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Saturday, February 29, 2020

 

Slow Down and Be Present: Interview with Dr. Beth Ricanati of the Award-Winning Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs


Beth Ricanati, MD is an award-winning author who has built her career around bringing wellness into women’s everyday lives, especially moms juggling life and children. She practiced medicine at NY-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, and now at the Venice Family Clinic. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her family and one challah-loving dog.

In this interview, Dorit Sasson chats with Beth about keeping up a mindfulness practice, writing her award-winning memoir/cookbook/self-help book all rolled into one, and balancing life as a physician and writer mama with book promotion and authoring.

 If you haven't done so already, check out Beth's award-winning memoir Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs.

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WOW: So curious to know how it’s been for you to educate both challah and non-challah audiences? By that I mean, how did the book resonate universally?

Beth: Braided has resonated with so many diverse individuals: men and women, Jewish and non-Jewish. I have heard from readers who were going through a difficult time and found solace in the book’s message to stop, slow down, and take care of oneself. I have heard from readers who have reconnected to their Judaism by making challah, either for the first time or coming back to this ritual after a long time. In addition, I have made challah and shared my story all over the country this past year, with traditional Jewish organizations (think: JCC and synagogues) and more non-traditional venues (think universities and non-profits).

WOW: Wow! Talk about universal and culinary appeal across audiences. You mention in previous interviews that one of the biggest inspirations for writing Braided was learning how to slow down and be present. Since the book has been published, what have been some of the challenges keeping up a mindfulness practice given that baking challah is just one part of the week?

Beth: I not only look forward to making challah every Friday, but I have continued to incorporate the lessons that I’ve learned on these Fridays into my life the rest of the week. In fact, it was these lessons in part that led me to write Braided in the first place. I couldn’t be the only stressed-out mom on the block, and if what I learned had had such an impact on me, I was hopeful that it would also have an impact on others. The more I incorporated what I was learning from making challah into my daily life, the more aware I became of other Jewish mindfulness rituals that are built into the rhythm of our daily lives, not just once a week – we have so many opportunities every day to be mindful! For example, there is a blessing I try to remember to say when I get up in every morning, grateful for another day.

WOW: I love how mindfulness is a daily practice for you Jewishly as well. I try cultivating this daily wisdom as well. It is such an important part of your award-winning book, which you present as part memoir, part cookbook part self-help. I'm so curious as to how the book's format evolved. I mean did you know you would be writing a cookbook/memoir/self-help - all in one?

Beth: Having never written a book like this before, I did not know exactly how it would evolve, but I did know what I wanted to share: my story of discovering that this ancient ritual of making challah every Friday could be accessible to someone like me, and that I could incorporate it – making challah – into my life so much so that it changed my life. As a result, the story that I began to tell evolved into not only a memoir, but also a cookbook – how to make challah – as well as a self-help guide incorporating some of my physician background. Relatively early on, the idea to divide the book into chapters based on lines of the recipe helped to give the book its much needed structure.


"The act of making the bread – mixing and kneading, watching and waiting – can heal your heartache and your emptiness, your sense of being overwhelmed; it did for me."


WOW: I love the idea of incorporating snippets of recipes to frame the structure. Tell us more about how you managed to promote/write/mother and be a practicing physician? I'm in awe. What advice would you give other writer mamas who are struggling to stick to a writing practice, complete their projects and believe in themselves?

Beth: Making challah is a journey, right? You start with six ingredients and a bowl. Later that day, if you’re fortunate, you are surrounded by friends and family at the dinner table, warm challah in your hands as you say the blessing, inhale that amazing aroma of freshly baked bread and then dive in. Writing, and subsequently publishing a book, is also a journey, I’ve learned. I had to call my friend who shared the recipe originally with me four times that first day that I made challah – and I’m still learning all kinds of tips and tricks to improve my challah (thank you readers and event attendees who’ve shared your stories with me!); similarly, I’ve reached out to so many people along the way to see the book to where it is now. I worked with a book coach; I’ve had the support of other authors (like you!) who share my imprint, She Writes Press; and so many others. Being a parent and being a physician is also a journey. Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that all of what I do is synergistic: I like to help others heal and feel better along their journey. Talking about Braided, making challah with others, or working with a patient in clinic, it all comes back to healing for me. I like being part of the journey.

WOW: I love that we’re all connected and part of that healing journey. If you could choose just a small excerpt from Braided, what excerpt would be your favorite and why?

