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Sunday, September 15, 2019

 

Taprina Milburn Writes Through Her Grief, a runner-up in our Quarterly Essay Contest

Taprina Milburn
Welcome to Taprina Milburn who will inspire you with her positive attitude despite her current dealings with grief and empty nest. She has managed to figure out a way to write through her pain, and we are glad she did. You can win her winning essay, "Gifts" here.

Here's a bit about Taprina: In her blog, reimaginingthislife.com, Oklahoma native Taprina Milburn shares stories of family, hope, and faith with readers who are redirecting their lives after big changes, just as she is. Mom of two grown and flown children, she is the author of two books, Scientists Use Rats, I Use My Family (2003) and We’re Not Being Raised Right: And Other Ego-Building Things My Kids Say (2011). She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and has written for newspapers and magazines throughout the years.

Today, she serves as a communications consultant for nonprofits and is working on a master’s degree in family and child studies. She loves to travel to visit her kids and their spouses, and admittedly spends an inordinate amount of time with her six-year-old female golden retriever, Scout, who the kids say is the golden child of the family. They may be right. (Scout has her own Instagram account, @thisgoldenchild).

WOW: Congratulations, Taprina, for being a runner-up in our Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with your essay, "Gifts." It's about reframing loss after your husband's death, and we first want to say how brave it is for you to write about this subject and share your experience in your essay. The format you chose for this, organizing with four "frames" was very powerful. What made you write your story in this way?

Taprina: The short answer is that placing the gifts in frames helped me to be disciplined in my writing. I could say to myself, “Today, you are only writing within this frame.” It helped to organize my mind because grief can be unpredictable and can have your mind roaming all over the place. The long answer is that I also visualized an actual picture frame. If a picture or memento is important to me, I put it in a frame, hang it on my wall or put it on my fireplace mantel. I don’t want to forget the life I had with my husband; and I also don’t want to forget what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown during this time, even if it is painful. So, symbolically, these gifts/lessons are in a frame in my mind because they are important touchstones.

WOW: I love that the frames served two purposes. Sometimes when a subject is painful or overwhelming, tackling it in small chunks, or frames as you did, is a manageable way to accomplish a goal. Thank you for sharing that tip with us. Do you find writing essays about this time in your life part of your healing journey? Why or why not?

Taprina: Writing essays about this time in my life has not been easy but it has been helpful. My husband has been gone for three years. The first year after he died, I was in shock, felt numb and as if I was walking around in a fog. When I started to write about the experience of my husband’s death and suicide, whether journaling or writing essays, I noticed that I started to feel connected to my heart and emotions again and to think with more clarity. Yes, there is sadness, but putting pen to paper also has helped gratitude to bubble up. And gratitude is a master healer. I’ve always believed that writing helps me to better understand my life, my connection to God, and to others. It is a tool I’m definitely going to continue to use on my grief journey.

WOW: We hear that from so many of our writers. This is also why journaling or morning pages are so helpful to writers. We are also honored you entered our contest with all your great writing and publication success in your bio. Tell us about your books!

Taprina: When my children were small, I wrote a syndicated weekly column called For Sanity’s Sake (which I've always said, tongue-in-cheek, is the reason why I write, for my sanity). The column started out in my hometown paper and was picked up by King Features Syndicate and printed in papers in the United States and Canada. I wrote about the very normal, day-in-day out life of being a wife and mother—sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always heartfelt. My favorite feedback from readers was when they said that they could relate as a parent. The two books, Scientists Use Rats, I Use My Family and We’re Not Being Raised Right: And Other Ego Building Things My Kids Say were compilations of the columns I had written over the years. I’m proud of these books because they capture the stories of raising a family with my husband.

WOW: That is amazing. What great success and how exciting that your columns were syndicated and became books! And of course, we must ask about your Golden Retriever and his Instagram account! Do you use this as part of your marketing for your writing or is it a part of your hobbies?

Taprina: Scout, my female golden retriever, just turned six. She is named Scout after the little sister in the book, To Kill A Mockingbird. My kids joke that my husband and I got Scout as an empty-nest-coping-mechanism. They are probably right. She and I didn’t start off on the right foot, though. As a puppy, she ate reading glasses, food from the counter, and library books (this is the abbreviated list). Everyone would tell me to be patient because by three years old, I’d have a really good dog. I wasn’t sure she’d make it to three years. The month my husband died, however, Scout turned three, and by that time she had become a very good companion. I’m not sure what life would be like without her. My kids now call her my golden child, which is why I started Scout an Instagram account @thisgoldenchild. It’s just for fun but, yes, Scout is a very important part of my life and definitely shows up in my writing.

WOW: Look, puppies are no joke! I have one from the Humane Society, a "lab mix" who has to have some hound in her. She keeps me on my toes, and I keep saying to myself, "This will get better." So I can totally understand about Scout! Your story of her getting better at 3 gives me hope. To close, can you tell us about your blog and what's next for you on your writing journey?

