Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Alice Benson lives in Wisconsin with her spouse and their two dogs. She discovered writing as a passion in the third act of her life and spends much of her time in pursuit of metaphors. Alice recently retired from a job in a human services field; previously she spent over thirteen years working with a domestic violence program.

Her shorter published works have appeared in a Main Street Rag Anthology, Epiphany, Molotov Cocktail, Cliterature, English Kills Review, Scrutiny Literary Journal, Shooter Literary Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly and a variety of other publications. Both Alice’s books and many of her shorter works address intimate partner violence, abuse, and sexual assault. Alice’s first book, Her Life is Showing, set in a domestic violence shelter was published by Black Rose Writing in 2014. Alice’s second novel, A Year In Her Life, tackles many difficult social issues and was published by Black Rose Writing in July 2019. For more information, visit Alice’s website.

If you haven't read Alice's story, "Silence," yet, click through here and then return for an interview with the author.

-----interview with Sue Bradford Edwards-----

WOW:  What was your inspiration for “Silence”?

Alice: I was visiting Arizona when I drafted the story, and we had a red brick wall around our patio. I sat on the patio to write, and the story began with that wall. As I imagined coloring the lines with a sharpie, the story grew and then my thoughts moved to children. Over the years, friends and family who struggled with infertility issues had shared some of their pain with me. As this story developed, I wanted to pay tribute to their challenges.

WOW: So often here at the Muffin, we read stories told from a woman’s point of view. Why did you decide to tell the story from the husband’s perspective instead of the wife’s?

Alice:  I began the first draft of “Silence” as an exercise in a writing workshop. Our assignment was to create a main character that “reacted to the trauma/problems/issues of a secondary character and reveal the main character through thoughts and description.” I almost always write from a woman’s perspective, and I saw this as an opportunity to get into the head of someone different. I related to the wife’s anguish, and I wanted to explore and understand the husband’s pain more thoroughly.

WOW:  How did this story change and grow from your initial idea to the story that you submitted?

Alice: As I mentioned, the story began as an exercise in a workshop, so it took me several drafts to advance it into a fully formed piece with a beginning, middle, and ending. I was focused on the description in the first two drafts and, as I kept writing, I changed focus to character development.

As I began thinking more about the characters, they came alive in my head. Generally, characters become more and more real as I write them. I knew that the wife was devastated by the infertility issues they faced, and as I reflected more, I saw that the husband’s emotions were different. He was sad, but mostly sad for her, and he was conflicted because he also felt some relief. I didn’t plan that, and I was a bit surprised. As I delved further into their characters, though, his feelings made sense to me. I’m always fascinated by how stories develop and characters manage to speak their truth.

My characters sometimes decide the path they want to take, and they will tell me when I'm trying to push them to do something that they don't believe is the best way for them to go. For example, a few years ago, I read a newspaper article about a stripper who got bit on the breast by a monkey; I thought that called out for a short story. I started it as a light, humorous piece, but as I got to know the stripper, it changed into a darker, more intense story about sexual abuse and lost dreams.

WOW:  Readers who are interested in the stripper's story can click through to read "What She Had." Alice, I saw on your website that you have been reading Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race. How have the themes in this book impacted your writing?

Alice: I’m reading Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race in an on-going effort to educate myself about racism in our country and my role in it. I find I still have much to learn about many, many things, which is both overwhelming and exciting.

I’ve spent much of my adult life involved with various social justice issues. I worked in a domestic violence shelter; I served on the board of our local LGBT Center and a local anti-poverty organization. I volunteered teaching English as a Second Language, and I worked as an advocate for adults with disabilities. Many of those opportunities have had a huge impact on my writing.

My first novel was set in a domestic violence shelter where I was able to explore the influence of intimate partner violence in the lives of the characters, as well as in the larger community. The main character in my second book was very involved in social causes, and she allowed me to examine and discuss issues related to violence, racism, and sexism in the novel.

WOW: You write such a wide variety of things from novels to essays. What are you working on now? Do you have anything new coming out?  

Alice: Right now I’m working on my third novel which focuses on the bonds between mothers and daughters and grandmothers and granddaughters. I don’t have a daughter, but I do have two granddaughters. Exploration of these relationships is new territory for me and so much fun. I’m hoping to have the book completed by early 2021. As ideas continue to swirl through my head, I’ll also continue to write blog posts and the occasional short story.

WOW: Good luck wrapping up your current novel and we hope our readers will soon be visiting your web site.  Thank you for sharing your process with us!

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Seeker by Rita Pomade Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, June 29, 2020
Seeker: A Sea Odyssey is the story of two people who meet in Mexico and fall in love. Rita is an American part-time English language teacher and freelance reporter for an English language tourist magazine struggling to raise two young boys on her own. Bernard is a French geologist under contract to the Mexican government to search for underground thermal springs. She dreams of finding Shangri-la after witnessing a bloody government crackdown from which she barely escapes. He dreams of having a yacht and sailing the world. Their dreams mesh, and they immigrate to Canada to earn the money to build their boat.

Print Length: 330 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Guernica Editions (MiroLand)
ISBN-10: 1771833513
ISBN-13: 9781771833516

Seeker: A Sea Odyssey is available to purchase at, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, and IndieBound. You can also add this to your Goodreads reading list.

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey by Rita Pomade, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on July 5th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author, Rita Pomade

Rita Pomade, an intrepid nomad originally from New York, now lives and writes in Montreal. Her work has appeared in literary magazines and poetry reviews, and her monologue for auditioning actors was selected for inclusion in the Monologue Bank. An excerpt from her forthcoming memoir Seeker: A Sea Odyssey was included in two travel anthologies.

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your memoir, Seeker: A Sea Odyssey. What inspired you to write this book?

Rita: During our years at sea, I sent letters to a childhood friend from every port where we dropped anchor. Thirty years later, my ex-husband —we divorced soon after our adventure—Skyped to say he had a chance to sell a yacht moored in Tunisia, but felt the best market was in Tahiti. He asked if I’d sail with him. “It’ll be better this time,” he said. “It’s a well-equipped yacht.” I told him I’d think about it and wrote my friend about his offer. In response, she sent me a packet with every letter I’d sent her throughout our six-year voyage, thinking it might help in my decision. The letters brought back huge swaths of memory including smells, touch and even dialogue. I relived those years, but with more maturity and reflection. My revisiting the past was as much an adventure and eye-opener as it had been when I first made the voyage. I realized not only how unique an experience it had been, but how much I’d gained from it. I felt my journey could be of interest to others. It motivated me to put my story on paper.

