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Thursday, December 12, 2019


How a Little Film That Could Inspired Me

Let’s play a little game. What if I told you that one of the biggest movie hits from the late 1980s started out as a low-budget production (filmed for $5 million and grossed at least $214 million)? Or that the only company that would develop the script had only produced adult films? What about the fact that although this film centered around dancing, the soundtrack was not finalized until the final weeks of shooting, and the final dance scene almost had to be choreographed without the proper music?

If you guessed the movie “Dirty Dancing,” then you guessed right. However, I thought I was an expert on this film until I watched the Netflix docuseries called “The Movies that Made Us,” and they featured the movie in one of the episodes. While the production of the docuseries is a little cheesy (think the occasional animated graphics and interesting editing of the interviews) I learned a lot about this classic. This is truly one of those films that almost didn’t get made. The story was near and dear to screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s heart because she grew up going to a resort in the Catskills with her family each summer like the character of Frances “Baby” Houseman. She eventually teamed up with female producer Linda Gottlieb, who had an in at MGM. However, the powers to be at MGM kept changing, and the project eventually got put in limbo, and then released. Vestron Pictures purchased it, but up until that point the company had only been producing adult films. Yep, “Dirty Dancing” was their first feature-length film. (Cue the jokes here.)

The obstacles to making this movie go on and on. Slashed production budget, location issues, two romantic leads that didn’t really care for each other and fought a lot (did you know Sarah Jessica Parker and Billy Zane almost played Baby and Johnny?), a music supervisor that had to be fired, Patrick Swayze busting his knee on that scene where he jumped up in the air on a log, etc. And then one movie executive who was brought in to view the final cut advised the entire team to “burn the negative” and collect the insurance.

As I watched the show, I couldn’t help shake my head. How many times have we as writers worked to create a project that we loved with all our heart and souls but no one else could get? How many agent rejections have we received because the story wasn’t “on trend?” The screenwriter, producer and director (and the people at Vestron Pictures) were determined to see this project through, even if it was a miserable failure. And guess what, it wasn’t. Learning all this history behind the movie made me laugh, cry and nod my head in agreement. It lit a fire under me to dig out those old projects that are sitting on my hard-drive, or in stacks of typed-pages on my bookshelves. Because, darn it, if this little movie could become the blockbuster that it did, I can create something special, too.

And so can you.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who is ready to start shopping her contemporary young adult novel around again. Learn more about her at FinishedPages.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019


‘Tis the Season! Gifts for Writers

It’s still early enough in this season of gift-giving to choose something extra special for the writer in your life. And by the writer in your life, I mean you. You can check out all the fun articles and blog posts about gifts for the other writers you know. This post’s for you.

So these are the gifts I put under my tree this year.

Um. Okay, I opened ‘em all early and I’m fine with that. I hope you’ll find something here—or a gift sparked by something here—that you want to open early.

The Body

Just last month, I talked about the two fitness trackers I have. The thing is, I need a reliable fitness tracker because…well, I’m a writer; on any given day, I will sit in my chair and work for three to four hours at a time. And I know what you’re thinking, that a fitness tracker only tracks the exercise. It doesn’t do the exercise for you.

True. But that annoying alarm that reminds me to get up and move or urges me to make my step goal is just enough to force me out of the chair after an hour. And my work will wait for a ten minute speed walk around my house.

So fine, I haven’t become a marathon runner or lost any weight. But that lower back pain that comes from sitting too long is not the constant it once was in my life. And I sleep better at night. Those are gifts worth every penny that I spend on a fitness tracker, even if I have to buy more than one (though a moderately priced one will do the same job as an expensive one).

The Mind

There was a time when I could think up something and remember it a whole hour later. And I wish I could remember when that was. But suffice it to say that these days, I have a lot on my mind and I don’t have time to rack my brain, searching for lost ideas.

So I rely on notes. And for most of my notes, I don’t buy a fancy notepad when I have a ton of scrap paper around here which I recycle into note-sized squares. Note-sized scraps of paper are all over my house. (Which I see when I speed walk by.)

However, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, I do some of my best thinking-up-of-ideas in the shower. And you would think a writer could remember her great ideas for at least 15 minutes but you would be underestimating all the other thoughts that come into a writer’s head whilst showering. And that is why the waterproof note is the best gift ever.

A dear friend and writer herself gave me a waterproof notepad a few years back and I was very miserly using it. Was this idea really notepad-worthy? Can I just write down one word for each point and still remember enough? I stretched out that notepad for quite some time but alas, the day came when I had to buy another. Somehow, I don’t think this one will last quite as long because…well, turns out one word hints are not enough. But that’s okay. An idea is a terrible thing to waste.