Taprina: My blog is called Reimagining. A few months after my husband died, a good friend took me to lunch and told me that one day joy would return but that I would have to use my imagination to reimagine a new life. I respected that advice from her because she was also widowed. The blog is where I go to share stories about rebuilding and reimagining a new life. My hope is that as I put my stories out there about grief, widowhood, empty nest, etc, that someone in a similar situation as I am in may stumble upon it, and it might help them, too. I believe we have to help each other as we learn and grow. As far as my writing journey goes, I am working on a third book of essays (working title: What Now Scout? Reimagining Life with My Golden Child); and one day, I’d love to write a fiction novel. I’d also like to teach a writing class on the importance of writing through grief.

WOW: Taprina, we wish you the best success with your book and your novel. Thank you for providing such personal answers to our questions. We know readers will be able to learn from you and your experiences. You definitely top the list of brave and wonderful women writers. 

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

 

To Critique or Not to Critique, That is the Question

Is it just me or do some people critique like they have an ax in their hand?

I have realized one of the hardest aspects of writing is getting my work critiqued. Whether it's finding the right people to critique my work, reading people's feedback about my work, or the reaction of others when I critique their work, it's all a bit of a landmine sometimes. My ego gets stepped on meanwhile I accidentally step on the ego of others.

And recently I had two experiences through the critiquing process that I wanted to share you and maybe we'll learn something along the way together.

First, I'd like to share that I will occasionally submit my writing to be critiqued at the Zoetrope writing forum. It's been a fine experience overall. I mean, it's basically internet strangers reading my work and everyone has a different flair. Some people are better at critiquing than others (or at least, some are more willing to put in the effort). No matter what, I learn something valuable each time.

Recently, I decided to read over the feedback of a flash fiction piece that I had worked on months ago. As a result, I noticed feedback I didn't read closely. I was surprised at how much it helped me. Months ago when I read this feedback it felt cold and cutting. Now when I read it, I felt helpful and insightful.

I learned that receiving critiques about my writing isn't always easy. I also realize I don't always read the critiques properly. Sometimes the feedback and critiques feel mean. Except when I give myself time from this feedback I realize there is value even in the sharp-edged remarks.

And then another lesson happened. I submitted feedback for someone else's work. With Zoetrope there is a rating system (which I don't like). I gave this person 7/10. And I don't know about you but in the IMDB world, that is a great rating. Yet this person was offended. Like, deeply offended. And they explained how they didn't understand my rating. My feedback was positive so why didn't I give them a 10? Or a 9, even?

I explained to them that my ratings of 9 and 10 would go to a piece of writing that hits me in a profound way. 7 and 8 is a good rating (at least to me it is). Yet, that still wasn't enough of an explanation to this person. They revealed to me that the rating mattered more to them than the critique. And they even explained away the feedback I did give them. They also went on to say why they deserved a higher rating. In reply, I said, "Thank you for the information." And I have decided to move on from that forum.

Whether it's a close friend or family member or an online critique group, getting critiques about your work is never an easy process. I don't know about you, but the truth is I'd love to a rating of 10 out of 10 for all of my stories. Yet that isn't realistic for the revising process.

Remember that in the critiquing and revising process, your piece of writing is still growing into what it could be. Think of the people in your life that critique your work as fellow gardeners pointing out where you should prune. Most of all, you have the final say and only you can shape the story into a beautiful garden.

If you'll excuse me, I have some pruning to do.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

 

Don't Ignore YouTube Just Because You're Not 8 to 16

So the other day on my Facebook business page, I posted this meme:


Parents and grandparents of elementary school kids should be nodding (and laughing, come on--it's funny) along with this hysterical meme from Debi Downer on Facebook (which you should follow by clicking that link because she is super funny!) because you understand the YouTube craze like no other, I'm sure. My daughter who is 8 sometimes watches YouTube on our Smart TV instead of Netflix or Hulu--instead of Disney! (gasp) And she watches people play video games or do slime challenges or play "games" where the kids switch clothes with each other. She wants to talk about slime and create her own challenges all the time, and I will admit that I'm often not tuned into the conversation because I just don't understand. 

But this "blasted" YouTube is where kids are. This is where teens are. This is even where adults are--finding TED talks, how to change their oil, or how to make themselves look better through Photoshop. Recently, when I taught the School Visits and Author Talks class for WOW! (next one is in October!), even I used YouTube videos as part of my material. Authors are making videos of their presentations online, so that interested schools can view them and see what the authors' speaking styles are like. And I used these videos as examples for WOW! students on how to create engaging and interactive presentations for kids. 

Recently, I was listening to the Jen Hatmaker podcast and her guest was HEAVEN TAYLOR-WYNN from MediaWise, a media literacy project that aims to teach 1 million teens how to sort fact from fiction online by 2020. (This really does have to do with videos and YouTube, just bear with me...). During the interview, the following exchange took place:

Jen Hatmaker: One thing I know as a mom of five teens and just post-teens is that... they are inhaling videos. That is absolutely how my kids are getting their information. Is this what you're seeing?

Heaven: Yeah, well like you just said, it's hard for not just teens but for adults as well—it's so much content, so much information coming at us all the time. But some new research just came out recently from Common Sense Media, and they concur with what you're finding. Teens are getting most of their information from social media and from YouTube. 
So, in the class I just taught, I suggested to WOW! students that making a YouTube video of yourself presenting or speaking or even reading your books is a great idea. If you're a young adult author, you should be making videos and posting them to Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter. (Teens are not on Facebook. Facebook is for us old people.)