Beth: The last paragraph of the book is what I like to read at events because I think it perfectly sums up why I make challah weekly and what you can expect from this magical ritual. You don’t need to be a baker. You can be alone, or with others. None of it matters. Just get out a bowl and get to it:

The act of making the bread – mixing and kneading, watching and waiting – can heal your heartache and your emptiness, your sense of being overwhelmed; it did for me. You could break bread once a week, every week. I did. You can make it alone or with other women, like [I] have done. The smell of fresh baking bread turned our house into a home. So go ahead, get down those ingredients, grab a bowl, and call me in the morning. I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

WOW: What a true sentiment of sisterhood. And I can attest to the power of community challah baking having participated in various mega challah and other community events. It’s very special the work you’re putting out in the world and best of luck on your writing journey!

***

Interviewed by Dorit Sasson whose upcoming memoir Sand and Steel: A Memoir of Longing and Coming Home will be released later this year by Mascot Books.

Dorit is an instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. Her popular workshop Polish Your Memoir in 5 Weeks will be running again in the Spring. Check back for start dates.

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Friday, February 28, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: On Craft: The Perfectionist’s Nightmare

by Mari Coates

I haven’t always been a fiction writer. At one time I toiled over screenplays and scripts for television—all unsold. Screenwriting is demanding and exacting, a complicated puzzle. But I love puzzles, so that aspect of it was a big draw. The hard work—numerous drafts, many false starts—I was willing to undertake for the thrill of stumbling on that perfect solution. I even enrolled at the American Film Institute for two years, hoping to earn an MFA for my efforts.

It was like an addiction—day after day attending classes and writing pages I would then discard as not good enough, until suddenly it was spring of the second year, and I had not completed the first required full-length film script, never mind the second. Panicked, I looked at what I had written that very day—another new beginning, which was pretty much like yesterday’s new beginning—and I threw the newer one out too.

I had spent a lot of money to be at AFI, where I was a full-time student. Read: no job. Was all of that to be wasted? I knew that my efforts, however inadequate I might deem them, would not be rejected; the issue was simply to finish. I briefly considered just quitting, slinking away red-faced with shame, wasting the two years and thousands of dollars I’d already invested. But that was no solution. I wanted the degree I’d been working for.

I leafed through all the beginnings I’d pounded out and gradually realized that, actually? All of them were adequate. Fine, in fact. I picked the one that seemed best that day and started again. I cried as I typed, mourning the failure of this final attempt, regretting my own dearth of talent. After about a week something strange happened: I started getting interested in my character instead of my own misery. I was curious about her predicament. I found myself coming alive to the story that was unfolding in front of me. Despair receded and excitement rose as I observed and listened, wanting to find out what was going to happen.

By the end of the second week, that screenplay was finished—and well received by classmates and teacher. For the second script I seized on the barest idea for a character—an overweight romantic named Art who owned a delicatessen—and, almost out of time, I started following him around too. Most importantly, listening to what he had to say until ten days later I typed “the end.” Neither script made it to the screen, but my writing life was transformed. I had stumbled on what has since been my best writing tool: to look deeply at someone or something—a character, a scene, a situation. To take the focus from myself, my own fears and perfectionism, to observe and listen and let the character and story come to life. The secret to writing is simply to write. May you find joy as you try it for yourself.

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photo by Lynn Shepodd
MARI COATES lives in San Francisco, where, before joining University of California Press as a senior editor, she was an arts writer and theater critic. Her regular column appeared in the SF Weekly with additional profiles and features appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Monthly, Advocate, and other news outlets. Her stories have been published in the literary journals HLLQ and Eclipse, and she is grateful for residencies at I-Park, Ragdale, and Hypatia-in-the-Woods, which allowed her to develop and complete The Pelton Papers, her first novel. She holds degrees from Connecticut College and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. 
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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 27, 2020

 

Keep Writing. Your Story Matters.

The other day I logged onto LinkedIn for the first time in months. It was actually to ask a previous freelance client about some tax forms, but after I sent the message, I spent a few minutes perusing my feed and spotted someone I knew from college. I wasn't close to this guy except we both worked in the same mentor program, but I remembered him being a great writer. Funny, prolific, detailed. I even subscribed to a newsletter he sent out.

Curious, I spent a few minutes searching out to see if he'd written anything lately. It was only because of clever googling and discovered a random website (and I couldn't figure out whether it was updated or not).

This led me to think about an author who once asked me to review their book years ago. I still think of this book, oddly because I connected to the character and it's a fairy tale themed book (which I always love). I also remember this book because of an email the author later sent to me, asking if I had noticed any spelling errors in her book (I hadn't) and that a previous blogger had complained about the errors to her.

Following that, I thought of a blogger who had self-published a few books and had been active on Twitter. We were blogging buddies until both of us went inactive for a while. I think of her sometimes too.