The Soul

Only you can determine the gift that will soothe or support your writer’s soul. For me, it’s spending time with my writer friends who understand the love-hate relationship we have with this wonderful and challenging profession we’ve chosen.

It might be a long lunch with local writer friends, or a long phone chat with a far-away friend, or signing up for a writer’s conference or retreat because honestly, I’m worth every penny of that gift, too.

So go to the conference. Call a friend. Treat yourself to a writer’s tool that you’ve been dreaming about all year. Because ‘tis the season for giving, and this year, dear writer, it’s your turn for a holly jolly holiday!

~Cathy C. Ho-Ho-Hall

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019


Meet Shermie Rayne, 2nd Place Winner in WOW's Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Shermie Rayne writes a gamut of fiction, and sometimes even happenstance poetry. Several of her stories have found publication homes here and there. In addition to excelling as a barely-functioning mom in suburbia, Rayne runs a local writing group for women. She resides in Virginia with her husband, three teenagers, an orange tabby, several tanks of fish, and a very mischievous pup.

Connect with her on Twitter @shermierayne. Visit her website at

Read her winning entry here and return to learn more about what inspires Shermie's writing.

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

WOW: As a mother of two children who has spent a lot of time standing watch over my family (sometimes to a fault!), I could really resonate with your story. How did the idea for “Crooked Door Lullaby” first come to you?

Shermie: I lost several close relatives over the course of a few months, a couple of years back. Death itself has always been an unknown that I struggle to understand and accept. Yet, I’ve witnessed strong individuals, like my grandma, handle death with unbelievable grace. “Crooked Door Lullaby” came out of my need to comprehend both loss and the ability to go on afterward.

WOW: It is indeed a story of unwavering strength and grace. Does your past life as a pediatric nurse ever weave its way into your writing?

Shermie: Perhaps. It definitely has influenced how I mother. (Some would say I’m a bit overprotective.) I think all life experiences are filtered into writing, consciously or not.

WOW: You belong to a writing group for women that you help facilitate. How helpful has this group been to you in this stage of your life and writing?

Shermie: Yes, so, I started the group in January of 2014. At the time, my youngest was still in preschool and the older kids in after-school activities. I created what I needed, which was a supportive environment that met mid-morning. Our group is so important; it keeps me accountable to my writing. The group has evolved so much over the years. We now have monthly critique sessions as well, so I know I’ve got to put something together to submit. Deadlines are important! And having an understanding support group is immeasurable.

WOW: When you’re not taking care of your family and writing, what are some of your favorite pastimes?

Shermie: I (of course) love reading—and especially listening to audiobooks. We have a newish pup, so I’ve been walking and hiking more often and exploring nature . . . which means taking a lot more pictures—another passion.

WOW: You enjoy writing a variety of things. How do you toggle back and forth between different projects? Inquiring minds would like to know more about your writing process.

Shermie: Part of my group’s weekly meeting includes prompt-based writing. Someone pulls a writing prompt out and sets a timer, and we freewrite. I’ve started many stories during this time, as well as scenes for current projects. I get bored easily, so having several projects going at once allows me to work on something else when I get stuck. I do write flash, short story, and novel length fiction. It seems short story is the most difficult form of the three; I’m often reworking my short stories and never satisfied.

I wish I could say I have a solid writing schedule/process currently. Life seems to have gotten busier while the kids have grown older, so I’m squeezing in writing when and where I can. The last couple of months, I’ve been focused on editing (again, after a hiatus) a project that, I feel, is very important. Not my normal genre, it’s upper middle-grade and explores bullying/suicide through the eyes of a seventh grader. I hope to be querying agents soon.

WOW: We wish you the best of luck with your revision process and querying and we look forward to reading more of your powerful work. 

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Monday, December 09, 2019


Inspirational Characters

I keep starting short stories because so many people inspire me! I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I still make it a habit to write a little something every day. My children think it's a little creepy, but I want to share a few ideas that may help inspire you when it comes to your writing. The key is that you write - long or short - just write it down!

This may inspire something longer for you even, or maybe you'll be moved to write something short and enter a flash fiction contest! Either way - Write On dear friend!

Here are just a few ideas where you might find inspiration for your next character:

Buying Groceries
Have you ever been at the grocery store and just soaked in the people around you? It's really warm outside and yet there's a woman wearing a coat and stocking cap. You don't have to approach her to be inspired - write your own story about why that coat and hat are important enough for her to wear them each time she leaves the house. What about the woman checking you out or the young boy bagging groceries? Is there something about them that catches your eye? Could they become your muse?