Look, I am giving this advice, and this is how many videos I have made: 0.

But V-I-D-E-O is written up on my dream/goal board now, and I know it's something that Angela and I have talked about for social media: Instagram stories and FacebookLive and more. So many videos and information are free out there; and if you want people to pay for your books or your speaking or your class, then you're probably going to need to give them a taste of what you're like because you can be sure that some other author is doing that already.

I'll be honest--this video craze scares me--I'll have to shower and put on makeup!  But we've all heard the quote from Dune about fear being a mindkiller, so join with me and let's try to make some videos and further our careers.

The YouTube addict is pictured above...:) 
The next School Visits and Author Talks for Children’s and YA Writers and Illustrators starts on October 16 and ends before Thanksgiving and the crazy holiday season. If you are a children's or YA author, giving these talks is a must for your marketing plan. Sign up here. Find out more about Margo on her site.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

 

Fake News: The Importance of Reliable Sources

Recently I was listening to a panel discussion on writing young adult nonfiction. Participants were asked about doing research in the age of fake news. I literally laughed out loud when I heard that phrase. Clearly the moderator thought of fake news as a contemporary problem. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sefton Delmer was a British journalist who created fake radio news broadcasts to demoralize loyal Nazis. His work is considered fake news vs. espionage because he didn't work for the military or government. Read his story here in the Smithsonian magazine.

During the Civil War, the New York Herald reported that George Washington's remains had been removed from Mt. Vernon. The paper was forced, by the Mount Vernon Association, to print a retraction. You can read that story, on the Mount Vernon web site, here.

In 1835, The New York Sun even published a story about the discovery of life on the moon. There were even illustrations of humanoids with bat like wings. See that story that includes this fake news account as well as nine more at the Social Historian.

My point is that we treat fake news like it is something new, an Internet phenomenon. Rumors and lies are just as easy to find in print, both contemporary and historic, as they are to find online. That is why it is so important to learn to do solid research. Here are four tips to help you find more accurate material.

1. Pay attention to your sources. The Smithsonian is going to be a more reliable source than The Enquirer. That's an extreme dichotomy but I hope you see what I mean. A publisher or publication with a reputation for accurate work is going to work to maintain that reputation.

2. Pat attention to your authors. An anonymous piece is going to be less trustworthy than something by a noteworthy journalist for the same reason that a reliable publisher is more accurate. Also pay attention to the author’s expertise. A historian will likely know more about history than economics unless they are an economic historian.

3. Multiple sources. Look for multiple sources on your topic. This isn't full proof because ten sources that all get an incorrect fact from the same place will still be wrong even if they agree. That's why it is important to look for different types of and even competing sources. When you can find competing press that agrees about something, it is more likely to be fact.

4. Recent sources. A retraction or correction will be more recent. So try to find materials produced over a period of time including those created more recently. Recent scientific findings can also make a big difference even if your topic is history. Genetics are making a big impact in a wide variety of fields.

Good research takes a lot of work. As you do your research, remember that biased sources have always been a problem. The more research you do, the more likely you are to have an accurate picture of an event, person or topic even if your topic is fake news.

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins September 23rd, 2019.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

 

Interview with Linda Petrucelli, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Linda likes to write about people at the end of their rope, people who are in trouble, who mess up, but still find open a doorway to grace. Her story, “Figure Eight on the Waves,” won first place in the WOW! Women on Writing Fall ’18 Flash Fiction Contest. Her poetry and fiction appear in the Spring 2019 issue of KYSO Flash and Flash Fiction Magazine. Linda writes from her home on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island. These days she’s working on a memoir about her search for Shiro Sokabe, the Saint of Honomu. You can find her flash fiction at jackrabbitfiction.com.

----------interview by Renee Roberson



Read Linda's award-winning story here and then return to learn more about her writing process and where she finds inspiration.

WOW: Your story, “Figure Eight on the Waves,” placed first in WOW’s 2018 Fall Flash Fiction Contest. How was the process of writing “Poi Dog” different from the writing of your previous win?

Linda: “Figure Eight on the Waves” was inspired by a vintage swath of cloth I discovered at a yard sale. When I picked it up, its beauty and utilitarian artistry sent tingles through my fingertips. The cloth took on a life of its own as I envisioned the stories of all the people who came into contact with it. The characters and their lives just flowed from my pen and it was if I could hear the voice of the narrator in my head.

The telling of “Poi Dog” (and to be honest, the majority of my writing) wasn’t nearly so fluent. The story of the relationship between the grandmother and granddaughter made multiple appearances in my journal. It took several weeks to craft the story, and finally I re-wrote it in 1st person POV after struggling with it in the 3rd person. In fact, I’m still tinkering with the ending!

There is also a similarity between the two stories—the humble majesty of fabric. To me, textiles, an art traditionally but not exclusively practiced by women, is a powerful symbol of the inextricable warp and woof of humanity.

WOW: You write a lot of flash fiction and even have a blog designated to showcasing it. What attracts you to this form of writing specifically?