WOW: That must have felt incredible to read all those letters! What advice do you have for authors who have a story to tell but don’t know where to begin?

Rita: Personal stories need time to ripen, like a good wine or cheese. When you’re too close to your material, it doesn’t allow for enough distance to make the story universal. Letting the story simmer a while takes you away from the rut of this happened and then that happened, and creates more texture and nuance. While the story is ripening in your subconscious, do some preparation. Jot down fragments. Keep a journal of ideas. Make mind maps around a memory you want to explore in more depth later. None of this needs elaboration. The brain will click into these prompts and bring up more details as you write. From bits of text in my letters, whole scenes came tumbling back. Also, you can’t know what you’ll put on the paper before you put it there. You start with a sentence, but that sentence takes on a life of its own and dictates where it wants to go. Trust the process and let it take you. I’m often surprised at what comes up. As you write, you gradually see how threads of your story fit together. Don’t aim for perfection. It’s inhibiting. You can deal with the editing in your next draft, or the one after that.

WOW: What you said resonated with me about not aiming for perfection! What was your process in writing the memoir?

Rita: I thought of my book as a patchwork quilt. I wrote it in sections. The “quilt pieces” were tentative chapters. If I got stuck in one section, I worked on another. When I had all the parts, I sewed my quilt together. In the process of connecting the pieces, I made adjustments to make them fit seamlessly.

Before working on the memoir, I often wrote a poem as a warm up. It didn’t have to be good. I was the only one who’d see it. Or I jotted down a few lines of observation about something or a fragment from a dream. It removed the terror of a blank page when I’d first sit down at the computer. Also, I’d think about my story when taking a walk, and had it in mind as I went to sleep. I’d put out an intention, and my subconscious often delivered. To keep me in the story, I had photos of myself on the journey pinned to the wall in front of my desk, and looked at them as I wrote. I also had a little note taped to my computer that said “Success is fear, but doing it anyway.”

WOW: I love that quote! You are so incredibly well-traveled. How has traveling changed you and how you see the world?

Rita: I grew up in a small, insular town in upstate New York. All I knew of people who were different from me came from a world history course in high school. I didn’t question what I was taught, and my perception of the world was colored by what I had learned. My first foray into a different culture was Mexico where I taught English literature and Mexican history. I learned the Mexican-American War was not as I had been taught. For the first time I realized different cultures have different stories that give a different perspective on life. And their stories are as valid as ours. I leaned that whatever their stories, they laughed, cried, felt pain and joy, and loved their children with the same degree of intensity as we do. I learned that you can’t dislike a people once you know them, and how much more we are alike than different. Humanity and its lack are as universal as is suffering and sorrow, love and longing. Travel opened my heart to all people. It made me more compassionate, broadminded, and far better informed than my academic education. I no longer think in terms of “them” and “us.” We are one species sharing space with other species on a beautiful but fragile planet.

"Humanity and its lack are as universal as is suffering and sorrow, love and longing. Travel opened my heart to all people...We are one species sharing space with other species on a beautiful but fragile planet."

WOW: What a beautiful way of looking at the world! I was reading an interview where you said, “By revisiting the past, I was able to reshape my present.” How did writing this memoir transform how you saw your life at the time you lived this experience?

Rita: Living on a small, minimally equipped yacht with my husband for so many years and in so many countries put me on constant alert for survival. I didn’t allow for the fact that my husband had to deal with much of the issues I was struggling with. And beyond that, it was his responsibility to keep us afloat, out of the way of pirates, and alive on a fickle sea. I had never sailed before our adventure, and took more interest in our travel adventures than I did in sailing. He felt I could not sail the yacht alone and would drown at sea if anything happened to him. I didn’t allow for his anxieties. I interpreted his distance as rejection—and it often was. I reacted to feeling unappreciated. He responded defensively. Our exchanges brought out the worst in both of us. I couldn’t respond to his insecurities, and he couldn’t understand my need for appreciation. On reliving our trip, I could allow him in, see his insecurities, and understand the building of tensions that had no outlet. From a less self-centered, more mature perspective, I was more open to compassion and understanding. My story had been frozen in time with all its hurts and resentments. In the process of revisiting our adventure, I could see more objectively, and it healed the past. As a result of my writing Seeker, he and I now live together after a 25-year hiatus.

WOW: How profound! Another quote: “I think writing, particularly memoir writing, takes tremendous courage.” What advice do you have for authors who want to start their memoir but are afraid to?

Rita: It helps to have a small critique group to work with, preferably a group that’s also writing memoirs. It bolsters confidence to know where your weaknesses are and what parts need to be edited for more clarity. A group will give you encouragement and support when it’s too painful to delve into certain aspects of your story. They’ll let you know when you’re not in your story or skirting the issue. And they’ll praise the good parts that will keep you on track. When you’re really discouraged and want to give it all up, you are motivated to plow ahead because you need to have something to show them the next time you meet. Their feedback stimulates you to keep going, and having deadlines gets the adrenaline going.

I felt more confident working on my memoir when I thought it was for someone else. While I was writing Seeker, I had my granddaughter in mind. I wanted her to know about her grandmother. I also thought about whom I wanted my readers to be, what kind of insights I wanted to share with them. When your story has broader implications than its linear progression, it takes it out of the realm of ego and into having a greater message, which makes it feel less personal, and takes away some of the fear.

"When your story has broader implications than its linear progression, it takes it out of the realm of ego and into having a greater message, which makes it feel less personal, and takes away some of the fear."

WOW: I think writing for your possible reader is an excellent approach! What are you working on now? What can we expect from you?

Rita: I was a breech birth with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around my neck while I floated in toxic waste due to my mother’s toxemia. Toxemia is a condition where the mother’s body does not recognize its embryo and thinks it’s a foreign invader that has to be destroyed. My mother went blind for three months, and was told not to have more children as I had weakened her body. There is family history behind that birth, and its influence impacted my development. At eleven years old, I burst out of its hold through a fortuitous event. Recent research in the field of biogenetics has shown that familial memory can pass from one generation to the next, especially if there was something traumatic in the parent’s past. Its influence plays a powerful role in a child’s development. We may come into this world innocent, but often we carry the emotional burden of our forefathers. The next memoir, that I’m tentatively calling Genesis, is a slice of life from birth to eleven years old through the lens of biogenetics. It’s a story of how genetic history, social and political environment, and temperament came together to mold one child—me.