Pumping Gas
Have you ever seen a car with a lot of bumper stickers? One door a different color than the others? A car full of teenagers with mo-hawks or unusual hair? You don't have to stop and chat with them to find out what they are all about, but you can certainly write your own story about them.

Eating Dinner
Have you ever watched a group of people dining together and wondered what they have in common? Are they family? friends? business associates? What brought them together? Why are they here? What will they be talking about? Why did the one man get up so abruptly and leave quickly? Who will be paying the bill and why? Are they a group of classmates brought together by the untimely death of a friend? Maybe they are three men all in love with the same woman and they're trying to decide what to do since she is recently widowed from another member of their close knit group of friends. You can come up with a great story just based on the one small thing that drew your attention to them in the first place.

Chatting with Friends
Have you ever heard a story from a friend and your mind went down the proverbial rabbit hole? I have an acquaintance who was sharing an old family story of how this middle age couple was shot to death in their home by their daughter's boyfriend, all because they thought he was too old for her. The daughter wasn't involved at all, but when she told the boy they couldn't date, he acted irrationally. I had so many questions which of course couldn't be answered all those involved had long since passed as the story took place decades ago. I began envisioning the scenario leading up to the murders and then considering how the young girl would move on and the guilt she would face the rest of her life. This made for a great short story. I'm sure your friends have shared similar tales with you? Get those stories out of your head and down on paper!

Driving to Work
Have you ever noticed an abandoned house on your way to work? Someone holding a "will work for food" sign? A run-down house in an otherwise well kept neighborhood? Any of those things can become a character in your story. Maybe there was a lovely family living in that tiny house and due to illness they had to move and ...    you get to write the rest of the story! Let your imagination go wild!

These are just a few ideas that may help inspire your next character. Where have you found inspiration in the past? Do any of these ideas sound completely absurd to you? Leave a comment as we'd love to hear from you! (and if you think I'm completely absurd, you can leave that as a comment too - I've heard it from my children before...and yes, I've left the grocery store without buying items on my list because instead of checking off my groceries, I started jotting down story ideas...but who wants to be normal anyway?)


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 Darlin' and Joker, and over 250 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal milking cows, driving tractors, and riding unicorns (not at the same time), 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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Sunday, December 08, 2019


Interview with Mary Ann Rojas: Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Mary Ann Rojas is a Navy veteran and has been a Licensed Vocational Nurse for thirty-four years. She has been writing in some form or another far longer; penning poetry and short stories whose inspirations are random thoughts. Rather than pursue her Registered Nursing degree she decided to major in English and wished to teach high school students. However, after careful consideration she ultimately felt her education provided a firm foundation for her writing career.

By day she is a nurse at a middle school and at night she makes pictures with words. She is busy querying her book The Key and is currently working on USS Bios, a tale of a retrofitted Navy ship laden with world changing research after it’s commandeered during the night. Several of her short stories are in the hands of editors who she hopes, desire just what she’s created. Ultimate solace for Mary Ann is tent camping with her husband and three dogs in Kings Canyon National Park, a mere ninety-minutes from her Central Valley California city of Visalia.

Her essay, “Arsonist Pleads Guilty-Exhibits Zero Remorse” revealed a facet of medicine in which she had no experience. Mary Ann placed 3rd in American Gem Literary Festival’s 2017/18 Short Story Contest with “Have a Heart.”

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Mary Ann: I'd entered WOW contests before and this one piqued my interest because I had a story to tell and needed another woman/women to feel what I felt during a most horrible time. Fiction is easy for me to write. Non-fiction not so much, except for this time.

WOW: Your entry, "Arsonist Pleads Guilty--Exhibits Zero Remorse" is a moving, though harrowing read. I imagine it was difficult to write, though perhaps necessary for you to put to words?

Mary Ann: My "Arsonist Pleads Guilty-Exhibits Zero Remorse" was actually what I would say to the arsonist face to face if given the opportunity. I wanted to tell her like the prosecutors do on TV court shows. I wanted to pace in front of the jury and stop at the defendant and look her in the eyes and without wavering, tell her all she had done I wouldn't cry either. I would be strong. I wanted my words to ooze with anger and bitterness though those things eat away at us and must not linger, to our peril. I was grieving for the loss of my son, not in death but a loss of his independence and the young man he used to be and the journey toward healing he would painfully endure. A mother's heart breaks in a zillion pieces when her children are in pain. It matters not the age of our children either. It was very difficult to write yet supremely cathartic. I could see him in those words and the tears flowed without restraint.

