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Sunday, February 16, 2020

 

Kelley Allen, 2nd Place Essay Contest Winner, Shares Difficult Times With Us

We welcome Kelly Allen today! She won second place in the Q1 2020 WOW! Creative Nonfiction Essay contest with her essay, "The Hole," which you should drop everything and read right now here. Then come back to read more about Kelley and how and why she wrote this essay. (Plus, consider entering your own essay into the next contest here!)

Kelley is a nature enthusiast who volunteers at a South Florida preserve and enjoys writing interpretive guides and educational materials. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource Conservation from Cornell University and spends as much time outdoors as possible.

She has been writing since she was thirteen. Her mother tells the story of Kelley, before she could talk, sitting in her crib, pointing at family members in a photo book and babbling about them as if telling stories. She has been a member of The Backroom Writers for 20 years, but has only recently begun sharing her essays with the public. Her work has been published in ReVisions (a college anthology) and The Sun Magazine.

She lives with her husband and son in South Florida.

WOW: Congratulations on winning second place in the creative nonfiction essay contest with your essay, "The Hole." "The Hole" is a very personal essay about a difficult time when you were young. Was it hard for you to write this essay and make the choice to send it into our contest?

Kelley: Thank you! I am thrilled that my essay won second place. This essay was especially hard to write because of the strong emotions involved. The subject is controversial, and there is a lot of shame associated with the decision I made so long ago. In the end, I decided to submit it to WOW’s contest as a litmus test (if you will) to see if my approach to writing is headed in the right direction.

WOW: I hope that you see how much your writing touched the judges, and I'm sure everyone who reads it will agree. You chose to tell this story of your life in an interesting way by focusing on a hole in the wall in your parents' basement and work in the desperation and loneliness you felt at this time of your life. Why did you make the choice to start with the hole and title your essay "The Hole"?

Kelley: The hole in the wall was the only concrete detail at the time. It grounded me and held my focus when it felt like everything had fallen apart. The story begins there, with me sitting on the bed, staring at the hole. Then, through the course of remembering the experience, my focus shifts to the hole inside me and what that means. Titling the essay “The Hole” just seemed to follow.

WOW: The title is perfect, working in the physical hole as well as the emotional hole. What advice do you have for WOW! writers who are struggling to write about difficult periods of their lives using the format of creative nonfiction?

Kelley: Let the words come. Put any possible future readers out of your mind and focus on the feelings and the immediacy of the story. Write about your truth and worry about what people may think later. There is always time to edit after the words are on the page.

WOW: Great advice! Let's talk about some of the information from your bio. What are the Backroom Writers, and how do they support you on your writing journey?

Kelley: The Backroom Writers are a critique group in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. They are the first readers of my work, and they always find something I missed. They push me to be a better writer, and I am profoundly grateful for them.

WOW: Your bio also mentions that you just recently started sharing your writing with the world--even though you've been writing since you were a young teenager! What caused you to make this choice? We are glad you did--obviously--because your beautiful essay made its way to our site!

Kelley: I recently moved, which effectively cleared my schedule and gave me an office. Then I took some writing courses, which inspired some short essays. I’m refining those now. The book-length manuscripts I’ve pecked at for years are tucked away in a drawer.

WOW: We hope that you will share more of your writing with the world. You have a gift! Thank you, Kelley, for your time today. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Kelley: Keep writing! One sure way not to be published is to not write.

WOW: That's so true! 

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Friday, February 14, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Using Flashbacks

by June Trop

A flashback is the scene of a past event used to provide information or explain the actions or motivations in the ongoing story. It has all the elements of a scene, but it takes place in the past. When you depart from chronological order, you risk confusing the reader. Does that mean you should never use flashbacks? No, but it means their use must contribute to the telling of the story. For example, in the film Casablanca, we get a glimpse of Paris and the love affair between Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) to understand the romantic tension between them when they meet years later in Casablanca.

So, when could a flashback be useful?

After the opening scene: The best place to start your book is with an action scene that hooks your reader. That scene may be the beginning of your book, but it’s not necessarily the beginning of your story. Now maintain the suspense of the opening scene by taking the reader back to the real beginning of your story.

To avoid a dull stretch: Use the flashback to enliven the pace of a contemplative scene or avoid a potentially dull stretch of your story, such as when a character travels from one place to another. Break from the ongoing story by having the character remember a significant event during the trip and then play out that scene.

To hide a clue from the reader: Use a flashback to drop a clue that has relevance to the ongoing story. You’re still being fair to your reader, but the clue may be less obvious when it’s planted in a flashback.

To show rather than tell: Use a flashback to show rather than tell the reader about a newly introduced character or a pre-existing relationship. As in Casablanca, instead of telling about the love affair between Rick and Ilsa, show it with all its promise and pathos in a flashback. Rather than slowing the pace of the story with exposition, a vivid flashback enables the reader to experience that past event.

So, how can you signal the reader that she is departing from the ongoing chronology? Here are some ways:

1. Switch the verb tense, at least in the beginning, that is from the simple past tense to the past perfect tense.

2. Refer to an event the reader knows took place in the past and elaborate that event in a scene.

3. Have the contemplative character say something like this: “I remember so clearly the day we…”

Now, once you’re in the flashback, the trick is to bring your reader back to the ongoing story with a clear signal. One way is to have someone or something interrupt the remembrance, such as by calling the character. And, of course, switch back to the earlier verb tense.

So, use flashbacks sparingly and strategically. Make them vivid and brief. And give the reader the opportunity to learn something relevant to the ongoing story.


* * *
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, February 13, 2020

 

3 Ways that an Essay and Yoga Need to be Accessible

“I’m sorry Angela, that type of essay is simply not accessible to me today.” I was being cheeky when I said this, but seriously? Don’t read one of her published essays in the middle of drafting your own. If you are a newbie like me, you may feel just a tad intimidated. Not that my cheeky comment did any good. She simply suggested that I turn my tiny-tantrum into an essay.

I’m not ready to try drafting that essay just yet. But the whole exchange was still bouncing around in my head while I was in yoga. Maybe that’s why I realized how similar essay writing and yoga can be. Individual poses and individual essays both have to be accessible.

