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Thursday, October 17, 2019


Am I Ready For a Rocking Chair?

I turned 60 this past summer. No big party (thank goodness). My family thankfully listened to me about what I wanted, and we had a great dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.

No huge gala, but a huge pause. Things start happening after 60. Bad things.

Sixty is the time when people start perusing the obituaries... They create a bucket list and tally up all the things they haven't done yet... At that age, some people slow down.

I saw a story about a man named Ray Boutwell. He's 93 and just launched his "boozy cupcake" bakery business. It's going so well, he's expanding into the space next-door.

"I'm gonna make ice cream... on the level of Ben and Jerry."

According to him, working gets his blood going. It's obvious he wouldn't dream of slowing down, or truly retiring.

Several things get my blood going: teaching, writing and traveling.


Four years ago I retired from public school teaching, and immediately began my second teaching "career" with the local archdiocese. I'll continue working with students until 1) I no longer enjoy it 2) I'm no longer an effective educator or 3) I'm no longer able to do it.


(Yeah, I'm saving the best--or at least the most imporant to me--for last.)

I've been to France three times. I've done a bit of traveling in the U.S. I've been to Turkey twice, a couple of evenings in Spain, and circumnavigated Iceland in a homemade sailboat that I handled all on my own on a cruise ship. This next summer I'm heading to the islands north of Scotland, and I'd love to go to Greece, Ireland and Italy, too. My son and daughter-in-law have put down Japan as their #1 choice when it comes to where they're stationed--after next year. If they get their wish, I'll have a free place to stay in Japan.


When I was younger, I wanted there to be a book--any book--on bookstore shelves with my name on it.

Now I'm driven to get a particular book published. I've been submitting it to agents and publishers, I've been shot down with form rejections as well as complimentary, "thanks but no thanks" emails. Getting this story into book form gets my blood going. I've cried over some of the obstacles. I've been bolstered by emails and blog comments and beta readers' reviews. I'm determined not to head to a permanent rocking chair until this story somehow gets told.

I'd also like to get a few more Chicken Soup for the Soul stories published. So far there are 16 anthologies with my stories in them. I'm competitive (with myself, mostly). I almost always want more.

So if you consider yourself too old to begin a huge project like a novel, or a memoir... if you are saying to yourself, "Well, I'll probably be ___ years old whenever I finish the manuscript" so why bother... if you think of yourself as ready to slow down--maybe you need to speed  up. Maybe you need to remember that you'll be ___ years old whether you're working on achieving a dream or not.

 Get busy on what you want to do with the rest of your life. Time's a wastin'.

(And if you can't make it to Ray's Boozy Cupcakes, Etc. in New Jersey, check out these spiked cupcake recipes.)

Sioux Roslawski, on her trip this summer, found out that Icelandic people believe in trolls. This picture is proof that trolls do indeed exist.

She also believes in her WIP... and won't rest until it's published.

You can read more about Sioux on her blog.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019


It May Not Look Like Work...

Have you ever wondered if all that time spent on social media or even sallying forth to make actual live connections makes any difference in your writing career? I mean, here you are, hard at work, but does it matter? Really? And then I have a couple of weeks that feel like a genuine pat on the back.

The other night I spoke to a women’s group about my writing life and the circuitous journey I took to becoming the writer I am today. So I brought a lot of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books because my life stories are shared in those books. And I sold every last book!

But I wouldn’t have been at that meeting if a friend didn’t read my blog posts regularly and had the thought that I’d make a fun speaker for her group. And she wouldn’t haven’t seen my blog posts if I hadn’t shared them through my social media networks. I often tell people that I stay on my social media networks for work and they look at me funny, like “Come on, Cathy, we know you’re just there for the singing dogs.” Well, of course I’m there for the singing dogs. But I’m also there, working.

And then a few weeks ago, when my SCBWI region appeared at the Decatur Book Festival, I worked in our tent for promotion and hobnobbing and eventually, cleanup. A friend gave me a handful of big bottles of bubbles we didn’t use and asked me to take them to my church preschool.

So I dropped by to see the preschool director, an old friend and co-worker of mine, to give her the bubbles. And we talked about children’s books, naturally, and that mine were for Korean kids. But, I told her, my friend (the one who donated the bubbles) had a board book. “Give her my card,” she said. “We’d love to have her.” And my friend will be doing a story time in the next week, and will probably sell lots of books, too. So there we all were, connected in a friends-helping-friends way. But we were also working.

Also a few weeks ago, a writer friend was coordinating a panel presentation of kidlit authors and illustrators. But all she had signed on were picture book creatives. And I remembered that a friend of mine—a YA author—had recently moved back to my area. How did I know? I’d seen all her comings and goings on social media.

We needed a published author of novels and my friend was happy to help with the panel because she needed to get back in the writer swing of things. She had been using social media to let her friends know she was home, but yep, she was working, too.

So you never know, right? It might look like piddling around, being out there on social media. Or it might look like a long lunch with friends, or a delightful happy hour at a conference. But that’s work, y’all. I can’t help it if it looks like fun.

~Cathy C. Hall (Hard-at-Work)

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Interview with Martha Goddard, Runner Up in the WOW! Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Martha Goddard is a freelance writer, director and content creator for short and long-form drama. A graduate from the Australian Film Television and Radio School’s Masters programme, Martha has directed commercials, documentaries and award-winning short films that have screened at over thirty film festivals around the world. “Marigold” is Martha’s first work of flash-fiction but it’s definitely not her last, having recently discovered a passion for prose. Martha has a keen eye for the absurdity of modern life and enjoys writing about relatable, flawed female protagonists with a fiery spirit and a mischievous streak. Based in Brisbane, Australia, Martha is currently collaborating on a kids book series inspired by her curious two-year-old daughter. You can view more of Martha’s work at, or follow her on Instagram @mcgmartha.

Read Martha's captivating story, "Marigold," here and then return to learn more about the author.

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

WOW: Congratulations again, Martha, and welcome! One of the things that stands out the most about “Marigold” is how well developed the two main characters are. What was the revision process like as you worked to paint them so vividly?

Martha: The revision process involved a dogged whittling away of words until it was stripped back to the bare essentials. I had a lot of story I wanted to squeeze into 700 words. I started with 1,500. It’s such a discipline, how not to over-simplify the story itself but rather the way it’s told. Editing devours time. For me it can be double or triple what it takes to write the work itself.