WOW: That sounds so interesting! I can't wait to read it. Best of luck to you and your book!

---- Blog Tour Dates

June 29th @ The Muffin
What goes better with coffee in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us in celebrating the launch of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book.

July 2nd @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Visit Fiona's blog and you can read a guest post by the author about how she could have enriched her journey at sea.

July 5th @ CK Sorens' Blog
Visit Carrie's blog today and you can read her review of Rita Pomade's memoir Seeker.

July 6th @ Create Write Now
Visit Mari L. McCarthy's blog where you can read author Rita Pomade's guest post about what she learned about herself through writing.

July 7th @ The Faerie Review
Make sure you visit Lily's blog and read a guest post by the author about cooking on a shoestring at sea.

July 8th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 10th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 11th @ Bookworm Blog
Visit Anjanette's blog today and you can read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 12th @ It's Alanna Jean
Visit Alanna's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about the ten best traits you need for living aboard a yacht.

July 13th @ The New England Book Critic
Join Vickie as she reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 14th @ Bev. A Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 15th @ Reviews and Interviews
Visit Lisa's blog today where she interviews author Rita Pomade about her book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 16th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog where he reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 17th @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog and read author Rita Pomade's guest post discussing sailing myths.

July 18th @ Author Anthon Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today and read his interview with author Rita Pomade.

July 20th @ Bev. A Baird's Blog
Visit Bev's blog again and you can read author Rita Pomade's guest post featuring her advice on writing a memoir.

July 21st @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about how her handwriting analysis skills made her a better writer.

July 22nd @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog today and you can checkout her spotlight of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 23rd @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about the benefits of spending time abroad.

July 24th @ Books, Beans and Botany
Visit Ashley's blog today where she reviews Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey.

July 24th @ Tiggy's Books
Visit Tiggy's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey. She'll also be chatting a bit with the author!

July 26th @ CK Sorens Blog
Visit Carrie's blog today and you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about how she jumpstart her writing process.

July 27th @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Visit Kathleen's blog today and read her review of Rita Pomade's book Seeker.

July 28th @ Lady Unemployed
Visit Nicole's blog today where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade talking about stepping outside of one's comfort zone.

July 31st @ Wild Hearted
Visit Ashley's blog where you can read a guest post by author Rita Pomade about why she jumped at the chance to go to sea.

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

To win a copy of the book Seeker: A Sea Odyssey by Rita Pomade, please enter using the Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on July 5th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Meet Miranda Keller, Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2020 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Miranda lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of 35 years. Her writings take the reader down various paths of thought and feeling- the ebb and flow of life. She faces her own human struggles with courage and refreshing honesty.

She has enthusiastically coached her two sons and numerous students through the challenging aspects of the English language working as a teacher’s assistant. Her love of the written word is contagious. She has attended literary course work in which she excelled and is currently reworking her biography.

Recently, Miranda had the opportunity to ghost write in a nonfiction, short story. In addition, Miranda placed 4th with “What If” in a past WOW Contest, which can be found here.

Read Miranda's noteworthy essay, Good Morning, Class, and then return here to learn more about the writer.

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

WOW: Welcome, Miranda, and congratulations! What are some of your favorite topics to explore in creative nonfiction essays? 

Miranda: I don’t have a favorite topic to explore. I tend to move on my inspiration. My favorite type of essay to write is a narrative essay that looks a whole lot like a descriptive essay. I’m aiming to paint a picture that draws a reader in.

WOW: Do you have a specific revision process? How long do you spend on a piece once you begin writing it? 

Miranda: I spit it out. I write everything that comes to mind. Then I look through my verb choices, trying to eliminate every Be verb possible. My next objective involves shrinking my work down to 1000 words. I just recently minimized 1556 words down to 985. I thought not a single part of my work could be reduced and still have its power. Watching that story take on a refreshing clarity floored me. Lastly, I read it to myself, and to anyone else I persuade to hear it, out loud. I hate when I make stupid mistakes, ones I should have caught.

WOW: Are there any non-fiction books that you look to for inspiration? 

Miranda: Yes. Philip Yancy trained me with his brilliant writing style. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, In His Image, Pain- The Gift Nobody Wants left lasting impressions in my mind and heart. I, also loved Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. As I read David Pelzer’s story, my heart broke for him. The fact that he was in a foster home ran by a woman named Aunt Mary has never left me. I know we know the same Aunt Mary. Was David’s real name Lenard? I’ll wonder about that forever.

WOW: “Good Morning, Class” contains a good amount of dialect as part of the character development. When writing this type of piece, do you find it easier to read it out loud while revising to get the tone where you want it? 

Miranda: Yes. Pictures flash in my mind (memories). I write what I see, hear and feel. Then I read it out loud.

WOW: What advice would you give to a writer who is nervous about entering a writing contest?

Miranda: I can certainly understand being nervous to enter a writing a contest. I’ll never forget the first time I entered one. I hung by my nails swinging back and forth. Push the send button, on one shoulder. Don’t do it, tickling my other ear. I finally realized I’ll never know if I don’t try. Can I do this? I’ll never know if I don’t try.

WOW: That's right--you never know until you try! Thank you for sharing your work and words of wisdom with us today, Miranda. Happy writing!

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I'm NOT Sorry and You Shouldn't be Either!

Saturday, June 27, 2020
Do you ever feel guilty promoting your writing or your book(s) on social media? 

Be honest...

At some time in your career, you've heard someone say "I'm so sick of her posts" or "seriously, no one cares" etc...

That's not even about you. Those comments are about THEM. At the root of negative comments are insecurities and they aren't yours. Don't own those comments and don't let them stop you from doing what you are doing.

All through the ages, business owners have been told that advertising works. 

*Advertising through word of mouth (free samples back in the horse and buggy days when you could get a swig of moonshine to dull that aching tooth).

*Advertising through print once newspapers came available.

*Advertising on the radio.

*Advertising on television.

and today...

