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Friday, January 31, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Can We Take the Criticism?


by Ashley E. Sweeney

It’s that big red X in the middle of the page or that “NO!” that screams from the blue bubble on Track Changes that makes us cringe. She really doesn’t like it, we say to ourselves. Self-doubt creeps in, and with it, the door opens to a flood of self-criticism. Some days, those days when we’re really discouraged with our writing, we ask ourselves: Is it all worth it?

The answer is a decisive “YES!”

That’s the attitude I adopt when I offer my own work up for review. I have a system: as I write my first draft, two beta readers read and comment serially as I write. Then I send the WIP out to a handful of general readers who read and offer overarching comments: What works/doesn’t work? Where are holes? I take their comments and roll them into the second draft. When I think the manuscript is ready for deep dive critique, I send it out to sister authors for review before the final draft.

You’ve got to grow a thick skin! But my mantra is that any comments made are not a reflection of my persona—or, in many cases, my writing—but a vehicle to take a good manuscript and make it shine. I partition the comments into the category of product, not personhood, and that makes all the difference.

I’m in debt to authors Ellen Notbohm, Karen Jones, and Mary Volmer for massaging Answer Creek before the final draft. Their comments were often pointed, but, more importantly, needed. Trash your opening, or you risk losing your reader. Use more dialogue instead of narrative. No, she doesn’t have to take the easiest route placed in her path; make her sweat.

In the paying it forward category, many published authors take on manuscript critiques of up and coming authors. This past year, I’ve evaluated three manuscripts: one from a critique partner I know through a professional writing organization, one from a woman in one of my book clubs, and one from a slightly younger alumna of my alma mater.

To say yes to critiquing means time away from our own works in progress, public relations campaigns, research time, and pleasure reading (let alone life). It’s a solemn pact that we’ll take another’s work and massage it, sometimes roughly, to transform the work into a much better version of itself.

And that’s when the process really works, when we’re open to the ideas and know-how of others. We get so close to our own work that we don’t see the proverbial forest from the trees. Info dumps (parcel it out breadcrumb by breadcrumb throughout the work). Less telling than showing (turn narrative into dialogue). Speaking of, addressing awkward dialogue (read it aloud!)

Of course, the final say of whether we accept or reject suggested changes rests with the author herself; we can accept or reject comments. But I’m an advocate for taking as many as we can. It truly takes a village.

* * *
Award-winning author Ashley E. Sweeney received the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for her debut novel, ELIZA WAITE. Sweeney is a former journalist and educator. A native New Yorker, she now divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and Tucson, Arizona. ANSWER CREEK (May, She Writes Press) is her second novel. Find her online at the following: website: ashleysweeneyauthor.com, twitter: @ashleysweeney57, Facebook: facebook.com/ashleysweeney57, and Instagram: ashleysweeney57
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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, January 30, 2020

 

It Started With a Link

I was writing a piece about an author and looking for information; oddly, I couldn’t find an author website so I was zipping around when I remembered one of my favorite resources. And there it was: the author website! So I clicked on it.

It was not the author. It could have been an author, I suppose. The woman was lovely, what I saw of her, but the suggestion that I might want to contact her for the date of my dreams made me think her profession was something besides writing.

Of course I contacted the admin of the resource website to let him know about the link. We both knew that the author had let her website domain expire and someone had pounced on it, knowing that a popular name would get plenty of clicks. It’s a despicable practice made worse by the fact that this was a children’s author and that the clicks could be from kids.

On the other hand, it would take some serious searching to find this website; it clearly hadn’t been used by the author for some time. And to be fair, the resource could have done a little due diligence, checking links occasionally to make sure that they went to where they purported to go.

So, dear writers, we come to Lesson One: Check Your Links regularly.

And you don’t have to knock me over the head with a semi-nude person to get me over to my own website to check links. (Though technically, it was exactly that link that gave me the necessary push to do something I’d been meaning to do for…oh, about three years.)

Anyway, the point is, I headed over to Cathy C. Hall and before I even checked one link, I had a brilliant idea. Namely, that I really did need to make just one or two small changes that I’d been planning for…oh, about a year and a half. Specifically, I thought I needed to make my branding a bit clearer.

So I thought, fine, I’ll just make a small change to my header. And play around a bit with modifying my landing page. And maybe just rearrange widgets on the sidebar. But then I slept on things and got up the next day and changed it all back.

Except now I had the branding bug and it wouldn’t let go. So I jumped in again and revised the header once more, and the sidebar got a few changes, too, because the widgets had to line up with the theme AND the branding revisions I’d made and whew! I was flat wore out but I felt like it was a job well done until I perused my tabs and thought those pages needed updating, too.

So I virtually dusted off the pages and got to work. And yes, I checked my links and a good thing, too, as one was in Chinese. It was supposed to be Chinese but it was the wrong Chinese link. I think. Bottom line, the pages were done and I’d come to Lesson Two: Once a job is first begun, never quit until it’s done. Be the labor large or small, do it well or not at all. Granted, I didn’t think up that lesson and I’ve had to learn it several times over the years. Including this past thirteen days.

So. I had just sighed with relief when I remembered my email signature.

Well, of course, it had to be changed, too, so that it would fit in with the new/old theme as well as the new and improved branding. And I probably don’t need to go into all that was involved with that task, but suffice it to say that the dog is not speaking to me.

So I hope we’ve all learned our lessons here; I know I have. Mostly that the next time I get an urge to check a link, I’m closing the laptop and taking a nap.

~Cathy C. Hall





Cathy C. Hall is always fishing for ideas, writing stories to catch readers! She's a children's author, freelance writer, blogger, speaker, and dog wrangler. (At least, that's what she's got slapped up on her website right now. But honestly, we all know she could start messing with things again. Probably tomorrow.)

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

 

Introverts and the Writing Life



Hi, my name is Renee, and I'm an introvert.