WOW: I'm impressed that you were essentially able to cut this story in half! There is a definite art form to writing and editing flash pieces. What type of writing do you do as a content creator for short and long-form drama?

Martha: Primarily it involves screenwriting short or feature length projects, pitch documents, project treatments and development notes. I’m currently working on two projects; All Our Eggs is a nine-part series of short fifteen-minute episodes about a couple’s five-year-journey through infertility, riding the highs and lows of IVF with lashings of dark humour. The other project is a feature length screenplay, a science-fiction love story. Both projects are self-initiated works that have attracted development funding through various state and national filmmaking initiatives. Writing prose and flash-fiction is something new for me.

WOW: Those both sound like amazing works-in-progress. I'm curious as to how were you drawn into writing flash fiction, as it differs from the type of work you normally do?

Martha: I was gifted an online creative writing course for Christmas last year. At first, I was hesitant - I’m a time-poor new mum juggling freelance work, the last thing I needed was more pressure on my time, right? But I had to use it or lose it. And I loved it! The course was a wonderful opportunity to fill up the creative tank and learn a new skill, focusing on descriptive prose which is very different to screenwriting. The structure of the course helped enormously, and I created a host of new characters, like Marigold and Tiger, some of which I hope to keep developing. I’m now inspired to continue writing flash fiction, it’s a great way to road-test new ideas or characters, and to be playful with form.

WOW: I love this. I feel like these types of gifts are so welcome to writers at any level, because they can learn new forms, as you did. (Hint, hint to any partners/friends/loved ones of writers out there reading this interview!) We’d love to hear more about the children’s book series you’re currently collaborating on. Could you tell us a little about how that process is going?

Martha: The Adventures of Ellie and Alfred is a kid’s picture book series inspired by having a two-year-old daughter Evie, who LOVES books. She recites lines and imitates characters. It’s gosh-darn cute but more than that, she is a sponge right now, absorbing the attitudes, themes and expectations depicted within these books. They matter. And because we buy a lot of second-hand books from thrift stores, I’ve been confronted with example of outdated gender-roles and cultural limitations. Yes, there are some timeless gems in the mix but also a lot of problematic messaging. I got talking about this with a friend over lunch who happens to be an insanely talented artist and illustrator, Danielle O’Brien. We started brainstorming ideas for a story that blurs gender roles and embraces diversity. Something that explores a range of textured, artistic expressions for big emotions that kids might have a hard time putting into words. Feelings like frustration, rejection, anticipation, love. Then we created our leading lady, Ellie. She’s a bright, imaginative, trickster full of big ideas that sparks wayward adventures with her neighbour, Alfred. Set in their backyards with Ellie’s two dads, Alfred’s single mum and a pen full of chickens as supporting characters. Once we agreed on an idea for our first story, I completed a written draft for Danielle to work with. I really appreciate how picture books depend so much on the images to capture a child’s imagination so it’s an entirely collaborative process from this point on. The way her images reveal story, directly affects the way I revise the text. We’re thrilled to see the first draft taking shape.

WOW: That's so interesting about the outdated gender roles in the older picture books. Picture books like yours are definitely taking the industry by storm right now so best of luck to you and your illustrator friend! What advice would you offer to writers who are considering tackling the short story/flash fiction form?

Martha: Personally, my approach is to spend time developing the characters. I empathise with them, love them, and then try to give them absolute hell. I think it’s a truism of life that we often have to be pushed or pulled kicking and screaming towards meaningful change and emotional growth. But that’s also what’s so compelling to read or watch.

I’ve misplaced the source of this excellent advice, but I’ll share it anyway. For anyone having trouble making time to write - have an affair (with your writing). Sneak off, tell white lies if you have to, and gift yourself secret pockets of time in strange places. Whatever it takes to spark that hunger. And being time poor can mean there’s not enough time for your inner critic to get in the way. Works for me, (well, sometimes.)

WOW: Ah, I love that last bit of sage advice! Making time to write creatively is so rewarding when we finally get around to doing it--I love your suggestion to treat it as an illicit activity! May you continue to have a mutually beneficial love affair with your writing!

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Monday, October 14, 2019


Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark - Book Blog Tour, Author Interview, and Giveaway!

The tiny hamlet of Maravilla, New Mexico is not immune to modern-day problems. But the citizens of Maravilla have their own special problems, as well:

A developer wants to build a Christian-themed amusement park next to Maravilla’s historic church.

The county line runs right through the town, splitting it in two.

And the government is threatening to close their post office!

Into this muddle steps Jake Epstein, a young writer from the big city. Jake is seeking peace and quiet to finish his current project: a science fiction story in which adventuress Tai-Keiko must deliver the secret formula for Zeton-9—with the evil Krossarians in hot pursuit.

But then reality and science fiction converge—and Tai-Keiko finds herself in present-day Maravilla, face to face with a gobsmacked Jake.

Join Jake on this comic run along the dusty roads of Maravilla, and find out who won the fight between Father Ignatius and the heathen pig farmer. How a basketball game changed the fate of the town. And was that white flash in the sky a UFO?

Print Length: 195 Pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Beeline Press (June 19, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1645400646
ISBN-13: 978-1645400646

Welcome to Maravilla is now available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of the book Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on October 21st at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

About the Author
R. Douglas Clark was born in Vermont, grew up in Colorado, attended college in Chicago, and received a Master's degree in music from Brown University. Seeing no future for himself in academia, he spent a year in the Oregon woods, living in a primitive cabin, writing music reviews and cultural commentary for magazines and newspapers. Next stop, Eugene, Oregon where he spent 20 damp years as a bootstrap businessman, father and musician. On a vacation trip, he and his wife, Shelley, fell in love with sunny northern New Mexico and subsequently moved there. After four years running Boys and Girls Clubs in Chimayó and Abiquiú--and another four, running a U-pick raspberry farm--he retired to write fiction full time.

Find R. Douglas online:

Author Interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Thank you for being with us today and choosing WOW to help promote Welcome to Maravilla! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading more of your work. I'm sure you are an avid reader as well. Who is your favorite author?