*Advertising via social media outlets: blogs, podcasts, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the list goes on.

There is nothing shameful about letting people know what you are doing OR what you are selling. If you're selling cosmetics and I don't need them, I just keep scrolling. If you are selling a steamy novel and I'm not in the mood, I can keep scrolling. Are you a freelance writer and I'm looking for someone to pierce my ears, I'll keep scrolling. You get the point. The fact is, you may not have what I want right now, but I guarantee you there is someone out there who will see your post and think "now that's exactly what I've always wanted!"

Self promotion is not vanity, and in the current conditions of the world, it may be the only piece of sanity. If you are waiting for people to come to you and ask what you have at your store, it's likely the doors will close and the light bill will go unpaid. Do those interviews, have those launch parties, share the cover reveals, do a few drawing for swag, ask for early readers, and don't you dare feel guilty.

You may not be everyone's cup of tea, but they have options to unfriend you, un-follow you, or just keep scrolling. Don't let their negativity put a damper on your creativity! After all, even bad publicity is publicity!

Unapologetic-ally Yours,


and now...a little more about me...

Shown from left to right:
Delphine riding Honey
Mr. Otto holding Eudora
Crystal riding Marv.
Thank you Forward Farm, LLC 
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, pony Miss Maggie May, 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 own 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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Friday Speak Out!: From Protest to Plague and Back Again: Researching Memory, Living the Past

Friday, June 26, 2020
by Sarah Relyea

Can we ever know the past? Sure, we have research—records, documents, and archaeological sites—but long-ago words and stones leave huge gaps. Sensory memory rushes to fill those gaps, dangling its low-hanging fruit, coloring today's pandemic and protest with our forgotten fears and longings.

Through the strange brew of research and memory, novels can bring the past to life. Novels make the past come alive in much the same way they make anything else come alive—by creating assumptions and then breaking them. By creating a seemingly stable world and then setting loose an orphan, a killer cop—or maybe a plague. Once you’ve opened the barn door and overturned your readers’ safe assumptions—the assumptions you set up—you can let the horses run pretty far before you start rounding them up. Your readers will follow, because they’re looking for resolution. They’ll want your character’s ordeal to end—by death, if necessary, as long as that ushers in a new world order.


Consider fairy tales. They begin by sketching a world and its usual cause-and-effect. When Hansel and Gretel’s father abandons them in the forest, for example, Hansel saves them by leaving a trail of pebbles. As the scene begins to repeat, the reader assumes it will follow the same pattern. But seemingly minor changes—this time Hansel has bread rather than pebbles—end up overturning the reader’s expectations.

Fairy tales are sketches. By contrast, world-building in a novel demands more than bare-bones narrative. It calls for dense description of outer and inner worlds, and for that reason novels are research-based. In writing your novel, you will need to engage in lengthy world-building, laying down patterns and assumptions—developing your readers’ expectations. Then, just as your reader is getting comfortable in your fictional world, go ahead and do something slightly freaky. Change the pebbles to bread. If you’re subtle, the reader may not even notice. Now you can lead them deep in the primeval forest—where you’ve planned on taking them all along.

If you’re taking your reader through the forest, you’ll need to know all about trees and wildflowers. Dig out your nature guides, pack a notebook, and head for a redwood canyon. By the way, make sure you know how to spot mountain lion tracks. Bear tracks, too. Research can save your life!

1969 Protests

Along with research on everything from clothing styles to historical events to bear tracks, you’ll need to delve into memory. In my novel Playground Zero, I stayed close to home. As a very young person, I’d spent several years in 1960s Berkeley, a place of fantasy and anarchy where fences were for jumping, boys and girls on LSD roamed the streets, and tear gas was as common as patchouli. Places and events from those years appear in Playground Zero—including the 1969 confrontations over People’s Park, when cops and protesters fought over a park, tear-gas-spewing helicopters choked the skies, and Governor Reagan called in the National Guard. I searched through newspaper databases and historical works; and I dredged my own deeply-buried memories.

Novels set in the past are more suspenseful when the author does not always know where the story is going. Remember that research seeks enlightenment. Focus on unresolved problems from the past that reverberate today.

Not Pebbles, Not Bread

Tonight, as the pandemic fades and protesters and looters rage through the streets of Brooklyn after the blatant police killing of a black man, George Floyd, I hear the drone of choppers overhead. The People’s Park riot was years ago and thousands of miles away, yet for me the sounds convey a whole world. They carry the seeds of a new scene. Research and memory together could bring it to life on the page, but for now there’s no need. The tragedy is already much too real.

I close my eyes and wonder what people are throwing. Not pebbles, and certainly not bread.

A sudden explosion rocks my desk. I pray it’s not another Princeton-educated lawyer tossing a Molotov cocktail into a police car.

* * *
Harvard grad Sarah Relyea is author of the upcoming novel, Playground Zero (She Writes Press, 2020), a coming-of-age story set in Berkeley in the late 1960s. Her first book was the nonfiction Outsider Citizens: The Remaking of Postwar Identity in Wright, Beauvoir, and Baldwin. Follow Sarah on Facebook and Goodreads.
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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New Thinking About Old Goals

Thursday, June 25, 2020
I recently came across an interview with renowned dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, whom I greatly admire, and at the very end of the interview, I read this:

“You don’t want to have a goal that you can accomplish.”

Which is…wait. What? I’m a goal-driven person; I have daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals. Goals keep me on track, help me to accomplish the little things, like getting a blog post written. Goals push me all the way up to the major successes, like publishing a book. What am I supposed to do? Hope that I can accomplish all that stuff? Hope is great but without actionable goals, I’m not getting far.

But then Twyla added this gem:

“You want one [a goal] that will continuously pull you along to the next discovery.”

Ohhhh. I had to tear those sentences out of the magazine (Calm down, y’all. I own the magazine.) and sip on my tea for a while and think. Because I needed to know: As a creative and a writer, is my goal one that pulls me along to the next discovery?

How about you, dear writer? Are you wondering about your goal, too?

Most of us realize by now that we need something bigger than “wanting to be a writer”. So we get more specific, like wanting to get published. That’s a big goal, especially if you have the kind of specificity that states, “I want to get my byline in a major newspaper, or a contract with a major publisher, or my poetry in a literary journal.”