WOW: It's a powerful essay, and I'm sorry for what your son and you have gone through. With your job as a middle school nurse, how do you make time to write? What works best for you?

Mary Ann: I always bring a pad of paper to work with me and jot down ideas that come to me, otherwise they slip away into oblivion. I write primarily in the evening. It is my priority and I love every moment of it.

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

Mary Ann: I am working on several projects right now. I have written a book that is currently out to a few literary agents (queries and chapters), The Key. I wait, as writers do after submitting. I've got another book in the works as well, USS Bios. I also love flash fiction and find the challenge exhilarating to write a story in as few words as possible! I have several short stories completed and am working on submitting them as well. I write thrillers and come up with crazy macabre ideas!

WOW: Best of luck with those projects! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Mary Ann. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Mary Ann: My advice? We all have stories. If we want to invite others into the worlds we create, we must be diligent, consistent, tenacious and excited in the creation of those worlds. Someone will love your words but you have to put them down first.


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

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Saturday, December 07, 2019



Recently I went on a writing retreat. My goal for that weekend was to get some progress made on my most recent WIP (a YA novel, merging present-day with Emmett Till's life. I figured I'd get thousands of words down.

And then I realized. I'd done the same thing with an earlier draft. I typed and typed and typed... and the plot went nowhere. I reviewed the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel  for WOW, and I was amazed at how much sense it made to organize and outline a manuscript. I promised myself I would not be a pantser this time. This go-around, I would not write by the seat of my pants.

So that's what I did at the retreat. I started from the beginning, outlining scenes (not writing them) and incredible things happened.

  • I learned about my main character's enemies. I saw what horrible things happened to her in the hallway and the cafeteria--just from roughing out some scenes.
  • I discovered my main character (Emma) is a cutter. That was not part of the original plan. But as I learned more about Emma, this part of her life was just revealed to me.
  • I realized that organization is not a four-letter word. Doing the "pre-writing" first--getting the story outlined--makes sense and will (probably) make it easier when I get to the drafting stage, because my writing has some direction now. Who knew that would happen?
Did I get any words down that weekend? Not many. I outlined about half of the story, then knew I had to do some deep thinking, so I started drafting the first scene. I still haven't gone back and finished the outline, but neither have I charged ahead with writing an aimless story-that-has-story.

If you're unfamiliar with the book and its concept, check out this article. It might give you an idea whether or not you'd like it.

Sioux is a middle school teacher, a dog rescuer and a freelance writer. In her spare, she reads and knits (like Madame DeFarge). If you'd like to read more of her meanderings, check out her blog.

Friday, December 06, 2019


Friday Speak Out!: Three Questions I Asked Myself While Writing My Second Memoir

by Kathleen Pooler

A memoir is a “slice of life” story that has universal appeal. Although it is about you, its main purpose should help readers connect with their own stories. A memoir does not just tell the story about what happened, but what you did with what happened and how you changed as a result.

When I wrote my first memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, I had started out with the intention of sharing the story of mothering my alcoholic son. It was only through the revising aided by the support of a developmental editor that I realized I had two stories to tell. I could not write about my alcoholic son until I wrote my own story of healing from two emotionally abusive relationships. This book would take five years to write as I had to face my own vulnerabilities and flaws. But through the writing, I gained insight into myself and was able to forgive those who had hurt me as well as myself.

When I started writing Just the Way He Walked: A Mother’s Story of Healing and Hope, the original memoir I wanted to write, I leveraged the lessons of writing the first memoir and dug into my message even deeper. I knew I would be exposing my son in the second memoir, and so I had to navigate the sensitivities of both our stories. I couldn’t tell my story without exposing my son’s undesirable behavior related to his alcohol abuse. I involved him in every step of the process and hoped he would own his part of the story. It wasn’t until a few months before the publication of Just the Way He Walked that he made the conscious decision to fully endorse publication. I had made a conscious decision not to publish this memoir unless my son was on board which culminated in a twenty year writing journey.

Writing this story sensitized me to my role enabling alcoholic behavior and I wanted to share the lessons learned with others who also struggled with an addicted child. But in order to make progress, I had to ask questions so I could release myself of the guilt and shame I carried as a young mother acting out of love and in good faith, albeit ignorance about the nature of the disease of alcohol addiction. Breaking the silence has been a very freeing and healing experience for both my son and me.