R. Douglas: Please, don’t make me pick one! My standard is: will the book stand up to a second reading? I admire John Steinbeck for his gritty realism (The Grapes of Wrath) and his absurdist humor (Cannery Row). Too old school? Try Richard Price (Lush Life). Humor? Can’t beat Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. I love Zadie Smith for her intelligent and compassionate writing (Swing Time). I can’t get enough literary adventure, such as Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach or Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues. But favorite? Gotta go with Gabriel García Márquez. Man, what a writer!

WOW: It definitely is difficult to chose just one, isn't it? Thanks for sharing with us!

What or Whom has been most influential in your writing career and how so?

R. Douglas: I can divide the influences on my writing career into three parts: reading, writing and life experience. Reading taught me about the elements of fiction. Writing made me put in the work it takes to become an author (like anything else). Life experience provided the material I needed to have something to write about.

WOW: See? I guessed from the start you were an avid reader - now I'm hoping you'll share more secrets - what have you learned during the publishing process and what would you do differently next time or what advice do you have for others?

R. Douglas: The standard publishing model—based on sending a query letter and 25-or-so pages to a publisher—clearly doesn’t work. You wait forever to hear back, and you rarely do. At best, you get a form letter. The slush pile grows. There are too many writers seeking publishers, and too many publishers unwilling to take a chance on a new novelist. Going the route of signing up with an agent is hardly any better. Good agents are overwhelmed with manuscripts, too. Self-publishing? It’s going to cost you a couple of grand, either for the publishing or for the marketing, or both. My advice? Love the writing process. Join a writer’s group. Find an agent.

WOW: That's absolute great advice and you'll save me from asking one of my favorite questions which is how you feel about writer's groups - so let's get right to the future excitement: What’s next for you?

R. Douglas: I’m working on a new novel. And looking for an agent.

WOW: I'm sure it won't take long for you to find with all your talent! And last but not least - many of us struggle with finding the perfect space and I'm not sure it even matters, so give us a glimpse - What does your writing space look like?

R. Douglas: My writing space is a mess. There are piles of paper, books, a synthesizer, a printer, and a scanner. There is a desk, and in the middle of that, my computer. Behind me it is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, filled with books, old CDs, photographs, etc. But in front of me is a large window that looks out on a proliferation of bushes, trees and the blue, blue sky of New Mexico.

WOW: I'm sure others can relate to the messiness of your space - (myself included) - but it sounds like those blue skies can be pretty inspirational! And as our time comes to a close, thank YOU for being inspirational to others - and thank you so much for your time today - I'm sure readers will delight to learn more as they follow you through the tour. We look forward to your tour and future releases!

--- Blog Tour Dates

October 14th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Join us as we celebrate the launch the blog tour for author R. Douglas Clark’s book Welcome to Maravilla. Read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.

October 15th @ Book Santa Fe with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto shares her thoughts about the sci-fi book Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark.

October 16th @ Bring on Lemons with Carmen Otto
Middle Schooler Carmen Otto reviews R. Douglas Clark’s Welcome to Maravilla and explains to her friends why this is a great book for even young readers.

October 17th @ World of My Imagination
Nicole Pyles reviews Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark and delights readers at World of My Imagination with an opportunity to learn more about this fast-paced sci-fi novel!

October 17th @ Selling Books
Don’t miss today’s author interview with R. Douglas Clark as Cathy Stucker finds out more about his latest release Welcome to Maravilla.

October 21st @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Today’s guest author at Memoir Writer’s Journey is R. Douglas Clark with an article titled "Where I Live". Join Kathleen Pooler’s audience as they learn more about Clark and his latest book Welcome to Maravilla.

October 22nd @ To Write or Not To Write
Sreevarsha reviews Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clarks and delights readers at To Write or Not To Write with her thoughts about this excellent novel!

October 24th @ Look to the Western Sky
Visit Margo's blog today where you can catch today's author spotlight and learn more about R. Douglas Clark and his latest book Welcome to Maravilla.

October 25th @ A StoryBook World
Don’t miss today’s publicity post at A Storybook World as readers at Dierdra’s blog are introduced to Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark.

October 26th @ World of My Imagination
Learn more about R. Douglas Clark and his new book Welcome to Maravilla as he shares a few thoughts in an interesting interview with Nicole Pyles at World of My Imagination.

October 28th @ Breakeven Books
Today’s Book Spotlight at Breakeven Books is Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark – don’t miss this great opportunity to add this lovely new novel to your collection!

October 28th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews R. Douglas Clark about his latest novel Welcome to Maravilla. Readers will delight in learning more about this science fiction story with it’s courageous characters!

November 2nd @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina interview R. Douglas Clark about his latest novel Welcome to Maravilla

November 12th @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina shares his thoughts after reading Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark – don’t miss this review!

November 13th @ Bring on Lemons with Tara Forst
Wisconsin mother and book lover shares her review of R. Douglas Clark's latest Welcome to Maravilla with readers at Bring on Lemons.

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

To win a copy of the book Welcome to Maravilla by R. Douglas Clark, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on October 21st at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, October 13, 2019


What if...

This is a pretty morbid topic, but what if you die and no one finishes all those manuscripts you've been working on? What if your stories are never shared with the world?

What if...

An author friend of mine died unexpectedly, tragically, and much too young. I know he was always working on something. In fact, he would often let me know when he was mere chapters in that he would be in touch "in a few months" with a new manuscript. I know for a fact he left behind a wife and children as well as many beautiful unfinished stories. Oh what I wouldn't give to get my hands on his computer. Those stories will likely be forever lost and for that I am sad. It certainly gets my wheels spinning though. What happens to everything I've been working on if something happens to me tomorrow? I have a back-up plan for my children, my spouse, and even at work I have instructions written for someone who may have to take over. Why do we treat our writing any differently?

We talk about our books being our babies - and yet many of us have made no preparations to care for our 'book babies' after we pass on. Let that sink in for a bit...

What are things we should do to plan for our inevitable departure from this planet?
Who should we appoint to finish raising our book babies?

If you've made those important arrangements already, please share with those of us who haven't put those back-ups in place?

And on a brighter note, this is my favorite time of year and NO - I am not dying...I'm concentrating on living my very best life with a pumpkin spice latte' in hand and horse slobber on my sleeve!