But here’s what can happen when you accomplish that big, specific, and seemingly worthy goal—at least, it happened to me, and many creatives, I think, deal with the same feeling. I call it the “is that all there is?” feeling. It’s that emptiness, even depression that one’s left with after having achieved a major and specific goal and wondering, “Hmmm. What do I do next?”

So let’s imagine having a goal that’s not accomplishable, one that propels you further and further along your creative journey. Like what if you visit the beach and see yellow tape surrounding a sea turtle’s nest? And because you think, “I hope the sea turtles make it!” you decide to find out more and write an article. So you interview a vet specializing in marine mammals, and you visit a marine science center, researching. And then one day, you sell that article about sea turtles. But that's no longer your over-riding goal, to sell that article. You’re just beginning on a journey, fueled by your love for animals and ignited by your desire to help the sea turtles. So maybe now, you want to write a picture book so children will understand the importance of the sea’s ecosystems, or maybe you’ll volunteer for an environmental organization, or perhaps you’ll even explore other species threatened by extinction…

That’s what Twyla Tharp is talking about, or that’s the way I understand it.

It doesn’t mean that your goals have to be something huge like saving the planet. Big goals can be about our everyday challenges. Maybe you care deeply about bullying or getting kids excited about science or helping people through grief. It’s often our own experiences that fuel our best goals, that can keep us going when we want to give up, simply because we’re not in it for the short term gratification. There's always something more.

So if you’re struggling in these times, wondering about what happened to all your goals and trying to figure out what your next steps should be, try stepping back. Think about what matters to you and look for something big and worthy, something that excites you and that you love. Maybe it’s not writing any more. Or maybe it’s finally getting your personal story out into the world in a TED talk!

But whatever your next goal, make it something you can’t quite accomplish. Have a goal where there's always something more pulling you along!

~Cathy C. Hall

Cathy C. Hall is often inspired by the world around her, but today she owes Twyla Tharp a shout out for the terrific inspiration provided. Not only did she pass along a great quote but Tharp has a book out--her third book at 78!--titled Keep It Moving--Lessons for the Rest of Your Life. So if you need a little no-nonsense inspiration, look around the web for her interviews.

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The Tea Cookbook: Interview & Giveaway

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Ever since 2737 B.C. when leaves from an overhead tea plant drifted into Emperor Shen Nung's cup of boiling water, tea has been recognized and imbibed by many cultures around the world for its capacity to soothe, restore and refresh body and mind.

In The Tea Cookbook Joanna Pruess and John Harney harness the amazing power of these versatile leaves and take them from the teapot into the soup pot, frying pan, and mixing bowl to create dozens of elegant and easy-to-prepare dishes. In addition to delectable recipes, The Tea Cookbook includes a lesson on all types of tea, including black, green, oolong and herbal tea, as well as John Harney's expertise on the correct way to brew tea, proper tea storage, and the "seven cardinal sins" that result in inferior tea drinking and cooking.

This unique cookbook will change the way you think about seasoning food and add a new and exciting shelf to your spice cabinet.

You can purchase The Tea Cookbook at

About the Author, John Harney

It’s been nearly four decades since John Harney developed a passion for fine teas. John began his journey in mastering the art of tea blending in his basement. The proprietor of an inn at the time, John served his distinctive blends to his guests; the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the Harney family carries the torch passed to them by the founder of their family business. With a bottling plant, warehouse, two stores and a thriving international e-commerce business, John’s passion lives on in his family.

 About the Author, Joanna Pruess

Joanna Pruess is an award-winning food and travel writer who has written extensively for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Food & Wine, PBS’ online magazine: and the Associated Press.

Today we are excited to interview Mike Harney, Vice President of Harney tea and cofounder of The Hemp Division. You can also enter to win a copy of The Tea Cookbook below!

-- Interview by Nicole Pyles 

WOW: Tell us a little bit about The Tea Cookbook and how it came about.

Mike: My father, John Harney got to know a cookbook writer named Joanna Pruess in the last few years of the last century. She suggested that they collaborate on a cookbook. John was never one to turn down a challenge, besides he had a soft spot for Joanna. So, they came up with 52 recipes that involve tea and published the book almost 20 years ago.

WOW: That's incredible! I have to admit - I never thought of using tea in cooking! What does tea do to recipes that no other spice can do?

 Mike: Tea serves many purposes. It can add an Asian twist like Oolong Boiled Shrimp. Or it can add an unusual twist like Glazed Acorn Squash with Hot Cinnamon. 

WOW: That sounds so tasty! What kind of recipes are found in the Harney cookbook? Who does this appeal to?

Mike: There are recipes for appetizers, main courses, vegetables, desserts and beverages. This is for someone that loves tea and wants to explore other uses of their favorite beverage. There are tea vinaigrettes and of course tea-smoked duck. There are recipes by tea world luminaries like Jane Pettigrew of London. There is a take on traditional Indian beverage: Mango Chai Lasi.

WOW: I'm getting hungry just thinking of those recipes! What can people expect by reading this book?

Mike: The first section is all about tea. Starting with the basics about the types of teas. Also included is a timeline about important dates for tea and tea with food. John discusses the Seven Cardinal Sins in making tea.

WOW: I love that! What type of cook is this cookbook for?

Mike: John ran a county inn for many years and he was always in the kitchen. Joanna has written many cookbooks, so they knew about food and Joanna could make recipes that anyone could make.

WOW: I love this includes recipes for anyone. For those who love tea, what do you hope they gain from trying out this cookbook?

Mike: This cookbook should give them the confidence to explore and enjoy the world of tea with a different light. My son Alex, has taken the tried and true recipes and used them as the basis for some of our most popular dishes at the flagship in Millerton, NY.

WOW: How amazing is that! What is your favorite recipe in this cookbook and why? 

Mike: Japanese Noodle Salad with Bancha green tea. I love going to Japan and seeing the tea gardens that make our teas. This reminds me of those fun trips.

WOW: What a walk down memory lane! What are you working on next? 

Mike: My son Alex, after using the book extensively in our little restaurant at our flagship shop, is exploring recipes using the dried hemp that comes from the plants that The Hemp Division grows a mile from the restaurant.

WOW: I absolutely can't wait for that! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. 