Linda: Flash fiction’s brevity appeals to the minimalist in me—and the appreciation that short works of art can deliver a sharper punch than long ones. It’s also fun to see that what I leave out from a story may be more significant than what I include.

Word restriction, the hallmark of flash fiction, seems to help my storytelling. The compression creates tension that as a beginning writer of fiction, I might clumsily dilute in a longer form. There’s a lot I like about short-shorts—nowadays, there’s so many forums to read them and so many great writers. I especially like that the form encourages innovation and experimentation.

WOW: Do you prefer reading fiction or nonfiction and why?

Linda: This is impossible for me to answer as an either or—I just love to read. And I include poetry in my reading list, too. This year I have been reading a lot of memoir, as I’ve been studying and learning how to write that genre. I’ve found that the best memoirs I’ve read all utilize narrative techniques. Fiction does transport me into a world. I love that experience of being immersed in a character’s life, a place, a time. But nonfiction has that power, too.

WOW: That is so true. I believe it's important for us all to read a variety of literature--even things we normally wouldn't be drawn to at first. From the opening lines of “Poi Dog,” the voice of the main narrator is innocent yet authentic. Where did you first get the idea for this story?

Linda: The basis of this story was autobiographical and made several appearances in my writer’s journal before it came to its present form. The story’s origin evolved from childhood experiences of being bullied and the spiritual grace of my grandmother. I used to sleep on a pull-out couch in the front room of her tiny apartment and just before I would drift off to sleep, I could hear her pray for me in Italian. My imagination was also sparked by the Hawaiian tutu I know from my church—their humor, their faith, their stalwart love of family—who also reminded me of my own grandmother.

WOW: You’ve mentioned before that you enjoy entering contests specifically with critiques. As a writer, what do you look for in a good writing critique from a judge?

Linda: I tend not to trust critiques that overpraise or sugarcoat a response. I like judges that can point out deficiencies and then make suggestions for how I might fix the problem and improve the story. I appreciate judges who can comment on the big picture by pointing out concrete details in the manuscript.

Some of the most probing critiques I’ve received simply asked a few questions about my purpose in telling the story. Always appreciated is an encouraging word and the attitude that we’re in this together.

WOW: Linda, thank you so much for this insightful interview and we can't wait to read more of your work!

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Monday, September 09, 2019

 

Querying Magazines: A Case Study




After freelancing for a certain lifestyle magazine in my area for more than 10 years, I received the opportunity to go work for it as the editor. As you can imagine, I was elated. I love working in the editorial capacity, and since this was a magazine I was familiar with (and I had worked with the publisher and creative director before on other magazines) the transition has been fairly seamless.

Part of my job as the editor is to take the different departments of the publication, consider the month’s theme, and put it all together like the pieces of a puzzle. I have a stable of local freelance writers and columnists I work with, and occasionally new writers query with story ideas. If you’re considering pitching an article to a magazine, here is an example of the stories I would look for in our various departments in Lake Norman CURRENTS.

Channel Markers. This is a section in the front of the book (FOB) where we feature interesting people and places, usually three to four short articles that run 300-400 words. Within this section we have “For the Long Run,” and “Bet You Didn’t Know.” Examples of past “For the Long Run” sections include an article on a long-standing hot-air balloon festival, a performing arts center or a local cycling shop that has a long history of promoting advocacy in the community. “Bet You Didn’t Know” is a section the previous editor enjoyed writing, but because it involves history of our community (and I’m not all that into history), I’d be happy to outsource it if a writer came to me with an idea.

Another section I accept queries for is called Game On. This is a feature-length article (about 600-650 words) related to either sports (NASCAR racing is big in our area), or it could be something different like an article we ran on a local female founder of a competitive chess league or someone who wins an academic competition.

There’s also Dwellings (600-650 words), which is a section that normally features home stories like renovations, custom homes, luxury lake living, etc. We often have builders and interior designers present us with projects, and we tell the story behind the project.

Navigators can be a feature on movers and shakers in our community, and it also runs 600-650 words.

Because our magazine features only local content, I normally only accept queries from writers that are in the general distribution area of the magazine, so I expect them to be familiar with the magazine and know what type of story has been run recently so they don’t duplicate their queries.

I hope this overview is helpful in showing you how an editor puts together a magazine and how the individual sections are broken out. If you study a magazine and see a specific section never has a byline on it, you can assume someone from the editorial staff is in charge of writing it. But features and other FOB articles are typically fair game.

Drop any questions you have about magazine querying in the comments below!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor of Lake Norman CURRENTS. She’s also worked in the editorial capacity for Little Ones and Charlotte Parent. Renee has also penned hundreds of online and print magazine articles during her career. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.

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Sunday, September 08, 2019

 

Interview with Wayne Scheer, Runner Up in Q3 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He’s published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories. His short story, "Zen and the Art of House Painting" has been made into a short film.

Wayne, originally from New York, lives with his wife in Atlanta, Georgia.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Wayne: Honestly? The chance to win some money. I thought “A Quiet Man” was a pretty good essay and I believed it had a chance of breaking the top three. I guess not. I subbed a short story to the WOW fiction contest a while back, “Blind Date,” and it won Second Place, so I thought I had a pretty good chance. (I won't mention the stories I sent that never made the cut at all.)