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, two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, horses Princess and Paige, and over 250 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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Saturday, October 12, 2019


My Journey to Developing a Good Writing Habit

About a month ago, I found someone's blog post raving about Google calendar and how much it helps their life. I can't say I am of the same mind frame, although I do appreciate the tool on occasion. Intrigued, though, I went on a journey to the Google Calendar app on my phone and found an interesting area that lets you schedule something you want to be built into a habit. I scheduled a daily writing activity reminder (around 5:30 pm or so every day) so I would be nudged to write. I kept the reminder on my phone for about a month and didn't write a single bit. Not one word.

Add onto that, around the same time, I signed up to receive reminders from a website that would nudge me about writing that day and give me encouragement. Turns out, that didn't help me either.

Have you ever felt like you were helping yourself only it was making things worse? As much as I thought the extra reminders would help, they did the opposite. Around the beginning of October, I deleted the reminders and unsubscribed to the website. I've been writing fairly regularly since then.

In addition to removing those pesky reminders, I also did one huge thing. I removed the Twitter app off my phone. And Instagram. But Twitter is the bigger deal. As much as I enjoy the #WritingCommunity on Twitter and enjoy the platform in general, it wasn't helping me at all. The reminders, the notifications, the pull towards looking at bad news, and the endless scroll basically plummetted my energy level. Without me even realizing!

My writing habit has improved lately and I'm excited to keep going forward. If you are trying to unlock the secret to developing a good writing habit, consider what could be draining your energy, hurting your attempts, or distracting you too much. I never thought the little notification to write would do the opposite for me. I also never thought I'd uninstall my social media apps and see the benefits of doing so.

Sometimes it's the small things that take away from our energy level (which adds up to being the big things). Paying attention to stimuli can be a huge factor in identifying what isn't helping you stay motivated. So if you are trying to figure out how to work in your writing habit into your life, keep trying, keep tweaking, and keep writing.

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Friday, October 11, 2019


Friday Speak Out!: The Light Is Green. Go!

by Jeanine DeHoney

The title of this essay may throw you off. What does a green light have to do with writing you might be asking?

Well for me, it has a lot to do with it. You see lately I’ve been feeling as if I’m habitually stuck at a red traffic light when it comes to writing. There I am sitting in my car (computer chair) with my fingers on the steering wheel (computer keyboard) at a complete stop (writer’s block or perhaps self-imposed writer’s doubt in my abilities to go further in my career) waiting for the light to turn green so I could proceed on to my idyllic (finishing a manuscript, submitting my work, and getting published while writing fervently and passionately) writing journey.

But low and behold no matter how many horns are honking at me to go (my inspirers of family and friends who see my gift and the merit of my putting pen to paper and don’t want me to stop,) when the light changes to green instead of accelerating and following the yellow brick road of my dreams, I am stuck there seeing red. And I know with every part of my being that I shouldn’t be.

Writing is my soul nurturer, my skylight, my artistic side kick. Rising to write each day is a blood, sweat and tears move on days when you are dealing with a plethora of life’s problems, but it is also a chess move of faith, confidence, and beauty when you put your collage of words together to tell your story in a way only you can.

I’ve finally decided enough already. I’m tired of sitting at those red lights while everyone goes on their merry way. To get moving though I know there are some things, some people, and some ideas, I have to absolutely eliminate from my life. Things like distractions, from those reality television shows I watch, and surfing the internet for great deals, when I should be writing. And people; people who are toxic or negative and bring me down instead of lifting me/ my emotions and my craft up. They aren’t happy with themselves so they can never be happy for me, thus they will no longer be welcome in my space unless they change.

And unfruitful ideas, those critical thoughts that ruminate in my head before I sit down to write I must eradicate. For example, thinking my writing isn’t as perfect as others. It stops me from moving forward every time, so my new motto is, "my writing is perfect because it comes from my heart and my experiences." Though I can take notes from other writers I admire, I don’t have to compare myself to them. We each own our voice and all of its intonations however flawed, and each voice is as powerful as it is beautiful.

So, if you’ve feeling stuck at a red traffic light like I was, for whatever reason, the light is green. Remove any physical or emotional hurdles that’s stopping your progress and drive to your destined path. Put the pedal to the metal. Go!

* * *
Jeanine DeHoney has had her work published on several blogs, in magazines and anthologies. Among others her writing has been published in Essence, The Children's Ark, Metro Fiction, My Brown Baby, The Write Place At the Write Time, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, True Stories Well Told, Parent. Co., Brain Child Magazine, Jerry Jazz Magazine, Today's Caregiver Magazine, and Rigorous Literary Magazine. She is an essayist in the anthologies "Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul,” "Here in the Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from The Ones Sandwiched in Between," “Theories of HER-an experimental anthology, in the anthology, "In Celebration of Sisters," and in the Chicken Soup For The Soul Anthology, The Power Of Yes.
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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Thursday, October 10, 2019


Making the Reader NOT Work Too Hard is Hard Work

After reading a lot of fiction drafts, I know a common problem for writers, myself included, is trying to write a novel or short story that gives "just" the right amount of details to your readers so they

1. Understand what is going on in the story.
2. Aren't bogged down or bored by details.
3. Root for your protagonist.
4. Know where they are in the world (or "other worlds")--and when, too.

The number one thing you should never, ever do as a fiction writer is purposefully keep your reader guessing so many details that they become frustrated and feel disoriented in the story. Don't try to be clever.

Let's take for example a who-dunnit mystery. The detail that you don't want readers to know is the criminal, but you still have to give readers setting and character details, including enough description of the criminal that eventually the protagonist, and maybe a careful reader, can figure out which suspect is to blame.

Your job as the writer and creator of the story is to orient your readers in the story. If you're purposefully being vague because you're worried you're giving too much away, you probably aren't giving enough away. Remember, you know your entire plot (most likely--even pantsers have some idea of how the book or story is going to end...), and this is why you think everything you write is so obvious that your reader will be bored or have the entire story figured out in the first paragraph.

How do the best mystery writers do it? How do fiction writers keep you turning pages? How do those authors who are good at putting twists at the end of their books and movies build scenes and orient readers and still surprise at the end? Study these books and figure that out. As always, the best way to learn how much detail and description to put into your novel is to read in your genre and pay attention to what published authors are doing.

The other thing you absolutely should do is let someone else read your writing. If you don't live by any other writers for an in-person critique group, then you can find an online one. Ask Facebook friends to be beta readers and if there were any points where they were confused at your plot, characters, or setting. Enter a contest and pay for a critique (from a trusted sponsor--like WOW!). Hire an editor who has worked with another writer you know. There are a lot of ways to find someone to read your work, but it's a must. You just can't critique your own writing.