Accessibility in yoga is all about what you can do now. The reality is that no yoga student can do every pose every day. Sometimes it has to do with how a joint is formed or whether or not you’ve experienced a recent injury. Weather and time of day can also play a part.

Even if you are a really good writer, a particular essay may not always be accessible. Here’s why.

More Knowledge Needed. When I was new to yoga, the instructor would say “We are going to do the pigeon/upward dog/reclining cow.” I would know that very soon I was going to be lost. I’m a new essay writer. I know there are different types of essays far beyond the four types we studied in high school. But when people start dropping terms, I get lost. I just don’t know enough to understand what they are saying, but that’s okay. The longer I practiced yoga, the more poses became accessible. If I read essays and read about essay writing, more forms will become accessible.

A Rough Piece vs a Polished Piece. As I learned more and more poses, I was ready to try a combination known as a vinyasa or flow. My instructor would practice the flow ahead of time and it was frustrating to compare my first attempt with her polished version. Comparing a rough essay with a published essay that has been rewritten many times is sure to be frustrating.

Trying Too Soon. I’ve also found that trying to practice yoga too soon after an injury or illness means that things I normally do aren’t accessible. Healing has to take place. When I’m trying to write a personal essay about something I experienced, I often need a bit of distance. When I try to write about things that I am still processing, it doesn’t matter if I’m writing an essay or a blog post, I just can’t pull together a coherent, cohesive whole. Before this is possible, healing may need to take place.

It isn’t just essay writing. Most types of writing are like yoga. There’s going to be a learning curve, even things you know will be tricky when combined in new ways, and sometimes you have to put something aside for now and write about it at a later date. Not everything is going to be accessible every day. Be flexible and honor your practice.

--SueBE
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  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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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

 

The Rest of the (Revamp) Story

Last time we were here, I discussed how a link started a chain of events with my website (and honestly, I’m still working to bring all the pieces together). BUT those are just house-keeping details; the bigger picture of how all that revamping came about is, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

Back in December, Youngest Junior Hall asked for books under his tree. He didn’t ask for specific titles but he did ask for a subject: entrepreneurship and marketing. So like the good writer that I am, I did my homework. I checked entrepreneur websites and a couple of titles kept coming up. I expected titles like, “How to Be a Pro at Marketing and Big Business” which granted, is not very creative but I was thinking like a boring business person.

At least, I thought I was thinking like a boring business person. But boy, did I ever think wrong. Because boring business no longer exists, as far as I can tell; the best books were about thinking creatively, marketing outside the box, business beyond boundaries. And after I ordered a couple titles and read the first chapter or two, I was hooked. And I realized that much of what I was reading pertained to me as a business person, a writer, and a productive member of the human race. Who knew entrepreneurial books could do all that?

First, I cracked open How Successful People Think by John Maxwell. If you want to change up how you think about success, your work, and possibly your life, start with this slim book. I began thinking about what my success would look like long before I touched my website.

As 2020 kicked off, I participated over at Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, which is a great way to stockpile ideas and just think. (You can still take a look at the great posts if you need idea-generating inspiration; you won’t be eligible for prizes but you’re still going to win.) And I would zip over to websites of all these creatives, too. So while I was coming up with story ideas, I had Maxwell’s thinking stuff churning in my mind while I zipped. A picture of where I wanted my website to go was forming.

Then I read Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller and if I’m telling the truth here, I just checked it out of the library for Youngest Junior Hall ‘cause I was too cheap to buy every book on those lists. But I read the first couple pages because he uses the hero’s journey in his seven steps about building a story brand and getting your message out there.

What writer can resist the hero’s journey? If you’ve ever wondered about your brand and branding in general, here’s something perfect for a writer. And as an extra bonus, Miller goes into website-building, too, and so I took a couple (and by a couple, I mean a lot) of notes.

And finally, I came across finding your core story. Core story happens to be a business principle but I’m talking about it as it pertains to writers. We all have a core story, that story we write over and over again. We might dress it differently—romance, horror, mystery, humor—but we tell the same story, over and over. And not to confuse you, but it’s not the same thing as your brand.

For example, I write funny, whether I’m writing for kids or adults. There will be some sort of humor in a short story or a full-length manuscript or even a limerick, and it doesn’t matter if it’s macabre or madcap middle-school adventures. That’s my brand but it’s not my core story. I’m still fine-tuning my core story thinking and wondering how it informs my career.

Meanwhile, all of that exploring helped me see my brand, my writing, my business more clearly. And so then, I clicked on that link, making small tweaks here and there on the website and...well, you know the rest of that story and now you know the story behind it. Totally worth all that thinking!

How about you? Have a book that re-shaped your thinking? Agree or disagree with the idea of a core-story? Expand our minds and share!

~Cathy C. Hall

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

 

Venturing into Indie Publishing and Getting Back My Passion

Getting a new cover soon
and ebook format
At the end of last year, I shared with Muffin readers how excited I was about indie publishing after coming back from the 20Books to 50K conference in Las Vegas. Since then, I've been studying, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts and webinars, and thinking constantly about indie publishing. I had a lot to learn, and I still do. But I'm going forward with my plans, and I can't wait. The first book I'll publish under my company name, Editor 911 Books, will be: How to Book, Present, and Sell at School Visits and Children's Author Talks! (working title)

I'm in the middle of contacting some chidren's authors I know to answer questions for their expert advice to be included in my book. I'm asking one of them to write a foreword. I'm revising the manuscript--on page 70 out of 100. I'm enrolled in a Photoshop online course specifically to design book covers, so I can create professional covers. And I'm lining up my beta readers and proofreader. My critique group has looked at some of the manuscript and gave me excellent advice.

I'm also listening to a webinar about "going wide" with PublishDrive. If you aren't familiar with the indie publishing community, going wide is when your books are available in many stores, such as Kobo, Google Play, Overdrive, Apple iBooks, Amazon, and more. When you're exclusive, as many authors are, this means that your books are only with Amazon, and most of the time this is because you want to put it in the KindleUnlimited store.

So many decisions! So much to learn! So many new companies to explore!