I stumbled upon a podcast recently that was looking for guests who consider themselves to be of the INFJ Meyers-Briggs personality type. It had been years since I’d done any sort of analysis on the explanations of all the different types, so I did a quick Google search on INFJ's, since I knew for sure I was an introvert. “Yep, sounds a lot like me,” I thought, and filled out the survey.

Even though I’m an introvert, I’m also a journalist who enjoys doing research. Since I’ve been tinkering around with formatting for my own podcast, I thought it might be interesting to participate in an interview for one about introverts. When I listed my occupation and website, the host got back to me pretty quickly to schedule an interview.

“I have so many people reach out to me about being writers, how to get started and how to make a living do it,” she said in her e-mail. “Plus, how to get over impostor syndrome as well. I'd love to talk to you about those things.”

I started thinking about the pros and cons of being an introverted writer. The pros are that I like solitude, and can be very productive when I find a topic or project I’m passionate about. I also enjoy solitary workouts, and those give me plenty of time to reflect on my work and other projects. The cons are that there are days when I simply don’t feel like talking to people. When I was working in an office at a nonprofit at my last job, there were days when going into work sapped my energy. Tensions among co-workers affected me. There was also a sales component of my job—where I had to make cold calls at local businesses. I would sit in my car trying to get up the nerve to walk in and hand the business owner my sales kit and business card, and there were times it took more time than I wanted.

I’m in a better place now, although I tend to be a little too introverted when I work from home. When I have to do an interview for a story, whether it’s on the phone or in person, I have a lot of anxiety ahead of time. Once I start talking (especially if I’m well-caffeinated), I have no problems making conversation and asking the appropriate questions. For me, imposter syndrome is real, even after being a writer for more than 20 years. I never know if my writing is “good enough,” if people will want to read it, and I still stumble over giving elevator pitches about my fiction. Networking events, such as panels and conferences, area also difficult, but I force myself to get out of my comfort zone and sign up for them occasionally. I also try to regularly schedule coffee and lunch dates with colleagues and friends so I don’t become too much of a hermit.

I feel like the hesitation and anxiety that comes along with being an introvert will likely be something I’ll live with for the most of my life. But because I love to write and tell stories, and love helping other people do the same, even on the days when it is harder to come out of that introverted shell.



(Learn more about the INFJ personality type in this short video.)


Do you consider yourself an introvert? How has it helped or hindered your life as a writer?


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance magazine editor who also blogs at FinishedPages.com.


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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

 

Interview with Cassandra Chambers: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Cassandra’s Bio:

As a child, Cassandra spent many hours creating and illustrating stories for her amusement. Thankfully, her writing skills have vastly improved since the age of 8, even if her illustrating skills haven’t. As the office manager of a construction company, 

Cassandra’s writing has focused on business and technical writing until recently. Nothing will make you run screaming to the land of make-believe faster than writing a 200-page software instruction manual! She has delved back into her love of storytelling, writing fictional short stories that tend towards the historical, fantasy, and sci-fi genres. 

This summer, stepping out of her introverted comfort zone, she submitted to this contest, and “The Weaver” will be her first published fictional work.
When not herding project managers or writing short stories, Cassandra researches medieval and early modern textiles and foodstuffs with her local living history group. You will also find her busy with knitting, spinning, embroidery, or weaving as she likes to keep her creative options open. Cassandra fully acknowledges her status as a history and fiber arts geek.  You can connect with Cassandra on Twitter @CE_Chambers1 or visit cassandrachambers.wordpress.com.

If you haven't taken the time to read "The Weaver," click on through and then come back here for a conversation with this author. 

WOW: What inspired you to write “The Weaver?”

Cassandra: The inspiration behind this story came from the Van Gogh painting, “The Weaver” from 1884. The painting shows a man at work at a loom in an empty room, but I feel it is also a lonely and sad painting. The story is set in the same time frame the painting was done, when so much of the craft industry was moving to industrial centers. Against this backdrop, the story weaves the love this man has for his family and the recent loss of his wife and intertwines it with his love and respect of his craft.

WOW:  For our readers who aren't familiar with that painting, here is a link. It is definitely a gloomy piece.  How did the story change and grow during the writing process? I’m especially curious whether or not the piece was always in the present tense and what impacted this choice.

Cassandra: The story evolved quite a bit from the original rough draft. At first, it had been written in past tense since the story is set in an earlier time. I felt connection with the main character and when switched to present tense, the story felt more relatable and real. 

This story has always been a short piece, so I played with wording and imagery a lot to make every word as impactful as possible. My family were my test readers and gave me great feedback that definitely enhanced the story.

WOW:  I'm a new weaver myself and I loved the weaving details from your own experience that you pulled into the story. How else does the story draw from your life?

Cassandra: Everyone can relate to a story of the loss of a loved one and how the smallest things will remind you of that person. Since creating art is a very emotional and tactile experience, I wanted to encompass his lifelong weaving craft into his memories and feelings of loss. 

As someone who both spins and weaves, I obviously have a love of fiber arts and pulled from my experiences to add to the narrative. Additionally, I love history and stories about everyday people from the past. I am involved in living history as well as genealogy, both hobbies give interesting introspection into everyday life in the past and helped to influence the story.

WOW:  What do you hope that readers will take away from this story?

Cassandra: Maybe a sniffle and a tear in their eye. I enjoy making connections to the past. Those who lived and worked before us had the same emotions and feelings that we do now. So even if most folks nowadays aren’t sitting at a spinning wheel, they can still connect with the loss of a partner who was loved and participated in their life. People still create art, so even if weaving isn’t your hobby, the feeling of connection with your art or craft is something that is relatable.

WOW: Can you share your long-term writing goals with our readers? Have these goals changed since you placed in this contest?

