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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

 

Interview with Connor Sassmannshausen: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Connor Sassmannshausen is an Australian based American author and filmmaker. Her works can be found in Daily Science Fiction, Enchanted Conversation, Fantasia Divinity, and Mad Science. When not writing she enjoys watching movies, traveling and cross-stitching. She enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction in this universe or someplace new.

Facebook: @csassmannshausen
Twitter: @Sass_Connor
Instagram: @sass.connor

Before you read her interview, be sure you read her story War-Beast, then come on back!

---  Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner up in the flash fiction contest! I loved your story War-Beast. What was the inspiration behind this story?

Connor: This story started with a picture prompt. I had no idea what to write for a few days, and then it just hit me. I was given the option of having my story uploaded with the picture on the website, but I liked the story so much, I wanted to find the right place for it. 

WOW: I'm so glad you did! So, is it ever hard to keep your fantasy and science fiction stories short? What is your method?

Connor: Keeping stories short is hard. My first attempt at a story under 1000 words was going great until I looked at the word count and I was at 1500 and I had barely introduced the characters. I find that the best way to keep sci-fi and fantasy stories short it to find the element to focus on and get to it as quickly as possible. I've been writing a fair amount of 100, 200, and 300 word stories recently. I find my element that makes the story the genre I want to write and I try to jump into the action as quickly as I can. Then end it as soon after everything concludes as I can. You don't have to answer all the questions.

WOW: I love how you said that you don't have to answer all the questions. That's excellent advice. Do you ever reuse worlds that you've utilized in other stories?

Connor: So far, it's not very often I revisit my various worlds again, other than planned sequels (which isn't going as smoothly as I would like). I wrote one short story with characters I loved so much I decided to write a novel. My parents read all my short stories, and their first response is "Where's the rest of it?" I have some ideas for turning some of my short stories into novels or incorporating them into new stories. 

WOW: That sounds like an amazing idea! What are you currently working on? What can we expect next from you?

Connor: That novel I said I decided to write, I'm working on the for NaNoWriMo this year. It's been interesting. I had a basic timeline for my characters to follow. So far, they haven't listened, but that's okay. The story is still headed in the right direction. In the next few months, I have quite a few stories in some anthologies.

WOW: Ha, characters don't always listen well! You have such an impressive number of publication credits. Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get their stories published?

Connor: Publication is the hardest part of writing. You're going to get a lot more 'no's than 'yes's. The important this is not to get discouraged. A denial doesn't mean you're a bad writer, no matter how the rejection letter sounds. Your story just isn't right for them, and that's okay. You'll find the right place for your story. One of my early stories still hasn't found the right place. I find it helped me to set a goal for denials. That way every no I get is one closer to my goal, while a yes mean publication. I've hit 100 denials with 10 publishes. It can be a little discouraging at times, but it's important to keep writing. 

WOW: You are so right - keep writing! Thank you so much for talking with us today and best of luck with your next stories!

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Monday, December 30, 2019

 

Think Sheep! (Taking Your Writing Beyond the Expected)

A couple of weeks ago, I stood in a festively decorated family room at the home of a choir member, and from the kitchen beyond, I heard someone talking about sheep. And so I glanced out the family room window and saw five or six sheep, artfully placed in the backyard. They were all curled up on the grass, five white ones and one lone black sheep. How perfect, I thought, gazing into the yard as the early evening light fell around their peaceful sheep faces. It looked like a picture right out of the Cotswolds in rural England and I was pretty impressed with the lengths that my host had gone to, decorating even into the yard with all these statues of sheep.

I tore myself away from the window and stepped into the kitchen, where another picture window looked out onto this serene scene and I couldn’t help stealing another glance. When suddenly, a sheep glanced back. It turned its head and looked right at me! And then a ram sauntered past the window. I gasped out loud because these sheep were alive!

“They’re alive!” I shouted, sounding a little like Dr. Frankenstein. My host—and quite a few other people at the party—laughed out loud at me. They’d heard the whole story, that my friend had brought in the sheep to eat the English ivy. But I had not heard about the ivy-eating sheep (well, except for the song where little lambs eat ivy but honestly, I didn’t know that was a real thing, either) so it was completely unexpected for me to see live sheep in a backyard in the middle of a suburban neighborhood in the metro Atlanta area.

Wow. Anyway, I knew then that I would write about sheep for my last 2019 post. Because I don’t remember what we ate that evening or what fancy finery anyone wore but I remember those sheep. I remember that feeling of surprise, that jolt of the unexpected, and that’s what a good idea is all about.

Whether you are scratching your head, trying to come up with your next novel, or you’re pitching an article to a magazine editor, or you’re wondering why your story never wins any contests, you can benefit from a little sheep-thinking. That is, take a look at your idea, what you’re writing about, and ask yourself if anyone—a publisher, an editor, or a reader—is going to be surprised.


I mean, of course, surprised in the right and unexpected way. It’s no good to just throw something wild and crazy into a story to shock a reader. And sometimes, some of the best surprises in a story build tension in a quiet and subtly mesmerizing way. You want the reader to feel an internal gasp, to experience that "I did not see that coming" moment.

And if you’re pitching an idea for an article, sheep-thinking means using a new and unexpected way to explore a somewhat everyday topic.

A new year will be here in just a few days—a new decade, actually!—and now's the time to toss the old and embrace the new. Think sheep, my friends, and make your readers gasp with surprise at the unexpected ram that shows up in your writing!

~Cathy C. Hall wishing you happy writing in 2020!

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Sunday, December 29, 2019

 

Interview with Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up, Corinne Mahoney

Corinne Mahoney is a mother, writer, and communications professional. She lives in Massachusetts with her three middle school aged children and an elderly cat who is a glutton for affection. Despite the messes and emotions inherent in those categories of living companions, she wouldn’t have it any other way. They are daily proof that light and levity can trump darkness.

She’s written fiction—mostly of the dark, twisted, and bad variety—since she learned to put pen to paper but somehow kept letting “life” get in the way of strong writing habits. A friend mentioned switching genres can cure writer’s block, so she’s been dabbling in creative nonfiction and poetry for the last few years. It was solid advice.