But I can tell you that I haven't been this excited about writing, marketing, and books in a very long time.

Why did I decide to write about school visits? School presentations are still one of the biggest ways that children's authors market their books to kids, and there wasn't a good guidebook out there, which I discovered when preparing for the online class I teach for WOW! about how to book and present school visits and children's author talks. As a lot of us writers tend to do--if we can't find a book we want to read, we write it ourselves. I sat on the idea for a while because I thought I would have to write a book proposal, do a market study, find a publisher, negotiate a contract, etc, etc. As a single, working mom, all of that was overwhelming and stifling my creativitiy.

Once I heard about how respected and successful so many indie authors are today, I never looked back. As a matter of fact, I finally called the publisher of my very first middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place, and discovered that I have the ebook rights! So I will also be self-publishing that with a new cover designed by our very own Angela Mackintosh.

Even if you aren't considering indie publishing, this blog post has a message for you. If you're feeling uncreative or you can't make yourself put your butt in the chair to write words, or you're defeated with all the rejections and the hard work of researching companies and agents, find SOMETHING to put your passion back into your writing.

Find a good writing podcast with uplifiting stories. Read a new author and fall in love with her words. Get together with other writers and share stories, successes, and failures. Go on a writing retreat and spend time with your manuscript. Consider indie publishing something, just to try it out.

Get your passion back. I'll tell you from personal experience that you won't be sorry!

Margo L. Dill is teaching the WOW! School Visit and Author Talk class this winter, beginning on February 19. Sign up here for only $99! To be informed when her school visit book and other books come out, plus receive a free 1,000-word edit, sign up for her newsletter list for writers here. Margo is the managing editor of WOW! and lives in St. Louis, MO, with her dog and her daughter. 

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Monday, February 10, 2020

 

I Asked the Wind by Valerie Nifora - Blog Tour and Giveaway

I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is a journey into romance, love and loss through poetry. The poems published in this collection span over 15 years of writing. Often starting with short rhythmic patterns, each poem’s lyrical tone is filled with inspired words to express the deep emotion experienced in the intricacies of romance.

Handwritten in a journal and hidden away until this publication, the poems chronicle the journey into and out of love. Written in three parts, the book enables the reader to transverse the intensity of romantic love, from the first moment of falling in love, to the intense pain of heartbreak.

Beautiful and powerful in its lyrical and simple verse, the reader is immediately immersed in a world of sensuality, passion, desire, and innocence; all woven together into a tapestry of human emotion. Each poem transports the reader to a story through the art of poetry. Drawing on natural elements such as the sun, sand, wind and moon, this collection explores the light and darkness of romantic love, leaving the reader questioning if love was ever real at all.

Print Length: 108 Pages
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: The Unapologetic Voice House LLC (December 2019)
ASIN: B07X1VFBP7
ISBN-10: 1733419721
ISBN-13: 978-1733419727



I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry is available in print or as an ebook at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Target, and IndieBound.

Book Giveaway Contest
To win a copy of the book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry by Valerie Nifora, please enter via Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on February  17th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

Praise for I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry

“...a breathtaking compilation of tender poetry.“ - Jessica Tingling, The San Francisco Book Review

“Valerie’s poetry evokes images of tangled butterflies caught in a breeze, leaves falling too soon, and speaks with a deep, deep tenderness.” – Troy Turner, Poet

“A beautiful tribute to reflective thoughts of love and losses suffered…this was well done… ” – Wanda Firman-Cooper, Reviewer

“Valerie’s poems are not only magnificent to read, but they stick with you.” – Robert Robinson, Executive Producer, The Dinner Salon

“In today’s age of fast-food thinking, attention-deficit scanning, and thumb scrolls past click-bait, it’s refreshing to find a relatable, digestible read that harkens back to an era of leather-bound literature’s reign in terms of meter and word choice.“ – Amaani F. Lyle, Military Journalist

“Val’s poetry goes deeper…into a mosaic of sensuality that leaves you hearing love as if it were a song.“ – Myra Jo Martino, Writers Guild Award Winner for Ugly Betty

About the Author, Valerie Nifora

Valerie Nifora was born and raised in New York to Greek immigrant parents. For over twenty years, Valerie was Marketing Communications Leader for a Fortune 50. She served as a ghost writer for several executives and has executed award-winning campaigns using her special gift as a storyteller to inspire. Her first book is a collection of romantic poetry that explores innocence, sensuality, passion, desire, heartbreak and loss through the lens of her personal experience spanning over 15 years. Her beautiful and powerful voice immediately calls forth a time of leather-bound books and invites the reader to find a comfortable chair and begin their journey through the powerful human emotion of love. Valerie holds a B.A. in Communications from Emerson College and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. She is married and a mother of two amazing sons.

Website: www.valerienifora.com.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vnifora/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ValerieNifora/

Twitter @vnifora

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

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/valerienifora

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your poetry collection, I Asked the Wind. What led you to writing poetry about love?

Valerie: Love is the underlining reason why we do anything in life. It's what drives most of our decisions: conscious and unconscious. People spend an entire lifetime seeking love, whether it's love and acceptance of self, finding your one true love, finding the thing you love to do. I think love is most likely the most powerful four-letter word in the English language.

WOW: I completely agree! How did your background in marketing influence your creative writing?

Valerie: I think if you're going to be successful in marketing or communications you have to be a good storyteller. It's a necessary skill. And so, poetry is an extension of that. It's telling stories in a very small space where every word counts. Similar to writing ad headlines or product copy. You have to be very aware of each word and the value it brings.

WOW: Such a good point. You talk about every word bringing value, what does that mean to you as a poet?

Valerie: I love the sound of words and the meaning of each word. Being bilingual (Greek and English), I learned very early that words carry with them special meaning. Sometimes in translating something into Greek from English and vice versa, you have to make a choice between the "word" or the "meaning." In poetry you pick a specific word for that meaning and for the way it sounds when you read it out loud or in your mind.

WOW: That is so thought-provoking! What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?