Cassandra: I entered this contest to make myself step outside my comfort zone and send my writing out into the world. Honestly, I didn’t really expect anything to come of it and about fell out of my chair when selected as a finalist. Being a runner up has given me enough of a confidence boost that I want to focus on improving as a writer. My current objectives are to develop a more consistent writing habit and focus on short form writing with the goal of getting other stories published.

WOW: I am sure our readers are glad that you stepped out of your comfort zone to share your writing. Congratulations again and thank you for sharing your ideas about writing with us. 

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  March 2nd, 2020. 

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Monday, January 27, 2020

 

Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction takes an intimate and raw look at the current face of addiction and recovery. Talking about the current opioid epidemic, we follow a young couple while one of them goes through the recovery process. Told through letters, we get an understanding of their relationship as it struggles through his addiction and resulting recovery. From detox, rehab, sober living and the 12 steps of AA, you get a raw and honest look at the effects of addiction and how they affect relationships.

AUTHOR NOTE: There is explicit and graphic content.

Print Length: 380 Pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Independently Published
ISBN-13: 978-1717868947
ISBN-10: 1717868940

Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction is now available to purchase at Amazon.com.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction by Sarah Dickinson, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on February 2nd at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author

Sarah Dickinson is a lifelong resident in beautiful upstate New York. Mother of two amazing daughters and three equally awesome rescue dogs, she is the author of Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. She currently attends college and is in the midst of switching careers. When she isn't doing it all, she reads comic books, blogs, and takes weekend getaways.

You can find the author online at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Silver-Spoons-Ones-Journey-Through-Addiction-916257075228829/

Blog: https://sarahvdickinson.art.blog/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sarahdauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Peerpre36414692

Goodreads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19325669.Sarah_Dickinson

---  Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congratulations on your book Silver Spoons. You chose a unique storytelling method by telling this story in mostly letter form. Why did you choose to write your book in this way?

Sarah: I chose it for a few reasons. It helped establish intimacy and unfiltered honesty. It was also something I had never seen and it helped create a unique spin to hopefully stand out. Also, for totally pragmatic reasons writing it in the form of letters gave me some freedom in telling the story. I could ignore certain rules of grammar and interject facts without sounding like a textbook.

WOW: I love that! So, why did you decide to self-publish?

Sarah: It's exceptionally difficult to get your foot in the door. I have been rejected for not having enough followers. I have received interest, but then I was asked to make changes in the characters in various parts of the story. All of that led me to decide that this book would never fit into the commercialized asset of traditional publishing. I wanted this story to be told as raw and honest as possible and didn't care much about making money.

WOW: I read in an interview that you went to AA meetings and even received personal accounts from people that you put into your book. What did you learn from working directly with people in recovery from addiction?

Sarah: Yes, I did. I even got a sponsor and worked the steps. Every person I spoke to went out of their way to help me understand the steps as well as the program. There were closed meetings I wasn't allowed in, but I was made to feel welcome in every open one. I learned about addiction, namely that it does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any point. That the practices and steps in AA could help any person live a better life. I learned every person deserves the chance of a new life and the support to do it.

WOW: That shows so much dedication to the story you were telling! What do you hope people gain by reading this book?

Sarah: The biggest thing I hope they gain is empathy. I hope they see not only how easy it is to become an addict, but that addicts are still people. Good people who have done bad things. They can be your neighbor, friend, or co-worker. I hope the reader sees that addiction and recovery affect more than just the addict. You never know what any person is battling.


"Dive in and tell that story. The most stigmatized subjects are often the ones with very few voices."


WOW: I totally agree. What advice do you have for people who want to write about a subject that is often stigmatized?

Sarah: I would say to do your research. Despite my own experiences, I spent a year researching addiction and going to meetings. You should also have a very honest conversation with yourself about what voice or perspective you want to bring to this. Lastly, I'd say dive in and tell that story. The most stigmatized subjects are often the ones with very few voices.

WOW: Fantastic advice! So, what are you working on now? 

Sarah: I'm still in the research of a story about two sisters who were estranged due to one of them marrying an abusive man. When the abuse continues and gets worse, the sister flees. She is helped by her sister and they reconnect as they both help rebuild her life. While I want to address the abuse, especially how predators abuse their victims as well as the effects of that abuse, I want the main focus to be on their relationship. I want to focus on sisterhood, family, hope and all the good stuff.

WOW: That sounds awesome! Best of luck with your book and with the blog tour!

--- Blog Tour Dates

January 27th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Visit our blog today and you can read an interview with the author of Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction and also enter to win a copy of the book!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

January 28th @ 12 Books
Stop by Louise's blog today and read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
www.12books.co.uk

January 29th @ Joyful Antidotes
Make sure you visit Joy's blog today and read her review of the book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://www.joyfulantidotes.com

January 30th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog again where you can review Sarah Dickinson's guest post about 5 reasons why you should consider a change in lifestyle.
www.12books.co.uk

February 1st @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Make sure you visit Anthony's blog today where he shares a spotlight of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 2nd @ A Storybook World
Deirdra will be highlighting Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction with a spotlight post.
http://www.astorybookworld.com/

February 3rd @ Jill Sheets' Blog
Visit Jill's blog today and read Sarah Dickinson's guest post about 5 reasons to consider a change in your relationships.
http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/

February 4th @ Coffee with Lacey
Join Lacey over at her blog today and read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://coffeewithlacey.com/

February 10th @ To Write or Not to Write
Visit Varsha's blog today and read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://sreevarshasreejith.blogspot.com/

February 10th @ StoreyBook Reviews
Make sure to visit Leslie's blog today and check out an excerpt of the book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://storeybookreviews.com/

February 12th @ The Faerie Review
Visit Lily's blog today and read her review of the powerful book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
http://www.thefaeriereview.com/

February 13th @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Visit Anthony's blog again where you can read a guest post by author Sarah Dickinson. Make sure you check out her easy self-care tips to add to your daily routine.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 14th @ Jessica Belmont's Blog
Visit Jessica's blog today and you can read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

