But she’ll never live at home again. Even as a clean, functioning woman now, she has too much horror from the drug world inside her, to feel comfortable surrounded by her childhood again.

WOW: That is truly beautiful - your ability to find joy even during the darkest times is absolutely awe inspiring. Congratulations again and we look forward to reading your debut novel as soon as it's available! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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The feeling it gave them

Saturday, July 20, 2019
I recently read an article about Miami Vice, the television show that premiered 35 years ago this fall. The show had a big impact on me, the city, other viewers, and the television and film industries. My favorite quote from the article by Craig Pitmann on the website Crime Watch summarized its popularity:

But people weren’t watching Miami Vice for the plots. They were watching it for the attitude, the visuals, the music—the feeling it gave them.

Breaking through to the emotions and feelings where people connect is a talent and a skill that artists struggle with throughout their careers. We want our work to touch people's lives with universal truth, but our perceptions, as well as those of the audience, can block the message.

For me to get to a state of writing from pure emotion, I need an image, sound, or information that speaks to me. Sometimes I view other forms of art like paintings, sculpture, or documentaries. Discovering the backstory of an artist I've never heard of is interesting, and helps me realize how much we are alike in trying to find connections in a physical or emotional space. Other times it's not so magical, and I hear a word or word combination from an advertisement for an everyday product like cheese that makes me think of that word or combination in a new way.

When I'm not inspired externally, I go inside to a quiet space to think. I ask myself about the feeling, compare it to something else, and (try to) describe it. I dig deeper. I define what I think and figure out how to represent those thoughts through words. Sometimes I read a few pages from a favorite book to remind me how words can work together beautifully.

Regardless, it's not easy finding the place where we keep all the feelings and connect on an emotional level. But when we get there, your readers will remember 35 years later.

Mary Horner is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.

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Friday Speak Out!: Dear Diary

Friday, July 19, 2019

by Sharon Gerger

I write humour, or for you Americans, the quicker to the punch line version, humor. I also create funny, nay, hilarious greeting cards.

These last few months have not been particularly splendid for me. I'm not going to get into the whys, suffice to say, it’s just life tossing crap at me the way it tosses crap at everyone at some point.
I used to always have at least twelve stories or essays out looking for a home with either writing contests, or magazines, or online publications, at all times. I did that for more than a year and got a few yeses and a lot of nos. The yeses were so spirit and morale-boosting.

Then the aforementioned crap started flying and I stopped writing, the thing I love to do most in the world. Sorry adult sons, I don't actually enjoy cooking Sunday dinner for you.

Last month was particularly challenging, I was exhausted all the time. One evening, before I fell asleep in front of the TV, I got out my journal which I had not touched in months and just wrote. It started as a whining session, then devolved into a pity party then evolved into a list of things I missed. Things i used to do that made me happy. At the top of that list is writing. I also missed getting some recognition, confirmation that I was on the right track. I kept on writing in my journal and then remembered that the WOW website (if you are reading this, you are here now) always has a writing contest on the go. I polished a previously written story and entered the contest; it made me feel hopeful and kind of awesome.

I also sent some of my greeting cards to friends who were having a tougher time than I was and they all told me they were funny. It was the kind ego stroking I needed. Yes, I know friends nice-lie but I'm okay with that.

WOW had advised us that the first round of judging would likely be complete by the end of the first week in July. At that point, they would email the finalists to let them know they were moving on to the next round. I didn't get an email. I was disappointed but continued to work on an essay I want to enter in their essay contest.

And then a couple of days later, I got an email from the WOW contest folks announcing I was a finalist. I am thrilled. So thrilled, you'd think I'd been told I'd won first place. Essays have always been easier for me to place, but short stories, much as I love writing them, have not been an area of success for me.

I sit here now, waiting for the next level of judges to recognize my comedic genius and offer me gobs of cash for my book, so I don’t have to beg for coins fund my broccoli habit while I write full-time.

* * *
Sharon Gerger is a writer! Her creative non-fiction writing has appeared in Woman's World magazine, The Globe and Mail, the award-winning anthology, Laugh Out Loud and numerous on-line publications. She has made a few long lists for short story competitions only to have her hopes dashed when compared to brilliant writers, but she will not be attending any self-pity parties, she'll just try again. 
TWITTER: @sharongerger1

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

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How Can I Help?

Thursday, July 18, 2019
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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A Movie to Move the Reader

Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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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Interview with Heather Baver, Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
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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Five Posts About How to Be a Better Writer

Monday, July 15, 2019

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

Sunday, July 14, 2019
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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