***** Cookbook & Tea Giveaway *****

Enter for your chance to a copy of The Tea Cookbook and some teas from The Hemp Division. Enter using Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on July 1st at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

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Interview with Sally Basmajian: Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Sally’s Bio:

Sally Basmajian is an escapee from the corporate broadcasting world. Before fleeing the business, she was Bell Media’s Vice President and General Manager, Comedy and Drama.

She is currently polishing a women’s thriller and sketching a number of short memoir and fiction pieces. In February 2020, she was awarded first prize in both the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories for Ontario’s Rising Spirits contest. She completed her Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Humber College in 2019 and holds a Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Toronto.

If you haven't done so already, check out Sally's award-winning story "War Baby" and then return here for a chat with the author!

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story?

Sally: My writing group—five creative women who meet weekly and believe in tough love—pushed me to write this story. Our assignment that day was to compose a two-part piece, concluding each segment with the same line. For some reason, the phrase, “You have no claim on me,” popped into my head, and everything else flowed from there.

Having the framework before I even conceived the plot allowed my imagination to soar. In the end, I cheated by varying the wording of the repeated line, but, to me, the whole point of the exercise was to embrace the creative process—which I did!

WOW: Success! Thanks for that glimpse into your writing process. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Sally: Everyone has experiences that can be woven into stories. Several years ago, I visited the town of Arras, France with my son, who was studying World War I in high school at the time. We happened to be there during the annual Andouillette Festival—which neither of us had ever heard of—and he was brave enough to sample the local delicacy. My lasting memory is the smell—not pleasant! Still, I learned even fleeting life events can be mined for atmospheric ore.

WOW: Are you willing to tell us more about any of your works in progress? Does one of them excite you more than the others?

Sally: I’m working on sketches for a historical novel, set in Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century. It’s a beast of a project, the hardest part is trying to nail the day-to-day details: the fashions, the modes of transportation, the way people communicated. Once I absorb as much as my brain will hold, the fun part will be letting it all emerge in fictionalized form.

Thank goodness my weekly writing circle also assigns mini-projects, which likely keep me sane. I take joy in creating small memoir pieces and mini-fictions. Occasionally, these exercises even end up turning into something publishable!

WOW: That sounds like a big—but exciting!—undertaking, and it’s fabulous you have a writing circle to keep you grounded. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Sally: I’m blushing, but I will tell the truth: I’m just finishing re-reading the full Harry Potter series. During this scary COVID-19 period, I’ve found the familiar brings comfort. The inside covers of my J. K. Rowling collection are inscribed by my son at much younger age, and from time to time I run my thumb over his spiky signature. I find this very reassuring!

WOW: I love the image of the spiky signature on the inside covers. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Sally: Every story needs a satisfying ending. In my childhood stories, I usually killed off all my characters, because that was easier than coming up with proper plot development. This probably explains why I rarely got good marks in creative writing! So, I’d encourage Younger Me to conceive of a logical and interesting ending before attempting to launch into telling a tale.

WOW: That made me laugh because it’s relatable! Seems like you learned from your former writing barriers. Anything else you’d like to add?

Sally: I’d like to encourage all aspiring authors to keep writing, if the process itself brings personal satisfaction. Everyone gets rejections. Suck them up, take any credible advice you can get, apply it to your work, and—above all—persevere.

WOW: Thank you again for sharing your story and for your other thoughtful responses! Congratulations again, and happy writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen with the purpose giving them a forum to discuss their own athletic careers, bodies, and lives in their own words. Join the conversation!
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Pestilence by Pamela Taylor Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, June 22, 2020

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred - the eponymous second son - must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?

Print Length: 234 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
ASIN: B08563V87C
ISBN-10: 1684334810
ISBN-13: 9781684334810

Pestilence is available to purchase as a print copy and as an e-book at, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound. Be sure to add this to your GoodReads reading list too!

Book Giveaway Contest

To win a copy of the book Pestilence by Pamela Taylor, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on June 28th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author

Pamela Taylor brings her love of history to the art of storytelling in the Second Son Chronicles. An avid reader of historical fact and fiction, she finds the past offers rich sources for character, ambiance, and plot that allow readers to escape into a world totally unlike their daily lives. She shares her home with two Corgis who frequently reminder her that a dog walk is the best way to find inspiration for that next chapter.

You can follow her online at:

Author Website:
Series Website:
Twitter: @PJTAuthor
Instagram: PJTAuthor

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congratulations on your new book! This is the third book in your series, Second Son Chronicles. How does it feel to continue this series?

Pamela: I’m having an absolute blast bringing Alfred’s story to life. It all started with the first paragraph of Volume 1 – which came to me in the middle of the night, but I didn’t really know quite what to do with it. Once Alfred got into my head and started telling his story, though, I knew it was more than one book. Originally, it was going to be a four-volume series, but when I got to the end of Volume 4, it was clear there were more threads in the tapestry of Alfred’s life that hadn’t been explored. And he kept talking, so I keep writing.

WOW: I love that! So, I am really impressed with historical fiction writers, because of the amount of research that goes into this genre. How do you approach the research angle of your book?

Pamela: For me, it’s mostly about immersion and osmosis. Lots of reading about the period I want to write about – fiction and non-fiction both. Primary and secondary sources are both important. Visiting places of the period – even if they’re now ruins – you can stand there and let your mind run free envisioning where people would be walking, what they’d be doing, how they’d be dressed, what that long-ago world must have been like. And it’s even better when the old places are still preserved. The physical images as well as what I’ve read stick in the brain and are something I can tap into as I write. (So are the pictures I take.) And, mostly, that’s how it works, but . . . there’s also what I call “just in time” research, and that’s where the internet is a writer’s friend. Need to know the name of the pope in a certain year? Do a quick search and you’ve got it – you don’t even have to break the train of thought of the scene you’re working on.

WOW: That sounds like such an amazing process. With a series, how do you make sure your characters continue to grow and evolve with each book?

Pamela: In many ways, a series isn’t that much different from a single book. For a book, there’s a narrative arc, and within the course of that narrative, your characters have life experiences – fall victim to their foibles, learn from those experiences (or not), face external threats, cope with their internal demons, love, suffer, grieve, celebrate . . . In a series, there’s an overarching narrative arc that spans all the books. So your characters’ experiences span a longer time period and more can happen to them. In fact, as I’ve been telling Alfred’s story, I’ve discovered that something that happened to him in an early volume can come back around later in the tale, but with a deeper meaning or a deeper understanding or even a startling revelation of what the event was all about in the first place.