WOW: : In your entry, “A Quiet Man” you’ve captured the universal in your specifics, and your writing is wonderful. What inspired you to write this essay?

Wayne: Firstly, thanks. I appreciate compliments about my writing.

I read a poem by Beverly Head which employs the image of an orderly cemetery with all the crosses and tombstones neatly arranged in contrast to the chaos of real life. The image stayed with me and it turned into a nonfiction essay about my father. As I was writing, long suppressed memories rose to the surface, some involving tears. That's how I knew I was on to something. I've written and rewritten this piece a number of times.

When I began writing, I doubt I thought it would be a nonfictional account of my father and my relationship. I tend to use real people as starting off points and fictionalize from there. This time, something inside me said to stay honest. Mostly. My son wants people to know his hair wasn't really specked with white when I wrote this story originally. I took poetic license to show the passing of time. I figure that's the creative part of creative nonfiction. (His beard is now showing specks of white.)

WOW:  You’ve written fiction and nonfiction in various forms and lengths. Do you find one more challenging than the others? Are you drawn to one form more than the others?

Wayne: I believe the best of my fiction is mostly true, if not factually so, and the best of my nonfiction, though factually true, embroiders the edges of reality, as Mark Twain might have said, to pretty it up. So I don't necessarily distinguish between truth from fiction. That's a journalist's job. When I write, I'm focused on the truth of the characters and their situation. If I have to employ fictional techniques to get at the truth, so be it.

My writing has become shorter and shorter through the years, to the point where I now write mostly poetry. I like the short form because it forces me to think in terms of specific details and images to show my characters or tell their stories. Which means any plans I may have had to write a novel are on hold.

Since I mentioned Twain earlier let me refer to something he reportedly wrote, although I've seen the gist of this attributed to others. At the end of a long letter to a friend, he supposedly apologized for the letter's length, explaining if he had more time he would have made the letter shorter.

WOW:  Can you tell us what writing projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Wayne: I'm nearing 74, so I don't make long-term plans. My goal right now is to keep writing, whether it's poetry or fiction or nonfiction. I've also been spending a lot of time reviewing old stuff and revising. Fortunately, my next meal doesn't depend upon me selling a story, so I can just have fun playing with words.

What can you plan on seeing from me in the future? When I see it, you'll see it. But chances are it will be a revision of a first draft I wrote ten or fifteen years ago.

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

Wayne: This comes from Jack Kerouac's novel, Big Sur. “Always pull back—and see how silly we look to God.”

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

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Saturday, September 07, 2019

 

The Importance of Timing... Or is it something else?

I began this post thinking of how important timing is--being in the right place at the right time. Then I dabbled with the word kismet and destiny. But then I landed on the word I was circling around: serendipity.



Recently I've been showered by a series of serendipitous mini-meteors, and the above picture truly depicts what I've been feeling lately. In my mind I'm perched on the edge of an overhang, gazing at the sky for some sign--a sign showing me the way. Here are the three signs that have shot towards me from across the sky:

A book--More than a year ago, a teacher friend went to a national conference. She brought home a couple of suitcases full of free books (the NCTE conference is famous for this; educators stand in line to get the chance to circle the convention hall so they can fill their book bags). One of them was for me.

The book she snagged for me was a YA novel on the same historical event that I was writing about. I was thrilled and grateful. However, I told her I wouldn't read it until after I was finished with my first draft, because I didn't want my writing to be influenced by this author.

After my 4th draft was finally finished, I read the novel... and I loved it. I've been battling against the idea that since I'm not African American, I can't create an African American protagonist (from an era 100 years ago). This writer (white) wrote a novel that focuses on two characters, and one of them is black. However, the book was published before the #ownvoices movement was born.

This book made me fall in love with the characters, which in turn made my love for my character become even stronger.

Encouraging Comments--I cannot say enough about the power of encouraging words. Writers deal with heaps of rejection on a regular basis, so when they receive a comment on their blog or an email that nudges them forward, it's incredible.

Not long ago, I got several emails and heartwarming comments on my blog that was like a string of life preservers. I was on the brink of surrendering. Thanks to everyone who sent kind words my way.

A Nibble--A few simple words such as, "Thank you for your interest in our small publishing company. We would like to see more of your manuscript. Please send us a copy of your completed work for consideration at your earliest convenience," has sent me over the moon.

That was back in July. Now I wait... and hope that a shooting star soon comes hurtling towards me with more than a nibble. 



Sioux is a freelance writer (occasionally), a middle school teacher (constantly) and a dog rescuer (sometimes). She's seeking a publishing contract or the representation of an agent--whichever comes first. If you'd like to find more about what Sioux's writing, check out her blog.


Thursday, September 05, 2019

 

Leggings and Memoirs

Did you ever notice everyone has an opinion about leggings? They are pants, they aren't pants, they're only for thin people, old people shouldn't wear them, and the list goes on...

I've found people seem to feel the same about memoirs: write your story, don't write your story, not everyone is a writer, no one is going to read that, oh how boring, etc...

The fact of the matter is you can wear leggings whenever and wherever you wish and as long as you love the way you look and feel, it's nobody's business! As far as sharing your life story, the same holds true - if you have a story to tell and you feel comfortable sharing it, you go ahead and do it with confidence!