She believes places and objects are best thought of as writing prompts, and the only thing joyless to write is an author bio. She has a twisted little piece published in The Molotov Cocktail and a personal essay forthcoming in Spry Literary Journal. Many moons (9 years!) ago she placed first in a WOW Flash Fiction, and she’s beyond thrilled to have this essay recognized by WOW.

Corinne's story is unfortunately one that many women will relate to all too well. Read it here and then return to learn more about her writing process.

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in the Q4 WOW! Creative Nonfiction Contest. I will admit, I had a hard time reading your entry. It was so powerful and I felt such empathy for you throughout, which are the hallmarks of great writing. And believe it or not, I also remember reading your award-winning flash fiction piece back in the day. So let's get started. How did you get the idea to structure “Inventory” around the list of items found in your relationship/marriage with your ex-husband?

Corinne: A couple of years ago, a writer friend of mine invited me to join with a few of her other friends to respond to a monthly writing prompt for several months. We'd all read each other's work and vote for a winner who could pick the next prompt. The prompt that led to this piece was "possession." I started to list possessions, and eventually the draft morphed into an earlier version of this piece. That was the one month my piece was voted the winner! So, that gave me the confidence to keep revising and working on it; although I put it aside for a long time before returning to it.

WOW: I can understand that--writing can be such a cathartic process. Did you have any additional realizations about your relationship that came upon you as you were writing/editing this piece?

Corinne: Yes, so many. One was my own capacity to accept and rationalize what was happening. That haunts me now.

WOW: You’ve found success in getting published in a few different literary journals. Do you have any tips for writers who are looking to have their work (fiction or nonfiction) published in these types of publications?

Corinne: Find time to write. Find a few readers and really listen to their feedback. If you can, take some writing workshops. Also, try putting a piece aside and coming back to it months later. I am so much better at revising my own work when I have some distance on the piece. And, finally simply submit. I need to take that advice too! I have a long way to go with my own writing goals.

WOW: What is your dream writing project if you had all the time in the world to devote to it (whether dark and twisty or not)?

Corinne: Ooooo, I love this question. Definitely a novel-length literary horror story.

WOW: Who are some authors that have inspired your own brand of writing? 

Corinne: Graham Greene. I love how he uses imagery and dialogue. Stephen King. I grew up devouring his books, which might explain my love of all things dark. And, Shuly Cawood. A friend and incredible writer whose work inspired me to take a stab at creative nonfiction.

WOW: Thanks again, Corinne, and we hope to read more of your work soon. 

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

 

Goal Setting for the New Year or Any Time

How do you set your goals for the New Year? Our accountability group (Hi Ladies!) has been discussing our 2019 goals – what each person wanted to accomplish and what they actually did. 

I have a confession to make. I hate these kinds of conversations. I’m excellent at “setting” goals. But actually following through? Let’s just say that I’m easily distracted. Put out a call that sparks an idea and there I go. Or offer me a paying gig. That tends to be pretty distracting too.

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I’ve accomplished nothing. I’ve written and submitted three books this year. The Assassination of John F. Kennedy and The Murders of Tupac and Biggie, both in Abdo’s American Crime Stories, will come out in January. I’ve also read something like 140 books ranging from novels, memoirs, and graphic novels, to picture books and juvenile nonfiction.

Last year, I thought I had nailed this whole goal setting thing with Renee’s SMART goals. SMART goals are specific - write 1000 words a day vs write every day. They are relevant which means that they match your larger ambitions. Writing SMART goals would keep me on track. I was sure of it.

Then I started doing something else Renee suggested. In another post, "Write Your Dreams into Existence," Renee asked us to journal about where we wanted to be in 10 years. This method involves writing down ten long term goals that you want to achieve in ten years. Write them as if you’ve already achieved them vs something that will happen in the future. This means that you write “I have an agent” vs “I will find an agent.” Recopy your ten long term goals daily.

When I did this, I noticed the many things in my day that didn’t feed into these goals. I also started to see opportunities that would help me reach them. These are some of the things that “distracted” me from my annual goals.


How then should you set your annual goals? First things first, don’t think of them as annual goals. As Margo recently said in her post, “I've always wondered what was so magical about starting a new year. Why do we make all these promises to do all these things just because January is lucky enough to start a brand new, fresh calendar?” 

These aren’t goals for January. These aren’t goals for the New Year. They are your writing goals. Some will be accomplished this year. Others will take longer.

So whether you do this now, at the tail end of December, or in two weeks when it is actually January, think about where you want to be in ten years. Do what Renee suggested and come up with ten long term goals for your future. Remember to write them in the present tense. 1. I have an agent. 2. I do school visits. 3. I have a strong online presence...

Then recopy them daily for several weeks. Do they still feel like solid long term goals? Rework the ones that feel off. Then repeat the process, writing them daily for several weeks.

Once you have long term goals that feel right, you are ready to set your short term SMART goals. These short term goals are the initial steps in realizing your long term goals. 

After all, isn’t the whole point of setting goals to help you get where you want to be?

--SueBE

To find out more about Sue's 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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Thursday, December 26, 2019

 

Overcoming the Holiday Haze

Daughter with longest break ever
Listen up, writers! Whether you're busy with the day after Christmas sales or returning your gifts or in the middle of Hanukkah or celebrating Kwanzaa, and you whipped out your phone to read the latest WOW! blog post, I'm here to tell you--get thee self out of the holiday haze and get back into your writing routine. Don't wait a week until it's January 1, 2020--that's not necessary. You have all the tools and everything you need to get back on the wagon...today.

So, it's December 26, and let's say you write 1000 words a day. Then you'll have 1000 words every day from December 26 to December 31, and that's a total of 6 days of writing or 6000 words. That's 6000 words more than you would have if you waited to start January 1 or even January 2--which many writers do. Or this year, since it appears our darling children are never going back to school with the longest holiday break ever known to man (slight exaggeration only--my daughter left her school at 11:30 am on 12/20 and doesn't return until 8:30 am on 1/7/2020!), some writers are planning to start their healthy lifestyles and new routines with diets, exercise, and writing time on January 6, when most kids are back in school (except my daughter!).

If you start today, you will be so far ahead of those January 6th people that you won't even be able to see them in your rear view mirror.