One of the biggest pieces of feedback that I've been giving lately is what I've been talking about here...orienting your reader. So remember: every time you start a scene in a new place, every time you introduce a new character, and every time an important plot event takes place, you have to give your reader enough details to know what's going on!

Margo L. Dill is a novelist, writing coach and teacher, and WOW!'s managing editor. To find out more about the classes Margo teaches for WOW!, including the novel class that starts the first Friday of every month, go to our classroom here. To find out more about Margo and her books, go here. 

Compass photo above by Jurgen Appelo on 

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Wednesday, October 09, 2019


Spin a Story, Not a Sermon

Recently an idea popped into my head for a new story. “Awesome!” I thought. “People need this book right now. They are so clueless.”

In my defense, this is a book about a very political topic. I’ve been watching newscasters talk about this topic. And people post about it all the time on Facebook. As a nonfiction author, I have to say that the cluelessness of so many people should make me happy. It’s like job security.

But I also know that I’m going to have to be really careful not to write something that is preachy. If your story idea can be summed up as a meme, on a button, or a t-shirt, tread very carefully. You are going to have to take care to spin a top-notch story.

Yamile Saied Mendez did this when she wrote the picture book Where Are You From? This story is about a little girl who doesn’t look like everyone around her. Because of this, children and adults alike assume she is from somewhere else.

Where are you from? they ask.

Is your mom from here?

Is your dad from there? they ask.

See what I mean? This is a story that could very easily become a protest poster.  "Most of us come from somewhere else."  

Instead of letting this become a sermon, Mendez gives our young narrator a problem that resonates in today’s world and an abuelo. When he could lecture, abuelo spins a story about the many lands their ancestors called home.

If you haven’t read this picture book, I’d definitely recommend it for a great way to teach without preaching.  It is subtle, sweet and relatable. 

Not that this approach will work for my topic, but that’s okay. This is a soft sincere story. Mine needs to be humorous, but this has given me some ideas.

I need a narrator with a problem. She’s not happy with the condition of the world around her. People aren’t doing what they should and they need to be replaced with people who will do things right. The first person who needs to go is the lunch lady. 

What did you think I was talking about?

Whether your topic is diversity, acceptance or immigration, there are ways to address it that won’t seem heavy handed or preachy. The best way to do this, whether you are writing a picture book or a novel, is to spin a story.


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 November 18th, 2019.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2019


Interview with Courtney Essary Messenbaugh, Spring 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Courtney Essary Messenbaugh is an expert dilettante. In other words, her curiosity about the world has propelled her to try all kinds of different things over the years. She’s worked as a bond analyst, waitress, political fundraiser, and even once, a documentary film producer. She now occasionally gets paid to do some writing and communications work, spends a lot of time getting her children to and fro, and dreams a fair bit about having space and time of her own to do nothing but craft short stories and dive deep into her creative mind.

Someday, she’d like to produce an entire collection of short stories. Until then, some of her more mundane (i.e., paid for) writing can usually be found at, but that site is currently undergoing a redesign, so check it out at a later date!

Courtney loves travel, music, dancing, movies, and books and likes to get lost in the lives and histories of people and places both fictional and real. When she’s not dreaming and scheming, she’s enjoying a hike with her dog, doing yoga, or meditating. She took a solo trip earlier this summer to hike to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and feels a bit like she’s got a superpower as a result. She could live on champagne, laughter, and toast (but doesn’t, actually) and loves her three children, husband, and dog immeasurably.

interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Courtney: It had been a while since I’d entered one of the contests and I missed it! As often happens, the demands of family and my day job had begun to consume my time and I’d inadvertently stopped creative writing. Since I love how I feel when I’m able to be creative, I clawed my way back from being “too busy” and committed to entering the Spring 2019 contest. I felt buoyant after I’d finished the story and knew that no matter how my story would fare in the contest, writing short stories was something I needed, simply for how it makes me feel.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Cracked”?

Courtney: Several ideas: the inherent human appeal of people watching, either overtly or covertly; the deeply personal experiences of reproductive health and the inner lives that can develop as a result; and, the flow of the waves of our relationships with ourselves and those around us.

WOW: As a busy mom to three children, how do you find time to write? What works best for you?

Courtney: That’s the million dollar question. I do not have a lot of time (see my answer to the first question!). One of my goals this year is figuring out how to carve out more creative space - both mental and physical - for myself. For the physical space, I have a home office, but it doesn’t inspire me much since it’s where I work my day job, so I’ve got a chaise lounge in a sunny corner of the house on which to park myself, or I’ll sometimes go to a local coffee shop for more stimulation. As for mental space, I’m trying to get in the habit of consistent, hour-long creative writing sessions several times a week to get my juices flowing and feel more comfortable with the writing; I'm trying to be more observant and sensitive to the world around me for inspiration; and, I have signed up for a short writing seminar this Fall with The Lighthouse Writer’s Group, a terrific local nonprofit.

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Courtney: I have a notebook filled with ideas for short stories that I’ve jotted down and hope to fulfill and have also been trying to write a bit of poetry. I am quite certain my poetry is horrible, but I’m indulging myself nonetheless. I read poetry often and a good poet’s words are soul food for me.

WOW:Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Courtney! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Courtney: I’m not sue that I’m in any position to give advice, but I am currently trying to read as much as I can. There is so much good writing out there that serves as great inspiration and a tool for learning.


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

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Monday, October 07, 2019


Hug Everyone You Know by Antoinette Truglio Martin: Blog Tour & Giveaway

During 2017's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, She Writes Press published Antoinette Truglio Martin’s touching memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. It is a 2017 USA Best Book Awards Finalist in Non-Fiction: Narrative and a 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Finalist: Non-Fiction Women's Issues.

In 2007, Antoinette believed her call back doctor appointment was routine, maybe a scare, nothing worse. Her shock at receiving a Stage I breast cancer diagnosis was instantly compounded by her own deep fears. As a self-described wimp—afraid of needles and uncomfortable with sedation—how was she going to get through this?