Valerie: I hope that they realize that wherever they are in their journey in love, that they are not alone. The book is arranged in three parts, so you can choose which part you'd like to read, and it follows an arc of most romantic relationships including falling in love, out of love, or having lost love. It's all in there.

WOW: I think that's so moving. So, what is your process in writing poetry?

Valerie: I wait for the poetry to come. It often starts as a rhythm coupled to a feeling and then the words come. I try not to force it, I just let it flow out and live on the page. And then I go back and make adjustments.The muse appears when she wants, and I just have to be ready when she does.

WOW: This collection of poetry is personal for you. Do you want to explain why that is?

Valerie: First, the cover photo was taken by my cousin outside our mothers' house in Greece. And the poems are time capsules of my memories put to poetry. I remember what I was thinking and what I was feeling and who I was writing about. So it's very personal on many levels. It's romantic me bound in a book.

WOW: Did you think 15 years ago, that you would be holding your book of poetry in your hand?

No. Never. But, that's what makes life so incredible. You never know where the journey will take you. You just have to be brave enough to live it.

WOW: What a moving final sentiment. Best of luck with you and your book! 


--- Blog Tour Dates

February 10th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Make sure you stop by WOW! Women on Writing's blog today and read an interview with author Valerie Nifora as we discuss her book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry. You can also win a signed copy of her book!
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

February 11th @ Karen Brown Tyson
Stop by Karen's blog today and read a guest post by author Valerie Nifora who will be talking about what prevents people from following her dreams.
https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

February 13th @ Michelle Cornish
Stop by Michelle's blog and you can watch an interview with author Valerie Nifora. Don't miss it!
https://www.michellecornish.com/blog

February 14th @ A New Look on Books
Visit Rae's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Valerie Nifora about what helped her get through heartbreak.
https://www.anewlookonbooks.com/blog

February 14th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Visit Veronica's blog today and read a feature that spotlights one of the poems from the book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogspot.com/

February 15th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog today and read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
http://www.coffeewithlacey.com

February 16th @ Phy Roselle 
Stop by Phy's blog today and read Valerie Nifora's guest post about what most people miss about live.
https://phyroselle.wordpress.com/

February 20th @ Precious Phyllis
Visit Phyllis' blog today and read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
http://phytallic.wordpress.com/

February 22nd @ Beverley A. Baird
Visit Beverley's blog today and you can read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

February 24th @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today and you can read author Valerie Nifora's guest post about why if you're lonely, you are not alone.
http://www.astorybookworld.com/

February 25th @ Lori's Reading Corner
Visit Lori's blog today and read Valerie Nifora's guest post about whether we really have to love ourselves before we love another person.
http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

February 28th @ Beverley A. Baird
Stop by Beverley's blog again and you can read author Valerie Nifora's guest post about how life is short, do it now before you die. Get inspired today!
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

February 29th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today and you can read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry. You can also read her interview with the author as well.
http://bookworm66.wordpress.com

March 1st @ Choices 
Visit Madeline's blog today and you can read Valerie Nifora's guest post about what her children taught her about love.
http://madelinesharples.com/

March 2nd @ Armed with a Book
Visit Kriti's blog and you can read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
https://www.armedwithabook.com/

March 4th @ Armed with a Book
Stop by Kriti's blog again and you can read her interview with author Valerie Nifora.
https://www.armedwithabook.com/

March 6th @ The Faerie Review
Come by Lily's blog today and you can read author Valerie Nifora's guest post about why risk is sometimes worth it.
https://www.thefaeriereview.com

March 9th @ It's Alanna Jean
Visit Alanna Jean's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Valerie Nifora, who will discuss why people fear failure. Don't miss this one!
http://itsalannajean.com/

March 10th @ Jill Sheets Blog
Visit Jill's blog and you can read Valerie Nifora's guest post about why we settle on mediocre.
https://jillsheets.blogspot.com./

March 12th @ And So She Thinks
Visit Francesca's blog today where she interviews poet author Valerie Nifora about her book I Asked the Wind.
http://www.andsoshethinks.co.uk/

March 15th @ Teatime and Books
Stop by Janet's blog today and you can read her review of Valerie Nifora's book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry.
http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

Keep up with the latest blog stops @WOWBlogTour.


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

To win a copy of the book I Asked the Wind: A Collection of Romantic Poetry by Valerie Nifora, please enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on February 17th at 12 AM EST. We will announce the randomly pick a winner and email them the same day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, February 09, 2020

 

Interview with Meghan Beaudry: Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay First Place Winner

Meghan Beaudry began writing as part of her rehabilitation from brain trauma in 2014 and simply never stopped. Her work has been published in Hippocampus, Ravishly, Folks at Pillpack, and the Bacopa Literary Review. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. In 2019, Ms. Beaudry was selected as a finalist in the Pen 2 Paper Creative Writing Contest and longlisted for the Master’s Review Short Story Contest. When she’s not writing, Ms. Beaudry can be found cuddling with her rescue dogs, drinking bubble tea, and teaching students ages three to ninety how to play the violin.

***

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Meghan: I am a member of the Binders Facebook group, which is a networking group for women writers. A member posted about WOW, so I decided to enter. To be able to learn from so many talented, experienced, and supportive female writers online has made such a difference in my own writing.

WOW: I happily related to first part of your essay, having a husband who deals with any scary bugs in the house, and then your story took a powerful turn. What inspired you to write this particular story?

Meghan: In this essay, I wanted to show the exact point in my marriage when I decided to leave. For me, that point was when I realized that my fear of staying in an unhealthy relationship had surpassed my misgivings about living alone. At my sickest, I was bedridden and couldn't be left alone for even an hour. I couldn't walk, drive, remember many details about my life, or even lift a coffee cup. Recovery meant learning to trust my mind and body again, including trusting my brain to make decisions to keep me healthy and safe.

WOW: Your essay was compelling and we're glad that writing has been part of your rehabilitation.  Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Meghan: I plan to eventually write a memoir about my experience with brain inflammation, but that is very far in the future. Currently, I'm working on a collection of linked short stories, which are all classic fairy tales retold with a twist. I hope to start querying agents before July 2020. I frequently write personal essays (mainly about my experience with brain inflammation and chronic illness). My essay about beginning to write as part of my recovery is forthcoming with Al Jazeera. It will be published on their website on May 10, which is World Lupus Day.