WOW: I think that sounds so intriguing! How did your experience in the software industry prepare you for writing fiction?

Pamela: In some ways it did. I did a lot of writing, both technical and promotional, in my corporate life, and that gave me a good grasp of what effective writing looks like. But in other ways, fiction was an entirely new ball game. The novelist has a huge responsibility to readers to create characters who feel real, to tap into deep emotions, to propel the narrative forward at a pace that keeps readers engaged, to find the mix of serious and light-hearted moments that fit the story and the characters, and to make readers really care about what happens. It’s both art and craft, and I’ve had lots of pointers along the way from other writers, from my wonderful editor, from my critique group, from online writing communities, from writing conferences – I take in ideas wherever they come from.

WOW: I feel the same way! I love any help I can get. What is your revision process like?

Pamela: Constant. I’ve never been one to just throw all the words out there and then go back and fix it later – which is a perfectly acceptable approach, but just doesn’t work for me. I’m more inclined to try to get things as right as possible as I go along. So in that sense, my “first drafts” are more like what some would have for a second or third version. Then, depending on schedules, I either set it aside for a couple of months and come back to it with fresh eyes, or I hand it off to my editor for the first round of recommendations. Either way, I step aside for a number of weeks so that when I next look at it, I have a different perspective. Getting to the final manuscript that will go to my publisher involves implementing my editor’s suggestions, reading a printed version, a final review by my editor, and actually reading it aloud to myself. And I’m not at all averse to taking something apart and putting it back together in an entirely different way if that makes the story better.

WOW: It sounds like you have a thorough revision process down! I am so impressed to read that you are a private pilot! That must feel amazing. How does being a pilot influence your view of the world and how does that impact your writing?

Pamela: Well, they didn’t have airplanes in the 14th century, so it hasn’t made it into my novels yet :-) Perhaps there’ll be a story one day where I can actually incorporate it. Regardless, learning to fly was an exercise in both discipline and brain-building, but it was also great fun. I did this as middle-aged adult, so one of the things it reinforced for me was the enormous importance of constantly learning new things – and in that sense, it may have been an influence that told me to go ahead and try my hand at fiction and see where it might lead.

WOW: I totally agree. Learning new things awakens the brain and our creative energy. What are you reading right now?

Pamela: I recently finished Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire and am looking forward to the release of The Evening and the Morning this fall – it’s a prequel to the Kingsbridge series. Right now, I’m in the middle of Karen Brooks’s The Chocolate Maker’s Wife and Bernard Cornwell’s 1356 is queued up right behind it. Oh, and I’m binge-watching the Netflix production of The Last Kingdom based on Cornwell’s Last Kingdom series, of which I’m a big fan. There are lots of things on the TBR list including more from Brooks and Cornwell, Alison Weir’s book on Kathryn Swynford, and, of course, some purposeful research reading.

WOW: You have absolutely added to my own reading list. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat today and best of luck on your book and the tour!

--- Blog Tour Schedule

June 22nd @ The Muffin
What goes better with coffee in the morning than a muffin? Join us as we celebrate the launch of Pamela Taylor's blog tour for her book Pestilence. You can read an interview with the author and enter to win the first three books in her series The Second Son Chronicles.

June 23rd @ Lisa Haselton's Review and Interviews
Stop by Lisa's blog today where she interviews author Pamela Taylor about her book Pestilence.

June 24th @ Rebecca Whitman's Blog
Visit Rebecca's blog today and you can read Pamela Taylor's guest post discussing the allegory (themes) embedded in the narrative of Pestilence specifically and the Chronicles generally.

June 25th @ A.J. Sefton's Blog
Visit A.J. Sefton's blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

June 26th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today and read Pamela Taylor's guest post about getting historical details accurate.

June 27th @ Storeybook Reviews
Join Leslie today as she shares Pamela Taylor's guest post about her life with corgis.

June 28th @ Reading is My Remedy
Visit Chelsie's blog today and you can read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

June 29th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today and you can read Pamela Taylor's guest post about the authors and books that inspired the creation of the Chronicles.

June 30th @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf
Visit Veronica's blog today and you can read a guest post by Pamela Taylor about the trap of linguistic anachronism – getting the language and word usage right for historical narratives.

July 1st @ Rebecca Whitman's Blog
Visit Rebecca's blog again and you can read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 2nd @ 12 Books
Visit Louise's blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 3rd @ What is that Book About?
Visit Michelle's blog today and you can check out a spotlight of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 5th @ The New England Book Critic
Visit Vickie's blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 6th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today and read his review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 7th @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Join Fiona Ingram today when she shares Pamela Taylor's guest post about data encryption in ancient times.

July 8th @ Bev A. Baird
Visit Bev's blog today and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 9th @ To Write or Not to Write
Visit Sreevarsha's blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 10th @ Thoughts in Progress
Visit Mason Canyon's blog today and you can read a guest post by Pamela Taylor about deriving details for your setting from historical maps.

July 11th @ Books & Plants
Visit Ashley's blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 11th @ A Darn Good Read
Join Yvonne as she reviews Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 14th @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 15th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog and read Pamela Taylor's guest post about period-appropriate names for characters.

July 17th @ Books & Plants
Visit Ashley's blog and read Pamela Taylor's guest post about ways to do historical research.

July 18th @ Bookworm Blog
Stop by Anjanette's blog today where you can read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence. Plus you can read an interview with the author!

July 20th @ Coffee with Lacey
Visit Lacey's blog where you can read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 24th @ Medievalists
Stop by Medievalists where you can check out a spotlight of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

July 25th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Stop by Linda's blog today and read her extensive interview with author Pamela Taylor about her book Pestilence.

July 25th @ Reading in the Wildwood
Join Megan today and read her review of Pamela Taylor's book Pestilence.

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

To win a copy of the book Pestilence by Pamela Taylor, please enter using Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on June 28th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

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Interview with Jennifer Lauren: Q2 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 21, 2020
Jennifer’s Bio:

Jennifer Lauren is a recovering trial attorney living near Seattle, Washington. She’s seeking representation for her debut novel, Everything We Did Not Do, which explores the human fallibility behind wrongful conviction: as if Jodi Picoult wrote Presumed Innocent.