February 16th @ And So She Thinks
Make sure you visit Francesca's blog today and read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. You can also read an interview with the author!
https://andsoshethinks.wordpress.com/

February 18th @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog and you can read Sarah Dickinson's guest post about how to be self-aware in your writing.
http://madelinesharples.com/

February 19th @ It's Alanna Jean
Make sure you visit Alanna's blog and read a guest post by Sarah Dickinson called, "5 Reasons to Consider a Change in Career."
http://ItsAlannaJean.wordpress.com

February 20th @ The Frugalista Mom
Visit Rozelyn's blog today and you can read her review of the book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction by Sarah Dickinson. Also, win a copy for yourself too!
https://thefrugalistamom.com/

February 21st @ The  Frugalista Mom
Stop by Rozelyn's blog today and you can read Sarah Dickinson's guest post about how to raise a confident (but not arrogant) child.
https://thefrugalistamom.com/

February 23rd @ Author Anthony Avina Blog
Stop by Anthony's blog and you can read his review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction. 
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

February 24th @ Armed with a Book
Visit Kriti's blog today and read her review of Sarah Dickinson's book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction.
https://www.armedwithabook.com/

February 25th @ Armed with a Book
Make sure you visit Kriti's blog again when she interviews the author Sarah Dickinson.
https://www.armedwithabook.com/


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

To win a copy of the book Silver Spoons: One's Journey Through Addiction by Sarah Dickinson, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on February 2nd at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Sunday, January 26, 2020

 

Going Back to Unfinished Stories



For the second time this past month or two, I have found half-finished stories and finished writing them. It's an odd thing to do, especially because I would normally tell you that's an impossible task for me. Most of the time, I read through a piece of unfinished writing and think to myself, "Oh if only I had the stamina to finish it..."

This time I did though. I wondered why I succeeded this time. What made this time so different?

In one of the stories, I started writing after my favorite part. In fact, the scene I kept was the only thing I liked about the story. In addition, for both stories, I ended up taking them in unexpected directions. One was supposed to be a work woe story (which I tire of writing now) and I ended up taking it in a futuristic direction. The other one was weird to begin with, but I ended up taking it in a far more hopeful direction than I first intended.

I think that's why it worked. Another reason I think this worked is that both stories had been written over 5 years ago. I was far more removed from the stories so I had a fresh perspective. I don't think I would be able to take a fresh look at a story written even 6 months ago.

So, after these two successful completed stories, I'm excited to pour over old notebooks and find hidden gems. If you are aiming to take on a half-finished story, I would recommend the following advice:

- Only keep the scenes you like.
- Take it in a totally different direction than you intended.
- Write fast. (I feel like self-doubt creeps in a lot faster when it's a story you didn't finish once before.)
- Make sure you really like it. (Don't finish the story out of guilt for not finishing it. Finish the story because you know you love something about it.)

Have you gone back and finished a story that was half-completed? How did that work out for you?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

 

Genre and Author Brand

Back when I was new to the field, a seasoned children’s writer told me she didn’t try to determine what type of book her story would be. She simply wrote the story. Then she would figure out what it was. She had learned this lesson as she drafted an early reader that turned into a chapter book at the advice of her critique group. She later rewrote it as a picture book. When she sold the book, it was once again an early reader.

Sometimes you just have to tell the story. In the end, perhaps with help, you’ll figure out what it is.

When I tell people, especially writers, this story, I watch them panic. “If you write more than one type of book, how will your readers find you?”

How indeed? Given the fact that most of my readers are zoomers (Generation Z) or younger, I have confidence that they’ll Google me.

Oh, wait. I can still hear the die hards in the group calling out. “You can’t brand yourself if you write in more than one genre! It doesn’t work that way.”

But it does. Just this week, I listened to an episode of Literaticast. In this podcast, agent Jennifer Laughrin of Andrea Brown Literary Agency interviews children’s publishing professionals. Episode 39 featured author Kate Messner.  One of the things that Kate discussed is that she writes a wide variety of children’s books including nonfiction, picture books, and middle grade novels. What then is her brand? 

Jennifer explained that an author’s brand is whatever readers think of when they think of her. She followed by asking Kate what she thinks her brand is. Kate answered curiosity and courage. For her part, Jennifer identified Kate’s brand as being able to make difficult topics accessible to young readers and always writing with heart and courage. With two answers that agree so closely, I think it is safe to say this is her brand.

What does this mean for your writing career? If you normally write women’s fiction but your current novel is nudging into mystery territory, learn all about red herrings and write that mystery. If you are a nonfiction writer who has found an event that you can best write about in fiction, start outlining your story.

Write what calls to you and your brand will create itself. Maybe you write fiction and essays that shock and awe. Or you could be someone who pens mysteries and romances that titillate. Write what only you can write and your writing will create your brand.

For my part, I’ll continue to write about ancient cultures and evolution, headline topics and social justice. To do so, I’ll comb through history, eye witness accounts, court documents and the latest science to tell young readers the facts as we know them.

--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  March 2nd, 2020. 


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Friday, January 24, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Memorable First Lines

by June Trop

Horns were honking at my double-parked car, my two-year-old was pulling at my skirt, and the bookstore was overheated while I was standing in the aisle desperate to find a book for next week’s train trip. How fast could I pick something? Aside from glancing at the covers, I had enough time to read only the first few lines before making my decision.

Far-fetched you think? Well, maybe, but the fact is most people choose a book within the first few minutes of opening it. So, an author’s first line had better intrigue the reader.

Remember these classic first lines: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (A Tale of Two Cities), “Call me Ishmael” (Moby Dick), and “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Anna Karenina)?