There are always going to be people who turn their nose up at your story (or who don't like the look of your rear end in a pair of leggings), but for every person who isn't interested, there's someone who can't wait to get their hands on your memoir.

I recently read How to Become a Heroic Writer by Jerry Waxler and if you are looking for practical advice on writing and sharing your story, this is an excellent place to start. As far as leggings go - I'll let you do your homework on that! Here's a little more about Jerry's book:

In the 21st century, many of us feel the stirring of an audacious challenge. We want to ride the waves of global communication by writing compelling stories, articles, and essays. To complete and publish such works, we need courage, tenacity, good habits and hope. Throughout history, we have admired such qualities in our heroes. In the 21st century, science offers practical methods to help us achieve these qualities for ourselves. The techniques described in this book draw from the author’s lifelong search for the science and art of becoming a writer. The explanations and exercises, originally developed for students in his writing workshops, will guide you on your quest. “Using skillfully crafted anecdotes and thoughtful writing prompts, Waxler inspires and motivates veteran as well as novice writers to examine themselves and in the process face the world with renewed confidence.” Ed Krizek, author of Afterlife and Other Stories “Waxler demystifies the inner demons I battle daily and offers practical advice and exercises to break down the author-reader connection into bite-size pieces I can digest at my own pace.” Kerry Gans, fiction writer and author of The Goose's Quill Heroic Writer together with Jerry’s Memoir Revolution, shows how writing offers safe ways to explore the past while creating new memories, behavior and mental models for the future.” Nancy Lubow, PhD, Art Therapist


Now - here's a little pep-talk as our time together comes to a close:

Life is too short to worry about the opinions of others. Confidence is sexy - so whether you are sharing your story, rocking a new outfit, or just living your authentic life, if you do it with confidence and love yourself, you'll find other people are drawn to you. If you are waiting for other people to believe in you before you put on that confident smile, you'll be waiting forever...you can never make everyone happy - so just please yourself!

We here at WOW! are waiting to hear your story and help you share your story with the world - regardless of genre! (and...I'm rocking a pair of leggings and boots today - because I can!)

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, Auntie, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, 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 12, Andre 11, Breccan 5, Delphine 4, and baby Eudora who somehow turns 2 later this year), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

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



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Wednesday, September 04, 2019

 

Forest Bathing and A Really Good Idea

I am a big believer in forest bathing, or what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest.”

I should explain that it doesn’t mean I’m lathering up amongst the trees. It also doesn’t mean that I’m using a guide to help me navigate through this form of nature therapy as the Japanese are wont to do.

For me, forest bathing is more like unplugging somewhere in a natural setting and usually, having a walkabout. It may be hiking somewhere green and lush with lots of wooded trails. But when I’m spending time at the beach, my forest bathing involves traipsing around the island. And one of my favorite spots is the dirt and shell-strewn road that runs in front of my house.

The road borders a tidal creek and leads to a bridge where the gate prevents trespassers but where you can see the creek widen, eventually feeding into the Atlantic Ocean. I take Libs for her daily constitutional down this road and as it dead ends into the gate, we don’t see a lot of people. We see a lot of tiny fiddler crabs or herons in the scraggly trees, but it’s a pretty quiet and peaceful walk. And what at home takes about five minutes, here on this road with what I assume are tons of delightful smells, a half hour is a pretty typical jaunt for us. So I have this daily meandering time, and my mind is meandering, too, and as the days passed, I started to have this idea.

It was just a small idea at first but then it grew. Every day, something new cropped up, adding to this story that was growing in my head. But here’s the thing: I didn’t want an idea growing in my head. I had made up my mind that I was not writing another thing until I had sent out my last manuscript and really worked at it. Or at least sent it to four or five publishers.

But you can’t stop the creative mind from what it wants and apparently my mind wanted to get started on this new story because every day on my walk, there it was again. The last manuscript be damned, I had an almost completely plotted out new manuscript in my head. Time to start writing!

And yet, something did stop me, something about my story that seemed…well, it seemed such a good idea that I wondered how someone else hadn’t come up with it already. I mean, I’m a little paranoid now about writing something that’s already out there as you might recall from this post, so I hit the pause button.

That afternoon after my walk, I pulled out my phone and Googled good stories that might already be out there that were similar to the such-a-good-idea in my head.

And there it was. Not exactly, but close enough: the same conflict, the high concept, the drama and pathos and humor. My brain had more or less written a blockbuster!

Aquaman. I’d come up with Aquaman.

I’ve never seen Aquaman. I have seen the trailer, the same trailer that was apparently lurking in my mind, biding its time to influence my creative thought process through my daily forest bathing on a road along a tidal creek leading to the Atlantic Ocean.

Anyway, I’m still a big fan of forest bathing for finding great ideas. I still believe in the creative and healing power of unplugging from our digital world and letting our natural world fill our senses. But I do recommend a little research before you start writing. Especially if you have a really good idea. And yeah, I know. I should start sending out that old manuscript. But it’s not nearly as good as Aquaman.