I've always wondered what was so magical about starting a new year. Why do we make all these promises to do all these things just because January is lucky enough to start a brand new, fresh calendar? I decided to do things a bit differently this year. I started my 1000-plus-words-a-day writing habit on November 15. I did the Whole30 healthy eating plan from November 17 to December 16 (and I'm still eating Whole30-ish except for the irresistible Christmas cookies!). Some people thought I was crazy for not waiting for 2020--especially with the Whole30 challenge--but I was ready to make some changes in November. So, I'm starting the year eight pounds lighter, 50,000+ words on my manuscripts, and momentum to carry me through what I hope is one of my most successful years yet!

You can do it, too--and still eat the Christmas cookies. When you get home from wherever you are today or if you're already home while reading this, then walk over to your desk, turn on your computer, open the program you use to write, and type 500 words. I challenge you. Wait, no--I double dog dare you. Now you have to.

Get out of the holiday haze early this year. Get started before the others, and rock in the new year, ready to meet your goals whatever those may be!

Margo's next Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach class starts on January 3, 2020, (new syllabus!) and her new class, Writing Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: A Study and Workshop, starts on January 21. Register for both classes here. Find out more about Margo and her books here. 

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

 

Cyber-smooches to the Writers in Our Community, Taking Inventory, and Merry Whatever-you-celebrate-mas!


Today is Christmas/the third day of Hanukkah/the day before Kwanzaa/two days after Festivus/and whatever-you-celebrate day, and for many of us, it’s a joyous time full of awesomeness and sparkly decorations, spending time with family, exchanging gifts, and eating way too many cookies. But for some of us, it’s also a time of lousy weather, seasonal affective disorder, weird family interactions, and sadness that seems amplified because you’re supposed to be happy.

And if that’s you, dear writer, you have full permission to feel sad or angry, write somber poetry, punch dance it out in the woods like Hot Rod imitating Kevin Bacon in Footloose, change the lyrics to Christmas carols, and chug a bottle of Jägermeister in the bathroom while avoiding your family. Honestly, do what you need to do to make you feel happy. I’m thankful for you, and for all the writers in our community. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve gotten through 2019 as gracefully had it not been for the writing community.

Last Christmas Day I blogged, I’d just broken my ankle trail running and was scheduled for ORIF surgery (which was simply wonderful because instead of Santa Claus climbing down your chimney to leave you presents, a surgeon drills a hole into your bone and puts a metal rod in your leg while you’re sleeping), but 2019 proved to be my most challenging year yet. We didn’t get a tree this year and decided not to purchase any gifts because honestly, it’s more fun to make things like ugly dolls, chocolate chip cookies, fart jokes, and laughter.


My husband has had four surgeries this year and is scheduled for another one in February. He’s currently on chemotherapy for colon cancer, and for a quarter of the year I administered him with four IV drips a day through a picc line for a bone infection caused by a total reverse shoulder surgery, of which he’s had three. Our business was forced to close last February and he’s been out of work since, and I’ve taken on two extra jobs to support our family, and my father-in-law who currently lives with us has onset Alzheimer’s. I’ve dubbed him the “Notorious Rapscallion of Caffè Mocha Accidents” and will be printing him business cards with his new title for the New Year.


And yet, every time I visit the oncologist and talk to the beautiful survivors with colorful head wraps it quickly puts things into perspective. So today, I’m thinking about the people who are having a hard time—the people who are sick and the ones caring for them, the people who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet, the people who don’t have any family to spend the holiday with, the heartbroken, those who’ve lost their homes, the people who’ve lost loved ones and are grieving, the people who are depressed during the holidays and having a tough time. Today I’m thinking of you. This may not be your best holiday ever, but I’m thinking of you today and wishing you a better New Year.

I’m also thinking about the writing community. The writers and instructors here at WOW, the writers in my Butt-Kickers Accountability group and my Mem-Warrior group—they already know about my personal issues because that’s what writers do. Maybe because we’re used to excavating our stories, finding that kernel of insight to share with the world, that we tend to support each other in ways that go beyond writing. That type of cyber-hug is never more than a click away. In fact, some of my most cherished friends are women I’ve never met in person. But we’re there for each other.


If there’s one thing that helped me get through the year, it’s writing. I breathed writing in every spare moment because it gave me a break, and gave me purpose. Knowing you have writing is like having the superpower of invincibility, and maybe invisibility too, because it allows you to disappear for a while. I thought I hadn't accomplished that much in 2019, but then I took a quick inventory, and discovered that I:

  • wrote 58,570 new words of my memoir, created a beat sheet, chapter summary, and marketing plan
  • completed 3 workshops with WOW, and wrote seven essays
  • read 32 books
  • submitted creative nonfiction to six publications, had three pieces accepted, and one of my essays was nominated for both the Best of Net and the Pushcart Prize

In my work as editor at WOW, our team:

  • published 4 new e-zine issues with 46 articles
  • facilitated 8 writing contests
  • published 82 works of fiction and creative nonfiction
  • published nearly 350 blog posts, an equal number of social media posts
  • launched 14 blog tours
  • interviewed over 146 writers in our community
  • sent 129 email campaigns with valuable content
  • and I personalized over 147 Amazon gift cards for contestants and WOW staff this year
  • the list goes on


Congratulations to team WOW, and to our vibrant community of writers, readers, and followers. We'd love to hear what you have accomplished! Leave a list in the comments below if you feel inclined to share. I bet you’ve accomplished more than you think you have.

Writing is hard, but so worthwhile. Much like life.



Thank you for your support this year, writers! I’m grateful for you, and I hope you're not dizzy from all the animated .gifs. They just brighten my day. :) I mean it when I say I couldn’t have gotten through the year without our writing community. Merry whatever-you-celebrate-mas and cheers to a better, most awesome and sparkly New Year!

We will bring it in 2020.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

 

Interview with Victoria Melekian: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Victoria’s Bio:

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California with her husband, their very old dog, a collection of glass doorknobs, and a dusty stenograph machine that takes floppy disks—she retired from court reporting a couple of years ago to help with her son’s business.

Her passion has always been words. Various literary magazines and anthologies have published her stories and poems in print and online. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award, was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. To read her work, visit her site

If you haven't taken the time to read her story, "Something to Salvage," click on the link here and give yourself an early Christmas present.  Then come back here for a conversation with this author. 