And how about these modern examples: “When I was little, I would think of ways to kill my daddy” (Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster) and “The horror was in the waiting—the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers” (John Grisham’s Gray Mountain)? Here are the lines I used to start my own novel, The Deadliest Thief: “I stood there as if I’d been punched in the chest. The knocking was so frantic that I bolted of my study, tore across the atrium to the entrance of our townhouse, and opened the door.”

I’ve been collecting impressive first lines for years. I write each one on an index card with the title and author and then sort the cards into categories. Is this starter magical, ironic, scary, or humorous? Does it express a feeling I’ve had, perhaps a shameful or fearful one? In other words, what makes that starter riveting? Is that first line an imaginative description of the setting, a narration in which the reader learns about a problem, or the hint of conflict embedded in a piece of dialogue? Categorize enough of them and you’ll get a sense of what kinds of starters work for you as a reader as well as a writer.

Okay. So, you’re not about to write a novel or start a collection of first lines, but still, paying attention to them might help you figure out what you’re looking for when that adorable two-year old is pulling on your skirt and the parking enforcer is about to ticket your car. How would you characterize the first lines of The Deadliest Thief? What kind of novel would you then expect?

* * *
June Trop is the author of the Miriam bat Isaac Mystery Series set in first-century CE Roman-occupied Alexandria. Her books have been cited for excellence at the New York Book Festival, by Wiki Ezvid, the Historical Novel Society, and as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite. Kirkus praised The Deadliest Thief for its “vibrant imagery and an entertaining plot ending with a most unexpected twist.”

As an award-winning middle school science teacher, June used storytelling to capture her students’ imagination and interest in scientific concepts. Years later as a professor of teacher education, she focused her research on the practical knowledge teachers construct and communicate through storytelling.

June, an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, lives with her husband Paul Zuckerman in New Paltz, NY where she is breathlessly recording her plucky heroine's next life-or-death exploit.

Connect with June on her website www.JuneTrop.com or her Facebook page: June Trop Author.


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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, January 23, 2020

 

He Said, She Said

He said, "I'm going to write now," and he disappeared into his den. She said, "I'm going to write after I do the laundry and cook dinner and scrub out the bathtub," and the upper half of her disappeared into the dryer.

Yes, gender does matter.

I juggle working on my novel freelance writing with my full-time teaching job and all the stuff that needs to get done around the house. I do the lawn mowing, but other than that, not much yard work gets done. (The weeds are hardy. If they can't survive on their own, they deserve to die, and somewhere I read that when you accumulate a decade's-worth of sweet gum balls on the ground, they really enrich the soil... so I'm leaving them where they fall.) My husband does most of the cooking, but he also does most of the careless messing.

Leaving a spoon dripping of something on the counter... right next to the sink. Tracking in mud all over the house. (He and the dog tag team on this one.) Tapping his razor on the side of the sink, leaving a trail of whiskers--every single morning. (Turning on the faucet, a few inches away, is too much to expect, apparently.) And I won't even mention the unspeakable things that happen on the bathroom floor in the vicinity of the toilet.




If my husband had a passion--like creating watercolors or making things out of wood--I am quite sure he wouldn't feel it necessary to mop the floor, room by room, while he also painted or circular sawed. Instead, I'm almost sure that when the whim hit him, he'd just go into the basement or his "studio" (which would be the carport or our one solitary bathroom, since that's the only space we'd have available) to work on his craft... and thoughts about housework would not even enter his mind, let alone fly out the dusty window.

As a woman, I do have to juggle things. And as a woman writer, I'm not taken as seriously than if I were a man. If you think that mentality is a thing of the past--the idea that women should retreat into the drawing room and dabble in writing as a unimportant hobby--think again. Today, #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear is going strong. #WhatWoCWritersHear is even worse. I think that automatically, just because of what they have dangling a bit under their belt, male writers' work is considered with seriousness... while women's writing is considered a leisure activity--something that's done in their spare time.

I haven't seen the movie Marriage Story yet, but I have seen parts of the Laura Dern monologue, where she's ranting about the role and burden of women. And she's right.

Here is a wonderful article that includes tweets by Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat), Jodi Picoult and Cheryl Strayed. Check out some of the archaic comments.

I will never forget something I heard, even though it was said decades ago. A bunch of us had gone out to dinner together--some of us were childless but some of us had chewed off our legs to get away from the kids for the evening. One of us said to someone, "So, your husband's babysitting tonight?"

Babysitting? Is that what the everyday care of children is called when women do it? I think not.

Even I have been known to look admiringly at a dad who's playing in the park with his kids--with no partner in sight. What a wonderful father! Do I do that when I see a mom having fun with her children?

No. That's just the way it is. I have to shake the cobwebs off my own thinking occasionally, because in my mind, when people come into our house and see the dog hair dustbunnies and the toothpaste-spattered bathroom mirror, in my opinion, they don't say the two of us are slobs. Instead, according to my screwed-up thinking, they're giving me--and only me--a D+ on housekeeping skills.

When will my writing be considered as important as a man's? And when will my housekeeping (or lack of) be considered not-so-important?




Sioux Roslawski, despite how much she dislikes doing housework, loves this mop (she gets a leg workout each time she wrings it out), and she loves revising. Taking a rough first draft and refining it until it's a semi-fine piece of writing is satisfying, in her opinion. To read more of Sioux's stuff, go to Sioux's Page, her blog.




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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

 

Patiently Impatient

Did you ever notice patient people are patient with others and incredibly impatient with themselves? I recently forgot to post an article I was assigned and I beat myself up for days. My goal was to journal every day and I missed the boat completely several days already this year (keep in mind it's only January 21st). I can easily forgive others when something slips through the cracks, I'm quick to step up and help where I can, I don't mind waiting longer than usual in line at the coffee shop, and yet you should hear the awful self-talk that happens when I have to be patient with myself. As part of my 2020 goals, I am attempting to be as patient with myself as I am with others. I want to be as laid back with Crystal as I am with my children. I'm not lowering the bar, I'm just being kinder and gentler. Case in point, we are done having children and I'm getting healthier. I am a third of the way to my goal weight and it's been a month and the scale isn't moving. There's a huge part of me - I need to be patient with myself, but I'm struggling.