~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

 

Interview with Patricia Donovan, Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest 1st Place Winner

Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist and author of two novels of domestic suspense published by Lake Union: At Wave’s End (2017) and Deliver Her (2016). She has nearly completed a third, Her Own Best Interests, a family drama with a dose of medical intrigue set on Spain’s Costa del Sol. The story follows burnt-out social worker Aida Bischoff, who, while in Marbella for her husband’s medical conference, grapples with the disappearance of a wealthy American surgeon, the five-year-old daughter the surgeon left in Aida’s care, and a loved one’s baffling illness whose origins threaten to infect Aida’s marriage.

Her short story, “Still Life,” was awarded second place in Women on Writing’s Winter 2018 Flash Fiction competition, and her fiction has appeared in several literary journals. She is a member of the Jersey Shore Writers and enjoys mentoring aspiring writers, including several whose work has been recognized in recent WOW! Women on Writing contests.

Patricia and her husband have two grown daughters and live at the Jersey shore with Diesel, their senior-aged Yorkie. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit patriciaperrydonovan.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Patricia: I’m a huge fan of WOW! Women on Writing contests—-so much so I encourage several writers I mentor to enter. I’m proud to say all have made it through at least the first round of elimination. WOW contest genre choices, word count, entry fee, contest frequency and limit on the number of entries make it very attractive proposition for writers. And with its framework of writing craft and writer interviews, WOW! offers a supporting and inspiring haven for women writers.

WOW: Thank you for the kind words about WOW! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Everyday”?

Patricia: My second novel, AT WAVE’S END, was inspired by living through Hurricane Sandy at the Jersey Shore. The novel ends about a year following the storm, but the real story didn’t end there. Even today, six years later, storm survivors struggle to reclaim their homes. Some renovated from the ground up, only to move out again for six or nine months in order to elevate their updated homes and avoid astronomical flood insurance premiums. “The Everyday” is a reflection on not letting life’s disappointments ruin the small joys.

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

Patricia: Besides the instant gratification of writing a shorter piece, flash is an exercise in brevity, clarity and pacing, forcing you to tell a compelling story in abbreviated form. Flash also hones your editing skills as you carve away the non-essential. I’ve whittled down longer stories and even outtakes from my novels to flash fiction.

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?

Patricia: For several years I rose early to write fiction, churning out a thousand words before heading to work. However, life changes in the last year have freed more time in my day for writing. This is not always a good thing, as I create best under pressure! In this new life order, I first “warm up” with coffee, a few inspirational readings and a ten-minute journaling session. I often hit 500 words during these timed sessions. That output is more introspective than fiction, and so plants seeds for future essays. Then, after a workout (biking, running or yoga), I settle in for three or four hours of writing fiction.

As to when and where I usually write, I’m striving to adopt the “laptop lifestyle” and work wherever life takes me. If I’m honest, however, I do my best writing at my desk, at home, in silence, with only the white noise of our Yorkie gently snoring at my feet.

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

Patricia: Yes…by all means enter them, but judiciously. Contests foster hope, acclimate you to deadlines, and thicken the writer’s skin because yes, there’s plenty of rejection! Even while working on a novel, I usually have two or three entries in contention. I view contests as kind of like running a 5K race while training for a marathon. However, don't just enter to enter. Make sure your story is the best it can be before hitting “Submit.”

Before entering a contest, I read previous winning entries, and, importantly, familiarize myself with the judge’s background and literary tastes. I also maintain a spreadsheet of contests and stories entered and/or submitted, along with results, so I don’t make the mistake of submitting the same piece twice. (Yes, this happened.) According to my spreadsheet, I entered my first contest in 2013. Since then, I’ve entered more than seventy contests.

If you are on a tight budget, don’t be deterred by entry fees. There are many free contests and/or publications to submit to in the hopes of building publishing cred. Good luck to all the aspiring writers out there!


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

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Monday, September 02, 2019

 

Letting Go of the Writer I Thought I'd Be By Now



There's a song that I really love that is called, "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again." The line I wanted to share with you all goes,

"Yesterday's a closing door. You don't live there anymore." (You can listen to the rest of it here).

Have you ever gotten caught up with where you feel like you should be with your writing? Like of course you should be published with a three-book contract by now. Of course your book should've been optioned for a movie already. Of course you should've won that [insert literary prize here]. Worse yet is comparing yourself to other writers who have achieved those things and thinking to yourself, "What's so wrong with me that I can't do that too?"

I think sometimes we get caught up with comparing ourselves to an internal benchmark. Sometimes that benchmark is someone else's success you strive to match. Sometimes that benchmark is from a childhood dream (that you are certain you thought you'd achieve by now). Sometimes those benchmarks come from our own favorite authors (the whole "if that author can do it, so can I").

If I could go back and tell my teenage self anything it would've been to focus on writing and finishing short stories. I would have told my 15-year-old self that short stories will help her get to know herself as a writer and figure out her writing strengths and weaknesses. Sadly, my 15-year-old self would have been offended at my advice and wouldn't listen to me. So, there you have it.