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

Meghan: Last year, my New Year's Resolution was to buy no new books until I finished the ones I currently have in my To Be Read pile. Well, I made it almost to March. I typically have between thirty and forty books waiting to be read. I just finished Maragaret Atwood's The Testaments, which frequently kept me up past my bedtime. I'm about to start Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones. I love memoirs, novels, and especially short story collections. When choosing books to read, I look for original plots and colorful syntax.

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

Meghan: If you're thinking about entering a contest, just do it! You'll never win if you don't enter.

****

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

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

 

Meal Planning Hacks to Maximize Your Writing Time


Writing can be a tricky business when it comes to self-care, and for me, that includes food. When I left my job at a nonprofit last summer and resumed working from home again, it only took me a few months to gain a quick 8-10 pounds. I was so focused on doing a good job at my new position that I was reaching for too many frozen microwave burritos, grabbing frappucinos on the fly or shoveling handfuls of crackers in between editing and writing articles.

Once I refocused my efforts on meal planning and eating healthy, I started to feel better, sleep better and craved fruits and vegetables in place of those salty and sugary snacks. But if I don’t have a plan in place, this can all go sideways. Here are a few of my meal-planning hacks to help you spend less time worried about food and snacks and more time writing.

1. Make your list. I use an app on my phone called AnyList, and I can keep a running list of things I need from the grocery store on it, as well as store my favorite recipes. Because I paid for the premium membership (still really affordable), I can share the app with my husband. Whoever is at the store can quickly check the list and grab that gallon of milk we’re missing. I use the list to plan out our weekly trip to the grocery store on the weekends.

2. Stock your refrigerator and pantry. Here are a few things you’ll always find in my kitchen: egg whites, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, non-fat Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, vanilla Greek yogurt for the other members of my family, bags of frozen fruit and vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower rice, canned beans and chickpeas, cartons of broth, a large bag of potatoes, brown rice, jasmine rice, and whole-wheat and regular pasta. Because I work from home, I often make a simple cheese omelet for breakfast, or eat plain oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter powder or Greek yogurt with frozen berries mixed in. I usually eat an apple for a morning snack and sliced cucumbers in the afternoon. If I make a batch of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta at the beginning of the week, I can quickly heat up a bag of steamed vegetables for a quick lunch or make a large batch of soup to eat on throughout the week.

3. Plan dinner ahead of time. A lot of times I’ll throw a simple meal together in the slow cooker after I’m finished with lunch. It will be ready in the evening, which gives me more time to work. Or I make sure to have ground beef defrosted and we can use that to make quick burritos or tacos on the nights we have a lot of activities in the evenings.

So, there you have it. Since I started refocusing on meal planning and stocking the kitchen, I’m less likely to overload on carbs and sweets when I’m in front of my computer.

What hacks do you have to make sure you maximize your precious writing time?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who mostly works from home, except for the occasional meeting at a local coffee shop. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.

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Friday, February 07, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

by June Trop

When I was first asked that question, I responded, “Whaaat?” I’d never heard those terms before. Maybe you haven’t either.

When referring to writers, Plotters are those who plan out their novel before writing it, such as with an outline. Pantsers are those who fly by the seat of their pants. Most people, of course, are Plantsers meaning they do both but probably lean more one way than the other.

Plotters know where they’re going so they’re less likely to get caught in writer’s block, whereas Pantsers have the freedom to take their novel anywhere, but, of course, they risk getting stuck. I haven’t counted, but the experts say that among published writers, about half are Plotters, and about half are Pantsers. In other words, there’s no right way.

If you know me, then you know I’m a Plotter because I do everything else that way too. I go to the store with a list, and before going to bed, I write my objectives for the next day. In fact, I’ve never winged anything. Well, that’s almost true.

So, when I commit to an idea for a story, I first look at it through the goggles of a plot structure. Here’s a basic plan I build on:

1. Introduction: A static period in which I introduce the major characters and their setting

2. Inciting Incident: The hint of trouble that forces the protagonist into action

3. Rising Action: More and more complex obstacles as the protagonist continues to reach for her goal

4. Turning Point: Here, at about the midpoint, events start to go sour for the protagonist.

5. Falling Action: Events continue to worsen for the protagonist. The author gives a hint of the tragedy to follow, but the reader still has hope for her success.

6. Climax: Moment of catastrophe. No new characters or information introduced here, just drama.

7. Denouement: The return to a static period. Protagonist may have reached her goal but has suffered a loss.


Still, no matter which you are, it can be worthwhile to try out a different approach just to see what comes out. As I’ve gotten more experienced as a writer, I’ve dared to be more spontaneous within each of the seven parts of the plan. The result is my fifth Miriam bat Isaac novel, THE DEADLIEST THIEF, my first opportunity to be a Plantser. When I started—with my outline, of course—I knew who the thief was, but little did I know there’d come to be another thief more deadly and definitely unexpected. In short, a better story.

* * *
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, February 06, 2020

 

Using Literary Magazines (And Contests) To Guide Your Fiction

Last year I wrote a flash fiction piece that never felt finished to me. I would change certain elements of the story, but nothing ever felt complete. I had no connection to the core element of the story (and I wasn't even sure what the core element was). I didn't feel like I knew the character or what was supposed to happen.

Until I came across a contest with a literary magazine. It was a contest where you start your story with the first-line provided. Then everything clicked. Thanks to this first line, I suddenly knew who my character was (actually, this contest led me to changing my character from female to male and that changed the whole dynamic of the story).

Thanks to this contest, and another one that recently inspired me, I think I have discovered the answer to all of those unfinished pieces. You see, sometimes I will write the beginning of a scene that doesn't seem to take off into a story. Or it is a complete story but I have no connection to it and it feels incomplete. 

Now I pore over recent calls for submissions and look for various themes and contest prompts that inspire me. I don't always have a story that applies to the various contests and themes, but this has become a very fun exercise to revamp a story that never got off the ground (or never got completed).