Part of getting healthier physically is making time for reading, writing, and book reviews. Why is it I can devour a book but can't sit patiently at the computer long enough to finish the book review? Why am I not getting as far as I want on my own writing? Why can't I put all these thoughts down on paper? Some days I feel I'm being too patient with myself and others I just want to see forward progress and I'm as impatient as a hungry toddler looking for the strawberries in the fridge.

Are you as patient with yourself as you are with others? Are you impatient with others and patient with yourself? Do you just want to skip to the end of the story to find out what happens, or are you happy to enjoy the ride? How have you trained yourself to be just the right amount of patient and impatient (a happy medium as Mama used to say)?

What's standing in your way this year and beyond? What might help? Is it a writing course? Is it finding a great new author? Maybe it's developing an author website?

Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments - we love hearing from YOU!

No rush....I'm patient...

xoxox
~Crystal



Crystal is the office manager, 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, riding horses, 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 and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

 

Interview with Amber Watkins Yearwood: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Amber’s Bio:

Amber Watkins Yearwood is a writer of grocery lists, to do lists, motivational post it notes, and now, short stories. Born in Central Illinois, she grew up in the rural Midwest before transplanting herself to San Francisco after college. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in psychology. After getting tired of psychoanalyzing herself and her family, she moved on to psychoanalyze jurors and attorneys as a jury trial consultant for ten years. Amber always loved to write in any and all contexts, from angsty love poems by the light of a lava lamp as a teenager with endless time on her hands to painstakingly crisp strategy memos as an adult with a job. She now occupies her time mothering two young children, reading everything at the front of the book store, listening to way too many podcasts, and making things up. “September’s Harvest” is Amber’s first published story.

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

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

Amber: The imagery of the lemons, infected with some toxic pest that, for whatever reason, children and children alone had to root out. That image, of a child climbing a tree to get at the diseased lemon under the cover of darkness, drove my first iteration of the story. Then I had the fun of building up a plot around that image, and I loved where it led me – to a community of children fighting their parents' collective addiction in the most basic of ways, by destroying the substance.

WOW: It’s so amazing to hear how a story blossoms from a single image, so thank you for sharing that. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Amber: This was my first short story that I really stuck with trying to flesh out and develop. I have a tendency to give up on ideas as soon as they become hard, but I loved the atmosphere of this story so much that I was motivated to keep with it. I now have a greater awareness of my tendency to gravitate to whatever feels the easiest in the moment, and how at times I need to resist that impulse. At the same time, I learned that when a writer loves inhabiting a world or a situation, they should stay there for a while!

WOW: I love that idea of inhabiting a world or situation and staying for a while to soak it in. In what ways has your work as a psychoanalyst affected your writing, or vice versa?

Amber: I was not a psychoanalyst, but a jury consultant. In that work, I got to be a fly on the wall in communities all across the country while groups of people discussed various social and legal issues. I and my colleagues then applied principles from psychology and other social sciences to understand how they came to their decisions. It was such a gift, in so many ways. I left that career with a better grasp of the diversity of perspectives in this country and the ways that local culture shapes individual's interpretation of facts. I also left that career a much, much better writer than when I entered it. Standards for our written work product were extremely high, and I loved the challenge of explaining something very complex to our clients in clear and concise language.

WOW: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Amber: Right now I am reading Ann Patchett's The Patron Saint of Liars, because I found it in a little outdoor wooden library in my neighborhood! I recognized the author from the press on her latest novel The Dutch House, and snatched it up.

WOW: Good find! She’s one of my favorites. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Amber: The advice I would give my younger writing self would be to just write! I wrote so freely and joyfully as a child and teenager. Somewhere along the line, as I moved through college and my early careers, that just stopped. I wish I had known how gratifying and productive it can be to just squeeze in ten minutes of free writing, and that if you do that enough times, you might end up with something!

WOW: That’s great advice! 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, January 20, 2020

 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Lesson for Writers

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Most of us know these words. They are from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. But did you know that these lines almost weren’t part of the speech?

King only had 5 minutes to speak and he wanted to create a piece as strong as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The night before he was to give the speech, King worked with two speech writers. One of them told King to avoid saying “I have a dream,” because he thought the phrase had been overused to the point of becoming a cliché. King complied.

On August 28, 1963, King was about half way through the prepared speech when singer Mahalia Jackson called out to him. “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream’!”

King could have pushed forward and followed his original plan. Instead, he put aside his notes and spoke from the heart. He gave the speech that has gone down in history.

As writers, we can learn something from King.

You don’t have to do it alone. When King worked to create a high-impact speech, he brought in speech writers. They worked as a team. Writers often feel like they are working all alone. We sit at our desks and write and rewrite. We need to make an effort to connect with our fellow writers. We can do that here at Women on Writing or in critique groups or author events.

Weigh the feedback you receive. King listened to those around him but that meant he had to decide how to respond to contradictory feedback. Take the Dream out of the speech or play it up big? At some point, every writer gets contradictory feedback. A big part of learning how to rewrite is learning how to deal with incompatible comments. When this happens, ask yourself what is my vision for this piece?

Give your audience something to hang onto. King spoke from the heart with hope for the future. What can your reader take away from your writing? Perhaps it is a new insight or a sense of purpose. Maybe it is a new skill or, like King, a sense of hope.

It you can give your reader something of value, they will remember your writing. When they see your name again, it will bring them back for more.

--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  March 2nd, 2020. 