The three main questions I had to ask myself before writing these memoirs:

1. What is my purpose for writing my stories?

With both stories, I was driven to share the importance of maintaining hope in dire situations. For example, If I could stay hopeful while getting out of an emotionally abusive marriage, then I could model to my reader that hope.

2. What did I learn and what will be the reader’s takeaway?

Answering these questions required the courage and persistence to share my own vulnerabilities and flaws. Writing my truth in the most authentic way helped present myself and my son as a living, breathing human others could relate to.

I hope the reader will glean the message that it is possible to leave an abusive situation and for the addicted child to find recovery, an overall message of hope.

3. What really happened?

In my first memoir, a young woman acted out of naivete to make poor relationship decisions but was able to pull from her own strength within and find her voice. In my second memoir, a young mother was able to see her role in her son’s addiction and through alcohol education, Alanon and her faith was able to recognize and let go of her role of enabling alcoholic behavior. She learned that when love is not enough, hope steps in.

In both cases, I’d discover the message of hope. No matter how far down into the abyss you may go, there’s always hope for a better life.

How would you answer these three questions about your life story?

* * *
Kathleen Pooler, the creator of A Memoir Writer's Journey, uses hope, faith, and writing to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments Just the Way He Walked (April 2019) is Pooler’s second memoir of overcoming alcoholic enabling symptoms. Her debut memoir addresses one woman's life lessons from family abuse towards her journey of empowerment. To contact Kathleen Pooler or learn more about her books, visit her website at
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, December 05, 2019


Interview with Diane Dennis, Award Winning Publicist and Founder of Inspired Media Communications

Founder and president Diane Dennis lends her extensive experiences and skills in television, radio and print to the organizations that Inspired Media Communications serve. Diane created Inspired Media Communications from an unmet need she saw in the marketplace for razor sharp messages that resonate with audiences, customers and community members.

Founded in 2005, Inspired Media Communications has served an impressive group of companies who have met their goals in creating more community awareness and increasing customers. Inspired Media Communications customers have been featured on television segments, prime time news shows, magazines and newspapers.

You can find out more about Inspired Media Communications here and sign up for her DIY PR and Marketing Webinar.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today! First, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Diane: I am founder and President of Inspired Media Communications, a multi-media PR agency. After winning two awards, I like to remind people that we are a small agency with a big heart! I was a columnist for a major newspaper in Portland, Ore., was a regular guest on ABC affiliate AM NW TV, and broadcast radio host and producer of my show on three major radio stations. From those experiences I am well trained in multi-media, know what producers are interested, and learned how to pitch all forms of media for my clients. Authors find me because my reputation for furthering their career and establishing them as an expert in the field that they write in, and creates a platform for monetizing their business as an author.

WOW: That's incredible! What type of services do you offer for authors?

Diane: I establish my clients as experts in their field, get authors speaking engagements, multi-media platforms like TV, radio interviews and newspaper and magazine interviews. I begin by assessing their position in the marketplace, create a media kit, and define a marketing plan to shift them from author to speaker, and authority in their field.

WOW: What changes have you seen in the publishing industry and how have you advised authors to adapt?

Diane: The publishing industry has made it easier for writers to become published authors. That, in turn, has created a crowded space. Over 700,000 people annually will publish their books. It takes finesse, digital marketing strategies, and assigning PR strategies to an author’s goals.

WOW: I completely agree! It has definitely become a crowded space. Why is it important for authors to become an influencer in their field?

Diane: If authors, and we are talking about nonfiction authors here, become influencers in their field, they are able to step out from behind their desks, scale their business and have credibility. All this must be done with an author honing beforehand in the areas they want to pursue. I spend a lot of time providing media training for my authors so when we get the call, the author is well prepared to deliver compelling messaging.

WOW: If you could pass along any advice to new or experienced authors, what would you tell them? 

Diane: I would tell an author to define in great detail their goals for their book and their business as an author. An author can treat their writing as a hobby, or they can develop a business and marketing plan that jump starts an incredible career. It starts with goal setting first. I always tell authors to dream big.

WOW: What fantastic advice! Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today.

Remember, you can find out more about Inspired Media Communications here and sign up for her DIY PR and Marketing Webinar.

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Wednesday, December 04, 2019


Learning From High-Powered Authors

This is part two of my series on what I learned at the 20Books To 50K conference in Las Vegas. You can find part one here

Welcome to a great panel discussion with Rebecca Moesta, Malorie Cooper, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Alex Liddell, and Lindsay Buroker titled High-Powered Authors. These five authors are killing it in the indie publishing world, and they shared what works and doesn't work for them. This panel was chock full of inspiration and knowledge, and I can only write so much and have your attention on this blog post for so long. So I encourage you to check out the You Tube video of this panel if anything I say here catches your interest!