Ever since she wrote her first masterpiece, The Creature, when she was 5, Jennifer wanted to be a writer. But life happened, sidetracking her with pesky bills and peskier children. She’s worked as an award-winning reporter at a nationally recognized newspaper; fundraising director for inner city schools; and civil litigator for 13 years. In May 2019 she had herself a mid-life crisis and quit her day job to write, teach yoga, travel, and chase her dreams. This landed her in some confusing places.

Before the apocalypse, Jennifer was planning to travel throughout 2020. Now she’s hiding in her office with Seattle’s last known roll of toilet paper, working on her next novel. Check her out at

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q2 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote?

Jennifer: This piece woke me up at 5 a.m. and demanded I write. The day before, I'd attended a yoga conference in downtown Seattle, next door to the building where I began my law career. The dichotomy between who I was then and who I was now, particularly in the hormone yoga session, hit hard. I got up the next morning and poured myself onto my keyboard, and the piece was something like 4,000 words long. I saw the WOW essay contest and thought it would be a good fit, so I sat down to cut it to the bare bones, the hard message I wanted to convey. I had just finished the book Why We Can't Sleep by Ada Calhoun, and identified with what she wrote about the struggles of Generation X women. I wanted to make this essay about me and my personal struggles to find identity as I approached middle age, but also about the universality of these feelings among women of my generation. For years, I've seen a lot of affluent women of various ethnic backgrounds insisting they were happy despite the fact that they clearly were not, and I wanted their voices to be heard without the guilt we associate with such feelings. I can't tell you how many times I've listened to a friend pour her soul out, wipe her tears away, and say she has no right to feel this way.

WOW: These are powerful realizations—in your own life and others’—and you’ve done a wonderful job of writing about a personal experience in a way that conveys that universality for others. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay?

Jennifer: This was the first personal essay I wrote quickly, walked away from, and came back to thinking, 'wow, this is really good.' It gave me confidence as I try to pursue writing as a vocation, something I never thought I'd have the courage to do.

WOW: Can you tell us more about your novel-in-progress? Does your fiction ever inspire your creative nonfiction or vice versa?

Jennifer: My finished novel, Everything We Did Not Do, is a wrongful conviction story told from the perspective of the accused and the accuser. It also embraces the contrast of youth versus middle age, rich versus poor, educated versus uneducated, and explores how these cultural issues change how we see the world and each other. It was largely based on my experience representing nurses accused of malpractice – the "defendants," who were supposed to be the bad guys, but were sometimes morally superior to their accusers. I wrote it over three years, most of which I was in the death-throes of my litigation career. My new novel, which is not yet named, is about a lawyer who gets roped into representing the leader of a psychic cult. It will be a bit lighter, I think.

WOW: Good luck and enjoy the process with both of your novels! I love stories in which the line between “good” guys and “bad” guys is blurred. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?

Jennifer: I am madly in love with Glennon Doyle, her essays on motherhood got me through my kids' baby and toddler stages. Her current philanthropy and inspirational writings are brilliant. I also enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert quite a bit. I love the way she normalizes the creative lifestyle I was explicitly raised NOT to embrace, and gives people permission to live their best lives.

WOW: Wonderful recommendations, and I did think of Elizabeth Gilbert's work while reading your essay. If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be?

Jennifer: Don't worry so much about the money, the money will come. Don't try to force yourself to be happy with your circumstances when you clearly are not. Leave the job behind. Spend time with the babies. Take the trips without guilt. Remember how much you loved to write? Do that again. No, not briefs. Write from your heart. Maybe try some fiction. Yes, you are too creative enough. Stop telling yourself you aren't.

WOW: Powerful advice that I’m sure resonates with many other writers. Anything else you’d like to add?

Jennifer: Thank you to WOW for this recognition. It means the world to me. I just started a travel blog (worst timing EVER, I know) which can be found at

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

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.
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If You Craft It, They Will Read

Saturday, June 20, 2020

When I was younger, essays were different than they are now. I remember them as dry, lifeless things. Formulaic. Predictable. Boring. I don’t think it is just a case of me looking at today’s writing through rose-colored glasses. I think in the past many writers lacked imagination… when it came to the organization of the essay.

I also know teachers taught them in dull ways. Five paragraph essays were popular. Some educators still teach them that way.

But when you come across an essay that sings across the page… when you find an essay that’s crafted in such a clever way, you can’t help but study the organization in a scientific manner… well, you’ve found a jewel.

And that jewel can inspire your own writing.

image by Pixabay

Consider one of my favorite essays, “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle. Here’s the first two paragraphs:

“Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird. Joyas voladoras, flying jewels, the first white explorers in the Americas called them, and the white men had never seen such creatures, for hummingbirds came into the world only in the Americas, nowhere else in the universe, more than three hundred species of them whirring and zooming and nectaring in hummer time zones nine times removed from ours, their hearts hammering faster than we could clearly hear if we pressed our elephantine ears to their infinitesimal chests.

Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backwards. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be. Consider for a moment those hummingbirds who did not open their eyes again today, this very day, in the Americas: bearded helmet-crests and booted racket-tails, violet-tailed sylphs and violet-capped woodnymphs, crimson topazes and purple-crowned fairies, red-tailed comets and amethyst woodstars, rainbow-bearded thornbills and glittering-bellied emeralds, velvet-purple coronets and golden-bellied star-frontlets, fiery-tailed awlbills and Andean hillstars, spatuletails and pufflegs, each the most amazing thing you have never seen, each thunderous wild heart the size of an infant’s fingernail, each mad heart silent, a brilliant music stilled.”

You might think this essay is about hummingbirds. It’s not. It meanders around in an ingenious way, until the reader is blown away by the conclusion. (The end invariably makes me weep. Really.)

Right now I’m grappling with drafting an essay. I’ve studied at the feet of Brian Doyle, trying my best to imitate his moves. When you’re passionate about the subject, when you’re trying to convey a message that is indeed life-or-death these days, you want the essay to stand just as firm as your convictions.

Here’s a site if you’d like to read some more inspiring essays. Consider how they’re crafted. Study the organization of each one.

And finally, what are you passionate about today? What success (or failure) have you experienced when writing an essay? What advice would you like to share? And did you know WOW is having an essay contest? It’s not too late to begin writing an entry...

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