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

 

Breaking the Rules With Middle Grade Novels

Have you read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? J. K. Rowling breaks the middle-grade rules that all of us middle-grade authors are told are very important to follow, especially if we are debut authors. When J. K. Rowling finally had this manuscript accepted, she was a debut author, of course, and it was accepted (after many rejections) by a mainstream publisher. And of course, the rest is absolutely history. But let's start with the rule-breaking...

1. The book opens with Mr. Dursley as the main point of view character. Mr. Dursley is a man (not necessarily young although he does have an infant son) who works for a drill company. He is not very nice. He doesn't even like or want to mention the name Harry Potter, who turns out to be our hero.

2. The rest of the first chapter is told in either Mr. Dursley's viewpoint or the viewpoints of two very old wizards, Dumbledore and McGonagall.

3. Harry is a baby!

The rule all of those points above are breaking is that chapter one does not start with our hero as an 11-year-old boy. Another rule: it's not written in a child's point of view (it's in omniscient point of view). It actually starts with the point of view of adults, and one of them isn't too fond of Harry!

I recently read this first chapter to my daughter who is now the perfect age for a middle-grade reader (she turned 9 in October). She loves the Dork Diaries series, but I want her to love Harry Potter. So I started reading it to her because I knew if I left it to her, she would not connect with this first chapter. How many children have made their way through that first chapter of adult POV to get to the other side where we meet Harry as an 11-year-old boy because they knew how great the books are? Or they had seen the movies? Or someone read it to them? How can we be sure? But while I read the first chapter to Katie, she kept saying, "I'm confused. I don't understand. Where is Harry?"

Luckily for all of us, some editor at Scholastic Books saw the brilliance of the way J. K. Rowling wrote this book and let her break the rules (another rule she broke--the length--it is way longer than most middle-grade fiction books, even for the fantasy genre).

Now all of this is to say that these Cinderella stories do not happen very often; and if you are writing a middle-grade novel, and you are a new author without a big following, you should follow the rules! What are the rules? What are middle-grade readers expecting?
  • A point of view character who is around 12 or 13 and who is going on some kind of adventure without a lot of parental or adult help
  • A manuscript that is 30,000 to 50,000 words long
  • A problem that can be serious (although funny is also good in middle grade), but there would not be drug abuse, sex, or any other issue, like cutting, that might be the focus in a teen novel. An adult or teen character in the novel can have a problem like this, but it's not happening to the main character in middle grade. The main character is dealing with problems that kids have--crushes on the opposite sex, puberty, not fitting in at school, family drama, etc.
  • The novel begins with the point of view character in the moments of his or her life before the catalyst occurs and thrusts them into the events of the novel problem
  • Authors should not try to sound cool or use slang
The best way to figure this all out is to read a lot of popular and current middle grade books, so you can get a feel for the voice, characters, and the way problems are dealt with. Don't just remember your favorite books from your youth. Kids change, just like everything else, and so it's important to understand the genre today.

If you are a rule-breaker and you really believe in what you are writing, then I'm here to tell you that if you work hard, you may get a lucky break like J. K. Rowling, or you can self-publish and work hard to build your audience. However, to give yourself the best chance, follow those rules above. There are so many wonderful middle-grade novels out there with those rules, and they exist because kids like to read books with them. Middle grade readers may not be able to tell you those rules--they just know what they like.

As for Harry Potter, I'm so excited we are reading these books together at this point, and I can't wait to share the love of this rule-breaker with my daughter.

Join Margo's WRITING MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION: A STUDY AND WORKSHOP online class which starts on Tuesday, January 21. To read the syllabus and register for the class, click this link. Margo is the author of the middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, published by White Mane Kids. She is currently working on a prequel to the book. 

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

 

How Being a Writer Has Ruined TV for Me



I’m going to start this post off by saying that I know I probably shouldn’t be watching as much TV as I do. Darn you, multiple streaming services that give me access to all my favorite procedural and true crime shows at the click of a button! But sometimes, at the end of a long day or week, you just want to veg out and take a break from all the stress and massaging your temples that writing and editing and trying to be creative can bring.

However, writers are likely more observant than most people. So, what should be a relaxing and passive exercise can be even more stimulating for the following reasons.

You are probably more apt to notice continuity errors in the show. I remember watching the TV series “Parenthood” when it first came out. The main character, Adam Braverman, owned a shoe factory. It was the family business and most episodes featured him interacting there with employees and customers. But when the second season started, he all of a sudden had a jerk boss that had never been there before. I realize this character was added to show tension, but to me I felt like there should have been some explanation, like Braverman shoe company being bought out by an investor or something. Either that little detail was left on the cutting room floor, or a new set of writers weren’t briefed on the first season details.

You notice when an actor shows up more than once on a TV show, but is playing completely different characters. While watching a re-run of “Law and Order: SVU” one day I realized the sleazy bad guy of the episode was actually the actor that now plays one of the regular detectives on the show. I scratched my head for a few minutes before putting together that the seasons were years apart and sometimes actors rotate in and out of shows as different characters. Or maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of the show, but in my defense, it has been on the air for 20+ years. It’s also exciting when you notice a now-famous actor was a guest star in a TV show when they were a young child or teenager. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

You fail to suspend disbelief when plot holes happen. I’ve been re-watching the series “Crossing Jordan” lately, which focuses around the shenanigans of a medical examiner’s office in Boston. First of all, I’ve never seen worse security than in this morgue. In one episode, a man with a gun showed up and gunned down a woman there to identify a body. There are constantly random people showing up in autopsy rooms and bodies going missing, leaving me to wonder if just anyone is allowed to stroll into the building, get off the elevator and duck into whatever room of their choosing. I’ve also been having a blast watching old episodes of “The X-Files.” I’m still scratching my head over the episode “Native,” where Scully couldn’t seem to figure out a character she was hanging out with was about to turn into a werewolf (even when he disappeared into a bathroom, screamed as he transformed, and then burst through the bathroom door and attacked her). After the attack, she told Mulder she didn’t know where they guy who had turned into the werewolf was. Really?