(When you click play above, it should take you to the high-powered author panel, but if you are interested in the two guys behind the conference, go back to the beginning of the video and watch their introduction!)

Here are a few tidbits that the high-powered authors said and was also echoed throughout the conference:

1. Market research is important. If you're writing romance, then make sure you're giving your readers what they expect--respect the tropes and your readers. Look at the top 10 on Amazon in your genre. What do their covers look like? What are their blurbs? What are the current trends? How will your book fit with these? You have to standout without being too different, of course. (Sidenote from me: stand out with your good writing and ability to tell a story, not by trying to trick your reader!)

2. Self-published authors are advertising on Amazon and Facebook, and it's working. Trust me when I say that if the sentence above gave you the heebie jeebies, you'll have to find a way to get over it IF you want to make money as an author and sell copies of your books. Traditional publishers have put advertising dollars behind their top names for decades. To compete with this, and you can, you have to be willing to spend some money on advertising that makes sense. Currently, that seems to be on social media, with email services like Bookbub, and on Amazon or other booksellers. (Although everyone was honestly talking about Amazon ads!)

3. Being consistent over time is the best way to build your career. Stop comparing yourself to the high-powered authors on the panel, as they all had to start somewhere. But they're currently writing on a regular basis and putting out books regularly. They treat their writing as a career, and they show up for work every day. Analyze your best time of day and write then. You will get much more done than if you are trying to work when you are tired. (Sidenote: Since I came back from this conference, I have written every morning when I get up until I get to at least 1000 words. My streak so far is 19 days, and I have written 24,324 new words. I finished one non-fiction book project I had been messing around with for far too long, and started on another one. I plan to self-publish both of these.)

4. Different income streams are important. This was also something that was talked about a lot, not just on this panel. There's a huge debate right now about being exculsive (to Amazon) or going wide (selling on many different platforms). If Amazon went away today, and all your eggs are in Amazon's basket, where does that leave you? This doesn't mean you can't take advantage of some of the exclusivity perks on Amazon for a certain number of days, but you also have to think of how else you can get money. What do your books lend themselves to? Where else would they sell?

In conclusion: What I loved about this panel is that a couple of these authors were also tradtionally published at one time or still are--so they are known as hybrid authors. They are on a panel at an indie conference talking about the perks of being independent in this day and age. This advice seems more spot on than most because they have experience in both worlds, and they are telling us that currently in many genres, authors who treat their books and career like a business as well as a creative endeavor can have success with self-publishing. It's an amazing time to be a writer!

Margo L. Dill is a writer of children's and YA books in St. Louis, MO. She is also WOW!'s managing editor and teaches a few classes for WOW! on novel writing, school visits, and YA/MG writing. Check out her classes at The novel writing class starts on December 6, and she can work with you to have deadlines not through the holidays if needed. To find out more about her and her books, join her newsletter here.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Interview with Myna Chang: First Place Winner of Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Myna Chang grew up in the Oklahoma panhandle, surrounded by vivid reminders of the ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. Her grandparents filled her head with frightening and exciting tales of their adventures during that harrowing time, and now she explores those remembrances in her writing. She also enjoys stories about robots, dinosaurs, and kung fu. Her work has been featured in Writers Resist, Twist In Time, Enchanted Conversation, Daily Science Fiction, Copperfield Review, Dead Housekeeping, and others. Myna’s story “Good Deal” won an honorable mention in the WOW Fall 2018 Flash Fiction Contest. Myna lives with her family in Potomac, Maryland. Read more at or find her on Twitter @MynaChang.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Summer 2019 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Air So Thick?” It sounds like it may have been inspired by the place you grew up and conversations with your grandparents.

Myna: Air So Thick” is one of several stories inspired by my childhood growing up in the Oklahoma panhandle, where I learned to hate the wind. Gusts up to 60 mph were a daily occurrence, whipping grit into my eyes and mouth, and scouring the skin on my legs when I was foolish enough to wear shorts on a bad day.

As bad as I thought I had it, my grandparents suffered so much more. Colorful terms were invented to describe their place and time — the Dirty 30s, Tornado Alley, the Dust Bowl. Their childhood years were scarred by environmental disaster and economic ruin, but they survived and came away with some amazing tales.

Their adventures have stuck with me, and I keep coming back to the topic. I’m especially fascinated by the massive Black Sunday storm, which reportedly was hundreds of miles wide and thousands of feet high, and blacked out the sun for three full days.