WOW: This story will resonate with so many of our readers. What was your inspiration for this piece of flash fiction?

Victoria: The story is fiction, but it’s true that my husband and I were traveling home to San Diego from San Francisco one Saturday and I asked him to drive by his old house because I wanted to see it. And then, well, you know how it is, I started thinking wouldn’t it be weird if his ex-wife was outside watering the lawn or holding a garage sale when we rolled past. She wasn’t, of course, but it gave me the idea.

WOW: With the initial focus on garage sales, “Something to Salvage” did not go in the direction I expected. How did you know this was the right opening for the story?

Victoria: You glean a lot about people when you start pawing through their treasures. That’s when I realized the possibilities I could play with if I created a garage sale scenario—I’d have a reason for the two characters to meet and interact and I could choose the items for sale.

WOW: You must have chosen these items for a purpose. In flash fiction, every detail has a job to do. How did you decide which details to use and the figurative role these images would play?

Victoria: I needed something meaningful for my character to find and that’s when I thought of the trophy. It seemed like something that could end up in a box full of stuff out in a garage along with old board games and glass jars. 

I just kept picturing those jars spread out on a table. Something about their emptiness fascinated me. As I got into the story I played with smashing them all onto the concrete, but decided pushing one to the ground was enough.

WOW: From a novella to short stories and poetry, your work is highly varied. Is there a common thread that runs through your writing? How do you choose what to write next?

Victoria: I write about circumstances humans contend with: families and illness and betrayal and happiness and death. Sometimes I focus on elements from my life I might be questioning. I find giving some of my emotions to a fictional character helps me work my way through things. As for what to write next, I run with whatever snippet, line, or image has the most energy for me.

WOW: What can you tell us about your current projects as well as your long term writing goals?

Victoria: I’m always playing with a poem or two, and I have a few stories in various stages. Recently I’ve been thinking about trying something longer again, maybe another novella in flash or linked stories. I’d love to put all my poems together in a lovely slim volume that someone might buy to put on a coffee table, preferably in a room with a view.

WOW: I can definitely see your work coming together in such a meaningful way. Thank you for sharing your insights with our readers.  Congratulations again and, to everyone who is celebrating, Merry Christmas!

Interview by Sue Bradford Edwards.  To find out more about her 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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Monday, December 23, 2019

 

Should Writers Be on LinkedIn?



I’ve been on LinkedIn for about 10 years, but I’ll admit I probably haven’t utilized it the way I should. After reading an article recently on how LinkedIn has changed its algorithms and how it can be beneficial for career advancement, I decided to take another look at the platform, which is essentially a social network that focuses on professional networking and career development.

You may be thinking, “I don’t use LinkedIn, and I don’t see how it could help me in my writing/editing career." However, you should realize that LinkedIn is an easy way to showcase your experience and skills and help you make connections in the industry that you may not be aware are out there. Here are a few examples of ways I’ve been using LinkedIn in the past few months.

First, I made sure I had my most recent headshot uploaded and my details (what industry I’m in, the area in which I live, my website linked, etc.) Second, I updated my headline with my new job title and fixed the dates on when I left my last job because it looked like I still worked there. Then I began engaging more with my connections by liking or commenting on posts or articles they shared, and posting more content related to my writing and editing platform. When I write a blog post I think my network would like, either here or on my own blog, I share it there. I also utilize the new hashtag feature available at LinkedIn to try and get more eyes on it. The new analytics LinkedIn is using shows me how many views each post I create gets.

As a magazine editor, I’ve discovered even more ways to use LinkedIn to my advantage. When I created a list of contributor’s guidelines for the magazine I work for, I shared the page in my LinkedIn feed. That post had 272 views—far more than any other post I’ve shared. And within a week of sharing, I had legitimate inquiries from new local writers and a few solid pitches from businesses for profile stories.

Here are a few tips as you navigate your way through the platform:

Make sure you have the most-up-to-date information on your profile, including a professional-looking headshot against a solid background. My headline was easy to come up with, as I have a specific title at a magazine. But if you are in the freelance space, consider using titles like Podcaster, Freelance Writer, Content Creator, Marketing Strategist, Blogger or Storyteller at (places you blog), Author of (name of your book), etc. Your profile should be as complete as possible. Fill in your list of skills and accomplishments and interests. Ask connections for endorsements. Think about what you would want a future employer, publisher or collaborator to know about you, and don’t be afraid to show off your copywriting skills.

And last but not least, don’t just use LinkedIn when you’re looking for a job or writing opportunities. Take time to regularly look through your feed, like or comment posts from your network connections, endorse people you know for their specific skills and share your own blog posts and other work. You never know when you’ll make an impression on a future employer, potential business partner or editor.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also blogs at FinishedPages.com. Connect with her at LinkedIn.

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

 

Interview with Christine Venzon: Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Christine’s Bio:

Christine Venzon began her career writing and editing family and consumer science textbooks. From there she developed a love of all things food—from cooking and recipe development, to nutrition and food science, to history and and folkways and food supplies and environmental issues. She considers herself a better-than-average home chef.

Professionally her achievements include award-winning fiction published in Highlights for Children and the Saturday Evening Post, where she was runner-up in the Great American Fiction Contest in 2014 and 2017, along with short stories appearing in St, Anthony Messenger, and an article in the food encyclopedia, Entertaining From Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl. She is a life-long cat owner and currently shares her home with two felines. She is shamelessly Catholic and enjoys enthusiastic discussions on matters of morals and faith. A native and current resident of Peoria, IL, she lived for six years in Southwest Louisiana. While proud to be the daughter of Italian immigrant parents, she calls the Cajun prairie her true homeland.

If you haven't done so already, check out Christine's award-winning story "Vegetarian Scrapple: It's a Guy Thing" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2019 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Christine: This piece evolved from several other essays, each with its own “origin story.” I was working on a piece on bizarre foods, another on my experience volunteering with a food-recovery organization, and a third about Cajun food traditions. They were interesting, but didn’t have much to say beyond themselves. With my interest in food and culture, I started to notice common themes in all of them, namely attitudes toward food and how food represents and reflects the roles of the people who eat and prepare it.