After thinking about the writers I have known over the years (distantly or otherwise), I realized that our writing has an impact on each other. The people I shared with you have influenced me, inspired me, and encouraged me, likely without them even knowing. These aren't people on any bestseller's list. These aren't people nominated for big prizes. They aren't CEOs, executives, or oscar winners. Yet, their writing mattered. It impacted me. It made a difference. Likely without any of them realizing.

So, even if you haven't written in years, go back to it. Even if you are struggling with keeping up your writing routine, keep at it. Even if you are tired of reading rejection letters, keep submitting. We influence each other, whether we realize it or not. So, keep writing. It does matter. And you may never realize the positive impact you have by simply keeping at it.

Nicole Pyles is a writer still keeping at it. Say hi to her on Twitter @BeingTheWriter and check out her book blog at http://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

 

Giving Up to Get More

Today’s Ash Wednesday and for this good little Catholic girl, it’s always meant giving up something. Chocolate when I was eight, cigarettes when I was twenty, and that one (very long) Lent when I gave up my favorite adult beverage.

It was all about self-sacrifice and developing discipline; if one can resist the temptation of something little, like chocolate, imagine how much stronger one may be when those BIG temptations come along in life. And sometimes, giving up bad habits for a couple weeks could lead to forming better habits forever. So what has all this got to do with writing? I’m thinking that we can apply the giving up strategy to our writing lives. And maybe, at the end of the month and a half or so, we’ll break some bad habits for good:

The TIME Habit

If you’re like me, you have that one vice that sucks away your time. Maybe it’s piddling around on social media which you justify by calling it work when really, you’re just checking out the latest about Outlander. It started as a book, though (and that's an interesting story in itself!), so technically, it’s totally justifiable.

Anyway, the point is, we probably all have our Achilles’ heel when it comes to wasting time, whether it’s online shopping, social media, or Netflix bingeing. And all those wasted hours add up. So giving up the time we waste to make time to write could add five, six, seven hours or more a week. That’s a lot of writing!

The MONEY Habit

Much like time, we have our personal downfalls when it comes to spending our hard-earned cash. But it’s only one cup of coffee a day, you say. And I say, that’s $35, enough for a webinar. Fine, you say, what about those boots you keep buying? You could take a six-weeks class on advanced writing technique for what you spend on boots.

Noted. But then I say, are you seriously ordering more pillows (curtains, rugs, towels)? You could attend a writing retreat for what you spend on home décor!

So let’s stop this bickering and just agree that we all have some spending habits that have got well out of hand. And giving up spending money on what we don’t really need can free up funds for writing support that we always need.

The ATTITUDE Habit

Oh, this is a tough one, and now that I think about it, maybe I should have put attitude first. Because we all have a negative attitude we can give up.

There’s the “I know it all already” attitude. Or the “I’m not good enough and I might as well give up” attitude. Or how about the “How can THAT writer be so successful when I’m not?” attitude.

I don’t have all the right attitudes; there are times I shut down, sure I’ve heard all the advice before. Probably once a week, I’d rather take to my bed than put my writing out there again. And the green-eyed monster stalks my dreams, too.

But I do know the positive attitudes and I’ll bet you do, too. Like perseverance, open-mindedness, and focusing on my own journey, to name just a few.

So how about we start today? Choose one bad habit to give up and practice it daily. Share it with us in the comments and we’ll have a little accountability, too. And then come mid-April, let’s see if our self-sacrifice and discipline has brought more to our writing. It’s worked for me for more years than I’d like to admit, in the little things and the BIG ones, too.

Well, except for chocolate. I mean, even good little Catholic girls got to have something.

~Cathy C. Hall



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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

 

Maybe I Have Three Legs... and There's a Foot Attached to Each One?

This past week, I got another rejection email. This publisher had received a partial manuscript, and requested a full. I was thrilled.

They had it for well over 6 months, not long by industry standards, I know, but long enough to keep me alternately hopeful and despondent which meant I was alternately gorging on mashed potatoes and milk chocolate. (I'm an equal opportunity overeater. I eat when I'm sad and I eat to pre celebrate.)


image by Pixabay

Here's the email I got. A nice, encouraging rejection, but a big fat "no" nonetheless.

Good Morning,
     Thank you for your patience in awaiting a response, and we apologize or the long, long delay. We have carefully considered your story and think that your writing is promising. However, we simply could not engage with the story.
      Because we are not fully vested in it, we can’t guarantee you the level of marketing support that you should expect and deserve. It would not be fair to you to accept this novel until we are ready to zealously market Middle Grade.
     Please keep in mind that this is a very subjective industry, and what does not work for ______ Press may certainly work for another press.  Your writing is certainly good enough for it. We encourage you to continue submitting to other publishers.  If a future project better fits our guidelines, we invite you to submit to _______ Press again.
     We wish you the very best in your writing career.  Good Luck!