Many of my stories feature young people overcoming the challenges of this hostile environment, just as my grandmothers and grandfathers did.

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

Myna: I love the condensed form. My favorite length, both to read and write, is around 500 words -- long enough to have strong character voice and a dynamic setting, but not long enough for meandering. Every word has to count. It’s like assembling a puzzle.

WOW: You mentioned that you enjoy stories about robots, dinosaurs, and kung fu. Where did this interest come from, do you think? Any favorite stories to recommend?

Myna: My uncle (the greatest uncle in the history of the universe) provided a steady supply of scifi and fantasy fiction while I was growing up. He handed me The Hobbit when I was 9 and said, “Please be quiet and read this!” My mom and step-dad introduced me to martial arts and monster movies. I never stopped loving speculative fiction, and I still seek stories of wonder in my everyday life.

As far as recommendations? Too many to list! It feels like heaven to be a speculative fiction lover now. Any length and type of story you want is available with only a few moments’ search. It’s no longer unusual to find a badass female protagonist who does whatever-the-heck she wants while saving the world. Also, dinosaurs are just cool.

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?

Myna: I do some sort of writing-related activity every day, usually before the rest of my household wakes up. I require lots of coffee. But even with unlimited caffeine, I often struggle to create a complete story without an external motivator. Prompted contests and workshops have proven to be the best tools to keep me going. I love the excitement and sense of possibility when I wake up to a unique set of prompts, then I spend my afternoon panicking and hating whatever I’m trying to write, but by evening I’m usually filled with satisfaction as I play with the final word choices and hit the submit button. My husband and son call this “binge writing.” I’m lucky to have such a supportive family -- they bring me sandwiches and cheer me on.

“Air so Thick” originated in a workshop. The prompt was to write a map-based flash, and we were given several thought-provoking examples to get us started. Approaching this story from the perspective of a landscape map is something I wouldn’t have considered before taking the workshop, and the other participants provided fantastic feedback on my first draft.

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

Myna: I love contests! There are so many different contests to choose from. I think it’s important to do some research before entering one. Is the contest managed by a legitimate group or publication? How is it judged? Will they provide feedback on your entry? Will they give you prompts, or do they have a specific theme? If winning entries from the past are available, read them to get a flavor for the tenor and quality of writing the contest judges appreciate.

Once you’ve settled on the perfect contest, find someone to review your story before you submit. Beta readers are essential, so take the time to find someone trustworthy and honest. And be ready to return the favor! There are several top-notch writers’ groups online, so even if you don’t have access to a beta reader in your everyday life, you can find great candidates via social media and reputable organizations such as WOW!.


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

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Monday, December 02, 2019


5 Writer-ly Activities for the Post-NaNoWriMo Season

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 
Here we are post-NaNoWriMo. What are you going to do with yourself now? Here are five possibilities.

Keep Writing. Whether you worked on a young adult novel, a memoir, or a cozy mystery, even the full 50,000 words is not enough for a full draft. For a cozy or a young adult novel, you need about 80,000 words. According to literary agent Rachelle Gardner, a memoir can range from 60,000 to 120,000 words with the sweet spot for new memoir authors at 75,000. Regardless, it takes about six weeks to write daily through Christmas. By then you’ll have built a solid habit.

Put It Aside. Whoa, wait? Didn’t I just say keep writing? I did, but if you’ve finished a draft you need to put it aside for a while so that you can approach it with fresh eyes. Draft something new to build those writing muscles but don’t rewrite your NaNoWriMo project until after the New Year. Many writers need at least four to six weeks to let a manuscript rest.

Rewrite Something Else. Once you have your NaNoWriMo project drafted and have set it aside, rewrite something else, something you haven’t work on in four to six weeks. Rewriting, after all, is an essential part of writing. It gives you the opportunity to create the manuscript that you meant to create in the first place.

Write Something New. What if NaNoWriMo was your first major manuscript? You might not have something else that you can rewrite. If that is the case, once you have completed a draft you can start working on something new. This might be a good time for you to get to work on something new.

Read, Read, and Read Some More. One of the best ways to recognize good writing in your own work and in that of others is to read good writing. Check out best-selling books and award-winning books in your genre. My library has a winter reading challenge that started December 1. To complete it, I have to earn five “badges” which include reading a best seller, a favorite author or an author who is new to me.