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

Christine: I learned that some creative breakthroughs really do come when and where you least expect them, the “aha!” moment. You can wrack your brains looking for a solution a problem like finding a link between two ideas that you know are related but can’t quite see how, or a cause-and-effect relationship. Then you read a story on a true-life crime involving a seemingly stellar, trustworthy employee who plotted to steal millions company funds. Something about the methods and motives and sheer cunning triggers the “how” and “why” processing centers in your brain, and you see at least the germ of the solution.

WOW: Yes, I like this description of finding an “aha!” moment. You never know when it will strike, which is great motivation to keep reading and learning and experiencing new things. Please tell us more about the role of food and cooking in your life. How has it inspired your writing?

Christine: My family is Italian, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. My earliest memories are of cooking – and especially baking – with her. (She’s 90 years old and until her stroke a few years back was still making her own egg noodles and ravioli and sending off six different kinds of cookies in Christmas packages to my far-flung siblings and their kids.) I started working on home economics textbooks and was blown away by the science behind cooking and nutrition. The way it all holds together, the whole chain of the chemical actions and reactions, is like a microcosm of the universe. It deepens my faith in an all-wise God with a terrific sense of the ironic.

WOW: The stories, and cultures, and science of food fascinate me, too, and you have an interesting amalgam of experiences with each. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have most influenced you, and in what ways?

Christine: I grew up reading my older brother’s Sports Illustrated magazines. Writers like Bill Nack drew me in by telling the personal stories behind the sporting event. I came to love sports largely through their writing. That’s the heart of good writing: finding the personal connection between the subject and reader.

WOW: Excellent observation on the heart of good writing! If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be?

Christine: Lots of things! For starters:

  • Never forget the joy of just putting words on the page. It’s too much work without enough reward to do only as a job.
  • Everyone has a story they want to tell; let them, you’ll be amazed at what they know.
  • Join a supportive writing community. You'll learn a lot about craft and how to give and take criticism. You'll also meet some really cool people.
  • Writing is power and a privilege. Your words may not change your readers lives, but they can change their hearts and minds.

WOW: Thanks so much for that advice and for your thoughtful responses. And thank you for sharing your writing with us!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

 

A Thank You to the Book Bloggers

As blog tour managers, Crystal and I have the opportunity to work with not only amazing authors but also amazing book bloggers. Because I do some book blogging on my own blog, I have a taste of how much work it is to do book reviews. I follow many of them and I am so impressed by the work and effort done by the bloggers to contribute to the book world.

So, as we near the end of 2019, we want to say a huge thank you to the book bloggers out there taking the time to review books. We especially want to say a thank you to those who work with WOW! Women on Writing and participate in our blog tours. Your efforts are so appreciated. Many of the bloggers who work with us are also authors themselves and the balance of writing, reading, blogging, and building a platform is not an easy one.

So, thank you to all of the readers out there that make what we do a fantastic job. We are so honored that each and every one of you take the time to read and review the books that go out there into the world. Crystal and I look forward to working with you all again in 2020. Have a wonderful holiday season!

Nicole & Crystal
You can say hi to Nicole on Twitter @BeingTheWriter and follow Crystal's blog at http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/.

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Friday, December 20, 2019

 

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

My writing colleague Linda O'Connell recently nudged me into trying to promote myself. You know, get my face and name out there. She suggested I reach out to newspaper and local TV news folks to connect my most recent Chicken Soup story to what's going on in our country... and she even wrote a text to get me thinking.

This is what she wrote:

"Despite continued stereotyping, and Donald Trump calling Ferguson one of the most dangerous cities in the world,  I'd like to share with you and the community at large my timely and inspirational story. ‘MY Ferguson’ was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, My Kind of America. 

The story of Cathy and Jerome Jenkins and young Cortez Thomas is hopeful, positive, and uplifting--exactly what people need to hear in these trying and divisive times.

I am a published writer, former seasoned Ferguson public school teacher, and current parochial school teacher who believes ....(your mantra or something like this:)  Goodness trumps hate. If we seek the good, we will find it."

The thing is, Linda is gifted when it comes to promotion. You read her posts, you listen to her, and she weaves in bits of self-promotion in a creative (and interesting way). She never piles it on. You never feel like "Will this bragging never end?" because it's not bragging. She drops a detail about a published piece, and usually follows it up with something inspirational, or generously shares a writing resource she's found.

Pixabay

I have to dip my toes into these unknown waters (marketing) because at some point in the next 98 years, I will have my novel published. (Look for it in 2020 at a street corner near you. It'll be hand-written, on a stack of legal pads.) In February I will be doing someting incredibly exciting and terrifying. I'll be taking a WOW class on creating a platform (Website. Newsletters. Effective Posts. Yikes! Karen Cioffi has her work cut out with me). Will I be able to walk that fine line between singing the same song over and over (Buy my book! Buy my book!) and being so quiet, nobody knows I'm out there?

I'm not sure. I would hope I'd be able to dig up enough interesting details about my life and my job, so I could them to cushion a promotional tidbit here and there. We'll see.

I read a New York Times article on how authors in the past create brands for themselves. How crazy were the schemes? Here are a couple of them:

In the late 1800's, Guy de Maupassant (who came up with my all-time favorite writing quote: "Get black on white.") launched a hot air balloon. It flew over the river Seine, the side of the balloon emblazoned with the title of his most-recently published short story. 

In the early 1900's, Georges Simenon announced he would write an entire novel in just three days. To make it even more challenging, he'd do it in a glass cage outside the Moulin Rouge nightclub.

Three days? That's even worse than NaNoWriMo. However, Simenon never had to go through with the stunt, because the newspaper that was financing went out of business, putting a stop to the clever scheme. It didn't stop people from claiming they'd witnessed the writer tapping away in his glass cage... even though it had never happened.

(This one got me thinking. I could write in a glass cage--naked. People would pay money for me to put clothes back on. Certainly, I'd make more money that way than I would as a writer.)