Were they a perfect fit? No. One of the press' partners is partial to erotica. I don't read it, nor do I write it. My idea of getting sensual is using my new Flawless, a tiny appliance that makes my mustache magically (and painlessly) disappear. This press hasn't published any middle grade books yet, although they are open to middle grade submissions. I thought I'd be their first. As far as I can tell, they've only published three books, all authored by one of the partners. I hoped my book would be their fourth.

But alas, no.

Not too long ago, I got another rejection. Same manuscript. Same process. I'd sent in a sample, they'd requested a full manuscript, then after six months or so, they said no. Thanks, but no thanks.

That publisher wasn't an exact perfect match either... Or is it a case of sour grapes on my part? They were not headquartered in the U.S., although I daydreamed about having to travel abroad as part of the publishing process when I was still hanging onto hope. However, my story is very American. Having my book published in a different country didn't seem ideal.

My writing accountability group (who are trying but are having little success at holding me accountable) advise to make a final push. Submit to a bunch of agents and publishers before going another route.

I Googled "author rejection" and found this list of books that had been rejected many times until they were finally published. Tears welled up when I got to The Help. That is one of my favorite books and movies. If she continued after 60 rejections (61 was the magic number), why can't I? (I only have 16 rejections... along with countless "No news is bad news" nonresponses.)

I had all my eggs in three baskets. Two baskets are now a smashed-up mess. One is still intact.

I'm just waiting for the third shoe to drop...


Sioux is a teacher, a freelance writer and a dog rescuer. In her spare time, she naps on the couch at odd times and reads--she's currently reading American Dirt and is almost finished with it. (It's reallyreallyreally good.) If you'd like to read more of her writing, check out her blog.

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Monday, February 24, 2020

 

Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti !


Hey, it's me again...the goofy girl who loves to write and read, the one who takes pictures of the sun and food as well as cows and pigs. Me, the girl who is not and never will be considered normal. Today I bring you a story about parent teacher conferences and this super cool painting on the wall. If you make it to the end, there's also a worthwhile tip for cleaning scuff marks off your floor without bending over, so stick with me!

I spend my Wednesday mornings at the elementary school with the most absolutely wonderful group of children (some of them are mine, but most of them aren't). Our younger children look forward to my visits and our time together. The teachers seem to appreciate the extra adult in the room. I've done this for each of our children, but by the time they get to middle school it's not cool to have your  mom hanging out with your friends. My time at the middle school is limited to parent teacher conferences.

During last week's conferences, I found this amazing painting on the wall (see above) and I had to take a selfie in front of it. I wasn't sure if my husband was amused, but I was super excited! The confetti you see in the background is the thumb prints of the students who helped put this message here for all to enjoy. This is a great reminder how we should all be kind. As an avid reader, I've been told that the kindest thing we can do as readers is to share the books we love. I do this all the time and I'm not sure if my social media followers love it or hate it, but I figure whether or not you like the confetti, you're bound to get some on you from time to time and you just have to deal with it. If people can share political posts on social media then we as readers should feel comfortable sharing books and kind words, right?

If you are an avid reader, let me ask you this:

Do you take time to write book reviews on Amazon, GoodReads, a personal blog/vlog, or other platforms? Why or why not?

Do you go one step further and share a link to your review(s) on your social media accounts? Why or why not?

What's stopping you from throwing your thoughts around like confetti? Don't you want to spread that kindness?

Now that I've barged into your space with my questions and goofy confetti throwing ideas, as promised here is something else I learned at parent teacher conferences at the middle school:

If you attach a tennis ball to the end of a stick or dowel, you can use it to clean scuff marks off the floor. No more bending over with an eraser or cloth! Mind blown!

And the moral of today's story is spending time at the middle school has a lot to offer! Thanks to you lovely reader for making it to the end and thanks to my children for teaching me things each and every day - may you always remember to throw kindness around like confetti!

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 23, 2020

 

Interview with Julide Kroeker: Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Third Place Winner

Julide’s Bio:

Julide J. Kroeker is 4'11 but acts 6'5 and spends her days adoring her three dogs. She is currently a member of the US army reserves and will be studying phlebotomy in the spring. Julide hopes to continue pursuing a writing career, something she's been working at since she was 4'10.

She resides in Missouri with her super supportive father and brother. Reading, writing, and embroidery fill her days.