 Antoinette started her fight against cancer with words. She began by journaling and by writing emails to Her Everyone—the large close-knit family and circle of beloved friends wanting to offer their support, especially those who were fighting breast cancer alongside her. The emails not only helped to keep Her Everyone informed, they gave cancer less of a presence in Antoinette’s life, since she wasn’t repeatedly updating people or saying the word “cancer” over and over. The practice of writing calmed her and also gave her space to focus on living: on the house that wasn’t selling, an exciting new job, daughters in college, and summer beach plans. She signed every email with the reminder to “hug everyone you know.”

Those emails and journal entries are at the heart of this memoir, which gives the book an immediacy and raw power.

Hug Everyone You Know is a memoir about how Antoinette found the courage to navigate her first year of breast cancer treatment. It’s the story of how a community—colleagues, family, friends—rallied to support her. The book is moving, brave, informative, and occasionally funny—and it speaks to us all.

Print Length: 325 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: She Writes Press
ISBN-13: 9781631522628
ASIN: B07415341C

Hug Everyone You Know is now available to purchase on, Barnes and Noble, and  IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Hug Everyone You Know by Antoinette Truglio Martin, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on October 14th at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

Praise for Hug Everyone You Know

“…a well-written, concise telling of what it’s like to be hit with a cancer diagnosis and the human thoughts that accompany it, like ‘how do I tell the family?’ and ‘what do I tell them?.... In five words: she writes a good story…. Martin’s persona is optimistic; you just want to hang around her and it’s that attitude that got her through. Not surprisingly, gratefulness is part of her mantra. So are hugs.”—The Suffolk County News

“Filled with fresh air, light, and life, Hug Everyone You Know is an intimate conversation with an intelligent, funny survivor. The voice rings true, and the insights resonate well beyond the cancer moment. Highly recommended.”—Joni Rodgers, NYT bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair

“… a compelling memoir about the importance of community while navigating a life crisis such as cancer. As an oncology nurse and a cancer survivor myself, I found Martin's writing to be a refreshingly real depiction of life as a cancer patient. Her writing is a testimony to the endurance of the human spirit, the importance of love and community, and the need for hope every day of the journey.”—Lee Ambrose, StoryCircle Book Reviews

About the Author Antoinette Truglio Martin

Antoinette Truglio Martin is a life-long Long Islander, teacher, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. She is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer—a memoir chronicling her first year battling breast cancer as a wimpy patient. Personal experience essays and excerpts of her memoir were published in Bridges, Visible Ink, and The Southampton Review. Martin proudly received her MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University in 2016. Antoinette had also written the children's picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup (Albert Whitman and Company), and was a regular columnist for local periodicals Parent Connections (In a Family Way) and Fire Island Tide (Beach Bumming). Her blog, Stories Served Around The Table, tells family tales and life's musings. She lives in her hometown of Sayville, New York with her husband, Matt, and is never far from her “Everyone” and the beaches she loves. Since being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2012, she strives to not let cancer to dictate her life. 
Follow her at Facebook and her website.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book Hug Everyone You Know. What inspired you to write this book?

Antoinette: While I was going through the treatments for the Stage I breast cancer I thought I would collect my journal musings and write a memoir. It would not be a sad dirge. Instead, I envisioned a whimsical account of the trials and tribulations of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I did take out my journal and notes about a year after the treatments. The familiar fears and panic attacks returned. There was nothing whimsical. I buried everything and consoled myself that I was the only one who needed to know the story.

Then Stage IV metastatic breast cancer hit. That’s the one that travels and plants itself to organs and bones. It is the killer. There is no cure, just management. When I was diagnosed with MBC, I was beyond scared and speechless. I felt that if I had to leave an early legacy, I wanted my daughters to know the story. As I compiled and began the writing process, I had come to realize that I was not as wimpy as I believed myself to be. The first diagnosis gave me the tools I needed to navigate this MBC.  So, I wrote the book to remind me I am brave enough to deal with MBC. I also hoped that others might see merit in my process and garnish hope.

WOW: You are truly an inspiration. Reading how you shared your journey with your "everyone" really touched me. And I loved reading in your book how you reached out to people by email. How did emailing your "everyone" help you communicate better to your loved ones? 

Antoinette: I am blessed with a vast circle of friends and family. I had my parents, sisters, cousins- my first best friends, aunts and uncles- second parents, close friends I had known since high school, colleagues with shared families. In each group, I could never be described as the chatty one. Talking about cancer, the protocols, the expectations was painful. I cringed at saying and hearing the words (for almost a month I called it the C-Word as if it were a bad word). I easily cried over the phone. No one wants to hear that! However, My Everyone wanted to know from me, how I really was doing, what was happening, and what to expect. I found that I could compose emails, chronicling, complaining and casting a story around the news. This was so much easier than stumbling with spoken words, listening to well-meaning advice, and sobbing. I took the words from my journal and wrote the emails to My Everyone. This allowed me to not have to hear the words, bear through the repetition and just be done. The bonus was the responses. When a loved one is going through a crisis, it is very hard for people to listen and figure out what to say on the spot. Giving My Everyone time to respond with a thoughtful phrase, sweet sentiment or silly emoji was all I needed and wanted.

"I could wear out my fears and hopes on the page, close the notebook, then get on with my day. Being part of the day was and is still key. Every day is a gift. I strive not to waste one."

WOW: That is so moving that you found a way to speak to your "everyone" in a way that helped you and helped them! How did journaling help you throughout your treatment?

Antoinette: I have always journaled. After all, I still want to be a writer when I grow up. Journaling has always given me a voice. I can practice the vocabulary and the sequence with the written word. I have come to learn that this is a well-known perk when journaling. But I am a poor self-help reader, so I thought I stumbled on the revelations by myself.

Journaling is my substitute therapist. It is more articulate than going to a therapist and always provides a path to solid solutions. While going through breast cancer treatments, I was able to rant, rage, question, and allow myself all of the outrageous thoughts and scenarios. I could wear out my fears and hopes on the page, close the notebook, then get on with my day. Being part of the day was and is still key. Every day is a gift. I strive not to waste one.

WOW: That is a fantastic reminder to us all about the power of journaling! You really drew me in your journey and I felt like I was right there with you along the way. How did you decide on the structure for your memoir?

Antoinette: To tell the truth, I am not a fan of memoir. I understand the value of it, but so many of the stories are so one-sided leaving more questions and skeptical conclusions. If I had to write the story as a memoir, I wanted to include authentic voices. The emails had to be the voices. This gave me the opportunity to develop characters more fully and move the story along.  I had to cull through repetitive notes and responses. It is a different path for memoir, but I think it worked well and created a compelling story.