So, in the next few months I'll be trying to learn how to build a platform for myself. A platform sturdy enough to support my wide rump. Is such a thing possible? We'll see.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

 

5 Writing Lessons I Learned in 2019

As 2019 draws to a close and we rush into the year 2020 (wasn't the 80s like twenty years ago by the way?), it's only appropriate I take a look back at this past year and reflect on writing. It's hard not to look back and reflect on the "numbers" angle of writing. Like how many rejection emails I've received. Or how many stories I've written. Or how many publications I've obtained. Instead, I'd rather focus on what I have learned.

Here are a few:

1) I've learned to be patient with the writing process. 

Okay, sort of. I can't say I'm always patient. This past year my writing has ebbed and flowed. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's painful. This time last year I was writing about how I needed to learn patience in the writing process. I think I have. I've learned to be patient with submitting. I've learned to be patient with waiting for feedback. I've even learned to accept the stories that haven't found their ending yet and be patient enough to wait for the ending to come around. In fact, one short story I wrote a few years ago finally found its ending and I'm so happy I kept this story around long enough for that to happen. So patience has been learned. At least, I think so.

2) You can't always do it all.

Last December over at my personal blog, I signed up for some reading challenges. Didn't do either one. In fact, except for the amazing authors who wanted to contribute guest posts along with a few books I've reviewed, I haven't been as active as I wanted to be on my blog. I've learned that you can't always do it all. Well, you can try, but likely your energy will be sapped and something in your life will be sacrificed as a result. I've learned to accept that I won't always be able to do everything I'd like and that is okay by me.

3) Social media can be a terrible distraction.

As much as I am a supporter of authors and writers building their platform, social media is an incredible distraction. An important distraction sometimes, but still, it's a distraction. I've been on my phone less and less lately and that means I'm not as active in the social media world. I find that I do a lot better limiting my time spent on social media in minimal increments.

4) Revising is writing.

Looking back over some of my blog posts here, I came across my 2018 reflection post and I realized that one of my writing weaknesses used to be the revising process. Did you see that there? I said the words "used to be." I can't say that I've perfected the process, but it isn't nearly as intimidating and impossible as it once was. I've learned how writing shapes and changes in the revising process. I enjoy that now and it has helped me in writing my first drafts.

5) Life happens. Writing can wait.

Sometimes life hits us hard. Sometimes stress adds up. Last year I said, "Life happens. Write anyway." This year I'm saying, "Life happens. Writing can wait." The reason I say this is because sometimes you just need to be kind to yourself. While I encourage you to discipline yourself to write through the tough times, sometimes you need to put writing projects to the side. If you are going through a stressful time, consider journaling. Or drawing. Or coloring. Or going for walks. Sometimes the writing process hurts when we force it. But who knows, ask me next year, and I'll likely say something different.

With all of this in mind, I'm looking forward to seeing what the new year will bring. A new decade. The roaring twenties of a new age. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

What writing lessons did you learn in 2019

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

 

Interview with Shelley Day Jewell: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Shelley’s Bio:

Shelley Day Jewell resides in New Hampshire with her husband and two middle sons, a bloodhound, a beagle, and a springer spaniel. Her daughter and new grandson live close by, and her oldest son lives near Dallas, TX.

She’s been a writer in her head since grade school, but didn’t start the real thing until about ten years ago. She’s had short stories published in Boys’ Quest, Hopscotch, and The School Magazine. She’s been an honorable mention in the Women On Writing flash fiction contest three times.

Shelley is currently working on a MG adventure series, a YA mystery, and YA fantasy.

When Shelley isn’t trying to find time to write she reads, knits, spends time with family and friends, travels, binge watches Netflix, and drinks too much coffee.

If you haven't done so already, check out Shelley's award-winning story "Something Crazy" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Shelley: This type of story is personal for me. One of my children is adopted and comes from a traumatic past. Seeing how a change in environment helped this child flourish and become an amazing adult has become part of our family story. All of my stories tend to pull pieces from this experience. It's exciting to write from the heart.

WOW: I agree. Sometimes it’s difficult for writers to let themselves be vulnerable and tap into the heart, but you’ve done it so well. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Shelley: That I can write from the heart and not revise over and over again. I only had time to revise this piece once and had zero faith that it would place! I learned to have more faith in myself.

WOW: I’m glad you had enough faith in yourself to enter the contest, and it’s heartwarming to know this experience has helped you to increase that faither. Are you willing to tell us more about any of your works in progress?

Shelley: I have a MG adventure and two YA's in progress. As I mentioned before, all of my stories end up with children belonging to a family they were not born into, and that it is okay. Some of my MC's have to battle with this before they feel they belong.

WOW: Does one of them keep you up at night more than the others?

Shelley: Yes! My YA mystery currently called Spider's Blood plays in my mind over and over. It's a somewhat dark piece and a little scary because so many of our young people live in unhealthy environments. I struggle with keeping my character true to her trauma, but still emerges strong and confidant and healthy. That journey hits home a little too hard, and pulls out old emotions.

WOW: Writing with the old emotions can be so difficult yet so beneficial for the writer and her stories. Keep going with it and I hope you enjoy the process! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Shelley: I'm reading Primal by DJ Molles. I choose to read all DJ Molles books because he does dark so well. His characters are real, full of faults, strengths, honor and sometimes a bit of evil. I want to learn how to write that way, and still come out of it with characters that are still likable and understandable.

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Shelley: I would take the advice I heard over and over as a child from the elders in my family. You get what you work for. I would have started writing earlier, and made myself carve out time every day. I would march on through the rejections, the hours and hours of work, and the doubt I have in myself. If I'd followed that advice, I believe I would be further along in my writing career.

WOW: Excellent advice. Anything else you’d like to add?

Shelley: I'd like to thank Women on Writing for giving writers this opportunity. I've been a fan for years, submitted several stories, earned three honorable mentions, and this placement. I appreciate the support WOW gives to writers.

WOW: You are very welcome! Thank you again for sharing your stories and for your other thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive female athletes.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

 

Let's Talk About Tropes and Using Them in Your Writing

I've been a published author since 2012 and have been a reader all my life. I have an amazing critique group who stays up-to-date with trends in books and reads a ton. And yet, when we were at the writing conference 20Books to 50K, we were introduced to the importance of tropes. At one point in the past month, I said, "Tropes! Where have you been all my life?" Heck--I was even an English major.