Julide is currently working on a book of poetry.

If you haven't done so already, check out Julide's award-winning story "Zucchini Bread Keeps Away the Dead" and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Julide: I adapted this piece from a poem called "The Noose" I had written a month before. The original poem was very dark and angsty. I found that I felt the piece better represented me and my mindset when there was humor infused with the darker moments.

WOW: And the humor infused with darker moments works excellently at the literary level, too. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Julide: One thing I learned about myself is that when trying to express a sincere thought I tend to cover it up with a joke as some sort of cushion. I definitely noticed this when I am evaluating a command strips durability to hang myself. I don't think it's bad that I use this coping mechanism all the time because it definitely adds a spoon full of sugar too hard to swallow pills.

WOW: You’ve adapted this story from a poem, and your bio says you’re working on even more poetry. Tell us more about the poetry book you’re writing.

Julide: The poetry book I am working on is called Confused Little Human. It consists of poems of a darker, satirical humor theme. A lot of the poems are inspired by my coming of age, dating life, and struggling with loneliness and anxiety that I hope a lot of people can relate to. I took a lot of inspiration from Bo Burnham's brilliant book Egghead. I really admire how he made a book with lovely poems where you can really see inside his soul, but also lots of poop jokes.

WOW: Ha! Soul and poop: that is a creative mixture, for sure! It sounds like you’re drawn to darker, satirical humor. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have most influenced you, and in what ways?

Julide: Frank McCourt has heavily influenced my writing. He has a special way of conveying absolute misery in his memoirs and still be able to make you laugh on the very next page. His experiences are unique yet are so impressively fleshed out that you can relate to him and really see inside of his head.

WOW: If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be?

Julide: I wish I would have kept more journals. Writing every day, even if it is just a sentence, can be so beneficial to your writing and your thought process as a whole.

WOW: Oh yes, journaling can be a very powerful tool, for both personal and literary growth and reflection. Anything else you’d like to add?

Julide: I feel very honored to have my essay be selected in the top 3! As a writer, when you have someone read your work and tell you that they get it, they connect with it, it just feels like how cinnamon rolls smell. I hope that makes sense. Thank you again WOW!

WOW: You are very welcome! Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses.

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

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

 

Letting Caustic Comments Go

It never fails. If your book gets ten great reviews on Amazon and one stinker – which one do you feel the need to reread again and again? The stinker. “What did he mean by that? Did he even read the book?”

Or you’re feeling great about the progress that you’ve made on your novel/site/memoir/essay, and then you get a rejection with a scathing comment. “Undeveloped voice. I expected more.” Or it could be a simple, “liked it but not enough.” Date night with your significant other? Ruined. All you seem to be able to do is wallow.

Next time you get smacked down by a negative review or a simple rejection letter, remember that world heritage sites and natural wonders get cheeky negative comments all the time. That’s right, not even Stonehenge is good enough for some people. Here are some of my favorite snarky comments.

"My advice, if you want to see Stonehenge, is to look on the internet. What a lot of fuss about a few old stones!"

“Yes it might hold your interest for a second or two…until you realise that at about the same time 2000 miles away, the Great Pyramids were being built. Look at a picture of Stonehenge then book a flight to Egypt.”

But before you book that flight, you might want to check out the reviews of those pyramids. Not so great after all!

“It’s all lies I can tell you in seconds how it’s built there isn’t a wonder…It’s blocks on top of blocks. The only good thing about the Sphinx is it’s right next to a McDonalds.”

That’s right. The only salvation for this trip to Egypt was a McDonalds. Think about it. And yet no one had cordoned off either of these tourist destinations.

Mt. Fuji? The path up has nice scenery but the mountain itself is nothing special, the path zig zags and the toilets are really dirty. Mountains not your thing? Then maybe you’d prefer a canyon. But not the so-called Grand Canyon. “5 hour drive for a hole in the ground. Disappointing.” Fortunately, the park service hasn’t found the shovels or the dirt to fill the canyon back in.

Perhaps my favorite is this description of a Northern Lights tour in Iceland. “A cold and damp two hours waiting for the gases in the upper atmosphere to be ionized. No toilet. No food or drink. You would think a big company like this could control the elements.”

So the next time you get a disappointing response to your manuscript or book, just remember that even the Grand Canyon gets bad reviews. For all you know this person just had a really bad day because the Sphinx McDonalds was out of McNuggets.

Like the Northern Lights, so much in the writing world is out of our control. Fix yourself a nice hot drink, put your feet up and thank the heavens above that you aren’t the one who just got chastised for not cleaning the toilets on Mt. Fuji.