So, I encourage you to keep your eye out for those contests and calls for submissions, especially ones with themes or prompts. When you read over the theme or prompt or element they are asking you to have in your story, ask yourself, "How can I use this in my story?" And don't just think of polished pieces. Think of half-finished pieces or scenes you enjoy or characters that light up the stage or plot lines that need a star character. Those pieces can suddenly have a new breath of life thanks to the new perspective this contest or theme gives you.

Also, if you aren't too aware of where to find calls for submissions and contests (outside of Submittable), here are a few newsletters I subscribe to:

WriteJobs.info (this lists writing jobs AND calls for submissions).
Published To Death
New Pages
Literistic.com
Funds for Writers
Writers HQ 

Has a writing contest ever guided your stories or writing in any way? 

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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

 

Plan B

Yesterday (it really did happen yesterday and the timing was perfect, since it meant I could use my failure as fodder for a post) I got a rejection email.

Months ago, I sent a sample of my manuscript to a publishing house. They had requested a full manuscript. Yesterday, they sent me a rejection.

A nice rejection, but a "no" nonetheless.

Dear Sioux,
      Thank you for your submission to XXXXX and for your patience during the wait. We have now had the opportunity to review your work, and although we thought it was a gripping narrative, I regret that we do not feel it is a good fit for our list. We publish a very small list, which means we have to say no a lot more than we can say yes. Of course, publishing decisions are subjective and other publishers could certainly feel differently.
       We wish you the very best in finding a publishing home for your work. And thank you for thinking of XXXXX.

All the best,
XXXXX


photo by Pixabay
There's still one press that has my full manuscript. They've had it for 7 months as a doorstop and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. They're based in the city where my story takes place (it's historical fiction), so it would be a natural fit if they accepted it.

But what if they don't? What if I get a no from them, just like the no I got yesterday? What am I going to do?

I've been sending this manuscript off for the past year, and although I know that's not an overly-long time when it comes to the submission-rejection cycle, I need to get a plan B in place--just in case--because in 2021, the 100-year anniversary of my event will be celebrated honored.

When people are massacred and a whole community is burned down, there's no cause for celebration.

I don't think I have a choice. I think this is my plan B: I'm going to self-publish my novel.

Even though this means my work won't be validated by a gen-u-ine publisher, it will allow me lots of freedom. Keep reading to see what I might find solace in as I lick my wounds (if I get another rejection):
  • I've got an artist friend who I've been keeping on the sidelines for a while. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to give her an offer she hopefully cannot refuse.
          If I'm publishing it myself, I get to choose what the book cover looks like.

  • I don't have to worry about fighting to make sure my overly long acknowledgments gets included. I wrote a huge love letter to my former students (and named each one) since I wrote most of the manuscript as I sat surrounded by my middle-schoolers during NaNoWriMo. The love letter also mentioned a bunch of writing friends and people who helped me with my research. 
          If I'm gong to publish it myself, I don't have to battle anyone over my self-indulgence. My 
          13-page thank you (a slight exaggeration)  won't be in danger of getting axed.

What else could I look forward to if I self-publish this story? Are there other advantages to self-publishing?  I'd love to hear them. However, I'm still holding out hope that I won't need plan B.

All I need is a single, solitary yes... Just one.


Sioux is hoping for a snow day (soon) and is reading a fabulous novel (The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jr.) because--as Sue Bradford Edwards recently reminded us--we have to read voraciously if we want to write prolifically. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.






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Tuesday, February 04, 2020

 

Interview with Laila Miller: Summer 2019 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Laila Miller was born and raised in rural Alberta, Canada, with five older siblings. She has been an environmental scientist for 25 years. In her spare time, she writes short fiction about bougainvilleas and sea urchins and turnips, and sometimes about people who don’t get along. Her proudest writing moment was in 2018 when she helped her 90-year-old mother compile and publish her life story. She lives in Perth, Western Australia, where she marvels at the beauty of the Indian Ocean and the extraordinary flora and fauna, and where she usually places third in unfair writing challenges with her husband and son.

Before you read her interview, make sure you read her story Out of Place then come on back!

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles



WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner-up in the flash fiction contest! I loved how this story started out with the main character seeing their differences as endearing but then that very difference ended the relationship. What was the inspiration behind this story?

Laila: I belong to a wonderful on-line writer’s group which holds a fortnightly event, the ‘One Hour Challenge’. The previous winner posts a prompt, we think about it for five minutes, write for one hour, then post our stories anonymously for critique over the next 24 hours and vote for our favourite. This story was written to the prompt ‘Out of Place’ – just like the title. I immediately thought of ordinary ways a person could become uncomfortable in a place that once felt like their own. It’s a universal experience, I think, to have a loved one - intentionally or otherwise - try to make you into something you’re not. The other part of the story, of course, is how do you stand up for yourself, keep hold of your ideals, be true to yourself. Getting back to the One Hour Challenge – it’s a terrific way to exercise your writing muscles – no procrastinating, no waffling on topics, just go! It’s one of the most effective exercises I’ve used to strengthen my writing.

WOW: What a fantastic writing exercise! I'm definitely trying that myself. So, I really enjoyed reading in your bio that you write short fiction about "people who don't get along." What draws you to write about those types of stories?

Laila: Every story has to have conflict, and it’s one aspect of writing I find difficult. In real life, I like people to get along. To make an interesting story, a writer has to show what the characters are made of and the best way to do that is to put them in difficult situations, such as not getting along.

WOW: That's a great approach to adding in conflict! You also mentioned in your bio that you recently helped your mom compile and publish her life story. That's incredible! What was that experience like?

Laila: It was the best writing experience of my life! A few months before Mom’s 90th birthday, I decided to write down some things about her. She lives in Canada and I’m in Australia, so I was peppering her with questions over the phone.

One day she said, “You know, I’ve written this all down already.” She emailed me a chronology she’d written five years before, about 20,000 words that covered her childhood, World War II in Holland, emigration to Canada, marriage and the birth of her two oldest children (she had eight). I saw immediately that it was so much better than what I was writing. “What did you plan to do with this?” I asked. “I thought one of you kids would find it on my computer when I die,” she said. As if!