It's one thing to have dreams and goals. It's another thing to hang onto the disappointment those dreams and goals haven't happened yet. Growing up, maybe you thought you'd be a published novelist by now. And instead, you are struggling through the outline of a book you aren't even sure of yet. Or maybe you are struggling to get just one short story published. But you know what? There's no reason to be disappointed by where you are at right now. Sure, my former 15-year-old self may balk at the fact that I ditched that fantasy novel she worked so hard on, but she can relax in knowing that we're in a much better place writing-wise than we were before.

So today, appreciate your journey. Appreciate where your writing has taken you, because even the side roads that send us off into a ditch are lessons to learn. Because that's how life is, right? Things are either lessons or blessings. I may not be the published novelist I thought I'd be right now, but I am satisfied with where I am at. And I'm not saying that a novel won't be written and published one day but I promise to stop comparing myself to others and comparing myself to where I thought I should be by now. And right now I have a short story in mind I'd like to finish and another I want to revise. And that's a pretty good place to be.

Say hi to Nicole over at her Twitter account @BeingTheWriter or follow her book blog at The World of My Imagination.



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Sunday, September 01, 2019

 

Meet Natalie Beisner - Runner Up in the 2019 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "Morning After Text" !

Congratulations to Natalie Beisner and Morning After Text... and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!


Natalie's Bio:

Until very recently, Natalie was too chickenshit to call herself a writer...mostly because she was too chickenshit to actually write anything. This year, however, marked a milestone birthday for her, and in lieu of freaking the f out, she found herself scouring the worldwide web for writing contests she might enter. As all well-adjusted women do on the eve of their thirtieth birthdays. This contest was the first one that caught her eye, and this essay was the first one she wrote. After that, her essay Younger Selves placed top three in Kaleidoscope WoJo’s writing competition. She is currently taking classes via WOW! with Chelsey Clammer (whom she can’t recommend enough). Natalie received her BFA in Theatre from Cal State Fullerton and resides in Los Angeles. She’s tremendously grateful to the editors, judges and all the women at WOW! for acknowledging her work and her decision to finally make her voice heard.

If you haven't done so already, check out Natalie's moving story Morning After Text... and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Natalie! Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Morning After Text ?

Natalie: I think I would like for readers to take away or gain whatever it is that they happen to take away or gain (or not!). In other words, I'll humbly let my essay speak for itself and speak to those readers that it's going to speak to--which won't be everyone, I'm sure! I will say that I turned 30 this year, and I wrote the piece mostly for myself and the girl I was in my teens and throughout my twenties (and still sometimes am). If it happens to speak to anyone else out there who's every felt ignored, abandoned or rejected, then I'm really so honored.

WOW: Fair enough - I always tell people there's something awesome with age - you start caring less and less about what others think. As someone who is over 40, let me tell you, it gets even better! I love your message!

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

Natalie: Right now my writing space is my bed--and a twin bed at that! I'd love to have a full-fledged magical writing space--or even just a desk!--someday very soon. I love the idea of creating a sacred space, but I also believe that anywhere we create is a sacred space. The place becomes sacred by the very act of you creating in that space. Having now written more than a couple essays on my bed, I think we can probably write anywhere. I think that for a very long time, I used the fact that I didn't have "a place to write" as an excuse to...well, not write. But now that I've started taking classes and writing consistently, I know I can write with the space I have. I can make it work. And now that I've actually started writing, I'm motivated to make that desk/sacred writing space a reality. But it's nice to know that I don't need it to succeed.

WOW: That's funny you bring that up - and one of the reasons I actually ask that question is because of my dream to someday have a beautiful sacred writing space...hasn't happened for me yet either! 

...laughing...

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

Natalie: My goal is to keep writing. I used to write when I was much younger but rarely--if ever--shared what I wrote with more than a family member or two. I never would've dreamed of sharing publicly--on the internet or otherwise. Now that I've started doing it, I don't want to stop! I want to keep writing, and I want to keep sharing. I'm currently taking classes via WOW! (with Chelsey Clammer who's an awesome writer and teacher!), and I plan to continue. I plan to enter more contests with WOW! and am going to start submitting my essays to journals. Eventually I'd love to complete a book of essays, a novel and a play :)

WOW: I'm sure we will be hearing more from you and I'm so happy to hear you agree that Chelsey is awesome!

Do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you?

Natalie: As it pertains to writing, the advice I would give to my younger self would be to "just do it." That goes for so many things in life, I guess. But particularly with writing--I wish I would've started writing and sharing much more consistently much earlier in life. I believe in divine timing, so I'm at peace with the fact that I've only just now started to even dabble in publicly sharing my writing (in fact Morning After Text was the first piece of writing I'd ever shared online!), but...to any other young writers out there--or writers of any age really!--I would definitely say "just do it." Just write something and share it. And then keep doing that. I still have a lot to learn about writing, and I still have a long way to go as far as sharing my work, but I understand now that for my whole life, I was waiting to be "perfect" or "good enough" or "ready" or "impressive," and I also understand now that that day is never going to come where I feel all or even any of those things. It's always going to be at least a little scary, but so much of writing is meant to be shared with others. It feels so good!

WOW: Thank you again Natalie - and I have a feeling this is not good-bye, just so long until the next set of contest winners are announced! Congratulations and see you soon!!

Hugs,
~Crystal


Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!


Check out the latest Contests:

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