--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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Friday, February 21, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Leaving New York

by Laura Yeager

It was 1985.

I was 22, and I had moved to New York because I thought I wanted to become a magazine editor. I’d won a prize in a fiction contest at Cosmopolitan. Since I had an in, Cosmo was the first place I applied for a job.

I needed interview clothes. I bought a blue, flowered, southern bell dress at Bolton’s for $39.99. The thought never occurred to me to invest in an interview suit.

The day of the interview, my boss where I was temping at The American Bible Society, a kind, older gentleman who was watching out for me (babysitting), said when I came to bring him his daily coffee and warm corn muffin, “Now that’s how a lady is supposed to dress.” He wished me luck, and I hoofed it over to the Hearst building on 57th Street.

The young, beautiful woman who interviewed me had advice to impart.

“Don’t become an editor,” she said.

“Why not?”

“You’re a writer. You’ll never get any writing done if you become an editor. Do you want to be unhappy for the rest of your life? Move back to Ohio and write.”

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. She wouldn’t give it to me.

But what the girl at Cosmo said was weighing on my mind. Should I leave the city?

I plowed forward. I moved from a college friend’s parents’ brownstone to an apartment in Park Slope, rooming with an editorial assistant at MS. Magazine. She occupied the living room, and I got the bedroom. The rent was $450.00 a month. (Those were the days.)

I didn’t have much to move--only clothes and a typewriter. I was still typing everything on a Brother electric. My room was furnished with a box spring and mattress and a creaky, old desk.

Cosmopolitan called and graciously offered me the job of reading their slush pile.

Flattered, I took the freelance work.

The gig consisted of picking up brown grocery bags of manuscripts still in their manila envelopes at the Cosmo office, taking them back to my apartment, reading each story and making an editorial decision about the fiction. If a short story wasn’t worthy of passing on to a “real” editor, I attached a rejection slip to it and mailed it back to the writer in the SASE she’d sent.

I made a salary of 25 cents a manuscript.

Around that time, I found a part-time day job as an assistant to an arts fundraiser. I typed and proofed grant applications for various arts organizations around New York. The commute was long, 90 minutes one way, on the train. I hated it.

Things were going all right for about a week until I had to do laundry in Brooklyn. The nearest laundromat was two blocks away. I loaded up my clothes in my only suitcase and somehow made it to the dirty washhouse.

Let me just say, doing laundry at my neighborhood laundromat was not pleasant.

It was hard living in New York.

The job was going OK, I guess, but my social life, not so good. Basically, I had one friend, Sam.

One lonely Saturday in December, it was pouring down icy cold rain. I called Sam, who lived in Manhattan, and asked him to come down to Brooklyn.

“In the rain?”

“Yes. Come visit me.”

“Not in the rain.”

Life in New York was getting harder. I hated my commute on the subway, hated doing laundry, hated my lonely existence.

I left New York a week later and moved back to Akron just in time for Christmas.

Now if I think about it, if I’d never left New York, I would have never had the life I have now. It’s a good life. I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in a suburb of Akron; I adore my partner; I have a beautiful child.

I’m glad I listened to that young woman at Cosmopolitan. “Don’t be an editor. You’ll never have any chance to write.”

Out here in Ohio, I’m writing up a storm, but truth be told, GOD, I MISS NEW YORK!

I miss the wind whipping down the block on a freezing day, the pavement so bitter cold that it goes right through your cheap, black flats. I miss breakfasts in shiny delis. I miss the pails of red, purple and yellow flowers resting in water, the roses and the carnations and the tulips, in front of crowded corner grocery stores. Riding buses. The musicians playing a classical guitar duet. The dancers in the upper stories of buildings visible through plate glass windows, practicing pirouettes. Broadway shows!

Yes, I miss New York.

New York made me a little tougher and a lot wiser. In this big city, someone stole $650.00, the money from my first paycheck, right out of my blazer pocket, on 42nd Street.

Why did I leave New York?

* * *
Currently, Laura Yeager is writing regularly for curetoday.com, a leading cancer website, and psychcentral.com. Laura teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and at Kent State University. She is looking for an agent for her book The Prodigal Daughter, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction about bipolar illness.
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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 20, 2020

 

Don't Forget What You've Accomplished or I Wrote a Book

by Chris Schroeder (Flickr.com)
All right, Muffin readers, I'm here to encourage us all a little today. A lot of my recent posts have been about indie publishing or the writing process, and I thought I'd take a break from that and get a bit simple. Here's why.