You can logically explain why a character just simply vanished (otherwise known as “Death by Focus Groups.”) I always love it when a character disappears from one season to the next—especially if the previous season had an entire arc built around why that character was even there in the first place. It becomes obvious that a character either took a better offer on another TV show or the focus groups decided the character was pointless. As a writer, I can also usually tell that a show must have been cancelled and picked back up by another network (this happened to the country-music drama “Nashville”). You could tell when new writers took over because it took a much darker turn and a few key characters just sort of dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation.

Don’t even get me started on watching movies.

Do all these reasons make me want to quit watching my old favorite TV shows? Nah, not a chance.

I’m curious to know if being a writer has affected how you watch TV and films.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at FinishedPages.com.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Choosing Names


by Saralyn Richard

I’m often asked how I go about choosing names in my books, and the question always catches me by surprise. Choosing names for characters and specific places in books is a necessary task, one that, for me, happens organically as the stories unfold.

I might compare the process to naming a baby, except that I have many more naming opportunities for characters than for real-live people, so weeks and months of pondering doesn’t seem necessary. Still, once a character is named, I begin to think of him with that name, and I rarely feel inclined to change the name to something else, so it is somewhat important to get the name right from the start.

Detective Oliver Parrott, whose first appearance in Murder in the One Percent sets the stage for the series, is a perfect example. Parrott is strong, smart, and quite articulate—just like a parrot. He also has a pet cockatiel named Horace. More importantly, Parrott’s name is a nod to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

Sometimes I name characters after friends or colleagues whom I admire and wish to honor. That can be dicey, though, particularly if the characters have traits or challenges that their namesakes might not relish reading about. If I anticipate such a problem, I will check with the person to make sure she’s okay with it. Since most of the people I know have good senses of humor, I’ve never had anyone object.

Of course, in fiction, all characters are derived from my creativity, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental. Once in a while, though, I have named a character after someone who is dear to me, but who has passed on. For me, this is a way to keep her memory alive, as it remains in my heart.

The Detective Parrott mysteries, Murder in the One Percent and A Palette for Love and Murder, take place in Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania. That is a real place, and many of the names of restaurants, hospitals, museums, attractions, and even the police department, are represented by their actual names. The Hunt magazine, which appears in both books, is a phenomenal resource for me in creating the settings and situations. So many Brandywine Valley people have opened their minds and hearts to me, and I strive to do justice to them.

There is a common practice in Brandywine Valley to name mansions and to call them by name in conversation. That gives me more opportunities to create names. One of my homes is called Bucolia, a reference to the peaceful, bucolic nature of life there. Another is named Manderley, after the home in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

As Rick Riordan said in The Lightning Thief, “Names have power.” It’s the job of an author to harness that power for the sake of the story. The creation of names is one of the privileges of being an author, and one of the most fun.

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Mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard, won the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Choice Award 2019 for her first novel, MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT. The book was also a Finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Procedural Novel 2019, and garnered other honors and kudos. A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, out in February 2020, is the second title in the Detective Oliver Parrott series. Richard’s children’s picture book, NAUGHTY NANA, has reached thousands of children in five countries. A member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, she has lived in New Orleans, St. Louis, and Chicago, and now lives in Galveston, Texas. Richard loves to connect with readers through book clubs, organization meetings, or on social media at the following links:
https://twitter.com/SaralynRichard
https://wwwfacebook.com/saralyn.richard,
https://wwwlinkedin.com/in/saralyn-richard-b06b6355/,
https://wwwpinterest.com/saralynrichard/,
www.saralynrichard.com

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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, January 16, 2020

 

The Reason We Fail

I fail a lot. Before 8am. Every day. I have failed at everything from diets to relationships and every dang thing in between. I've missed work, missed parent teacher events, and I nearly fell over attempting to stand still (but gosh those high heel boots looked good even though I couldn't walk or stand in them). You've failed too, right? Didn't win that writing contest? Didn't sell as many book copies as you'd planned? It's only mid-January and you gave up on your resolution or New Year goal?

This is a hot topic at our house. We have teens and tweens mixed with toddlers, and of course adults. We make a lot of mistakes, and we talk about how we can do better. We are a noisy group and most of us enjoy a loud conversation and we don't go to bed until we are satisfied. We also ask "WHY?" a lot...like "why did you do that?" "why didn't you do that?" "why are you treating your sister that way?" "why do you think your coach did that?" etc...

My son recently made a poor choice with a coach for a team sport he participates in. He felt like a failure. In the situation, he definitely failed to make good choices, yet he is an 11 year old boy and is in no way a failure.

Why did he fail? Why do I fail? Why do you fail?

Here's why:



You are going to fail. I am going to fail. It's not the fault of anyone except us. In my son's case, it's not his coaches fault by any means. We sometimes set our expectations too high. We don't always put in as much work as we should have. There's no magic pill going to make me thin and there's no guarantee the book you're working on is going to be on the top ten list. Every day is not going to be a win. Here's what we need to remember about failing:

We have a choice of failing. (period) or failing forward. It's ok to be upset and disappointed. It's okay to cry. We just have to put on our big girl (or big boy panties) and make the changes necessary to move forward. As for help when necessary. Evaluate the steps that led us here and do things differently next time around. Human nature leads us to blame someone instead of taking personal responsibility - but it's not your spouses fault, it doesn't matter that you went to XYZ college, and if we are talking about losing weight - there's no magic pill. When I eat the garbage and don't exercise I can't expect to lose the weight. The Oreo cookie is not to blame - my lack of willpower IS!

You are standing in your own way. I'm standing in my own way. I need to keep that mirror close by as a reminder. What are ways you've failed forward? How do you remind yourself to keep plugging away? What works for you?



Crystal is the office manager, 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, riding horses, 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 and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!

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