WOW: The path you took for this memoir was the right one - it's an incredible book! What tips can you share with writers working on a memoir?    

Antoinette: Find a writing community. It could be a community of two but must be more than one (you). It cannot be someone who loves you and everything you do (your mom) nor those who find detailed faults (you know who those people are). Sharing a writer’s journey with a fellow writer can provide subjective feedback, hear where there needs more clarification, less narrative—all those little pieces that sharpen the story.

If you have an opportunity, go to a workshop or a conference. I always learn something new. It is also a great way to meet writers and others in the publishing business. Look in your local library or adult education classes. Check out on-line options (WOW has a wonderful list of online courses).

Read memoirs that feature the subject you plan to write about. Note the tone and pace. It may give you an idea as to how to structure your story.

WOW: Thank you for those tips! So, what are you working on now?

Antoinette: I am writing a regular blog, Stories Served Around The Table where family stories are retold and life’s musings are revealed. I love listening and retelling adventures and antics from family and friends while we share a meal. I am writing a historical fictionalized account of one of these stories my grandmother had repeated when she was a child growing up as a Sicilian immigrant in the Lower East Side tenements of New York City. The year is 1911. My audience is middle-grade readers. I feel that the one-hundred-year-old history of bigotry and oppression is repeating itself today. America has always promised a dream of a better life for people who had the bad luck to be born into poverty, political unrest, and violence. America was built on the backs of those who believed the dream, risked everything, and fit in by compromising their values. Children should know the history. I love the research. There are so many rabbit holes I have fallen into while investigating the time, living and work conditions, the education of girls, and family life. I may have to write a series!

"I have been told that cancer I have now is supposed to be forever. I will be in treatment until my dying day. I am not buying it. I truly believe a cure will be found in my lifetime."

WOW: That sounds like a rewarding project! Any lasting messages you want to share with WOW's readers?

Antoinette: I have been told that cancer I have now is supposed to be forever. I will be in treatment until my dying day. I am not buying it. I truly believe a cure will be found in my lifetime. Such incredible strides have been realized in just the past ten years. Research and science are so close. I may be walking around with a time bomb, but I have not been given a specific expiration date. The treatment has not been too invasive nor debilitating. I have been fortunate. More importantly, I am reaping the benefits of the sisters who have come before me, endured clinical trials, and lived and died through the unknown. It does not come cheap.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is all well and good for early detection and support services. Millions of dollars are raised to keep women in the pink. Unbelievably, metastatic breast cancer is given one day, October 13th, to shout out for funds dedicated to the cure. MBC is not pretty in pink. It robs more than hair. It is the cancer that seeks to destroy the body, invades families, and eventually kills.  I would like to ask readers to be sure their donations go towards the research and science efforts in kicking MBC out of our life stories.

WOW: Thank you so much for your final thoughts! We wish you the best throughout the tour!

--- Blog Tour Dates

October 7th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Join us as we celebrate the launch the blog tour for author Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know. Read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.

October 8th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog today to read her thoughts about Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 9th @ The Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog where you can read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know and enter to win a copy for yourself!

October 10th @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog where you can read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post on how writing can calm your nerves.

October 13th @ Dunning Knicks Interviews
Make sure you visit Mzz Dunning's blog today where you can read a guest post written by Antoinette Truglio Martin about 5 reasons it's okay to not be okay. You can also enter to win an ebook copy of the book!

October 14th @ Bookshine and Readbows
Make sure you visit Steph's blog and read her interview with author Antoinette Truglio Martin. You don't want to miss it!

October 15th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
You'll want to stuff your bookshelf today when you visit Veronica Joy's blog and read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 17th @ Reading Whale
Visit Caitlin's blog today where you can read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post that will give you 5 tips for starting your memoir.

October 18th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Stop by Veronica's blog again where you can read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post about how to help people help you. Don't miss this important guest post!

October 19th @ Bookworm Blog
Stop by Anjanette's bookworm blog and read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post featuring 5 tips for writing your memoir. Don't miss it!

October 20th @ Rachael's Thoughts
Visit Rachel's thoughts today where you can read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 21st @ Writing Through Life
Visit Amber's blog and read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post featuring 5 journaling tips when going through difficult trials. You can also read Amber's review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 22nd @ Karen Brown Tyson's Blog
Get inspired today at Karen's blog where you can read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post about 5 lessons she learned writing about her cancer journey.

October 23rd @ Thoughts in Progress
Be sure to stop by Mason Canyon's blog where you can read an interview with the author Antoinette Truglio Martin.

October 24th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's bookworm blog again where you can view her video vlog review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 25th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog today where you can read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 26th @ Keeping it Real
Be sure to visit Lisa's blog today and read author Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post that is talking about her ways to not let a difficult diagnosis run (or ruin) your life. Plus read Lisa's review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 28th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Stop by Wendi's blog today and read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

October 29th @ Bring On Lemons
Turn lemons into lemonade today by visiting Crystal's blog and read her review of the touching memoir Hug Everyone You Know.

November 1st @ Bookworm Blog
Stop by Anjanette's blog again and read her interview with author Antoinette Truglio Martin.

November 3rd @ Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde
Visit Lindsey's blog today and you can read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

November 4th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Visit Wendi's blog again where you can read Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post about keeping a positive mindset during a health crisis.

November 5th @ Life Like a Galaxy Girl
Be sure to visit Alanna's blog where you can read her review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's book Hug Everyone You Know.

November 6th @ 12 Books
Stop by Louise's blog again where you can Antoinette Truglio Martin's guest post featuring 5 books to keep you motivated during difficult times.

November 8th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Stop by Anthony's blog where you can read his review of Antoinette Truglio Martin's touching book Hug Everyone You Know.

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

To win a copy of the book Hug Everyone You Know by Antoinette Truglio Martin, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on October 14th at 12 AM EST. We will randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, October 06, 2019


Meet Stephanie Austin - Runner Up in the 2019 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "Paralysis" !