The other day, my book, Finding My Place, was sitting on the kitchen table. I recently wrote a prequel for it and got great feedback from my critique group, but there were some details of this story I couldn't remember. So I'm rereading to make sure my prequel is in alignment. Anyway, there's my book, on the kitchen table, and I had this overwhelming proud moment of, "You know what, I wrote a book. And I had it published. Plus, I go to schools and kids and parents buy it. It's not even half-bad."

Then the next thought: Why am I so hard on myself? Why am I almost apologetic that I wrote a book, got it traditionally published, and want people to buy it and read it? Why do I downplay it when people say to me: You wrote a book. Cool! 

Well...I haven't talked to a therapist about that yet, but my guess is that I'm submerged in the writing culture where a lot of people have written a book, and some have had more success than others, more success than me. So, since so many people I know have done this same thing, maybe it doesn't seem like such a big deal.

But to the rest of the world, not in the writing culture, writing a book and seeing it through to publication is a great accomplishment. And it should be to us too! We should not be apologetic that we want to share our creation with the world, that we want to find readers, that as children's writers, we want to get into schools and share our message and our books.

I told myself that day, "It's okay, Margo. You should feel proud. Of this book and all your books. This is tangible proof of a goal you set and accomplished."

But I'll be honest. I have to keep telling myself that. I'm a people pleaser by nature, and I'm trying to be a reformed people pleaser. It's hard. So I worry about everything I say and do way too much! Trust me, my friends are always saying things to me like, "Overthink much?"

When I have to ask schools if they pay for authors to talk or ask teachers to send home my book flyers or ask my newsletter list to write a review for me, it's excruciatingly difficult, and I have to force myself to push send. But I do it. I do it because I know it's what needs to be done for success and that other authors are doing it. I do it thanks to the book, You Are a Badass, which is so encouraging. I highly recommend it for anyone who has any of the difficulties I've talked about in this blog post today.

If you submitted a short story this week, that is amazing! If you finished your book manuscript, jump for joy! If you are holding a book you wrote in your hand, wow! Honestly, just wow! Yes, you'll have to get back to the hard work and turmoil of being a writer, but for a minute today, celebrate the amazing goal you accomplished. I know for sure that there are thousands (at least) of people with half-written manuscripts or who haven't even typed one word of a book idea. And you are no longer in this group.

Now, after you've toasted yourself, get back to work. And don't be afraid to ask someone to buy your book!

Margo L. Dill is a children's author, writing instructor, freelance editor, and WOW!'s managing editor, living in St. Louis, MO, with her daughter and dog. To find out more about Margo, check out https://www.margoldill.com. Margo's next class is Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach and starts on March 6! 

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

 

When Fear of Perfection Keeps You From Writing



It’s been a rough past couple of weeks. Do you ever get stuck in a rut where you have a lot of creative projects you want to work on, but you have no energy to do them? That’s been me for awhile.

I think part of it is that I have a stressful job. I even had an anxiety-induced dream the other night where the woman who replaced me at my old job was pointing out all the errors in the magazine I help produce now while laughing at me. I blew up at her and stormed out of the room, then instantly regretted losing my cool. Then I woke up from that dream angry with myself for being so worried in the first place. (For the record, I've never met my replacement but I clearly have some issues!)

In the past two weeks I’ve gotten two rejection letters from literary journals for a short story that I think is one of the best things I’ve ever written. One of those rejections was on Valentine’s Day, right as I was about to leave for dinner with my husband. That wasn’t great timing and I wish I hadn’t looked at my e-mail.

I have a podcast I need to be working on and another idea for a short story. But lately I’ve felt too discouraged to even open a Word document to get ideas down on paper. This could also be part of the winter blues I usually get, so today I told myself I was going to quit feeling sorry for myself.

I saw a great quote from a podcaster I follow that said “You have to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” I read it twice and let the words sink in.

This time last year I was absolutely miserable in a job I felt like I was failing at daily. I wasn’t sleeping. I cried a lot. I ate too much and leaned on alcohol more than I should have. After one night of letting my mind wander down the darkest path while my family slept, I knew I had to make a change. I sought out the help of a therapist and have been going to weekly appointments. Having a place to reaffirm my worth, work through painful childhood memories and vent about work stress has been a lifesaver. I got a new job opportunity that was more suited to my talents. I cut back the alcohol, started eating more mindfully and began writing daily goals and affirmations in a journal. I exercise at least 30 minutes a day five or six days a week. And I started sleeping again.

Today when I started wallowing in Misery City, I reminded myself of the above. People are truly excited about the podcast I’m putting together--it won't be perfect at first and that's okay. And Margo Dill has inspired me with her posts about self publishing. I have some great stories that I can put together in one anthology and produce myself. Once I launch my podcast, I can also launch my short story collection.