Maybe you read a lot about writing or have been to a workshop on tropes. But if you're like me and the other members of the Lit Ladies, then these are elements of your fiction that you have probably been including already, but you didn't realize how much readers expected them and how you can use them to help you sell more books.

What is a Trope?
A trope is a common storyline for a genre, such as romance or urban fantasy, that readers expect when they pick up a book in your genre. It does not mean it's a formula or a boring read! It's a story that is similar to others in the genre, like a contract with the reader. Readers expect certain things to happen in this book based on the trope. If you don't deliver, they will not be happy with you!

Here are a couple of examples:

When Harry Met Sally: In this popular movie, Harry and Sally are friends who eventually turn into lovers. That's a trope. It happens in a lot of romance books and movies--even in my first young adult romance, Caught Between Two Curses! When I wrote it and received a contract for it, I didn't even realize I was writing a romance. (Oh, I wish I could go back and talk to that Margo!) I certainly didn't realize that I had a popular trope in there--friends to lovers (although my two teen characters are simply boyfriend and girlfriend by the end). But my book and When Harry Met Sally are nothing alike except for that trope. Some readers and movie watchers only want to read books about friends becoming lovers--and so they will specifically search for all the different stories to find the ways that this trope comes to life.

There are over a hundred romance tropes--it's unbelievable! Here are a few more common ones that you're probably familiar with: enemies become lovers, first love, second chance at love, secret romance, and a love triangle. Knowing your trope can help you read other books with a similar trope (market research) and write marketing materials that catch the attention of readers who are searching for that type of book!

Harry Potter: In this fantasy book, Harry is the chosen one, which is a very popular trope in this genre. Harry is the only one who can defeat Voldemort. Frodo from Lord of the Rings is another protagonist who is the chosen one. Neither Harry nor Frodo have a choice to go on their journeys--they have to go on it. If they don't do it, the evil will not be defeated. But look at the difference between these two fantasies--they have the same trope, but they are extremely different.

Some other common fantasy tropes are the secret heir, the reluctant hero, the lucky novice, and the quest.

So how do you make your trope fresh?
This is a question that successful authors answer time and again--and the answer is really simple. You tell your story in the best possible way you can--with your voice, your research, your unique characters, your humor, and so on. If you know that the chosen one is a common trope, and some very famous authors have done it well, then how can you still use the chosen one in your fantasy but put your own spin on it?

Practice picking out tropes while you're reading--they won't only be in genre fiction. But look at the storylines of the books you enjoy and see if you can notice a common one that you have seen in several other movies or books. You can also do Internet searches like "young adult romance tropes" or "space opera tropes" and read some of the articles that pop up.

As always, write the story that is in your heart. However, if you want to sell it, then also figure out where it fits in the marketplace and part of this is also discovering the tropes you cover in the story.

Margo L. Dill is a children's and YA author who also teaches online courses for WOW! In January, she is offering two courses for novel writers. On January 3, "Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach" begins. Then her brand new class, "Writing Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: A Study and Workshop" starts on January 21. For more information, click the links or contact Margo at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com .

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Sunday, December 15, 2019

 

Leisa Greene Shares Her Journey With Her Runner-Up Essay "Weightless"

Today, we welcome Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner-Up Leisa Greene, with her essay titled, "Weightless." Click here to read it. In thie essay, she shares personal details about riding on an airplane before she had gastric bypass surgery. In this interview below, she is very straightforward, honest, and open about her struggle with her body image and losing weight and writing a memoir about her life. This is an interview NOT TO MISS--no matter what your body image struggles are or where you are in your writing career.

Here's a bit more about Leisa:

Leisa Greene has numerous quirks. Her degree is in English, but her day job is in the School of Speech, Language, Hearing & Occupational Sciences where she is the School & Finance Manager crunching numbers and setting up contracts. She built a website for Indie Artists, and taught herself Photoshop, but when she touches computer hardware, it crashes. She refers to TV remotes by using the high-tech term ‘clicker’. She recently started reading her own tarot cards, but still stands by sage advice like ‘get your poop in a group’. The Donny and Marie Osmond concert was the first live concert she ever attended, but well over a decade ago she moved away from easy listening and now joins her husband at rock and metal concerts.

She loves her husband and adult children fiercely and empty nesting allows her alone time writing, thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, Instagramming about writing, and summoning her muse, although she’s not quite sure who, or what, that is yet. Writing came late for Leisa as a non-traditional college student. She didn’t think she could write until she submitted an essay about her childrens’ father to her instructor. After her face-to-face review of her essay, where he told her that the lens she used to describe her ex-husband was strong and riveting, she hiked up a mountain with her family and friends proclaiming in shock that she could write! Life has never been the same.

Leisa is currently on the fourth edit of her memoir, Early Out—a story of a mother’s coming-of-age as her two gay sons come out in a conservative Mormon community. Her other writing consists of: “Making the Men” featured in We Leave The Flowers Where They Are, an anthology of 41 brave Montana women’s true stories; “Windshield” featured in Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing; the short online essays “Brother Townsend” and “A Jamboree Family”; and The Beckett Syndrome a one act play. Leisa was born in Butte, lives in Missoula, Montana, and holds a BA in creative writing from University of Montana that she earned in 2011 at the young age of 45. She’s very practical! You can get in touch with her at: LeisaGreene.com, or on Instagram @leisa_greene.

WOW: Congratulations, Leisa, on placing in the top ten of our creative nonfiction writing contest with your essay, "Weightless." Why did you choose this as your title?

Leisa: Thank you! I'm honored to be selected! The title came to me because of my need to feel weightless physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Weighing 369 pounds was burdening me not just physically, but in so many other ways. I couldn't ride a bicycle beside my children, and I couldn't play with them without being winded; but the larger I became, the more I was fading away inside my head and my heart. I started to become larger than my friends at ten years old. At that early age, it became a dream of mine to be accepted for my size because that is who I am. Unfortunately, I couldn't accept myself. I needed that burden lifted from me- I needed to be weightless.

WOW: Thank you for sharing so many personal details with us. I'm sure there are some readers here who can relate to you, with whatever body image they also have. Women often have trouble with the self-image inside their own heads, and it can be a constant battle we have to fight. Your essay sheds light on this. 