Congratulations to Stephanie Austin and Paralysis... and all the winners of our 2019 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Stephanie's Bio:
Stephanie Austin’s short stories have been published in The Fiddlehead, American Short Fiction, The South Dakota Review, Washington Square Review, Necessary Fiction, Prime Number, Eclectica, fwriction: review, Emrys Journal, Carve Magazine, and The Sonder Review. Her memoir has been published at The Nervous Breakdown and the New England Review. Her most recent publications include flash fiction at Open: A Journal of Arts & Letters and The Jellyfish Review, and a full length short story in Pembroke Magazine. She has flash fiction forthcoming in Pithead Chapel. She lives in Arizona with her husband and daughter. Twitter: @lucysky

If you haven't done so already, check out Stephanie's expertly written story Paralysis... and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Stephanie! Thank you for writing this expertly written and very moving essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Paralysis?

Stephanie: Grief is a beast.

WOW: Isn't that the truth? Let's talk about how support helps to get us through the times of grief -  Who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general?

Stephanie:  My biggest champions are a group of people I met during my MFA. Though I'm in touch with many of them, there's a core group of us who have held on tight for the last ten years since finishing the program. Do you need an MFA to write? No. But the community you build in your program is priceless.

I have a four-year-old daughter, and I'd also be lost without the support of my husband and my mother who both help me find time to write.

WOW: I'm so happy to hear you have such a community and support system! What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2019 and beyond?

Stephanie: I struggled to write/publish a novel for many years, and I got super wrapped up in my own head about the "failure" of that project. A few years back, I felt I had a good momentum going in my writing and when I did not find success with my novel I fell off a cliff. I've had to rebuild myself. I've gone back to the start line with short stories and essays. Just last March, I started writing a new novel. I'm 16K words in, which might not be much at this point but it's forward motion and sometimes that's all we have.

Along with the new novel, I'm working on a few short stories. I'm also expanding on Paralysis.

WOW: Stephanie - that's the perfect lead-in to my next question! Is "Paralysis" part of something larger you are working on? It reads like a small chapter of a larger work - if it is, when can we expect to read it? If it isn't - why not? 8) What role has journaling and/or writer's group played in your writing life?

Stephanie: Yes, it is part of something larger though I hadn't intended that when I wrote it. I started it last year a week or so after I returned home from my cousin's funeral. This answer also wraps into the question about journaling, so I'm going to make it a combo. I journaled a lot as an adolescent and all through college. I kept notebooks. When blogging became a thing, I started a blog and ran that for many years. Every short piece of fiction I wrote started as a journal/blog entry. I stopped keeping handwritten notebooks because I type faster than I write. Journaling/blogging was my daily writing. Even if I didn't work on any fiction on a given day, I'd always journal. Back to my cousin. When he died, I didn't know what to do or how to feel or what to think. I took a few steps back and went back to the journal. I wrote about an encounter I had with a woman on the plane back from his funeral. Her brother had just died. I wrote about attending Al-Anon. I went back to my own heavy drinking periods. Though I've written new things here and there over the last few years, these little pieces became the first cohesive writing I'd done. I've written five or six at this point, and I've put them together as a chapbook. I have a few more in my head, so we'll see. It's a 25 page project, but I could see it going further.

When you journal, it's just for you. I saw what I hoped was a greater message in my experience, but then I waded into that "writing family" territory. What's the line between catharsis and exploitation? I wanted to make Paralysis, and the other pieces that fit with it, less about him and more about me even though they're about him even though they're about me.

If I didn't journal as a kid/teen/college student, I wouldn't be a writer today. If I didn't return to journaling last year, I might not have started my new novel. Journaling is the core of my writing self.

WOW: Thank you again Stephanie! I absolutely love the encouragement your story and this interview provide for those grieving, those writing, and those journaling - you are an inspiration! Thank you for joining us and I'm sure we will hear from you again soon! 


Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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Saturday, October 05, 2019


You Never Know... The Unpredictable Factor

Okay, here's a tidbit about my routine (not than anyone is rabidly chasing down information about Sioux even mildly interested in me): on Sundays I love to watch the show CBS Sunday Morning. The stories inspire me. They enlighten me. They nudge me into reflecting.

This past Sunday was no exception. I watched a story on Lonnie Bunch III (the Secretary of the Smithsonian). He began the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a staff of 2 and no collections.

He started with virtually nothing. Now, it's a gem of our country... and 70% of their artifacts came from people's basements and attics.

I also watched a story about Marlene Rose, a glass artist. She uses a method of casting glass pieces in sand--which many glass studios weren't willing to accommodate--and explained how unpredictable glass is.

Showing off one large piece, adorned by splashes of orange, yellow and red, she said that it was only supposed to be red.

"What did you think when you saw the finished piece ?" the interviewer asked. It obviously was not what she envisioned, not what she planned on.

Marlene Rose said she jumped up and down, thrilled with the result.

When you write, you begin with nothing (just like Lonnie Bunch III began with nothing). Nothing's on paper, but certainly (hopefully) there's a kernel of an idea in the writer's head. If the writer's lucky, there's a whole outline tucked into the recesses of their brain.

My current WIP--the manuscript I'm frothing-at-the-mouth to get published--began with a historical event. I created a family of five, secure in the knowledge that the family would survive.

They'd survive the event--of course. No doubt about it. I didn't even think that some of them might not survive the revising process.

As I slogged through the sludge of my first draft, my second draft, and so on, the unpredictable factor reared its head up, over and over.

Where will the family hide? In my first draft, the family didn't hide. They got out of their house and headed out of their neighborhood. However, I got my manuscript professionally edited (an eternal thank you to Margo Dill) and it was apparent I needed more tension. Hiding somewhere, while you're being hunted like an animal? That could add some necessary excitement. I had to decide on where the family hid, a place where they conceivably not be found. Again, the spot came to me in an unplanned way.

How will the family escape to a safe place? In my second draft, I completely changed what happened to the family.

What is in Mama's bag? When the family leaves their home, the mother has a cloth bag in her hand. Despite their life-and-death journey, she always held onto it. She never showed anyone what was in the bag... until the end. I didn't even know what was in the bag until that point. More unpredictability.

So, as a writer, celebrate what you know. Celebrate all the details you know about your characters, and revel in all you've fleshed out in your plot... but don't forget to embrace the surprises, the details that come hurtling at you at unplanned times.

Learn to love the unpredictable.

Sioux Roslawski is a novelist wannabe. She's also a middle school teacher, and is working on a second manuscript (not much headway being made on that project lately). Keep your fingers crossed for her that sometime--soon--a publisher offers Sioux a contract.

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