What am I doing? I never work on any single manuscript at a time. I will continue working on the cozy that was my NaNoWriMo project. Hopefully by the end of December I’ll have 50,000 words. I am also going to rewrite a picture book manuscript that I put aside about 4 weeks ago. And that reading challenge? No worries. One badge is for reading an author who is new to me. Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead, a translated novel by Olgo Tokaczuk is sitting on my bookshelf waiting.

NaNoWriMo may be a thing of the past but December gives us four more weeks of writing time in 2019.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins  January 6th, 2020. 

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Sunday, December 01, 2019


Meet Anne Walsh Donnelly - Runner Up in the 2019 Q4 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "How NOT to Fall in Love with Your Therapist"

Congratulations to Anne Walsh Donnelly and  How NOT To Fall in Love with Your Therapist. and all the winners of our 2019 Q4 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Anne's Bio:

Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in County Mayo in the west of Ireland. She is a single mother to two awesome teenagers and works as a Student Services Office in a third-level college. She considers herself blessed to have two children who understand how important writing is to her and know not to disturb her when she is in the ‘writing zone.’

She started writing in her mid-40s, kick-started by the end of her marriage and her work in therapy. She dedicates this piece to her therapist(s) who provided a safe place for her to explore her inner thoughts and feelings.

She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Woman With An Owl Tattoo published by Fly on the Wall poetry press in the UK. The chapbook is an intimate reflection on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance of her sexual identity in mid-life.

She is also the author of the short story collection Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife published by The Blue Nib imprint in Ireland. To find out more about Anne and her work, go to:

Twitter: @AnneWDonnelly
Facebook: AnneWalshDonnelly

If you haven't done so already, check out Anne's expertly written story How NOT To Fall in Love with Your Therapist and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Anne! Thank you for writing this expertly written and very moving essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from How NOT to Fall in Love with Your Therapist ?

Anne: Therapy is Hard Work, but very rewarding. The relationship between a therapist and a client is unique and sacred. 

Where else does one get unconditional acceptance in life?
But the real healer in life is love. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to allow ourselves to love and allow ourselves to be loved.

WOW: That L Word sure is a biggy, isn't it? If we love ourselves, we should care for ourselves - so what advice would you give to others when it comes to self-care?

Anne: Neglecting and suppressing your own needs does not make you a better woman, spouse or mother. I have become a much better mother as a result of taking time out to meet my own needs and as a result of the work I’ve done in therapy.

We all need to take time out to do what nurtures us, whether that is seeing a therapist, taking a walk in the woods on one’s one, getting a facial or making time to be creative.

Fight for your right to have space for YOU and guard it with your life.

WOW: That great advice resonates with me as a mom right now - thank you! I promise I'll try!

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

Anne: I’ve had a poetry chapbook and a book of short stories published this year so I’m currently giving readings at literary events to promote both books. I’m also working on a full-length poetry collection which I hope to have ready to submit to a publisher in 2020.

I’ve also started to write some more non-fiction pieces. Being placed in this competition has given me the encouragement to write more personal essays.

WOW: Speaking of getting personal - let's talk about getting personal with your younger self.  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?

Anne: Keep dreaming and believe that one day your dreams will become a reality. You imagination does not give you dreams that are not within your capability to achieve.

You have hidden talents and depths that you will discover, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but soon. One day you will soar.

Every back-breaking and gut-wrenching obstacle that you encounter will enrich you and your writing.

Yes, your tree will be stripped bare by cruel winter winds but your fallen leaves will nourish your roots and your limbs will once again be dressed by greener and lusher leaves

WOW: That is so beautiful - I hope people read that at least twice.

 Is How NOT to Fall in Love with Your Therapist part of a larger memoir? Have you considered writing a memoir? Why or why not?

Anne: It might be part of a larger memoir. I am dabbling in writing some more nonfiction pieces. It’s a new genre for me. Up to now I have been writing poetry and short stories.

My poetry chapbook has been described as a poetic memoir. It reflects on my ‘coming out’ journey and its honesty has been applauded. It was daunting to put it out there and to see it published. But it has been well received.

I’ve always wanted to write about my experience in therapy and have been trying to write about it for a few years but I’ve always felt blocked. Then in May of this year, this piece ‘How NOT to Fall in Love with Your Therapist, just flowed out of me onto the page.

Is there more to say? Yes. Will I write it? Probably.

Although this piece was easy to write, it was daunting to submit it, because it is so personal. Part of me wants to expand this piece, so who knows. All I can say is watch this space.

WOW: Well Anne - I'm so glad you made it through the daunting task of submitting. Your piece is beautiful and I appreciate it as a reader. Thank you also for taking time to be interviewed today. We look forward to hearing more from you in 2020 and beyond! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:

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