You started with a medical procedure, gastric bypass surgery, and then went into the time you rode on an airplane with your mom, which is what the essay was mostly about. What made you choose to start how you did? (So many writers have trouble figuring out "how to start." We love your beginning! Teach us! :) )

Leisa: Going under the knife to have a gastric bypass for weight loss is drastic. It's desperate. Some people might call it dramatic. The desperate surgery juxtaposes my obesity with the desire to be thin for social reasons. It seems superficial and unrealistic, yet the feelings and observations made on the airplane are real to anyone who can't fit in an airplane seat. Fitting in society, so to speak, wasn't the only reason I wanted the surgery. There are many other reasons that play out in my memoir. However, for this chapter, it felt right to take something so drastic and have a moment of weightlessness prior to actually losing weight. All of that being said, the story line of my life falls in that order. Prior to my surgery, my mother had the surgery. I watched her shrink in size for a year before I decided to have the same procedure. So, the two of us decided to take a trip prior to my operation. It was the natural order of things. I was lucky in that it worked for this piece.

WOW: Yes, it certainly did. We read in your bio that you have a BA in creative writing that you completed a few years ago at the age of 45. What made you go back to school and get a creative writing degree? Do you feel it helps you in pursuing your writing dreams now?

Leisa: In my opinion, you don't need to have a creative writing degree to be a writer. You need to read. You need to write. I do feel it helps for me to have the degree, but not for the reasons some might think. I needed to return to school and complete a degree, to prove to myself that I could do it no matter my age, my size, my gender. Yes, I said gender. I grew up in a religion that focused on men having a career and women being mothers. That is where I came from. I wasn't encouraged to do things of an intellectual nature. I was encouraged to cook, bake, and make a beautiful home. I read voraciously; but for many years, I felt I was not as smart as other people. I was fun. I was the life of the party. I was a good mom, yet I felt people treated me like I was stupid which is also a stereotype of obese people. I proved to myself I could get a degree, and that is what mattered to me. I needed to know I was capable, in order to pursue my writing dreams. It amazes me how much yuck I carried around in my head. I had to dispel that thought of being stupid. Proving this to myself was another way for me to be weightless.

WOW:  That's amazing. Thank you for being so open and honest about your decisions. Shedding light on these stereotypes and self-image issues really helps your readers. We also read that you are writing a memoir with the title, Early Out, and you are on your fourth edit. What has that process been like for you? Any publication date on the horizon?

Leisa: I don't have a publication date on the near horizon. My goal is to have a book deal within the next year. I've been working on Early Out since my last semester of college in 2011. That's nine years! It's arduous; and often times, I wonder if I should even be writing this memoir. I just need to get this story out of me; yet I struggle with the gut wrenching parts of it. It needs to be honest and real. In order to do that, I have to open up the wounds again. It's sometimes devastating to continue to look back on a time that was tumultuous, when I was more like an antihero, than a hero.

WOW: Yes, battling normal writing block is one thing, but memoirist often have to re-live painful moments to get them on paper for readers. We wish you the bravery to do so, and we definitely want to hear from you when you get it finished and published! How are your writing days spent these days? What are you working on? Do you work on marketing, too? Do you have a routine?

Leisa: I don't have a routine. I should be better about it, but I'm not. That's the truth. I'm lucky when I have a full day to write. Juggling a day job, family, and my health is at times daunting. I've cherished the moments when I can focus on writing. They are rare. I don't believe that many writers have the privilege of just writing. I need to be better about allowing myself the time to create every single day. We all do because we are worth it, and writers write. As far as marketing, I love my Instagram account and spend time on there sharing things that are important to me and talking with other writers. The writers on IG are a solid group of wonderfully varied, creative people. That is my marketing. A few years ago, I was so focused on Twitter and building a platform that my writing got lost in the process. Right now, I stick to one platform that I enjoy. I'll probably be asked to up my marketing skills and my time on social media, but for now, I'm taking the foot off of my social media neck.

WOW: Thank you, Leisa, for taking the time to answer all of our questions. Best of luck to you with everything you are working on!

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

 

The Gifts You Need to Finish Out the Decade with a Bang

The good news is that 2019 isn’t necessarily the last year of this decade. There’s a debate about whether or not the decade runs from 2010 to 2019 or 2011 to 2020. You can read it here in the New York Times

Me? I’m going with 2011 to 2019. For one thing, I count starting with 1 not 0. If you do it differently, fine. But that’s how I do it. 

 Also, this will give me one more year to accomplish GREAT THINGS this decade. You don’t have to agree with me, but if you do you still have another year to make this decade sing.

These five suggestions can help.

1. Give yourself physical space. I have an office in my home. Not everyone is this lucky. One friend writes in a coffee shop, but I find that too distracting. Another friend uses the study rooms at our local library. She goes first thing in the morning and for an hour or more (depending on whether or not a line develops) she gets a table, chairs, outlets and a whiteboard. Not a bad deal for a freebie.
2. Give yourself time. Writing buddy Margo Dill came home from the 20Books to 50K conference inspired and ready to write. She works full time and is a single parent but gets up first thing in the morning to write. She’s reported writing 37,000 words in 29 days. Wow! A lot of people question the advice that you need to write every day but Margo’s word count shows what you can do with a daily time slot and a plan.
3. Give yourself a plan. Sit down at the same time every day and you will develop a writing habit. But you have to add a plan for that word count to really add up. With a plan you’ll know where you are going and what you need to write about next.
4. Give yourself a retreat. But a plan doesn’t always help. Sometimes we need to step away for more than an hour at the library to make progress. Whether you go alone or gather together a group of friends, you can create your own writing retreat. Religious retreat centers often offer a no-frills or low-frills place to stay with meals. Space and meals served frees you up to write.
5. Give yourself a break. Even when you give yourself space, time and a plan, there are days when the words simply will not flow. Pay attention. Do you need to recharge? Is it time for self-care? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, give yourself a break and do what you need to do for you.

You’ve got two weeks to think it over. If you enter 2020 with even a nebulous plan, you have time to make the last year of this decade work for you and your writing.

--SueBE

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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Thursday, December 12, 2019

 

How a Little Film That Could Inspired Me

Pexels.com

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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