She was enthusiastic about continuing, so over the next several weeks she emailed me a story every day and I asked questions and researched events she spoke about and filled in gaps etc. - I was her editor. She has macular degeneration, so she needs font 16 or 18 to be able to read, and her emails were full of typos, but they made sense and I just fixed them up.

Eventually, we had her full life story and it’s gorgeous – it resonates with the honest, confident tone of someone who has long ago parted with judgment and angst about events or people. It’s quite different from memoirs younger people write, which tend to focus on difficult medical or social problems they are dealing with. My lovely and talented writing friends Myna Chang (whom WOW! will recognise), and Louise Guy (author and publisher of over 70,000 books) helped proofread and publish it. On Mom’s 90th birthday we had copies at the door for guests plus her community, library, book club and the local university’s history project. And because of Mom’s eyesight, she hasn’t even read it herself!

It is wonderful to have it for her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and beyond. They will know about her and be able to hear her voice in the way she told about some very tough times and kept her sense of humour. Many people have told me they want to write their parents’ life story or their own. Do it! It’s such a great gift for future generations.

WOW: That's so amazing you did that! I also completely agree - write those stories! I had to smile when you said you place third in unfair writing challenges. What type of challenges do you do with your husband and son?

Laila: Yes. We have a prompt jar in our kitchen and sometimes on weekends, we each get onto our respective laptops, pull a prompt out of the jar and write until we agree it’s time to stop. Then we read our stories out loud to the others and vote. Since my stories don’t tend to be action/adventure-fantasy mashups with dragons that talk to spiders amid a lot of explosions, I usually come in third place with a comment like, “That really wasn’t very good, Mom.” My husband and I are keen to keep our son (now 11) involved in writing, so he can see what is possible with creativity. Many of the best lines and characters in my stories are ones my son dreamed up – it’s great to be able to tap into his imagination. He’s a terrific writer in his own right and we hope he develops a lifelong habit of it.

WOW: I love how you are encouraging your son while making writing a family activity! So, what inspired you to enter this flash fiction contest?

Laila: I like the WOW! quarterly contests because not only is it an open and friendly writing community, but there’s an opportunity for feedback. I’m not keen on sending stories in and having no conversation about them. Sometimes we writers hear nothing back on our stories, sometimes we get enigmatic rejections and occasionally we get helpful critiques and even acceptances. I chose this story for the contest because I knew it had been well received by my writing group and I wanted to know how it would stack up in the ‘real world’ – the critique was interesting and helpful, and I’m pleased by how well it did.

WOW: We're so happy to hear how you like our contests! Congratulations again and we can't wait to see more of our work!

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Monday, February 03, 2020

 

Seeing the Good

Last week was extra hectic at our house. Part of the "extra" came from having to drive children to school when they usually take the bus. Three trips per day meant I was feeling rushed; yes, it was only temporary and it was a small change. I was having a hard time staying positive and one morning in particular I looked at the sky and thought:

It's been a few weeks since I took a picture of the sunrise;
 I need to start seeing the beauty again.

then the negative voice popped in:

Well, if it wasn't so gloomy all the time there might be something worth taking a picture of.

I stayed grumpy for a mile or two thinking about the extra gas, time lost, how I like sipping my coffee from my ceramic mug in the comfort of the horse barn instead of from my travel mug behind the wheel of my mini van. Then, as I rounded the corner I caught a glimpse of the sun. She was trying her hardest to push through the clouds and it was just the small whisper I needed. None of us are positive all the time, no matter how hard we try.

I pulled over and took a picture of the sun as a reminder for myself - a reminder to see the good in troubling times. Back when I had a corporate job and helped with large meetings and training sessions, we showed this awareness video:



This video was used in a particular training where we were talking about how we all make mistakes and if you are waiting for someone to make a mistake, they'll make it ... but if you're waiting for them to do something extraordinary, they'll do that too and we should all try to see the best in our co-workers, teammates, friends, family, etc... and by seeing the good in people helps make them better because they'll want to do more good. This entire mindset also helps improve our lives because we start living a life filled with gratitude.

Any of us can apply this "See the Good" mentality to our daily lives. With our children and spouses, with the people at work, with the weather, and even with the extra opportunity to bond with our children while we drive them to school because they had some troubles on the bus. Now - how does this apply to my writing/reading life?

There are some books that for whatever reason just don't get me as excited as others. How do you review a book that you had a hard time with? You guessed it - see the good! There's always some good stuff in there - we just need to look for it.

What advice do you have about seeing the good? What advice do you have about difficult book reviews? Share your thoughts and ideas - we'd love to hear from you!

You're the best!

Hugs,
~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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Sunday, February 02, 2020

 

5 Things to Do When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Women who write have it tough. As if that point wasn’t driven home in Sioux’s recent post “He Said, She Said,” I’ve been seeing it this past week in great abundance. One friend is nursing her husband, recently released from the hospital with pneumonia. Another is cleaning out her mother’s house so that it can be sold. 

It can be difficult to feel like a writer when you have to struggle to fit any writing into your day. Fortunately, there are five writerly things you can do when you don’t know if you will have time to write.

Start the Day Writing. One piece of advice I recently saw was to make sure you start the day with your writing. By doing it before you start errands, you squeeze it in and get it done. Task accomplished you can walk tall through your day. This idea presumes that you don’t have a toddler who is an early riser. If that’s your situation. . .

Broaden Your Definition. You may not have time to draft an article, a chapter or even an entire page, so broaden your definition of what constitutes writing. What one writing related task can you fit into your day? Add an agent to your “interested” list. Get out your journal and jot down that idea you have for a new story.

Follow Up on Something. Recently a friend contacted an agent who has had her work for months. Not only had the agent’s response been lost in the electronic atmosphere, it was a request for a full manuscript. Take the time to write a short e-mail to the agent who has been sitting on your work. When we are really busy it is easy to let following up slide.

Reading Is Writing. This one has always driven my husband a little bananas. If you are a writer, reading counts as work! When my son was a preschooler, I might not have found time to write every day, but I could find time to read him a picture book. Reading to my target audience? Instant research and a writing task accomplished. And, the easiest task of all to fit into your busy day?