No, I’m not perfect and neither is my writing. But I haven’t done this much work on myself to quit now.

Have you ever let fear of perfection keep you from putting pen to paper? How do you break past that barrier?

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

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

 

Tips for Tracking Your Submissions

I reached my 50th short story submission over this past month. I'm trying not to focus on the fact that the majority of these submissions are rejections. That fact aside it's been absolutely essential for me to keep track of where I've sent my stories, especially because not all stories are submitted via Submittable.

First, let's go over a couple of reasons why you need to keep track:

1) It helps to know where you've sent a story.

Once my writing ego has calmed down a bit, I like to look back at where I've sent my stories. Recently, I did this and I immediately realized why this literary magazine rejected my writing. I read over one of their issues and I realized none of the pieces matched the type of stories I told. As I rounded the bend at 50 submissions, I have realized that the often told advice of "read the literary magazines you are submitting to" is extremely essential.

2) It helps to keep track of how many places have your writing.
If you are submitting to more than one place, it's really helpful to keep track of where you've submitted your story. The majority of literary magazines I send to will tell me that it's fine to submit the story multiple places, but make sure to tell them if the story gets published elsewhere. The only way I'd be able to do that is by keeping track of where I've sent the pieces.

I'm sure there are many more reasons as to why you should, but those are my top two reasons to keep track. So, let's talk about what exactly you should be noting down. For me, I have a submissions spreadsheet (probably one of the few ways I've ever used Excel outside of work). And I don't know how everyone else keeps track, but here is what I include in mine:

The Date Submitted
The Title of the Story
The Name of the Literary Magazine or Contest
When I Can Expect Results

Aside from that, a few other things you may consider adding:

The actual website of where you've submitted (Funny thing is, I've noted the literary magazine name before and then later realize can't find it. So the actual website link is important).

How you submitted it (My first instinct is to check Submittable, but many places accept email submissions and some other places.)

Whether or not you've simultaneously submitted this story (Although I submit most stories simultaneously, I like to make a special note when I haven't. This is important if a story was specifically written for a contest or something along those lines).

So, I hope this helps you keep track of your own submissions. What else would you suggest adding to a submission spreadsheet?

Monday, February 17, 2020

 

Under Pressure

I'm a David Bowie fan. And I loved Queen. Because those iconic voices were stilled too early,  we have to be content with listening to CDs and watching documentaries and movies based on their lives.

What could be better than David Bowie or Freddie Mercury? A song that features both of them, of course.

I was thinking of the song Under Pressure after I finished Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s most recent novel... as I mourned the last line on the last page (because that meant there would be no more of the story to be enthralled by)... as I recommended the book to my daughter and several friends (with spittle spraying from my mouth, I was that enthusiastic).



As I savored the book (alternately binging and fasting) I enjoyed the reminders the author gave me and the lesson he taught me.

For one, this book (like his earlier Freeman) shows the author's double committment. What's more important--craft or plot? Should lyrical lines overshadow the story line? Or, will the reader overlook lines that don't sing across the page if they're served up a compelling plot? Pitts juggles both with amazing dexterity.

This is an epic tale just like Freeman. There are several characters in The Last Thing You Surrender who are true heroes. They're bursting with courage, with bravery in the face of the unimaginable. The story zigzags from United States to Japan and Germany and then back to America. It's told from the perspective of several different characters.

The lesson I learned, as I sat and lapped up Leonard Pitt's lines, was this: Ease up when the pressure gets too high.

The timing is critical. Only a writer with a deft hand knows exactly when the reader is at the edge of their seat. Only a gifted writer can get the reader almost to the point where they can't take any more tension, where they can't tolerate any more sorrow... and then they back up. Pitts does this. He's woven threads of horrific loss and what seem to be insurmountable odds into the tapestry of this novel's journey until the reader reaches the edge of a cliff. There seems to be no other choice: leap into the abyss of what must be incredible sadness...

... But with Pitts, there is another choice. He eases back, switches to another character's storyline for a while, so the reader gets a bit of respite.

Do you enjoy historical novels? This one immerses you into battle... into the racially divisive South... onto a Japanese POW camp... Do you enjoy a tale of sorrow and (some) healing? The Last Thing You Surrender has it. As a writer, would you appreciate a lesson on how to handle tension in a novel?

Read the latest from Leonard Pitts, Jr. You won't regret it.


While Sioux has not surrendered hope for one last snow day (hey! She's a teacher), she also hopes you pick up a copy of The Last Thing You Surrender. In her spare time she freelances, keeps her fingers crossed when it comes to her recently-completed manuscript, rescues dogs and reads. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, head over to her blog.





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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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