Live Your Life. Life events may periodically get in the way of your writing but they also fuel your writing. In addition to the events themselves, emotion and sensory experiences can make the way into our work.

So even on those days or in those weeks when life is full? You are working on your writing.

--SueBE
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  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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Saturday, February 01, 2020

 

Carole Mertz and Her New Poetry Collection: Toward a Peeping Sunrise

I'm excited to introduce you to Carole Mertz who recently published a poetry chapbook titled Toward a Peeping Sunrise. Carole and I exchanged a few emails earlier this month, and I said: "We should interview you for The Muffin." Ang thought it was a great idea, too!

We know we have some poets who read our e-zine and blog, and so here is some inspiration and motivation for you! I'll let Carole take it away...

WOW: Congratulations, Carole, on your recently published poetry chapbook, Toward a Peeping Sunrise! Please tell us about the poetry in your book.

Carole Mertz: First of all, thank you for taking the time to interview me. My chapbook is available at this link.  The poems, all but two, are in free verse. They follow an arc, moving from the idea of waking up to thoughts about eternity. They are mostly narrative poems, with one or two leaning toward abstract poetry. Judy Swann, a contemporary poet and colleague, called them both sensual and spiritual.

WOW: I know some of  our readers write this same type of poetry, and so we are very excited to pick your brain today! The publisher is Prolific Press. How did you find your publisher?

CM: When Glenn Lyvers at Prolific Press contacted me last July, I was shocked. I’d sent various collections to about six publishers in 2019 but had forgotten about one I’d submitted in 2018. Since we had crossed into a new year, I’d simply erased that submission from my mind. The contact from Prolific came as a sweet surprise.

WOW: That's great! Those are always the best kind. Was it difficult bringing the collection to completion?

CM: Not at all. Prolific followed a defined schedule which they adhered to to the letter. Since it was all new to me, I simply followed the steps they required, from initial signing of the contract to furnishing blurbs and photo to acceptance of cover and layout. I’d begun writing poetry ten years ago, so this collection of limited pages was simply the result of selecting and grouping some of my poems.

WOW: What inspires your poetry?

CM: I think nature inspires many of my poems. But I’m mostly encouraged and inspired by the work of other poets I read. This is especially so because I enjoy reviewing and critiquing. I’ve reviewed poetry repeatedly for Mom Egg Review, Eclectica, Copperfield Review, and other sites. This work draws me into the recognition and admiration of different contemporary voices and styles. In particular, I’ve followed closely the work of Carol Smallwood, Diane Lockward, Beate Sigriddaughter, Judy Swann, Judith Skillman, and others. They’ve taught me much, not only about different types of poetry, but also about how to function as a poet.

WOW: We talk about reading in your genre a lot on here, and we also mention to learn from what you read. So it's nice to hear that theory being put into practice successfully. Can you say more about that?

CM: Smallwood, for example, has produced nine collections of poetry within the past eight years. She has shown me how different types of collections are formed. Sigriddaughter, as supporter of women’s poetry, has promoted female writers for years at her wonderful blog, Writing in a Woman’s Voice. I also admire that Diane Lockward, author of The Practicing Poet, not only writes and reads her own poetry, but also publishes others’ via her newly-formed Terrapin Books. These are artists who’ve extended themselves in meaningful ways.

WOW: Let's look at a couple of the poems in your book. Do you have favorite poems? Tell us about them!

CM: There’s something satisfying about being able to record an event from one’s life that was at once both horrendous and beautiful. That’s what I experienced in writing the poem “In Sickness and in Health.” We don’t always know how we’ll grow when we pass through a dark period of testing. On the lighter side, people seem to like my poem, “That this Blue Exists…” I wrote it in response to Wilda Morris’s call for a “Title Poem.”

WOW: What is a “Title Poem?”

CM: It’s made of lines from titles of various books. I used fourteen existent titles and shaped them into a little surreal story.

WOW: How interesting! I'm sure we are all wondering how that worked out. (Readers, all you have to do is go to the link and purchase a copy. I'm lucky enough to have a review copy from Carole!) Have you enjoyed other experiences as a poet?

CM: In 2018, I was asked to serve as advance reader for WNBA’s Poetry Contest. I enjoyed the process of narrowing down the selections and working with the chief judge on the project. And in 2019, I was on the Prize Selection Committee at The Ekphrastic Review. Here we read through the entire year’s archive to select for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes. It was detailed labor, but working with Lorette Luzajic and reading the many fine poems was totally rewarding.

WOW: What a great experience! What is your advice for aspiring poets who would like to publish their own poetry book?

CM: Each one must find his own way, of course. But I feel it’s most important to continue your reading of other poets. Identify those who most appeal to you. Maintain your connection with other writers. You can do this, for example, via such lively sites as WOW! Women on Writing. As Sackville-West wrote, “All craftsmen share a knowledge.” Keep records of your own poems, where submitted, where published. Combine groups of poems into a collection centered, if possible, around a theme. Submit them to publishers during their open reading periods and wait for positive responses. It’s a process that often functions with the slowness of a lethargic turtle. But then, turtles usually arrive at their destinations.

WOW: True, and thank you for mentioning us as a resource for new writers. Can you tell us where readers can find you?

CM: Though my website is still under construction, readers can check my Writer Profile at Poets & Writers. http://www.pw.org/directory/writers/carole_mertz

WOW: Thank you, Carole, for your time and knowledge today. Here is a little bit more about Carole, readers, if you're interested:

Carole Mertz, poet, reviewer, and editor, has had works published in over 50 literary journals in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. She is book review editor at Dreamers Creative Writing; reader of prose and poetry for Mom Egg Review, and member of the Prize Selection Committee at The Ekphrastic Review. Carole has won poetry challenges and contributed to various anthologies. Kendra Boileau, Penn State U. Press noted: “Mertz is a master of poetic form, imagery, sonority, and wit.” Carole is a professional musician who began writing twelve years ago. She resides with her husband in Parma, Ohio.


This interview was conducted by WOW! Managing Editor Margo L. Dill. Find out more about Margo on her website here. 


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